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Blue Line Buzz: Making the moves

by | Rotowire.com
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Dan Boyle is wheeling and dealing for the red-hot Sharks. San Jose is flying toward the playoffs for what, we assume, will be another year of woeful underachievement prompting the seemingly annual debate as to whether the team's "window is closing."

Boyle has three goals and two assists through the last seven games, including a Scott Niedermayer-esque end-to-end rush against Minnesota from Wednesday. Boyle picked up the puck following a Wild clear and proceeded to blaze a path through a defense with more aplomb than Davy Crockett. Boyle has always been a consistent scorer, but he's currently three goals away from cracking double digits, a feat he hasn't achieved since the 2009-10 season. The goals are even more impressive considering this year is a shortened season. One of these years, Boyle's numbers will fall. Until then, he'll be one of the steadiest options for your blue line after the elite defenders are gone.

Boyle isn't the only defender producing regularly for the Sharks, although Brent Burns is basically a defender in name only right now. Burns has been skating at forward the last few weeks and been infinitely more productive at wing that he was in the several games he played on the blue line, giving owners forward production from a defenseman spot in their lineup; most leagues still have Burns listed a blue liner.

Since moving to forward on March 12, Burns has 13 points through 13 games with three goals and four assists over the last seven contests. Burns likely will be moved back to the blue line next season, one can assume, but he's been a great value for owners that snagged him late in drafts while he was still on injured reserve.

Back To The Future In DC

A quick glance at the recent statistics put up by Washington's highest-paid players will make Fantasy owners believe that it's 2010 again (when the Caps were Eastern Conference Regular Season Champions). The Caps saw themselves in the news this past week for dealing uber-prospect Filip Forsberg to Nashville for Martin Erat, a trade they'll surely regret (although Forsberg might not be as valuable in Nashville's system). Forsberg had the skills to be a top pick last June, but he slipped. ( Erat left Saturday's win over Florida with a lower-body injury in the first period and did not return)

The Forsberg folly aside, Washington is flying up the Eastern Conference standings, sitting atop the Southeast Division with 40 points. While technically tied with Winnipeg, the Caps have played two fewer games than the Thrashers Jets, thus have the tiebreaker. The Jets, however, are sitting in ninth place, two points behind the Islanders and Rangers, looking likely that the Southeast will get just one team in the playoffs again.

While Alexander Ovechkin has 13 goals in the last 11 games and Nicklas Backstrom is sitting third in the league with 33 assists (a goal and eight helpers in the last five contests), our old friend Mike Green, the most enigmatic Canadian player ever, has five goals and seven points in the last five contests. That's as many points as Green registered in 32 games during last season's injury-riddled, remarkably inconsistent campaign. Green and the Caps appear to be adjusting quite nicely to new coach Adam Oates' system, something that should play right into the talents of Green, Ovechkin and Backstrom.

Still In Phoenix

Much like the Phoenix Coyotes themselves, Keith Yandle has been enduring rumors about leaving the Desert. His name, however, was not called during Wednesday's trade deadline, leaving him with the ‘Yotes, at least for now. Yandle's been usurped on the ice by Oliver Ekman-Larsson but he's still delivering some production with eight points in the last nine contests, including four in the past three. As has been the case with most of Yandle's production this season, it's been concentrated. His 23 points have him sitting in eighth in the defensemen scoring race.

Yes, General Burkhalter

Even though he is not a defenseman, Phoenix winger Rob Klinkhammer has one of the best hockey names since Lucien Deblois. Klinkhammer is making an impact in his small sample size of NHL action, with four goals and four assists over 13 games, six of which have come in the last seven games. Phoenix are one of a host of Western Conference teams battling for a playoff spot and Klinkhammer is going to be a player for them in the season's final three weeks, provided he can find time while threatening to send Schultz to the Russian front.

-Since Paul Martin left the lineup with a broken wrist, Matt Niskanen has no points in those four games, despite seeing boatloads of power-play time (more than 3 minutes in two contests and 5:47 in another). With Kris Letang due back in the lineup soon, Niskanen's rate of production likely will stay similar to what it's been.

-Toronto Maple Leaf defender Mark Fraser is still making an impact in terms of plus-minus, sitting at a plus-14 with seven points, including a primary assist on Leo Kamorov's goal in Saturday's win over New Jersey, Fraser's former team.

-Edmonton's Justin Schultz has points in just two of his last 12 games, with an eight-game drought in that span. Early last week, Schutlz grabbed four points over two games, with a goal and two helpers in a win over Calgary. One can hope Schutlz will be more consistent next season, just don't pay too high of a price for his services.

-Jay Bouwmeester has adapted nicely to St. Louis in his first two games with the Blues, notching three assists over that span. He's currently playing alongside budding star Alex Pietrangelo, so that's a bit of an upgrade from his teammates in Calgary. Odds are Bouwmeester won't rake in the points for St. Louis, but he'll be a steady player on one of the deepest group of defensemen in the NHL. (Seriously, their third pairing is Roman Polak and Barrett Jackman).

-Vancouver's Dan Hamhuis continues to be steady, albeit unspectacular. The veteran has points in three of the last four games including a goal in Saturday's win over Vancouver.

-Your weekly P.K. Subban update finds the Toronto native rolling in points for the Habs (assisted on both Montreal goals Saturday). He has 32 points in 32 games and is the only NHL defenseman with double digit goals (10). He's making the contract he signed back in early February look like a pittance for what he'll see in two years. Subban is making a clear case to be the first defender taken next year over Erik Karlsson.

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Player News
Ryan Wilson
Flames Ink Wilson To PTO
Ryan Wilson, D, CGY
9/3/2015
News: Ryan Wilson signed a professional tryout offer with the Flames on Thursday, Randy Sportak of the Calgary Sun reports.
Analysis: Ryan Wilson was limited to just three games as a member of the Avalanche last season, as he suffered a shoulder injury in late October that would ultimately require surgery. Prior to the injury, the 28-year-old wasn't expected to be a major part of the Avs' plans on the blue line, and he'll have an even more difficult time trying to carve out a role in Calgary's defensive corps, which may be the deepest in the NHL.

Nicklas Backstrom
Caps' Backstrom (Hip) "Not In A Rush" To Play
Nicklas Backstrom, C, WAS
9/3/2015
News: Nicklas Backstrom (hip) skated during informal workouts Thursday morning, but is "not in a rush" to return to action, Alex Prewitt of The Washington Post reports.
Analysis: Nicklas Backstrom began skating in August following hip surgery during the offseason, and while he hasn't experienced any setbacks, he doesn't appear to have a specific target date in mind for his return. "I'm not going to be back to 100 percent before I start playing," the 27-year-old pivot remarked, "I'm not going to play on 90 percent. We'll see how it goes. We don't know yet." The uncertainty surrounding Backstrom's return has lowered his standing somewhat in fantasy rankings. While the situation should be monitored closely, Backstrom should provide some serious value if he can get up to speed quickly on the top line with Alex Ovechkin and newcomer T.J. Oshie, as he has been one of the more productive playmakers and power-play performers over the last several seasons. Don't sleep on him too long in your draft if he continues to progress according to plan.

Joe Pavelski
Pavelski Expected To Be Named Sharks' Next Captain
Joe Pavelski, C, SJ
9/3/2015
News: Joe Pavelski is expected to be named the Sharks' next captain, CSN Bay Area's Kevin Kurz reports.
Analysis: Captaincy has been a delicate issue in San Jose over the last year, as former coach Todd McLellan stripped longtime leader Joe Thornton of those honors heading into 2014-15, straining the relationship between the star center and team brass. While Thornton is still around, it's clear that the 31-year-old Joe Pavelski is now the face of the franchise, after ranking fourth in the NHL in goals over the last four seasons with 161. Pavelski figures to pace the Sharks in scoring once again during the upcoming campaign, while taking on more of a leadership role in the locker room.

Keith Ballard
Ex-Wild D-Man Ballard Leaning Toward Retirement
Keith Ballard, D, MIN
9/3/2015
News: Keith Ballard (concussion) confirmed last week that he's leaning toward retirement, Michael Russo of the Minneapolis Star Tribune reports.
Analysis: Keith Ballard is still experiencing concussion symptoms from the head injury he suffered Dec. 9 of last season, and it sounds like he's leaning toward hanging up his skates rather than risking permanent health issues. The 32-year-old had previously experienced several concussions during his NHL career, likely leaving many teams disinterested in Ballard's services even if he opts to keep playing.

Andrew Copp
Jets' Copp To Challenge For NHL Job
Andrew Copp, C, WPG
9/3/2015
News: Andrew Copp is expected to compete for the Jets' fourth-line center duties during training camp, Jeff Hamilton of the Winnipeg Free Press reports.
Analysis: Andrew Copp, who finished up his sophomore season at the University of Michigan last spring before turning pro, made his NHL debut for the Jets in their final regular season game in 2015-16, when the team was just trying to rest its regulars in advance of the playoffs. The 2013 fourth-round pick went unused during the Jets' first-round series exit, but the size he presents (6-foot-2, 210 pounds) along with the strong leadership and decision-making he demonstrated during his time at Michigan could make him the Jets' best internal option to pivot the checking line. Holdovers Anthony Peluso and Matt Halischuk likely represent Copp's top competition for that role.

Joakim Nordstrom
Nordstrom, Blackhawks Agree On One-Year Deal
Joakim Nordstrom, C, CHI
9/2/2015
News: Joakim Nordstrom signed a one-year, two-way contract with the Blackhawks on Wednesday, Brian Hedger of NHL.com reports.
Analysis: Joakim Nordstrom waited several months before agreeing to his qualifying offer, but he's at least in the fold to compete for a spot in the Blackhawks' crowded bottom-six ranks. The forward recorded no goals and three assists in 38 games with the parent club last season, so a return trip to AHL Rockford could be in the works to open 2015-16.

Tom Sestito
Penguins Sign Sestito To PTO
Tom Sestito, LW, PIT
9/2/2015
News: Tom Sestito signed a professional tryout contract last week with the Penguins, Josh Yohe of DKonPittsburghSports.com reports.
Analysis: As a tough guy who gobbles up penalty minutes, Tom Sestito doesn't seem to mesh well with coach Mike Johnston's vision of rolling out four lines with scoring ability. Don't expect him to crack the Penguins' 23-man roster out of training camp, barring a litany of injuries.

Evgeni Malkin
Pens' Malkin Healthy Heading Into Camp
Evgeni Malkin, C, PIT
9/2/2015
News: Penguins coach Mike Johnston said Evgeni Malkin is healthy heading into training camp, NHL.com reports. "[Malkin] was injured before the playoffs last year; he's in skating already," Johnston said.
Analysis: The Penguins are expected to tinker with their top-six ranks in training camp after adding Phil Kessel to the mix in the offseason, but it's expected that Kessel will play on the top line with Sidney Crosby, while Evgeni Malkin centers a line of Patric Hornqvist and a yet-to-be-determined left winger. Regardless of which player among David Perron, Chris Kunitz, and rookie Sergei Plotnikov ultimately settles next to Malkin, staying healthy is more essential to the star center's fantasy production than anything else. Malkin has missed 103 regular-season contests over the last six years.

Peter Budaj
Kings Ink Budaj To Tryout Offer
Peter Budaj, G, LA
9/2/2015
News: Peter Budaj has signed with the Kings on a professional tryout contract, Jon Rosen of LA Kings Insider reports.
Analysis: Peter Budaj struggled while seeing limited ice time with AHL St. John's in the Winnipeg organization last season, going 0-9-6 with a 3.55 GAA and .888 save percentage. The 33-year-old clearly seems to be on the downswing of his career, but as a veteran with 296 NHL appearances on his ledger, he could provide insurance in goal for the Kings at the minor-league level.

Markus Soberg
Jackets' Soberg Out 4-6 Weeks
Markus Soberg, RW, CLB
9/2/2015
News: Markus Soberg (groin) will miss the next four-to-six weeks as he recovers from surgery to repair a sports hernia, Aaron Portzline of the Columbus Dispatch reports.
Analysis: A sixth-round pick by the Blue Jackets in 2013, Markus Soberg was hampered by an abdominal injury throughout much of last season, ending up with 13 goals and 17 assists in 61 games for OHL Windsor. It's unclear whether he would've been able to make the jump to Columbus this season even if healthy, but the surgery will certainly delay his progress to North American hockey.

 
 
 
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