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Blue Line Buzz: Scoring at a premium

by | Rotowire.com
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Montreal's P.K. Subban is leading NHL defensemen in scoring and has been a boon for owners in multi-category leagues. He's earning his spot as the second defenseman taken in most drafts, justifiably ahead of quite a few forwards. Through Saturday's games, Subban sits with 10 points, two more than Jason Garrison. His 26 shots on goal and 16 penalty minutes are among the leaders for defensemen as well while his plus-5 isn't too shabby, but you knew that when you drafted him.

Ditto for Erik Karlsson, who had an excellent night Thursday against New Jersey, snagging a goal and assisting on two others. Expect Karlsson, who has six points through eight games, to continue producing as the top-draft pick he is, but again, you knew that.

Matt Niskanen remains a player with some value for Pittsburgh, especially in multi-category leagues, as he is a plus-9 with 21 shots on goal. Kris Letang has been practicing but remains out with a knee injury. Letang's return seems imminent, but the Penguins are sitting pretty with a 7-1 record and probably aren't in a rush to get their star defender back in the lineup. While Letang remains out, Niskanen remains a player worth giving a look. Remember, though, Letang has been practicing for a week now and can return whenever.

Anton Volchenkov has three points on the season after assisting on New Jersey's opening goal Saturday against the Rangers. Those three assists are as many points as New Jersey's top line center, Travis Zajac, has and just one less point than Chicago's Jonathan Toews. Don't pick up Volchenkov, but it's amusing.

Speaking of the Devils, Marek Zidlicky continues to make it difficult to ignore him entirely, as much as we'd like to. Zidlicky registered two assists in Saturday's win over the Rangers, giving him seven assists in eight games. Zidlicky is the team's leader in points with seven, as he has yet to score. He lives on the power play and will see scoring chances. However, if you're going to gamble on him, be prepared for stretches of invisibility and a hit to your plus-minus; Zidlicky is highly prone to being out of position and giving the puck away. Still, seven points in eight games is hard to ignore.

Hit Me with Your Best Shot

Reiterating points that were made last week, shots on goal and power-play time are some of the better indicators when looking to add a defenseman to your roster, especially in deeper leagues.

Fans of the Rangers and the Penguins may remember the name Torrey Krug. Krug scored several key goals for the Bruins during last season's run to the Cup Final, most of the booming point shot variety. Just 22, Krug is playing 17:32 per-game through seven contests, but is seeing 3:28 on the power play, second only to Zdeno Chara. Chara is used as a forward on the power play, parking his mammoth frame in front of opposing goaltenders while Krug is blasting away from the point.

Krug has 19 shots on goal through seven games to go with a goal and two assists; two of those points have come on the power play. Krug wasn't an unknown heading into this season after his performance in the playoffs last year, but the Michigan State grad was a player who could have been had in later rounds. If he's available in your league, consider snatching him up as he's seeing significant power-play time on one of the league's best teams.  He is a rookie, so expectations need to be a bit tempered, but the scoring chances will be there for Krug.

Heading to The OC ( don't call it that), the Ducks have another rookie defenseman worth knowing. True, Cam Fowler put up 40 points as a rookie three years ago, but Fowler's struggled to say the least since then. 19-year old Hampus Lindholm is making a name for himself over his season's first five games with two assists and a healthy amount of power-play time. Lindholm was the Ducks' first round pick in 2012, sixth overall, and is a plus-9 already with two assists. He is logging 3:25 on the power play so far and has 13 shots. These are certainly favorable numbers and the fact that he won't kill your plus-minus in multi-category leagues, like Fowler did, is encouraging.

Shark Week

Dan Boyle is out for the foreseeable future in San Jose after being a victim of a controversial hit by St. Louis' Maxim Lapierre this past week. Lapierre was suspended five games for the incident which resulted in Boyle being stretchered off the ice. Boyle has returned to San Jose and is recovering. This will leave ice time to be divvied up in Silicon Valley, drawing further attention to Matt Irwin. Irwin snagged a power-play assist in Saturday's drubbing of Calgary as did Jason Demers, who sits with five assists on the season. Irwin is one of the league leaders in shots on goal among NHL defensemen with 28 and has three helpers.

Demers and Marc-Edouard Vlasic each have five assists on the season, but it's Demers who is slated to see power play time in Boyle's stead. Both Irwin and Demers have more upside than Vlasic, despite currently having more points than both of them. San Jose is scoring goals in bunches and allowing few, thus giving their stable of defensemen impressive plus-minus totals.

How the Mighty Have Fallen

Remember when Sergei Gonchar regularly posted double-digit goals during his tenures with Washington and Pittsburgh? Those halcyon days are gone for the veteran, who is now plying his trade in Dallas. Gonchar has one assist through seven games coupled with a minus-5 rating and a mere seven shots on goal. These numbers are all the more disappointing considering Gonchar is seeing 3:22 of power-play time per game, almost 90 seconds more per-game than Alex Goligoski, who is No. 2 on the Stars' man-advantage ice-time list.

For Your Entertainment

With four points through eight games, Seth Jones is showing the kind of potential most believed made him worthy of consideration as the No. 1 pick in this past June's draft. He's logging over 24 minutes per game for the Predators, most of it alongside Shea Weber. You have to believe Jones, the fourth overall pick, lucked out when going to the Predators as opposed to Florida or Colorado . Jones snagged the second goal of his career on a give-and-go with David Legwand that saw Jones dance around several Montreal defenders with a slick toe drag on Saturday, before beating Carey Price short side with less than 1:30 remaining in the game. This kid is legit.

It was a nasty scene in Winnipeg on Friday for Jacob Trouba, who's slated to be out indefinitely after falling awkwardly into the boards and having his head and neck bend backward.

Marc-Andre Fleury probably doesn't watch highlights from his last two playoff appearances. Characterized by soft and sometimes bizarre goals dating back to the 2012 playoffs against the Flyers, Fleury has been sketchy in terms of reliability. The goal he allowed to Alexander Edler in a shootout win over the Canucks on Saturday roused memories of Tommy Salo's laugher against Belarus in the 2002 Olympics. It's doubtful this goal will derail Fleury's career like it did to Salo. Fleury went on to secure the win Saturday, including denying all three Vancouver attempts in the shootout.

Mike Smith beat the buzzer on Saturday night to cap off Phoenix's rally over Detroit with an empty-net goal. Yes, the goaltender scored. It's pretty impressive considering Smith caught a dump-in on one knee and then fired the puck immediately, having the puck cross the line with .01 seconds remaining.

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Player News
Cody Eakin
Eakin Agrees To Four-Year Extension With Stars
Cody Eakin, C, DAL
8/28/2015
News: Cody Eakin agreed to a four-year, $15.4 million contract extension with the Stars on Friday, Mike Heika of the Dallas Morning News reports.
Analysis: The 24-year-old was a solid producer for the Stars in 2014-15, registering 40 points (19 goals, 21 assists) in 78 games with the team. He will likely return to his role centering the Stars' third line this season, and should produce similarly barring significant injury.

Elias Lindholm
Lindholm Signs Two-Year Extension With Hurricanes
Elias Lindholm, C, CAR
8/27/2015
News: Elias Lindholm signed a two-year, $5.4 million contract extension with the Hurricanes on Thursday.
Analysis: Elias Lindholm was a solid contributor in his first full NHL season in 2014-15, registering 39 points (17 goals, 22 assists) in 81 games with the team. He will return to his role as a top-six forward with Carolina this season, and should have a great shot at improving upon his offensive numbers from a year ago as he continues his development as an NHL forward.

Patrik Berglund
Blues' Berglund To Require Shoulder Surgery
Patrik Berglund, C, STL
8/27/2015
News: Patrik Berglund aggravated a dislocated right shoulder while working out and is set to undergo surgery Friday, Jeremy Rutherford of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports. He'll require at least four months of recovery time.
Analysis: Patrik Berglund first dislocated the shoulder in 2013-14, and required surgery last offseason to address the issue. The center was able to recover in time from that procedure to play on Opening Night last season, but given how late in the offseason calendar the setback occurred this time around, it looks like Berglund won't take the ice again until the calendar flips to 2016. His extended absence could allow prospect Robby Fabbri to claim third-line center duties out of training camp, with veteran Scott Gomez also in the mix if coach Ken Hitchcock prefers a more experienced option for that role.

Scott Gomez
Gomez Signs PTO With Blues
Scott Gomez, C, NJ
8/27/2015
News: Scott Gomez accepted a professional tryout offer with the Blues on Thursday, Andy Strickland of FOX Sports Midwest reports.
Analysis: After failing to garner a contract in free agency for the second straight offseason, Scott Gomez will again head to training camp on a PTO, as he did last season in New Jersey. Though he wasn't able to crack the Devils' Opening Night roster, he continued to work out with the team after the tryout period ended and was eventually signed to the team when injuries opened up an opportunity in late November. Gomez would end the season as one of the more productive contributors on the offensively challenged Devils, finishing third on the team with 34 points. The Blues boast a far deeper roster of forward talent, but with the news surfacing after Gomez's signing that Patrik Berglund would miss at least four months following shoulder surgery, an opening on the third line could exist for the 35-year-old.

Max Pacioretty
Habs' Pacioretty Still On Schedule With Rehab
Max Pacioretty, LW, MON
8/27/2015
News: Canadiens coach Michel Therrien said recently that Max Pacioretty (knee) remains on schedule in the rehabilitation process, Arpon Basu of LNH.com reports.
Analysis: Max Pacioretty sustained the knee injury while working out in Florida in early July, and was given a projected recovery timetable of 10-to-12 weeks. Given the length of the timetable, Pacioretty is expected to sit out all of training camp, and while his availability for the Oct. 7 regular-season opener in Toronto remains possible, he'd likely be subjected to limited minutes in the early going as he looks to build endurance. Once back to full health, Pacioretty should reemerge as the Habs' most dangerous offensive option after he potted 37 goals and a career-high 67 points in 2014-15.

Ladislav Smid
Flames Expecting Smid Back For Training Camp
Ladislav Smid, D, CGY
8/27/2015
News: The Flames' front office believes Ladislav Smid (neck) will be ready to skate during the team's first on-ice session at training camp in September, the Calgary Sun reports.
Analysis: Ladislav Smid's season came to an end last January when he required surgery on his neck, but his communication with the Flames to this point in the offseason suggests he has recovered well from the procedure. If healthy, Smid will compete in camp with Deryk Engelland for a spot as Calgary's sixth defenseman.

Sidney Crosby
Pens' Crosby Likely To Play Next To Kessel
Sidney Crosby, C, PIT
8/27/2015
News: Coach Mike Johnston said earlier this week that Sidney Crosby is expected to play next to Phil Kessel to begin training camp, CBS Sports reports.
Analysis: The Penguins have cycled in a number of right wingers next to Sidney Crosby throughout his career, and while Patric Hornqvist proved capable in that capacity last season, he's not nearly as prolific at finding twine as Kessel, a five-time 30-goal scorer. With his health concerns beginning to fade away after missing only seven games over the last two seasons, Crosby once again looks like a reasonable choice at No. 1 overall in fantasy drafts, even after scoring only 28 goals in 2014-15, his lowest total in any year he's suited up for at least 60 contests. Crosby probably won't come close to approaching the 51-goal peak he reached in 2009-10, but a slight uptick in his anomalous 11.8 shooting percentage coupled with the likely increase in assist opportunities with Kessel blitzing the net could make a return to 100 points conceivable.

Mike Richards
Charges Announced For Ex-King Richards
Mike Richards, C, LA
8/27/2015
News: Mike Richards was formally charged with possession of a controlled substance while entering Canada stemming from a June 17 border stop by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police in Manitoba, Greg Wyshynski of Yahoo! Sports reports.
Analysis: The Kings determined the incident gave them just cause to release Mike Richards for a "material breach" of his 12-year contract, a decision that prompted the NHL Players Association to file a grievance. The nature of the border stop likely won't affect the outcome of that legal battle, as both the NHLPA and the Kings were aware of the circumstances surrounding the incident. Currently a free agent, Richards is able to sign with any team while the grievance remains underway, but his steep decline in performance over the last few seasons coupled with this ongoing dispute probably has few organizations interested in his services.

Kyle Okposo
Isles Begin Contract Talks With Okposo
Kyle Okposo, RW, NYI
8/26/2015
News: Kyle Okposo and the Islanders have begun talks on a new contract, according to Islanders Point Blank.
Analysis: Both sides are hoping to get an agreement done before the start of the season but the parameters on a new deal could be difficult to negotiate. Kyle Okposo will make $4.5 million this season and could command a deal north of $6 million per year on the open market, a figure the Islanders may not be willing to approach at this time. If the two sides can't come to an agreement before the start of the season then Okposo's name will be one we will hear quite often in trade rumors.

Sami Aittokallio
Avs Re-Sign Aittokallio
Sami Aittokallio, G, COL
8/26/2015
News: Sami Aittokallio has re-signed with the Avalanche on a one-year, two-way contract, General Fanager reports.
Analysis: Sami Aittokallio appears to be the clear No. 4 goalie in the Colorado organization behind Semyon Varlamov, Calvin Pickard, and Reto Berra, so it's somewhat surprising he elected to commit for another year rather than bolt for Europe. Even so, Aittokallio's contract does at least include a clause for him to play overseas if he isn't guaranteed a roster spot with the Avalanche, potentially opening the door for him to leave the club if he's assigned to the AHL out of training camp, as expected.

 
 
 
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