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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
Derek Stepan
Rangers' Stepan Day-To-Day With Foot Contusion
Derek Stepan, C, NYR
7:30 AM
News: Derek Stepan has a foot contusion after blocking a shot in practice, and is considered day-to-day, Andrew Gross of The Record reports.
Analysis: Derek Stepan's day-to-day injury designation indicates that this is a minor injury, and should be ready start the regular season. Provided he does return to action soon, this injury should not affect Stepan's fantasy value.

Ryan Johansen
Jackets, Johansen Remain $3 Million Per Year Apart
Ryan Johansen, C, CLB
6:35 AM
News: The latest contract offer from the Ryan Johansen camp, rejected by the Blue Jackets on Thursday, is reportedly for two years and $12 million, the Columbus Dispatch reports.
Analysis: That's down a million from their last proposal, which is some sign of progress, but it's still double the Jackets' offer of two years and $6 million. With multiple KHL teams inserting themselves into the mix, including a one year, $5 million offer from CSKA Moscow, things could get very interesting over the next few weeks.

Boone Jenner
Jackets' Jenner Shifting To Center
Boone Jenner, C, CLB
6:28 AM
News: With Ryan Johansen not in training camp due to a contract dispute, Boone Jenner will play center rather than left wing in the Blue Jackets' first exhibition game on Sunday, the Columbus Dispatch reports.
Analysis: Boone Jenner was an excellent faceoff man in the junior ranks, so Johansen's absence will be a golden chance for the sophomore to prove he shouldn't be playing on the wing.

Jarret Stoll
Kings' Stoll At Full Speed Following Hip Surgery
Jarret Stoll, C, LA
6:14 AM
News: Jarret Stoll, who had offseason hip surgery, has been a full participant in training camp so far, the LA Kings Insider reports.
Analysis: Jarret Stoll's expected to fill a checking line role again for the Kings this season.

Ryan Ellis
Preds, Ellis Still At Odds Over New Contract
Ryan Ellis, D, NSH
12:49 AM
News: Preds GM David Poile addressed Ryan Ellis' contract situation Saturday, saying the main stumbling block continues to be money, according to the Tennessean. "Unfortunately at this time we have not agreed what they think and what we think is fair compensation," Poile said. "We want [Ellis]. We are not trading him, we really like him. We really like the way he played last year. It's just a disagreement on dollars."
Analysis: Ryan Ellis, who has missed the first two days of training camp so far, played in 80 games last season for and finished with 27 points - his highest full season total to date. And while there is still plenty of time left to get a deal done before the start of the season, the clock is ticking. Not only is he missing out on conditioning drills and scrimmages, the more Ellis misses of training camp, the greater the chances of some other defenseman impressing the coaching staff and grabbing a roster spot that might otherwise go to Ellis. Bottom line, we think Ellis will get signed by the start of the regular season, but what his role on the team will be is anybody's guess. He's a risky fantasy pick right now, until all of the above gets sorted out.

Jon Merrill
Devils' Merrill Misses Practice With Head Injury
Jon Merrill, D, NJ
12:48 AM
News: Jon Merrill missed the second day of Devils' training camp on Saturday due to a head injury he suffered after colliding with teammate Ruslan Fedotenko during Friday's practice, Rich Chere of NJ.com reports.
Analysis: Luckily for Jon Merrill, the Devils' first regular season game isn't until October 9. While head injuries are never a good thing, the promising young defender should have ample time to get healthy before the regular season kicks off.

Joe Thornton
Sharks' Thornton Disagrees With General Manager
Joe Thornton, C, SJ
9/20/2014
News: Joe Thornton took issue Friday with general manager Doug Wilson's offseason comments about the Sharks rebuilding and becoming a "tomorrow team," reports the San Jose Mercury News. "That's Doug's opinion," said the big center. "I think if you'd ask anybody in here I don't think they have the same feeling."
Analysis: There have been plenty of rumors about Wilson doing all he can to push Jumbo Joe into a place where the center either demands a trade or the situation becomes ripe to ship him out of town. There seems to be a bit of a ripple starting in San Jose -- we'll see how far it goes.

Slater Koekkoek
Bolts' Koekkoek (Shoulder): Feels 100 Percent
Slater Koekkoek, D, TB
9/20/2014
News: Slater Koekkoek (shoulder) skated in practice Friday and said his surgically repaired shoulders "felt 100-percent," reports the Tampa Bay Times. "I didn't play with any hesitation," said the big defender.
Analysis: This guy has all the potential in the world and could be dominant. But he desperately needs to stay healthy for a full season, something that just hasn't happened in years after multiple shoulder surgeries. He'll spend a full season in the AHL this year and the Bolts hope he can prove those shoulder issues are a thing of the past.

Sven Andrighetto
Habs' Andrighetto Scores In Scrimmage
Sven Andrighetto, RW, MON
9/20/2014
News: Adrighetto scored a goal on a penalty shot during Montreal's intra-squad scrimmage Saturday, the Montreal Gazette reports.
Analysis: Sven Andrighetto showcased some of his offensive skill, forcing a hooking penalty that led to his penalty shot goal, but the 5-9 forward was also out-muscled in one-on-one battles and was on ice for three of his opponents' goals. That sums up Andrighetto at this stage of his career. If he were to stick with Montreal, it would have to be in a third- or fourth-line role, where he would have to play a more physical role than he's accustomed to.

Ben Bishop
Bolts' Bishop (Wrist) Feels "Really Good"
Ben Bishop, G, TB
9/20/2014
News: Ben Bishop (wrist) was encouraged with how he felt after Friday's on-ice work, reports the Tampa Bay Times. He did 15 minutes of individual drills and a 90-minute practice. "The first session felt really good, got a little sore toward the end of the second session, but that's kind of expected," Bishop said.
Analysis: This is great news for his owners and for the Bolts. The team's playoff hopes went down the drain when big Ben Bishop got hurt late in the year. He'll build on his Vezina-nominated season and should deliver similar output this year.

 
 
 
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