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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
Patrick Marleau
Sharks Take Marleau's Alternate Captain Status
Patrick Marleau, C, SJ
8/20/2014
News: The Sharks announced Wednesday that they would enter camp without a captain, which includes taking the "A" off Patrick Marleau's sweater, the Mercury News reports.
Analysis: It had been rumored and hinted at all summer that Patrick Marleau and captain Joe Thornton would have their leadership roles passed to younger players. It has also been rumored that both were asked to waive their no trade clause. Neither did. The team wants the younger generation to take the torch, but as far as fantasy is concerned, you can't reduce the playing time of a player like Marleau, who scored 33 goals and 37 assists last season.

Joe Thornton
Sharks Strip Thornton Of Captaincy
Joe Thornton, C, SJ
8/20/2014
News: The Sharks officially announce Wednesday that Joe Thornton would not be the team captain entering training camp, the Mercury News reports.
Analysis: Coach Todd McLellan said that he doesn't consider it to be stripping Joe Thornton of anything, since he'll be given the opportunity to earn the "C" back. The team has talked frequently this offseason of passing the torch to the next generation and that's what this appears to be. Thornton was not only rumored to be losing his "C," but was involved in trade rumors as well. However, he has a no trade clause and doesn't seem interested in leaving San Jose.

Raffi Torres
Sharks' Torres To Miss Months With Knee Infection
Raffi Torres, LW, SJ
8/20/2014
News: Raffi Torres suffered an infection in his surgically-repaired right knee and is expected to miss the first few months of the season while he undergoes another operation on the knee, David Pollak of the San Jose Mercury News reports.
Analysis: Raffi Torres was limited to just five regular-season contests in 2013-14 after undergoing knee surgery and suffering a subsequent setback shortly after returning after the Olympics. He would ultimately rejoin the Sharks during the postseason and looked to be healthy heading into the upcoming campaign, but it seems the infection surfaced at some point over the summer. For the second straight season, he'll open on injured reserve as a result, with no concrete date for his return. Torres has been a useful player for the Sharks when he's been on the ice, but with two years still remaining on his contract, his durability concerns might dampen the remainder of his tenure with his team.

Dennis Seidenberg
Bruins' Seidenberg Eyes Training Camp
Dennis Seidenberg, D, BOS
8/20/2014
News: Dennis Seidenberg (knee) expects to be ready for training camp, NHL.com reports.
Analysis: Dennis Seidenberg, who last suited up on Dec. 27, had surgery in early January to repair an ACL/MCL injury in his right knee in. At the time, the estimated timetable for a return was in the 6-8 month range. With no reported setbacks since then, and given that the sturdy blueliner indicated that he probably could have returned to action had the Bruins advanced to the Eastern Conference Final, things appear to be on track for him to be at, or near, 100 percent in advance of the upcoming regular season.

Henrik Zetterberg
Wings' Zetterberg: Healthy Heading Into Camp
Henrik Zetterberg, LW, DET
8/20/2014
News: Coach Mike Babcock relayed that Henrik Zetterberg (foot) said he was "feeling the best he has in years" this offseason, suggesting he'll be a full participant in training camp, NHL.com's Dan Rosen reports.
Analysis: With both Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk missing 37 games apiece last season, the Red Wings were forced to get by with a patchwork forward ranks to so-so results. Now that both players are feeling healthy, the depth chart should enjoy more stability in 2014-15, but don't be surprised if Zetterberg notices a drop in ice time for maintenance purposes as he enters his age-34 season. Still, Zetterberg hasn't had many health issues prior to last season, and managed to supply 48 points over the 45 contests in which he suited up. There's plenty of value to be had in Zetterberg, even as he takes on a more deferential role to emerging wings Gustav Nyquist and Tomas Tatar in the years to come.

Pavel Datsyuk
Red Wings' Datsyuk Feeling Good Heaing Into Camp
Pavel Datsyuk, C, DET
8/20/2014
News: Coach Mike Babcock relayed that Pavel Datsyuk (knee) said he was feeling "the best he has in years" this offseason, suggesting he'll be ready to go for training camp, NHL.com's Dan Rosen reports.
Analysis: Considering Pavel Datsyuk hasn't played since late April, it's no surprise he's feeling spry, but there's serious questions he'll hold up for 82 games as he enters his age-34 campaign. He's missed a total of 76 games over his last four seasons, muting the impact of the nearly point-per-game production he provides when healthy. Considering his injury history, Datsyuk might not be worth the markup price his name will cost fantasy players on draft day.

Stephen Weiss
Red Wings' Weiss (Hernia) Feeling Healthy
Stephen Weiss, C, DET
8/20/2014
News: Stephen Weiss indicated he's feeling healthy following his April 21 surgery to repair his sports hernia, NHL.com's Dan Rosen reports.
Analysis: Stephen Weiss was a disaster in his first season with the Red Wings after inking a five-year, $24.5 million deal last summer, appearing in only 26 games and totaling four points. He ultimately required a pair of sports hernia surgeries that prevented a second-half return, but after spending the last four months recovering, he appears ready to go for 2014-15. Weiss will be given the opportunity to win back his job as the Wings' No. 2 center, but it seems dubious that he'll be able to return to the 50-point form he showed during his prime years with the Panthers.

Mike Mottau
NHLer Mottau Calls It A Career
Mike Mottau, D, FLA
8/19/2014
News: Mike Mottau announced his retirement from professional hockey Tuesday, Joe Haggerty of CSNNE.com reports.
Analysis: The Massachusetts native was exploring the option of playing with AHL Providence to stick with his hometown Bruins organization, but decided he was content to spend more time with his family. Mike Mottau, 36, appeared in 321 career NHL games with the Rangers, Flames, Devils, Islanders, Bruins and Panthers, with his most productive seasons coming in the late-2000s with New Jersey.

Josh Harding
Wild's Harding Cleared For Training Camp
Josh Harding, G, MIN
8/19/2014
News: Wild GM Chuck Fletcher said Josh Harding is "a go" for training camp, Michael Russo of the Minneapolis Star Tribune reports. "Everybody seems to be feeling pretty good, and at this stage, all of our players who were banged up at the end of the season are feeling better. Josh has felt good. Right now we're not expecting any issues for anybody with respect to passing training camp medicals."
Analysis: With an 18-7-3 record, 1.65 GAA and .933 save percentage, Josh Harding was playing as well as any goal in hockey before a setback in his treatment for multiple sclerosis sidelined him after the end of December. Because he's missed large chunks of both of the last two seasons while dealing with the effects of the illness, fantasy players shouldn't look to invest heavily in Harding. Even if healthy, he's no lock to open the season as the regular starter in goal for the Wild with Niklas Backstrom and Darcy Kuemper still around.

Niklas Backstrom
Wild's Backstrom Good To Go For Camp
Niklas Backstrom, G, MIN
8/19/2014
News: Wild GM Chuck Fletcher said Niklas Backstrom (abdomen, hip) is feeling good and and will be ready to participate in training camp, the Minneapolis Star Tribune reports.
Analysis: Any way you spin it, Niklas Backstrom had a miserable 2013-14 campaign, as the veteran netminder suited up for 21 games and posted a lousy 3.02 GAA and .899 save percentage before undergoing season-ending abdominal and hip surgery. Though he's ostensibly healthy, Backstrom is now 36 and doesn't appear poised to enter the season as the club's starter, especially with Darcy Kuemper and Josh Harding still around. His sizable contract may be the only thing keeping him around.

 
 
 
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