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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
Oscar Klefbom
Oilers' Klefbom Will Return Thursday
Oscar Klefbom, D, EDM
12:59 AM
News: Oscar Klefbom (foot) will return to the lineup Thursday against the Sharks, Jack Michaels of the Oilers Radio Network reports.
Analysis: Despite practicing Wednesday, Oscar Klefbom was expected to sit out Thursday's contest in an effort to provide him with more time to heal. However, after the injury didn't seem to compromise him during the morning skate, Klefbom was given the go-ahead to suit up following a two-game absence. He'll join Mark Fayne on Edmonton's second pairing.

Lee Stempniak
Rangers' Stempniak Undergoing Mumps Tests
Lee Stempniak, RW, NYR
12:55 AM
News: Lee Stempniak will undergo testing for the mumps virus and will be isolated from the Rangers for the next five days, Andrew Gross of The Record reports.
Analysis: Though Lee Stempniak hasn't been diagnosed with the virus, the Rangers aren't taking any chances after Tanner Glass and Derick Brassard both previously dealt with the mumps. Even if the tests don't reveal Stempniak's illness to be anything serious, the five-day timeline will force him to miss at least the Rangers' two games over the weekend. The Rangers could recall a forward from AHL Hartford to cover for Stempniak's absence.

Torrey Mitchell
Sabres Labeling Mitchell As Week-To- Week
Torrey Mitchell, C, BUF
12:50 AM
News: Torrey Mitchell's foot injury is considered to be a week-to-week concern, Bill Hoppe of the Olean Times Herald reports.
Analysis: With Torrey Mitchell yet to resume skating since leaving Monday's game with the foot injury, the Sabres aren't expecting him to return in the near future. He could be placed on injured reserve in the coming days as the Sabres look to add further depth at forward.

Cody McCormick
Sabres' McCormick Week-To-Week
Cody McCormick, C, BUF
12:47 AM
News: Cody McCormick (lower body) is considered week-to-week, Bill Hoppe of the Olean Times Herald reports.
Analysis: Cody McCormick has already missed the last three games with the injury and doesn't seem to be particularly close to a return. The Sabres could place him on injured reserve in the next few days to open up a roster spot for a healthy body at AHL Springfield.

Ben Scrivens
Desperate Oilers Stick With Scrivens Thursday
Ben Scrivens, G, EDM
12:17 AM
News: Ben Scrivens will man the net again Thursday against the Sharks.
Analysis: Ben Scrivens has turned in back-to-back credible outings for the Oilers against the Rangers and Coyotes, but he's been cruelly handed the loss on both occasions. If it's not Edmonton's horrid defense that lets him down, Scrivens has too often seen the Oilers' offense fail to provide him with much support. Simply put, the team is a disaster right now and could struggle mightily over the remainder of the season, making its goalie situation one to avoid whenever possible.

Derick Brassard
Rangers' Brassard To Skate Friday
Derick Brassard, C, NYR
12:12 AM
News: Derick Brassard (mumps) will resume practicing with the Rangers on Friday, Andrew Gross of The Record reports.
Analysis: The Rangers put Derick Brassard under a five-day isolation period after he was diagnosed with the mumps last Sunday, and it appears the virus is no longer wreaking havoc on his body. Though ostensibly healthy, Brassard is no sure bet to return to the lineup Saturday against the Hurricanes, as it will likely hinge on how he looks during Friday's skate. J.T. Miller has been absorbing most of Brassard's ice time over the last two games.

Stefan Noesen
Ducks' Noesen Resumes Skating
Stefan Noesen, RW, ANA
12:06 AM
News: Stefan Noesen (Achilles) posted on his personal Twitter account that he was able to resume skating Thursday.
Analysis: Stefan Noesen isn't projected to return until mid-to-late February due to the Achilles injury, so he still has significant hurdles to clear in the recovery process. He'll likely work out on his own for the next several weeks before the Ducks allow him to practice with AHL Norfolk.

Karri Ramo
Flames' Ramo Misses Practice With Illness
Karri Ramo, G, CGY
12:04 AM
News: Karri Ramo missed Thursday's practice with an illness.
Analysis: Coach Bob Hartley said that Karri Ramo called in sick prior to practice, but is expected to return to the ice for Friday's morning skate. He's slated to serve as the backup for Jonas Hiller later that evening against the Stars, but the Flames will bring a goalie up from the AHL ranks if Ramo fails to notice improvement with his condition by that time. Hartley said there's no indication at this time that Ramo is dealing with the mumps, but the Flames are taking precautions nonetheless, according to NHL.com's Aaron Vickers.

Jonas Hiller
Flames Rolling With Hiller On Friday
Jonas Hiller, G, CGY
12:00 AM
News: Jonas Hiller will receive the start in goal Friday against the Stars.
Analysis: With Karri Ramo absent from Thursday's practice due to an illness and uncertain to be availalbe Friday, it was an easy decision for coach Bob Hartley to tap Jonas Hiller for his third start in four games. While Hiller has been unable to snap a losing streak for the Flames that now sits at six games, he's at least outperformed the struggling Ramo recently, stopping a respectable 91.8 percent of the shots he's faced over his last four appearances. The Flames will play their second game of a back-to-back set Saturday, but if Ramo's not healthy by then, look for Hiller to get the call again.

Marian Gaborik
Gaborik Powers Kings' Comeback Thursday
Marian Gaborik, RW, LA
12/18/2014
News: With the Kings facing a 3-0 deficit Thursday, Marian Gaborik went to work, sandwiching an assist between two power-play goals to tie the game at 3-3, leading to an eventual 6-4 win.
Analysis: Uh oh, Gabby's heating up. He's tallied goals in three straight games, with five markers on 12 shots in that span, making him look like the high-flying Marian Gaborik we saw in last year's playoffs again. The key for him is, as always, avoiding the injury bug. If he can do that, well, it certainly looks like his offensive game has come around.

 
 
 
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