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Blue Line Buzz: Devils you should know

by | Rotowire.com
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The Devil You Need To Know

New Jersey has not been a bastion of reliability for offensive defensemen the last seven seasons. Basically, since Brian Rafalski left, the Devils have had just a handful of memorable seasons from offensive defenders, thanks to Paul Martin and Andy Greene. On Thursday, the Devils received a glimpse at another defender who could have an impact offensively in Eric Gelinas.

Gelinas scored New Jersey's second goal in Thursday's shootout loss to Vancouver and assisted on one of New Jersey's goals in Saturday's comeback win over Boston. Both points came on the power play. Gelinas was sent back to Albany (AHL) on Sunday to make room for Bryce Salvador's return to the team, as Salvador had been away from the team due to a death in his family.

Gelinas was one of only two defensemen on the team's roster who didn't need to go through waivers to be sent down and the prevailing wisdom is that the Devils are making room for him on their roster, as noted by The Bergen Record's Tom Gulitti. Gelinas has offensive upside and is not shy about shooting the puck, as he was leading Albany in shots on goal prior to his being called up with 20 in five games. In his two contests with the Devils, Gelinas averaged 3:05 on the power play, second only to Marek Zidlicky among New Jersey defensemen. It would behoove the Devils to make a roster spot for this young man, but this is the organization that gave Ryane Clowe $4.75 million per season for the next five years. While the Devils may be foolish at times, they recognize the impact Gelinas can make; he's since been recalled and will remain with the Devils.

Gelinas should be a target in deeper leagues but remember that rookie defenders are prone to have dips in their production. Also of note with the Devils is the fact that Zidlicky is tied for the team's scoring lead with Jaromir Jagr. Zidlicky has a goal and eight assists, with four of those points coming on the power play. Use him at your own risk.

Oliver Ekman-Larsson took a few weeks to wake up, but the Desert Dog is howling after this past weekend's matinee performance against Edmonton. The 23-year old blueliner is rewarding owners who likely got him at a relative value this year. Enjoy it now, as OEL is likely to be one of the top blue liners drafted next season after the freakishly elite such as P.K. Subban and Erik Karlsson. Ekman-Larsson notched a power-play goal, the game-winner Saturday, and had two primary assists, one of which was also on the power play. Larsson sits third in the defensemen scoring race after Saturday's outburst and is seeing 25 minutes a night.

While Ekman-Larsson is doing a bit of what most thought he might do this season, James Wisniewski is enjoying a renaissance of sorts in Columbus, riding a four-game points streak into Tuesday's action. The poster child of the "when healthy" caveat, Wisniewski is standing out on a blue line with several potentially productive players in Jack Johnson, Fedor Tyutin and the ever frustrating Nikita Nikitin. Wisniewski has nine points on the season; remember he isn't too far removed from a 51-point stat line in 2010-11 between the Islanders and Montreal. His first two years in Columbus have been plagued by injury, but his point-per-game statistics have been encouraging, with 41 points in 78 games since signing as a free agent in the summer of 2011. Wisniewski has six points in the last four contests and is certain to continue to see scoring opportunities with the scrappy Sport Coats.

Unexpectedly, it's David Savard who sits second on the team in defensemen scoring with four points through 11 games, followed by Johnson, Tyutin and Ryan Murray, the second overall pick in the 2012 draft. Murray had a productive junior career but missed last season with a shoulder injury. Columbus has always been a surprisingly solid source of secondary defensemen scoring, but Wisniewski, when he's healthy, as he is now, is going to be a boon for owners. Those in keeper leagues will obviously want to keep Murray on their radars, as he's seen a spike in his power play time the last week, including 5:59 in a game against Toronto last week.

He's Back

Kris Letang has returned from his unfortunately timed knee injury and is back roaming the ice for Pittsburgh, a team still on top of the horribly named Metropolitan Divison despite losing three straight games last week. We know what a healthy Letang is capable of doing; a player who had 38 points in 35 contests during last season's lockout-shortened campaign and a man who was on pace for close to 70 points one season earlier after he was laid low by a questionable hit courtesy of Montreal's Max Pacioretty. Letang grabbed a goal in Saturday's loss to Toronto and can be expected to be a player worth the high pick most spent on him.

In Letang's stead, Matt Niskanen filled in solidly for owners who snagged the veteran American blue liner, but his time on the power play is dwindling with Letang's return. Niskanen saw just 45 seconds in Saturday's loss to Toronto to Letang's 3:59 and he played 2:51 to the 8:14 Letang saw in Friday's loss to the Islanders. This trend likely will continue for Niskanen, who can still be useful in deeper leagues which reward plus-minus.

Budding Bud

Cody Franson sits with nine helpers in 12 contests for the Leafs. Franson's numbers are more impressive when you throw out the first five games of the season where he notched a modest two points; he has seven helpers in the last seven games and should benefit from Toronto's dynamic offense.

Snuffed Flame

Mark Giordano was eating ice time for the Flames prior to a lower-body injury the Flames are still being mum about; however, Giordano has been seen in a walking boot as noted by the Calgary Herald. The Flames' versatile defender, owner of nine points through eight games has not played since October 21 and is eligible to come off IR soon, but there is no definite timetable for his return. Now might not be a bad time to try and pry Giordano from a frustrated owner if you can stash the Flame on your roster.

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Player News
Mike Fisher
Preds' Fisher Still Sidelined
Mike Fisher, C, NSH
12:58 AM
News: Mike Fisher (lower body) won't play Tuesday against Chicago, Adam Vingan of The Tennessean reports.
Analysis: Mike Fisher was able to participate in the Preds' morning skate in advance of Game 4, but he's not quite ready to resume playoff action. "Mike will return at some point," Preds coach Peter Laviolette noted Tuesday, "but right now he's still listed as day-to-day."

Sven Baertschi
Canucks' Baertschi Could Fill In For Burrows
Sven Baertschi, LW, VAN
12:54 AM
News: With Alex Burrows out for Tuesday's Game 4 against Calgary, Sven Baertschi appears poised to make his NHL playoff debut.
Analysis: The 22-year-old was recalled from AHL Utica earlier Tuesday, and with Burrows out, Sven Baertschi is now a candidate to suit up against the team that dealt him to the Canucks on March 2. Baertschi, who notched four helpers in 15 games for Calgary prior to the deal, recorded two goals in three regular season games for Vancouver.

Francois Beauchemin
Ducks' Beauchemin Records Two Points In Game 3 Win
Francois Beauchemin, D, ANA
12:49 AM
News: Francois Beauchemin registered two assists in Game 3 on Monday, helping the Ducks to a 5-4 overtime win over the Jets.
Analysis: Francois Beauchemin's helpers went down as his first points in this quarterfinal round of the playoffs. The veteran defender had 11 goals and 12 assists in the regular season, tallying two points in a contest one other time (April 1 against Edmonton). He's a solid play in daily leagues and most playoff pools.

Bryan Little
Jets' Little Tallies Goal In Game 3 Loss
Bryan Little, C, WPG
12:39 AM
News: Bryan Little registered a goal in Monday's Game 3 loss to the Ducks.
Analysis: Bryan Little's goal was the ultimate score during a second period in which both the Jets and Ducks combined to find twine five times. The center put a game-high six shots on net in the loss, earning first-star honors for his efforts.

Zdeno Chara
Bruins' Chara Recovering From Ankle Issue
Zdeno Chara, D, BOS
12:34 AM
News: Zdeno Chara will not play for Slovakia in next month's IIHF World Championships, as he is reportedly recovering from an ankle fracture, csnne.com reports.
Analysis: The report suggests that Zdeno Chara suffered the injury toward the end of the regular season, but the big blueliner was able to tough it out during the stretch run in the Bruins' unsuccessful bid to make the playoffs. With an offseason ahead of him, Chara now has ample time to heal up from his ankle injury, as well as a knee issue that previously hobbled him. The 38-year-old has already indicated that he expects to return to form in 2015-16, and given his dedication to fitness and training, we don't doubt that he will put himself in the best possible position to potentially bounce back next season.

Adam Lowry
Jets' Lowry Stays Hot With Assist
Adam Lowry, LW, WPG
12:33 AM
News: Adam Lowry picked up an assist in Monday's Game 3 loss to the Ducks.
Analysis: After supplying just 23 points during the regular season, Adam Lowry has now tallied a goal or assist in each of the first three games of the first-round series. He's made his mark as a rookie mainly for his prowess as a hitter, but his performance thus far in the playoffs suggests he might be ready to take on more offensive responsibilities during the 2015-16 campaign.

Andrew Ladd
Jets' Ladd Logs 12 Hits In Loss
Andrew Ladd, LW, WPG
12:31 AM
News: Andrew Ladd accumulated 12 hits and six shots on goal in Monday's 5-4 overtime loss to the Ducks in Game 3 of the first-round series.
Analysis: Andrew Ladd finished second on the team this season with 212 hits in 81 games, but he'd never been quite as active at any point as we was Monday night. To give some perspective, the winger had recorded 14 hits over the previous six games combined, which isn't a shabby total in itself. Even though he's failed to register a point this series, Ladd has compensated for it degree by being highly active in the non-scoring categories.

Ondrej Pavelec
Jets' Pavelec Implodes Monday
Ondrej Pavelec, G, WPG
12:16 AM
News: Ondrej Pavelec surrendered five goals on 31 shots -- including the overtime game-winner -- in Monday's Game 3 defeat to the Ducks.
Analysis: After closing the regular season with three consecutive shutouts, Ondrej Pavelec entered the postseason hotter than just about any goalie out there. Unfortunately, he's failed to replicate that performance thus far in the playoffs, stopping only 92 of the 103 shots (.893 save percentage) he's faced through three games while taking the loss on each occasion. Even with the Jets on the cusp of elimination, it doesn't seem likely that coach Paul Maurice will turn away from Pavelec for Game 4, especially after backup goalie Michael Hutchinson regressed badly in the second half.

Alex Burrows
Canucks' Burrows Sustains Upper-Body Injury
Alex Burrows, LW, VAN
12:09 AM
News: The Canucks announced that Alex Burrows, who sustained an upper-body injury at practice Tuesday, was subsequently taken to the hospital for precautionary reasons.
Analysis: While the nature of Alex Burrows' injury has yet to be clarified, the team's statement indicating that he was taken to the hospital as a precaution offers hope that the forward avoided a serious injury. The report confirms that Burrows will not play Tuesday night against the Flames.

Nicklas Backstrom
Caps' Backstrom Pots Game 4 Winner
Nicklas Backstrom, C, WAS
4/21/2015
News: Nicklas Backstrom scored Game 4's winning goal in the third period and added an assist Tuesday in a 2-1 victory over the Islanders.
Analysis: Since going scoreless in Game 1, Nicklas Backstrom has lit aflame, scoring goals in three consecutive games and adding three assists. He was driving the Washington offense even when Alex Ovechkin wasn't able to hit the scoresheet, and if that doesn't prove his value to this team -- and to fantasy owners -- nothing will.

 
 
 
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