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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
Michael Bournival
Habs Recall Bournival
Michael Bournival, LW, MON
4:12 AM
News: Michael Bournival recalled Bournival from Hamilton of the American Hockey League, Hockey Inside Out reports. He had been sent down to the AHL to get some playing time and scored a goal in two games with the Bulldogs.
Analysis: Michael Bournival opened the regular season in Montreal but had not appeared in a game, hence the desire to get some playing time in with the Bulldogs. He rotated in on the fourth line during Monday's practice, and it is not known if he'll suit up Tuesday night against Detroit.

Tom Wilson
Caps Reassign Wilson
Tom Wilson, RW, WAS
12:23 AM
News: The Capitals reassigned Tom Wilson (ankle) to AHL Hershey on Monday.
Analysis: Tom Wilson has been on IR with an ankle injury, and will likely use the stint in Hershey to get back up to speed. Expect him to be called back up to the big club when he's healthy.

Seth Griffith
Bruins' Griffith Skates With Lucic, Krejci
Seth Griffith, C, BOS
12:22 AM
News: Seth Griffith, whom the Bruins recalled from AHL Providence on Monday, skated with Milan Lucic and David Krejci during Monday's practice, the team's official site reports.
Analysis: The Bruins return to action Tuesday against the Sharks, and if Seth Griffith rejoins the team's lineup for that contest, it's plausible that he and Simon Gagne could both end up seeing ice time with Lucic and Krejci.

Jason LaBarbera
Ducks Reassign LaBarbera
Jason LaBarbera, G, ANA
12:18 AM
News: The Ducks reassigned Jason LaBarbera to AHL Norfolk on Monday, Eric Stephens of the Orange County Register reports.
Analysis: Labarbera filled in for John Gibson as Frederik Andersen's backup for a while, but will return to the minors, where he's expected to spend most of the season.

John Gibson
Ducks Recall Gibson
John Gibson, G, ANA
12:14 AM
News: The Ducks recalled John Gibson from AHL Norfolk on Monday, Eric Stephens of the Orange County Register reports.
Analysis: John Gibson earned the first start of the season for the Ducks, but gave up six goals on 39 shots in a loss to the Penguins. He'll return from the AHL and try to prove himself once again when he gets the opportunity. Gibson went 1-1, allowing two goals on 61 shots for a .902 save mark, in his two games with Norfolk.

Kevan Miller
Bruins' Miller Out Indefinitely
Kevan Miller, D, BOS
12:06 AM
News: Kevan Miller is out indefinitely with a dislocated shoulder, Amalie Benjamin of the Boston Globe reports.
Analysis: Kevan Miller injured his shoulder during a fight with the Sabres' Nicolas Deslauriers on Saturday, and will be sidelined indefinitely until he recovers. Miller has yet to record a point, but had a plus-4 rating and five PIM in six games before getting hurt. In his absence, look for Matt Bartkowski to return to the Bruins' blue-line mix, beginning Tuesday against the Sharks.

Scott Harrington
Pens Reassign Harrington
Scott Harrington, D, PIT
12:00 AM
News: The Penguins reassigned Scott Harrington to AHL Wilkes-Barre/Scranton on Monday, Seth Rorabaugh of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports.
Analysis: Scott Harrington didn't see any NHL action while he was up with the big club, but will try to play well enough in the AHL to earn another shot.

Ryan Nugent-Hopkins
Oilers' Nugent-Hopkins Scores First Goal
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, C, EDM
10/20/2014
News: Ryan Nugent-Hopkins scored his first goal of the season -- a game winner -- as Edmonton knocked off the visiting Lightning 3-2 on Monday.
Analysis: RNH made Tampa pay in the third period after Ondrej Palat gifted an awful turnover to Jordan Eberle, who grabbed the only assist on his goal. Now that the Oilers have gotten their first win of the season out of the way, look for the Oilers' top line of Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Eberle and Taylor Hall to get on the scoresheet more consistently.

Brett Connolly
Bolts' Connolly Finds Twine In Loss
Brett Connolly, RW, TB
10/20/2014
News: Brett Connolly potted his second goal of the season in Monday's 3-2 loss to the Oilers.
Analysis: It was nice to see the 2010 sixth overall pick find twine for the second time in five games, but he really hadn't done much else in between (no points, one shot, plus-1 in three contests). Tampa is loaded with bright young talent, anchored by superstar Steven Stamkos, veteran Valteri Filppula and sophomores Ondrej Palat and Tyler Johnson, so Brett Connolly will need to find the offensive consistency that has eluded him in three NHL seasons if he hopes to earn a more prominent role in coach Jon Cooper's lineup.

Ben Bishop
Bolts' Bishop Takes First Loss Monday
Ben Bishop, G, TB
10/20/2014
News: Ben Bishop lost for the first time this season, making 20 of 23 saves as Tampa dropped a 3-2 decision to the Oilers on Monday.
Analysis: Big Ben fell victim to a couple of unfortunate goals in this one, as the Oilers' Taylor Hall converted a second-period penalty shot before Ryan Nugent-Hopkins blew the game winner past him in the third after a ghastly defensive-zone giveaway by Ondrej Palat. Ben Bishop will probably take a rest in favor of backup Evgeni Nabokov when the Bolts play less than 24 hours later Tuesday in Calgary, but look for last year's Vezina Trophy finalist to bounce back this weekend as Tampa's Western road trip continues.

 
 
 
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