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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
Brad Richards
Blackhawks' Richards Sets Up Kane In Game 4 Win
Brad Richards, C, CHI
5/25/2015
News: Brad Richards assisted on Patrick Kane's game-tying power-play goal in Saturday's double-overtime victory over the Ducks in Game 4.
Analysis: Brad Richards has recorded a point in each game of the series thus far, giving the Blackhawks the offensive presence at the second-line center spot that was sorely missing during the past postseason. The 35-year-old submitted a mediocre regular season, but if he can remain productive for just a few more games, he'll be well worth the investment the Blackhawks made.

Brent Seabrook
Blackhawks' Seabrook Nets Game 4 Goal
Brent Seabrook, D, CHI
5/25/2015
News: Brent Seabrook tallied a goal in Saturday's Game 4 triumph over the Ducks.
Analysis: It was an effective all-around game for Brent Seabrook, who finished with four shot attempts, four hits, and six blocks across 32:03 of ice time. With coach Joel Quenneville showing little trust in fifth and sixth defensemen Kimmo Timonen and Kyle Cumiskey, Seabrook should be poised to log big minutes for the remainder of the postseason.

Patrick Sharp
Blackhawks' Sharp Captures Assist In Game 4
Patrick Sharp, LW, CHI
1:12 PM
News: Patrick Sharp picked up an assist in Saturday's Game 4 victory over the Ducks.
Analysis: Patrick Sharp was given credit for setting up Antoine Vermette's game-winning goal, though the latter did most of the work in making the play happen. It still counts as the first point of the series for Sharp, who has nonetheless been one of the Blackhawks' best contributors this postseason. He's compiled four goals, six assists, and 45 shot attempts over the team's 14 playoff games.

Jonathan Toews
Chicago's Toews Gets Goal, Assist In Game 4
Jonathan Toews, C, CHI
1:09 PM
News: Jonathan Toews recorded a goal and an assist in Saturday's Game 4 victory over the Ducks.
Analysis: The physical Ryan Kesler has been a nuisance for Jonathan Toews all series, but the Blackhawks center finally got the better of his adversary in Game 4. He notched his first goal of the series at the 2:38 mark of the third period, then captured a secondary assist on Brent Seabrook's marker exactly five minutes later. He's now averaging a point per game in the playoffs, tallying five goals and nine assists across 14 contests.

Antoine Vermette
Chicago's Vermette Ties Series At 2-2
Antoine Vermette, C, CHI
1:05 PM
News: Antoine Vermette supplied the game-winning goal in double overtime of Saturday's Game 4 victory over the Ducks.
Analysis: After serving as a healthy scratch in Game 3, Antoine Vermette rewarded coach Joel Quenneville's decision to slot him back into the lineup by rebounding his own shot attempt and putting the puck past the Ducks' Frederik Andersen in the game's 85th minute. The center also won 14 of 20 faceoffs in the contest, which should be enough to guarantee his place in the lineup for the remainder of the series.

Patrick Kane
Blackhawks' Kane Comes Up Big In Game 4
Patrick Kane, RW, CHI
1:02 PM
News: Patrick Kane registered the game-tying goal in third period of Saturday's eventual 5-4 double-overtime triumph over the Ducks.
Analysis: Minutes after the Ducks raced back from a 3-1 deficit to take a 4-3 lead, Patrick Kane sent the United Center crowd into a frenzy when he finished off a power-play feed from linemate Brad Richards with 7:21 left to play. The 26-year-old has been spectacular in the Blackhawks' 15 playoff contests, recording nine goals and six assists.

Mats Zuccarello
Rangers' Zuccarello (Upper Body) Still Day-To-Day
Mats Zuccarello, RW, NYR
9:13 AM
News: Zucarrello (upper body) will not skate Sunday and remains day-to-day, but coach Alain Vigneault indicated he's "getting better," Andrew Gross of The Record reports.
Analysis: Mats Zuccarello continues to work his way back from an upper-body injury that occurred against the Penguins in the first round. While he won't play Sunday, the fact that he's day-to-day doesn't rule out a return at some point in the series.

Matt Carle
Bolts' Carle (Undisclosed) Expected To Play Sunday
Matt Carle, D, TB
8:59 AM
News: Coach Jon Cooper indicated he expects Matt Carle (undisclosed) to play in Sunday's Game 5 matchup with the Lightning, Bryan Burns of NHL.com reports.
Analysis: Matt Carle left Game 3 on Wednesday after taking a hit midway through the first period, and it cost him Friday's Game 4 as well. He participated in morning skate Sunday, and it appears that may be a precursor to him taking the ice with his teammates for Game 5.

Trevor van Riemsdyk
van Riemsdyk (Wrist) Out Monday
Trevor van Riemsdyk, D, CHI
7:58 AM
News: Trevor van Riemsdyk (wrist) will not travel with his team to Anaheim, Mark Lazerus of the Chicago Sun-Times reports.
Analysis: This essentially rules Trevor van Riemsdyk out for Game 5 against the Ducks on Monday, but he could still play in this series. He was recently recalled from the AHL, and could be used as a depth defender, however it's unclear just how healthy van Riemsdyk actually is at this point.

Brandon Saad
Blackhawks' Saad Dominant In Game 4 Win
Brandon Saad, LW, CHI
6:42 AM
News: Brandon Saad tallied a shorthanded goal and a pair of assists in Saturday's Game 4 double-overtime win over the Ducks.
Analysis: Brandon Saad notched the shortie when Ducks defenseman Francois Beauchemin got tied up with a referee during his team's first-period power play, allowing the Blackhawks winger to break away unmarked to the net. It went down as his first goal since Game 1 of the second-round matchup with the Wild, but that wouldn't be where his night would stop. Saad had a hand in each of the Blackhawks' next two goals to finish with a game-high plus-3 rating.

 
 
 
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