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Blue Line Buzz: Diamond in the rough

by | Rotowire.com
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(All statistics through November 17)

Gem In the Desert?

Erik Karlsson is leading all NHL defensemen in goals through the first quarter of the season with seven. This can be filed under news items that are not news. Second in the league, tied with six goals is Boston's Torey Krug, the man who replaced Zdeno Chara on Boston's power play. The player tied with Krug and six goals? A Phoenix defender not named Oliver Ekman-Larsson or Keith Yandle, but instead … Michael Stone. You can be excused if you didn't have Stone on your roster, but it may be hard to entirely ignore him in deep leagues. While the six goals are nice, Stone has no assists and a modest 24 shots on goal, which is great for leagues that count shooting percentage; two of his goals have come via the man advantage.

Stone is in his second full NHL season and notched five goals last year in the truncated campaign, but a close look at his junior numbers with the Calgary Hitmen show him to be a rather productive scorer, scoring 40 total goals over his last two seasons in the WHL, not to mention a boatload of PIM. In Phoenix, Stone is in the presence of two of the league's top scorers on the blue line, but is capitalizing on his chances. Four of his six goals have come in the last six games, but he's seen limited power-play time, seeing just over 35 seconds per game over the last three. The shooting percentage undoubtedly will correct itself, but Stone is a player worth maintaining an eye on in keeper leagues. The Coyotes have long been rumored to be interested in dealing Yandle given their blue line stable and Yandle's salary, but the presumptive Team USA defender is in the desert for now.

There has also been a David Rundblad sighting in Phoenix, as he notched his first point of the season since being recalled from healthy scratch status. Rundblad was the key piece sent back to Phoenix in 2011's Kyle Turris trade with Ottawa and has been on a permanent shuttle between the AHL, NHL and the press box the last season-plus. It's also worth mentioning that veteran Derek Morris had 10 points through 14 games before missing the last two weeks with a lower body injury, but is nearing a return.

Someone, Anyone

New Jersey isn't the only team with paltry goal-scoring numbers from the back end, as both the Islanders and Colorado each have six goals from its blue liners on the season, the same number as New Jersey. The Islanders are looking for more production from the blue line while Lubomir Visnovsky is out indefinitely with a concussion. While the veteran is out, Andrew MacDonald and Travis Hamonic have been leading the way from the back end with a total of two goals and 13 points from the duo. Matt Donovan is the upside play of the future on the Island, but Donovan is seeing 1:13 of power play time per game through 17 tilts and has four points on the season with just one helper in the last eight games.

Colorado is getting decent production from former No. 1 overall pick Erik Johnson, with seven points through 19 games, two of which have come on the power play. Johnson has the most upside on the Avalanche blue line until Tyson Barrie and Stefan Elliott figure out the kinks in their game. After Johnson's modest numbers, Jan Hejda and Andre Benoit are seeing their names on the scoresheet occasionally as well. If only the Avalanche had a player like Kevin Shattenkirk.

Shea Weber is doing what he's used to doing in the Hockey Tonk, with 10 points through 20 games (five goals, five assists). Okay, maybe a little less than what we're used to from the likes of Weber, but the Predators have not been a positive source of blue line points outside of Weber save for rookie Seth Jones and his eight points. Jones is adapting to the NHL game and is eating minutes at a huge clip, averaging 24:04 per game in the first quarter of his first season.

After Jones and Weber is where the numbers start to look more like a New Jersey blue line, as Ryan Ellis has five points through 18 games while Roman Josi is certainly underperforming after his huge contract with three points through 10 games. However, despite that, Josi might be a player you'd want to target as he has all three points in the eight games he's played since returning from an early-season concussion; he notched two assists in Nashville's blowout win over Chicago on Saturday. Josi has been seeing much power-play time since his return, but remember Josi has a tendency to binge on points, as 12 of last season's 18 points were concentrated over a five-game span, leaving a meager six in the other 42 games. He's likely is kicking around on your waiver wire and can be an option in deeper leagues given his potential, just monitor his minutes on the power play vis-à-vis those of Jones.

The Devils nearly doubled the season's amount of goals their defenders scored in Saturday evening's win over Pittsburgh, getting tallies from Andy Greene and Adam Larsson, 2012's fourth overall pick. The Devils had a mere four goals from blue liners through 19 games and added two more to that humongously-big total. Larsson is one of those players still wearing the potential tag after a tenuous spot in the lineup his first two seasons. He just turned 21 years old and seems to be earning more regular playing time under coach Peter DeBoer and has been playing solid hockey since being paired with fellow youngster Eric Gelinas.

Larsson has been a player fantasy owners believe will breakout at some point in his early career. He has the talent and a bit of offensive talent to his game, but it's been a question of whether he's been given the chance to show it in New Jersey. Dating back to the latter part of the 2012 season and through New Jersey's run to the 2012 Stanley Cup Final, Larsson has been in and out of the Devils' lineup, having his play under scrutiny and often being left out in favor of the likes of Peter Harrold and Anton Volchenkov. Larsson's numbers this season are not attractive, with three points through 17 games and he's has seen little power play time. What's encouraging about Larsson is that he has two points through the last three games and all three of his season's points have come in the last six contests. He doesn't shoot the puck often, just 15 through 17 games, but there is upside with Larsson for those in deep keeper leagues. He did put up 41 points in 37 games his last season in Sweden for Skelleftea.

Larsson has typically just shown flashes of offensive ability, but still has growing to do, not to mention keeping his head up a bit more.

Video clip of the week:

What are the odds that the Maple Leafs will look to sign embattled Toronto mayor Rob Ford after this check on Monday following the Toronto City Council stripping him of most of his powers?

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Player News
Taylor Hall
Oilers' Hall In Midst Of Cold Spell
Taylor Hall, LW, EDM
12/18/2014
News: Taylor Hall has tallied just one point in the Oilers' last seven games.
Analysis: Taylor Hall hasn't seen his shot attempts take a dramatic dip during the scoring drought, but if he's not finding the back of the net with regularity, the Oilers are in a serious trouble. It shouldn't come as much of a surprise that with Hall slumping, the Oilers haven't mustered more than two goals in any match during that seven-game stretch. The burden of carrying the Oilers for the past five seasons clearly seems to be weighing down Hall, whose name has been starting to show up in trade rumors more frequently of late.

Reilly Smith
Bruins' Smith Producing Steadily
Reilly Smith, RW, BOS
12/18/2014
News: Reilly Smith netted a goal in Tuesday's shootout loss to the Predators.
Analysis: After a meager start to the season, Reilly Smith has really clicked since joining Brad Marchand and Patrice Bergeron on the top trio, tallying four goals and two assists over the last five games. Smith's recent surge in production could make it tough on coach Claude Julien to break up the trio once David Krejci (groin) returns, which could happen as soon as Wednesday's game against the Wild.

Chris Thorburn
Jets' Thorburn Scores Goal In Win
Chris Thorburn, RW, WPG
12/18/2014
News: Chris Thorburn scored his second goal of the season in Tuesday's victory over the Sabres.
Analysis: As his two points in 31 games would suggest, Chris Thorburn isn't someone the Jets are looking to for offense most nights. Instead, he'll carry most of his value as a grinder on the checking line and a leader in the locker room.

Carl Hagelin
Rangers' Hagelin Bags Goal Tuesday
Carl Hagelin, LW, NYR
12/18/2014
News: Carl Hagelin tallied his seventh goal of the season in Tuesday's 5-2 victory over the Oilers.
Analysis: Carl Hagelin has notched goals in back-to-back contests, giving him 13 points in 29 contests this season. However, he's currently skating on the third line with Kevin Hayes and Lee Stempniak, a role that won't afford him much more than 15 minutes per night. He's a solid depth scorer for the Rangers, but fantasy owners can likely do better.

Josh Harding
No Timetable For Harding's Return From MS Setback
Josh Harding, G, MIN
12/18/2014
News: Josh Harding has yet to return to practice with Iowa teammates since being hospitalized for dehydration after playing two periods for AHL Iowa on Dec. 6, the St. Paul Pioneer Press reports. The dehydration episode was related to his multiple sclerosis.
Analysis: There's no timetable for his return and it sounds like this could be a significant setback to his multiple sclerosis issues.

Kari Lehtonen
Stars' Lehtonen In Line To Start Wednesday
Kari Lehtonen, G, DAL
12/18/2014
News: Kari Lehtonen was the first goalie off the ice at the Stars' gameday skate and is slated to start Wednesday against the Canucks, Mike Heika of the Dallas Morning News reports.
Analysis: Kari Lehtonen has alternated wins in losses in his previous four December starts, continuing a trend of rather inconsistent play this season. He'll catch a bit of a break in matching up against Canucks backup goalie Eddie Lack on Tuesday, but it's still difficult to trust him at this point. The last time Lehtonen played Vancouver, he came away with a 6-3 victory during which he faced 46 shots. It wouldn't be shocking if another barnburner broke out again Wednesday.

Bryce Salvador
Devils' Salvador Still Not Skating
Bryce Salvador, D, NJ
12/18/2014
News: Bryce Salvador (lower body) has yet to resume skating since landing on injured reserve Nov. 17, Tom Gulitti of The Record reports.
Analysis: Bryce Salvador suggested that he's making progress, but he has yet to show anything tangible that would indicate as much. The 38-year-old is in the final year of his contract with the Devils and could be headed for retirement once the season concludes.

Dmitrij Jaskin
Blues Recall Jaskin From AHL Chicago
Dmitrij Jaskin, RW, STL
4:53 PM
News: Dmitrij Jaskin was recalled from AHL Chicago on Wednesday, Jeremy Rutherford of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports.
Analysis: Dmitrij Jaskin will provide the Blues with offensive depth while Jaden Schwartz is week-to-week with a foot injury. He has one point in six contests with the team earlier this year.

David Krejci
Bruins' Krejci (Groin) Taking Rushes
David Krejci, C, BOS
4:50 PM
News: Based on the Bruins' rushes in pregame warmups, David Krejci appears to be in line to play Wednesday against the Wild.
Analysis: Barring an unforeseen setback, it looks as if the Bruins' center will be safe to use in lineups Wednesday night.

Jaden Schwartz
Blues' Schwartz (Foot) "Week-To-Week"
Jaden Schwartz, LW, STL
4:47 PM
News: Jaden Schwartz is dealing with a foot injury, and the team has classified him as "week-to-week," NHL.com's Lou Korac reports.
Analysis: Jaden Schwartz has produced 11 goals and 16 helpers on the season, but the winger won't be deployed by St. Louis in the short term. He appears to have suffered the injury Tuesday night against the Kings, but little is known regarding the exact nature of his condition at the moment.

 
 
 
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