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Blue Line Buzz: Fanning the Flames

by | Rotowire.com
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Unfortunately for the Flames, they will be without minutes-eater Dennis Wideman for almost two months due to a broken hand. However, the news hasn't been all horrible in southern Alberta, as Calgary welcomed back stalwart Mark Giordano, who grabbed a goal and an assist in his first game back, last week's 4-1 win over Phoenix. He did not have a point in the two games since but launched five shots on goal Thursday. Giordano will be living on the ice for the Flames, but, more than likely, he's already owned in most leagues.

The well-traveled Kris Russell, who's played for St. Louis and Columbus in recent seasons, seems to be filling in nicely for the injured Wideman, sitting 22nd overall in defensemen scoring with 15 points and a plus-6 rating. Russell has a goal and an assist in the last two games and seven in the last 12. With Wideman out of the lineup for the foreseeable future, Russell could be a quietly good option for the fickle Flames, as his power play time has increased drastically the last four games.

Blue Broadway

Ryan McDonagh is on his way to cementing a spot on the United States Olympic Team. The Rangers' blue liner has been one of the league's most consistent players the last two weeks and he's proving himself to be rather adept at both ends of the rink. McDonagh is riding a six-game points streak with a goal and six helpers in that span. He posted an assist on the Rangers' game-tying goal in Saturday's overtime loss to New Jersey and grabbed two on Thursday in their win over Buffalo. Quietly, McDonagh has been making his way up the points leaders list for defenders, sitting eighth overall with six goals and 19 total points. He's not a big shooter, with just 49 and his plus-1 is more of a product of the Rangers' inconsistency, but McDonagh has only gone without a point in four games just once, usually only going just one or two contests. Of his 19 points, he has a modest five on the power play, but is seeing plenty of man-advantage time.

The season hasn't been as kind for his teammate, Dan Girardi. Coming off several solid offensive seasons, Girardi started slowly with six points through the season's first 30 contests and just one goal. Girardi has always been more of a defensive-minded player who chipped in offensively more than most but owners had been expecting more in standard leagues. He's still delivering numbers in the hits and blocked shots department (although, not as many blocks with John Tortorella in Vancouver), but it could be time to look at Girardi as an option. He notched an assist in the Rangers' loss to New Jersey on Saturday and has four of his season's six points in the last nine games and all six since November 7. Girardi has cracked 30 points once and has the talent to be a productive member of the Rags attack, but he has only started to see regular power-play time. In the last two weeks his time on the man-advantage has spiked after barely seeing any the first six weeks of the season.

Duck Season?

Anaheim remains one of the league's best teams and furthered that reputation with back-to-back wins over Chicago and St. Louis on Friday and Saturday, but there is an anomaly on the Ducks. Cam Fowler is a plus-4. Fowler is usually one of the defensemen in contention for league's green jacket but things are askew in Orange County. Regardless of Fowler's newfound penchant for actually being on the ice when his team scores, the 22-year old has three points in the last four games and 11 in the last 16. It's been no secret that Fowler has an offensive skill set, as he posted 40 points his rookie season only to follow that up with 40 points over the last two seasons combined and a minus-32.

Fowler's been a boost to owners this season with 16 points through 32 games, putting him on pace for 41. While it won't win him the Norris Trophy, Fowler can have a strong season with a pair of the league's highest scoring forwards receiving his passes in Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry. He's leading the Anaheim blue line in points, but might not be the long-term play in keeper leagues; that would be Hampus Lindholm. He has a modest three points in the last nine games and just nine on the season but the sixth overall pick from 2012 is definitely a target.

Fowler's an interesting candidate from a trade perspective at this point of the season. Owners who've gambled on him may want to see how he'll continue this season and those who missed him might want to roll the dice on acquiring the ever-vexing 22-year old. It could be time to sell high on Fowler if you believe he'll fall off. He's in a great situation in Anaheim and will continue to see power-play time and scoring opportunities.

Keep Tabs On

Dylan Olsen, Florida: A former-first round pick by the Blackhawks four summers ago, Olsen has made his way to southern Florida and snagged four points in his first six NHL games this season after having just one helper in 28 contests with Chicago last year. Olsen has three points in the last two games, including his first NHL goal in Thursday's win over the Jets, but he has seen just eight seconds of power-play time in those six games. Florida isn't known for generating points from its blue line, save for the assist-heavy Brian Campbell, but Olsen's situation is worth monitoring before making a move in very deep leagues.

Erik Gudbranson, Florida: Staying in the southernmost city of the Atlantic Division, Gudbranson, another first-rounder the Kitties boast on their blue line, has four points over the last six games. All four points came over the span of two games, but 2010's third overall pick is still just 21 despite entering his third full season. He's seeing modest power-play time, 1:21 per-game but can be considered in deeper leagues which reward hits and blocked shots, as he has 72 hits in 30 games with 50 blocks along with a healthy 53 penalty minutes. The six points and a minus-10 aren't ideal from Gudbranson, but there's always hope in Florida.

Alex Goligoski, Dallas: Once a 40-point player, Goligoski started the season amazingly quiet for the Stars, but has three assists over the last three games, including two in Saturday's rout of Philadelphia, where he finished a plus-4. He has binged when acquiring his nine points this season, with six coming over three games. He's a bit of a siren for fantasy owners, as his name still garners more recognition than his production in most leagues, but he is Dallas's top option on defense in terms of a puck-mover.

Video clips of the Week:

The scene in Boston on Saturday was nasty involving the punches thrown by Shawn Thornton on the Penguins' Brooks Orpik, who lied motionless on the ice after being struck by Thornton. The Thornton-Orpik incident wasn't the only questionable play in that span, as Brad Marchand was felled by receiving a knee in the head from James Neal early in the clip, the hit that caused the stoppage where Thornton went after Orpik.

Eric Gelinas is finding his game quickly for the New Jersey Devils and he's been a boon to owners in leagues that reward power play points, as nine of his season's 12 have come on the man-advantage. Saturday, he blasted home the power-play game-winner against the Rangers off a great pass from Patrik Elias.

Question of the week: Do you look more at the player or the team they're playing for when deciding to add a player to your roster?

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Player News
Sheldon Souray
Ducks' Souray Might Not Be Able To Keep Playing
Sheldon Souray, D, ANA
9/1/2014
News: GM Bob Murray said Sheldon Souray's career remains in jeopardy as a result of his season-ending wrist procedure in January, NHL.com's Curtis Zupke reports.
Analysis: With the beginning of training camp closing in on the Ducks, it sounds like the team is preparing for the possibility of life without Sheldon Souray for a second consecutive season. Souray hasn't received clearance to begin practicing in full, and his advancing age (he's 38 years old) certainly doesn't work to his advantage. Even if Souray is able to return to some semblance of health at some point this season, expect him to play much less than the 20:56 minutes per game he averaged in 44 contests during the lockout-shortened 2012-13 campaign.

John Gibson
Ducks' Gibson, Andersen To Battle For No. 1 Duties
John Gibson, G, ANA
9/1/2014
News: John Gibson will battle Frederik Andersen for duties as the Ducks' No. 1 netminder in training camp, NHL.com's Curtis Zupke reports.
Analysis: While Andersen, a fellow second-year goalie, probably has the advantage heading into camp since he played well in a larger sample of games than John Gibson, the 21-year-old certainly proved his mettle for the Ducks in the postseason. Thrust into action for the final four games of the team's second-round series with the Kings, Gibson saved 102 of 111 shots (.919 save%) and turned in a shutout in Game 4, convincing the Ducks to let veteran Jonas Hiller walk in free agency. With an outstanding showing in camp, Gibson could very well beat out Andersen, but there's an equally real possibility he could start the season in the minors. Both young goalies are best off playing regularly somewhere while they're still developing, so it wouldn't be surprise if veteran Jason LaBarbera ended up opening the campaign as the backup to the victor of the starting competition.

Frederik Andersen
Ducks' Andersen (Knee) Likely No. 1 to Open Camp
Frederik Andersen, G, ANA
9/1/2014
News: Frederik Andersen (knee) will likely be the Ducks' No. 1 goalie when training camp opens, NHL.com's Curtis Zupke reports.
Analysis: Both Frederik Andersen and fellow competitor for No. 1 duties John Gibson ended up surpassing incumbent Jonas Hiller on the depth chart for the Ducks during the postseason, but it was Andersen's MCL sprain in Round 2 against the Kings that allowed Gibson to leave the last impression. However, Andersen was nearly as good as Gibson over a much larger sample of starts last season, going 20-5-0 with a 2.29 GAA and .923 save percentage. The greater amount of experience confers an early advantage to Andersen in the job battle, but whomever opens the season as the No. 1 goalie will largely earn the gig based on training camp performance.

Shawn Horcoff
Stars' Horcoff Primed For Bottom-Six Duty
Shawn Horcoff, C, DAL
9/1/2014
News: Shawn Horcoff is expected to see most of his action as a bottom-six forward for the Stars this season, Mike Heika of the Dallas Morning News reports.
Analysis: Shawn Horcoff, 35, is entering the final campaign of a six-year deal and seems to have accepted his role as a depth player at this stage of his career. A former top scorer for the Oilers during his prime, Horcoff averaged just 12:51 of ice time over 77 games with the Stars in 2013-14, totaling seven goals and 13 assists. He'd do well to eclipse the 20-point mark again during the upcoming season.

Jordin Tootoo
Free Agent Tootoo Still Looking For Work
Jordin Tootoo, RW, DET
9/1/2014
News: Jordin Tootoo is unlikely to re-sign with the Predators, Joshua Cooper of The Tennessean reports.
Analysis: Jordin Tootoo, who became an unrestricted free agent in June when the Red Wings bought out his contract, is likely not a good fit to re-join the Preds, as the team has already made several free-agent pickups this summer to bolster depth. Tootoo recorded just a single assist in 11 games for Detroit last season, and spent most of his time in the AHL. His best days as an NHL forward - and viable fantasy option - are likely behind him at this point.

Nazem Kadri
Leafs' Kadri: Working To Improve Shot Release
Nazem Kadri, C, TOR
8/31/2014
News: Nazem Kadri has been working on his shot over the summer and is looking to put up a lot more points this season, reports Sportsnet.ca. "Every single year I like my production to go up and up, so I want to get better [in terms of] goals, points, assists, plus/minus, time on ice," he said. "These are all things I think about and can improve on."
Analysis: He's been in the gym working on wrist curls and strengthening his forearms and shoulders to improve his shot. "I've really been working on my shot and my release, knowing a lot of NHL goalies can't be beat without a quick release," said Nazem Kadri. "The power doesn't necessarily have to be there, but the release definitely does. I'm trying to score a few more goals and get more pucks on net." The center once potted 35 goals in 56 OHL games with the London Knights, but he will be hard pressed to replicate that scoring rate in the NHL. Still, he could certainly be in line for an improvement over his 20 goals from last season and 60 points could be in the offing.

Sheldon Brookbank
Flames Invite Brookbank To Training Camp
Sheldon Brookbank, D, CHI
8/31/2014
News: The Flames have extended a tryout to Sheldon Brookbank at their training camp in the fall, the Calgary Sun reports.
Analysis: Sheldon Brookbank spent the past two seasons with the Blackhawks, and collected two goals and five assists in 48 games last season. He will get a shot at the sixth or seventh defenseman spot, and his experience may give him an early edge.

Eric Staal
Canes' E. Staal (Abdomen) Back On Ice
Eric Staal, C, CAR
8/30/2014
News: Eric Staal (abdominal surgery) was back on the ice Friday at an informal skate with the Hurricanes, reports the Raleigh News Observer
Analysis: He had surgery in late July for a core-muscle issue that was described more as an abdominal wall injury rather than a sports hernia. He had changed his offseason training approach after delivering his lowest offensive numbers in a full season since his rookie year. The injury was characterized as a training injury, but it's behind him now and he's been on the ice for 10 days. "It was frustrating," he said. "At the time of the injury I thought I was in the best shape I've ever been in." If that's the case and if he can get out of the blocks strong, Eric Staal could be in line for a fantasy rebound. But he's going to turn 30 in October, so don't expect his output to recover to his previous best.

Kimmo Timonen
Flyers Planning On Season Without Timonen (Clots)
Kimmo Timonen, D, PHI
8/30/2014
News: Kimmo Timonen (blood clots) is back in the U.S. after undergoing treatment in Finland, but the Flyers are planning as though he won't be contributing to the squad this season, reports the Courier-Post.
Analysis: "We haven't had a chance to look at him yet," general manager Ron Hextall said, "but there's something going on there" when asked if Kimmo Timonen was on a regimen of blood thinners like warfarin or herparin. Both drugs are used to prevent clots from developing in the future, but put the patient at risk of bruising and make it hard to get bleeding wounds to clot. Hockey would definitely be off-limits because of the body contact, but Timonen is making good progress.

Nicklas Grossmann
Flyers' Grossmann (Ankle) Will Be Ready For Camp
Nicklas Grossmann, D, PHI
8/30/2014
News: Nicklas Grossmann (ankle) was on the ice this week and will be ready for training camp, reports the Courier-Post. "It's a matter of just getting better and better, but I'm feeling pretty good," said the defender.
Analysis: The surgery to repair tendons in his right ankle required six-to-eight weeks of rehab. The big Swede delivered one goal, 13 assists and 55 PIMs in 78 games with the Flyers last season and should replicated those totals this season. Unfortunately, that won't make him much of a fantasy play.

 
 
 
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