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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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Nail Yakupov
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Analysis: Jake Gardiner, 24, asserted himself as a long-term building block for the Leafs on defense last season with his second 30-point campaign, contributing 10 goals, 21 assists, 108 hits and 87 blocks over 80 games. With Carl Gunnarsson shipped to St. Louis in the offseason, Gardiner appears poised to claim a spot next to Dion Phaneuf on the team's top defensive pairing, though fellow ascendant youngster Morgan Rielly will provide some heat.

Chad LaRose
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Matt Fraser
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News: Justin Fontaine has agreed to a two-year contract to remain with the Wild, the Star Tribune reports.
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Eric Staal
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News: Eric Staal underwent successful hernia surgery and is expected to be ready for training camp in September, USA Today reports.
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Jimmy Hayes
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News: Jimmy Hayes has agreed to a one-year contract with the Panthers.
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Jerry D'Amigo
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News: Jerry D'Amigo signed a one-year, two-way contract with the Blue Jackets on Tuesday.
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