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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
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.

Kyle Palmieri
Ducks' Palmieri Notches Assist In Loss
Kyle Palmieri, RW, ANA
6:36 AM
News: Kyle Palmieri registered an assist and five hits in Saturday's Game 4 loss to the Blackhawks.
Analysis: Kyle Palmieri often found himself near the Blackhawks' crease, but was unable to capitalize on it until he got a stick on the puck before it led to an eventual goal by teammate Emerson Etem. The 24-year-old winger has a goal and three assists in his 13 postseason matches.

Ryan Kesler
Ducks' Kesler Pots Goal In Defeat
Ryan Kesler, C, ANA
6:33 AM
News: Ryan Kesler netted a goal and fired off three shots in his 27:16 of ice time in Saturday's Game 4 double-overtime loss to the Blackhawks.
Analysis: Ryan Kesler has been mostly effective this series in limiting the impact of Jonathan Toews, even though the Blackhawks center did record two points in Game 4. However, Kesler at least mitigated the damage by scoring his first point of the series, while kicking off a string of three unanswered goals in a 37-second span. The Ducks wouldn't be able to parlay that third-period surge into a victory, but their fortunes could change when the series shifts to Anaheim on Monday for Game 5.

Emerson Etem
Ducks' Etem Pots Goal In Game 4
Emerson Etem, RW, ANA
6:30 AM
News: Emerson Etem cleaned up a Francois Beauchemin shot attempt to score the Ducks' first goal of the match in an eventual 5-4 double-overtime loss to the Blackhawks in Saturday's Game 4.
Analysis: Emerson Etem now has three goals in the postseason, despite missing two games of the previous series against Calgary as a healthy scratch. It appears coach Bruce Boudreau values Etem's energy more than Tomas Fleischmann's experience at this stage in the playoffs, so don't expect a switch to be made for Game 5.

Francois Beauchemin
Ducks' Beauchemin Sets Up Goal In Game 4
Francois Beauchemin, D, ANA
6:26 AM
News: Francois Beauchemin registered an assist, three shots on goal, and four blocks in Saturday's Game 4 loss to the Blackhawks.
Analysis: It's the 27th career postseason helper for Francois Beauchemin, who tied Scott Niedermayer for first among defensemen in franchise history. The set up for Emerson Etem allowed Beauchemin to atone for his miscue earlier in the game that allowed the Blackhawks' Brandon Saad to pot the game's first goal.

Frederik Andersen
Ducks, Andersen Fall In Double OT In Game 4
Frederik Andersen, G, ANA
6:24 AM
News: Frederik Andersen stopped 35 of 40 shots in the Ducks' Game 4 double-overtime loss to the Blackhawks.
Analysis: Frederik Andersen was lucky the Ducks stayed alive in this game as long as they did, since he provided one of his weaker performances of the postseason. He was trailing 3-1 in the third period before his mates picked him up with three unanswered goals in the span of 37 seconds to give the team a 4-3 lead. However, Andersen couldn't close the door on the road, as Patrick Kane notched the equalizer later in the period before Antoine Vermette tallied the game-winner 5:37 into the second overtime. Andersen's .875 save percentage on the night was his lowest mark of the postseason and his worse since April 8 against the Stars.

Corey Crawford
Crawford, Blackhawks Score Double OT Win In Game 4
Corey Crawford, G, CHI
6:20 AM
News: Corey Crawford denied 47 of 51 shots as the Blackhawks pulled out a 5-4 double-overtime victory over the Ducks in Saturday's Game 4.
Analysis: Corey Crawford looked like he would cruise to a fairly comfortable victory when Brent Seabrook's goal gave the team a 3-1 cushion with a little over 12 minutes remaining in the match, but that wouldn't be the case. The Ducks then responded with three unanswered goals in 37 seconds to take the lead, quieting the rapid United Center crowd. Instead of pulling the goalie in favor of Scott Darling, coach Joel Quenneville stuck with Crawford, and then watched as he made several key saves while the Blackhawks sent the game to overtime. He would continue to shine in the extra 25:37 of action, stopping all 21 shots he faced in that span before Antoine Vermette notched the game-winner. Despite the bumpy outing, look for Crawford to be back in the crease for Monday's Game 5 in Anaheim.

 
 
 
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