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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
Steve Mason
Flyers' Mason To Start Tuesday
Steve Mason, G, PHI
10:18 AM
News: Steve Mason will start Tuesday against the Blackhawks, CSN's Sam Carchidi reports.
Analysis: Steve Mason will look to get back on track after being pulled before the third period in his last start Saturday. He will take on a Chicago team that is off to a 3-0-1 start but will be playing without regular goaltender Corey Crawford, who is out with an upper body injury.

Anton Khudobin
Hurricanes' Khudobin To Start Tuesday
Anton Khudobin, G, CAR
10:08 AM
News: Anton Khudobin will be between the pipes for Tuesday's game against the Jets, Michael Smith of the Hurricanes' website reports.
Analysis: Anton Khudobin and Cam Ward alternated starts over the Hurricanes' first four games, but Khudobin will start for the second game in a row after giving up just one goal his last time out. He will take on a Winnipeg team that has lit the lamp just two times over its last four games after scoring six goals in its season opener.

Derek Stepan
Rangers' Stepan Still Not Skating
Derek Stepan, C, NYR
10:02 AM
News: Derek Stepan (leg) has yet to resume skating, and it remains to be seen when he will be able to do so, Andrew Gross of The Record reports.
Analysis: Derek Stepan is making good progress in his recovery from a broken leg, but he still has a few steps to go in the process, and will likely be sidelined at least a couple more weeks.

Henrik Lundqvist
Rangers' Lundqvist To Start Tuesday
Henrik Lundqvist, G, NYR
9:58 AM
News: Henrik Lundqvist will be in the crease for Tuesday's game against the Devils, Andrew Gross of The Record reports.
Analysis: Henrik Lundqvist struggled in back-to-back starts last week, but he got back on track over his last two games, picking up two wins and giving up just one total goal in those contests. He will take on a New Jersey team that has lost two straight since opening the season with three consecutive wins.

Dan Girardi
Rangers' Girardi To Play Tuesday
Dan Girardi, D, NYR
9:52 AM
News: Dan Girardi (foot) will play in Tuesday's game against the Devils, Newsday's Steve Zipay reports.
Analysis: A decision on Dan Girardi's status was not expected to come until game time, but it appears fantasy owners will not have to wait to find out whether or not he will suit up Tuesday night. Girardi figures to line up in his regular spot on the Rangers' top defensive pairing.

Marc-Andre Fleury
Penguins' Fleury To Start Wednesday
Marc-Andre Fleury, G, PIT
9:49 AM
News: Marc-Andre Fleury will start in goal Wednesday against the Flyers.
Analysis: Marc-Andre Fleury is coming off his best game of the season, a victory in which he stopped 34 of 35 shots against an Islanders team that entered the game having scored 19 goals in its first four games. Fleury has started every game for the Penguins this season, but he will get a night off soon, as head coach Mike Johnston said backup goalie Thomas Greiss will start either Thursday or Saturday.

Scott Darling
Blackhawks Recall Darling
Scott Darling, G, CHI
9:41 AM
News: The Blackhawks recalled Scott Darling from AHL Rockford on Tuesday.
Analysis: Scott Darling was called up to add another goaltender to the roster with Corey Crawford (upper body) sidelined. He owns an impressive 1.89 GAA in 29 career NHL games, but will serve as the backup behind Antti Raanta with the big club.

Sergei Gonchar
Stars' Gonchar Skates Solo Monday
Sergei Gonchar, D, DAL
9:34 AM
News: Sergei Gonchar (ankle) skated on his own Monday, Mark Stepneski of the Stars' website reports.
Analysis: It's not exactly clear where Sergei Gonchar stands in his recovery, but it's a good sign that he was able to get back on the ice. Gonchar will likely be ready to return to game action sometime in early November.

Kris Versteeg
Blackhawks' Versteeg To Play Tuesday
Kris Versteeg, RW, CHI
9:31 AM
News: Kris Versteeg (lower body) will play in Tuesday's game against the Flyers, ESPN Chicago reports.
Analysis: Kris Versteeg will make his season debut after recovering from a lower body injury that kept him sidelined the last two weeks. He will likely line up as part of the Blackhawks' second line Tuesday night.

Josh Jooris
Flames' Jooris Hopes To Return Tuesday
Josh Jooris, C, CGY
9:28 AM
News: Josh Jooris (upper body) should be healthy enough to return to the lineup Tuesday, according to the Calgary Herald.
Analysis: Josh Jooris scored his first career goal Friday but was unable to play Sunday with an upper body injury. Jooris' role with the club is still being defined, so it remains to be seen how much playing time he gets Tuesday.

 
 
 
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