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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
Nathan MacKinnon
Avs' MacKinnon Dishes Out Two Assists
Nathan MacKinnon, C, COL
12:53 PM
News: Nathan MacKinnon dished out a pair of helpers in Friday's win over Nashville.
Analysis: The two points snapped a three-game scoring drought for Nathan MacKinnon, who now has nine goals and 29 points in 50 games. While he's been held off the scoresheet in seven of his last nine games, the Avs are playing good hockey right now, picking up at least one point in six of their last seven games. MacKinnon's only 19, so we wouldn't give up on him just yet this season. His whopping 152 shots on goal indicate more goals are on the way. Patience is a virtue.

Mike Ribeiro
Preds' Ribeiro Piles On PIM
Mike Ribeiro, C, NSH
12:39 PM
News: Mike Ribeiro took a break from scoring Friday, racking up 22 PIM in a loss to Colorado.
Analysis: While Mike Ribeiro has 43 points (33 assists) in 48 games this season, he is also now among the league's top-100 PIM leaders. Producing at basically a point-per-game pace and sporting a steady plus-15 rating, Ribeiro is worth owning in most formats.

Marek Mazanec
Preds' Mazanec Gives Up Two Goals In Loss
Marek Mazanec, G, NSH
12:35 PM
News: Marek Mazanec gave up two goals on 27 shots in Friday's loss to Colorado.
Analysis: It was a good effort from Marek Mazanec, who got no offensive support in the shutout loss. It was the first start of the season for the 23-year-old, who had been giving way to Carter Hutton in Pekka Rinne's (knee) absence. Considering Hutton has given up seven goals in his last two starts, Mazanec could be worth a temporary pick-up until Rinne returns.

Semyon Varlamov
Avs' Varlamov Makes 23 Saves, Blanks Predators
Semyon Varlamov, G, COL
12:24 PM
News: Semyon Varlamov stopped all 23 shots he faced in Friday's shutout win over Nashville.
Analysis: A perfect outing for the workhorse, who has started 14 of the Avs' past 15 games. Semyon Varlamov is now 13-10-7 on the season with a .922 save percentage and 2.62 GAA. He's delivered some consistency play of late, allowing more than three goals just once in his last 10 appearances. Considering he's starting almost every game for an Avs team that has picked up at least one point in six of their last seven games, Varlamov is a great own in almost all formats.

Chris Tanev
Canucks' Tanev Registers Two Assists In Win
Chris Tanev, D, VAN
10:57 AM
News: Chris Tanev tallied two assists in Friday's 5-2 win over Buffalo.
Analysis: Chris Tanev isn't exactly known for his scoring prowess, so it's always a bonus when he's able to generate some points. Tanev is known, however, for his willingness to sacrifice his body, as he currently has the fifth most blocked shots in the NHL with 119. Tanev is on pace to post career highs in both points and blocked shots this season.

Kari Lehtonen
Stars' Lehtonen Lined Up To Start Saturday
Kari Lehtonen, G, DAL
10:56 AM
News: Kari Lehtonen was the first goalie off the ice at morning skate and is thus on track to start Saturday's game against the Jets, Ken Wiebe of the Winnipeg Sun reports.
Analysis: Kari Lehtonen has allowed three goals in both of the outings since the All-Star break, taking a loss in one (against Montreal) and winning the other (against Ottawa). Such performances have been par for the course for Lehtonen, who has ridden a stellar offense to a 20-11-7 record despite his ugly ratios (2.99 GAA, .903 save percentage). He'll match up Saturday against Jets rookie Michael Hutchinson, who has performed as one of the league's top goalies this season.

Curtis McElhinney
Jackets Expected To Go With McElhinney On Saturday
Curtis McElhinney, G, CLB
10:50 AM
News: Curtis McElhinney is expected to draw the start in goal Saturday against the Lightning.
Analysis: Verification that Curtis McElhinney will man the crease should come forth during pregame warmups. McElhinney has backstopped the last two games for the Jackets in place of the injured Sergei Bobrovsky, surrendering three goals apiece in a win over the Capitals and a loss to the Panthers. The goalie is actually 4-1-0 over his last five appearances, but it will be tough to ask him to come away with a win Saturday against one of the Eastern Conference's top teams.

Alexander Semin
Canes' Semin Likely Back In Saturday
Alexander Semin, RW, CAR
10:44 AM
News: Alexander Semin is expected to rejoin the Hurricanes lineup Saturday against the Rangers, Chantel McCabe of FOX Sports Carolinas reports.
Analysis: Coach Bill Peters reiterated after Friday's game against the Blues that he intended to get all of his healthy scratches back into the lineup for the second half of the team's back-to-back. Alexander Semin hasn't endeared himself to the coaching staff nor fantasy owners this season, registering only eight points in 26 games -- a hideous output for a player making $7 million annually.

Henrik Sedin
Canucks' Sedin Tallies Two Assists In Win
Henrik Sedin, C, VAN
10:40 AM
News: Henrik Sedin registered two assists in Friday's 5-2 win over the Sabres.
Analysis: Henrik Sedin's assist total now sits at 31, with nine goals added for good measure. He's been ridiculously consistent this season, never going more than three games without notching a point. Sedin is currently on pace to register 70 points this season, and remains a must-start in all formats.

Andrew Ebbett
Pens Reassign Ebbett To Minors
Andrew Ebbett, C, PIT
10:39 AM
News: Andrew Ebbett was reassigned to AHL Wilkes-Barre/Scranton on Saturday.
Analysis: Andrew Ebbett suited up in all three of the Penguins' games since his Monday recall from the minors, failing to pick up any points on his seven shots on goal. The fourth-liner's return to the AHL will allow Beau Bennett to crack Sunday's lineup against the Predators, after he had served as a healthy scratch in the Pens' previous contest.

 
 
 
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