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Blue Line Buzz: Weber is back in action

by | Rotowire.com
  •  

(All statistics through Saturday, December 21)

No Peeking?

The debate continues as to whether Montreal star and current Norris Trophy holder P.K. Subban will be on the Canadian Olympic team. His game has been dissected, studied and every second of ice time analyzed with people seemingly either for his inclusion or vehemently against it, for some reason. Subban has always been a lightning rod for criticism, but some of this seems unfounded considering how he can simply dominate a game and keep possession in the offensive end.

Every mistake, no matter how minor, is broken down and cited. Canadian Olympic Team coach Mike Babcock feels he “needs to trust every player on the ice” and some worry about Subban's penchant for taking offensive risks, especially on the larger Olympic rink surface exists.

Subban's statistics aren't in question, with five goals and 27 points through 38 games. Then there is the fact that Canada has three presumptive right-side defensemen already in Shea Weber, Drew Doughty and Alex Pietrangelo. The debate over Subban's roster spot has captivated the North American hockey world, a debate that seems like it shouldn't even be happening given Subban's talent. His confidence can often be taken as cockiness and the term “brash” is used to describe his attitude on the ice; however, there is no denying the talent of Subban. As cited by many, the Team Canada brass is concerned with his risk taking, as noted by TSN's Darren Dreger.

This doesn't seem like it should be a question, but it is; a question that is creating discussion, a question that shouldn't even be a question according to Don Cherry.

As he mentioned in Coach's Corner during the first intermission of the Detroit-Toronto game on Saturday, Grapes is baffled as to why Subban isn't a lock.

Of course, what do I know? I'm not Canadian.

When you have one of the league's most dynamic players at your disposal and there is such a rampant debate about whether to include him on All-Star Team, something's afoot.

Can Subban become a U.S. citizen before February?

He's Back

While Nashville remains one of the league's worst offensive teams with 2.31 goals-per game, good enough for 25th out of 30 teams, Shea Weber is again one of the Predators' leading point-producers with 20 points through 30 games. He trails only career Predator David Legwand. Weber has been back to his prolific ways this past week with a five-game points streak that has him with two goals and five helpers over that span. Weber had a goal and an assist in Saturday's loss to Montreal in 29:40 of ice time. (Also of note in that game is that Roman Josi logged 29:10 for the Preds with seven shots on goal, but no points. Seth Jones played 7:49).

Weber producing isn't a shock to hockey poolies, but when he starts to crest, he's been highly consistent throughout his career. Save for the minus-10 rating this season, Weber has not had too many dry spells, unlike last season when it took him nine games to register a point and 15 to find the back of the net. He had three points in his first 15 games last season, but finished with 28 total in 48 games, leaving 25 points for the final 33 tilts. We don't have to tell you that Weber is an elite player, just don't discount the fact that he is on Nashville. If you can pry him from a greedy owner, go for it, just don't expect it to be easy.

Re-Green(e)ing

Mike Green's teammates in Washington have been one of the league's highest-scoring groups of late, seemingly abandoning all notions of defending at some points of contests. The Caps scored four goals and lost to New Jersey Saturday evening after potting five in a comeback win over Philadelphia last Sunday. Finally getting in on the act is the ever-vexing Mike Green, with points in three of the last four games and four of the last six, including his second goal of the season in that comeback win against the Flyers.

It took Green 24 games to find the back of the goal. 24 games. He's the last defender to pot 30 goals and led all NHL defensemen in tallies with 12 during last year's truncated campaign. (He was just one of four blue liners to notch double digit goals in the winter of 2013.) Green has been a frustrating player to own the last few campaigns, campaigns plagued by injury and inconsistency until he and the rest of the Capitals starting scoring goals like it was 2010 toward the end of last season. Green is too good of a player to stay as quiet as he had been. He's notched seven of his season's 18 points in the 14 games since he returned from a minor injury a week before Thanksgiving.

We know what Green is capable of doing, but he's seen some of his power-play time fall in the last week in favor of John Carlson. Carlson has been a streaky player this season but his seven goals are a solid number. However, Carlson has just two points over the last 11 games. While Nicklas Backstrom and Alexander Ovechkin are scoring in droves, the Caps' defense can afford to be a bit more consistent. Both Green and Carlson should be targets for those seeking blue line help. Neither will set the league on fire, but Green has the track record of having done it before. Caveat Emptor.

200 miles north of Washington, along Amtrak's Northeast Regional line, Andy Greene has been quite active for the Devils, snagging the overtime winning goal Saturday against Green's Captials, batting a puck out of mid-air off a Braden Holtby rebound. The goal was his third point of the evening as he also grabbed two power-play assists, extending a point streak to three games (2-3-5). Greene won't be on Team USA for Sochi, but the former Miami University star appears on pace to challenge the 37 points he notched in the 2009-10 season.

Greene has surpassed expectations thus far and can be a savvy addition to most rosters if he's still kicking around on waivers. He's seeing power-play time with the team's first unit (Marek Zidlicky (two goals Saturday), Jaromir Jagr, Patrik Elias and Travis Zajac). Greene has not gone more than two tilts without a point since early November. Greene also has been steady defensively and jumping into plays at the right time. He scored the equalizing goal in Friday's overtime loss to Anaheim on a perfectly-timed pinch.

Random Penguin

The Penguins are running away with the Metropolitan Division (which isn't that great of a feat) but the squad is dealing with injuries on the blue line to Paul Martin, Brooks Orpik, Kris Letang (due back Dec. 27), Rob Scuderi and the suspension of Deryk Engelland (also due back on Dec. 27). Scooping up those minutes on the blue line is Matt Niskanen (who scored in Saturday's win over Calgary) and 19-year old Olli Maatta.

Maatta is one of the team's brighter defensive prospects and has been enjoying top-pairing minutes with the MASH unit that is the Penguins' blue line. He's been producing too, with five points over the last seven games, playing over 20 minutes in each of the last five contests and a season-high of 28:06 against the Rangers on Wednesday.

Maatta has the talent to produce but has sparingly seen the opportunity, especially when the Penguins have their full complement of defensemen. Maatta will likely be returned to a secondary role once the Pens start getting players back from injury and suspension but he is certainly worth monitoring. There simply aren't enough assurances that Maatta will see regular ice time.

Remember Me?

Remember when the Flyers threw a four-year, $21 million contract at Mark Streit this past summer? The team in dire need of defensive help signed a 35-year old known for his offensive ability. Streit had been all but invisible the first two months of the season, much like the Flyers themselves, however both have found their stride.

While the Flyers are in the midst of a packed Metropolitan Division, Streit has been one of their top point-producers in recent weeks, riding a four-game points streak that's seen him grab two goals and three helpers. Of his season's 16 points, 10 of them have come since November 21. Streit has been a streaky player throughout his career, but he has produced. He's eating power-play time alongside a resurgent Claude Giroux and Jakub Voracek and has a track record of producing. Given's Streit's history, the odds are that the season's first two months are the aberration, just expect a few ebbs from the aging Swiss master.

Question of the Week: P.K. on Team Canada? Why or Why Not?

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Player News
Curtis McKenzie
Stars Reassign McKenzie
Curtis McKenzie, LW, DAL
4/1/2015
News: Curtis McKenzie was reassigned to AHL Texas on Tuesday, Mike Heika of the Dallas Morning News reports.
Analysis: With the Stars preparing to welcome Valeri Nichushkin (hip) back into the lineup Thursday following the completion of his conditioning assignment, Curtis McKenzie was likely to be squeezed out of a regular role. He'll help AHL Texas prepare for a playoff run after posting five points in 36 games with the parent club this season.

Nate Guenin
Avs' Guenin Records Assist In Loss
Nate Guenin, D, COL
4/1/2015
News: Nate Guenin tallied an assist in 4-1 loss to Edmonton on Monday.
Analysis: Nate Guenin dished out a helper, recorded a shot and skated to minus-1 rating Monday in a 4-1 loss to Edmonton. The assist gives the defenseman his first point in the last seven games, and he's accumulated a total of 15 points in 70 games this season.

Semyon Varlamov
Avs' Varlamov To Sit Until Saturday
Semyon Varlamov, G, COL
4/1/2015
News: Semyon Varlamov will make his next start in goal Saturday in Los Angeles, Mike Chambers of the Denver Post reports.
Analysis: Coach Patrick Roy will give the first two starts of the Avs' three-game road trip that begins Wednesday to backup goalie Reto Berra, who has seen scarce work this season behind Semyon Varlamov, and in a couple instances, Calvin Pickard. When he hasn't been slowed by groin injuries, Varlamov has just about been an iron man for the Avalanche, and he's beginning to show some chinks in the armor. He's given up exactly three goals in four of his last five starts, while taking a loss to the lowly Oilers in the only start in that stretch where he yielded two tallies. His save percentage stills sits at a robust .921 for the season, but with the Avalanche all but eliminated from the playoff race at this point, it makes sense for the team to rest Varlamov a little more often.

Reto Berra
Berra To Start Next Two Games For Avs
Reto Berra, G, COL
4/1/2015
News: Reto Berra will be in the crease for the Avs' next two games Wednesday in San Jose and Friday in Anaheim, Mike Chambers of the Denver Post reports.
Analysis: The back-to-back starts on tap for Reto Berra are an admission by the Avalanche that the team doesn't view itself as playoff contenders, which seems to be a fairly reasonable assessment given their eight-point deficit from the final wild-card spot out West. Berra delivered an excellent outing in his spot start last week against the Canucks, and with Semyon Varlamov and Calvin Pickard having previously shouldered the bulk of the duties in goal for the Avalanche this season, it makes sense for the team to take a longer look at Berra. While Berra won't make for a strong daily option in either of his starts, those in weekly leagues mining for wins and saves may want to take a look at the 28-year-old, who has a 3-3-1 record, 2.97 GAA, and .906 save percentage over his 16 appearances.

Alex Tanguay
Avs' Tanguay Notches Assist In Loss
Alex Tanguay, LW, COL
4/1/2015
News: Alex Tanguay dished out a helper in a 4-1 loss to Edmonton on Monday.
Analysis: Alex Tanguay recorded an assist, which came off of his only shot on goal in the 4-1 loss to Edmonton on Monday. Tanguay has accumulated 30 assists this season, the 11th time in 15 seasons the forward has recorded at least 30 assists in a season.

Daniel Briere
Avs' Briere Out Next Three Games
Daniel Briere, C, COL
4/1/2015
News: Daniel Briere (foot) will not join the Avalanche for their three-game California trip that begins Wednesday in San Jose.
Analysis: Daniel Briere has already missed the Avs' last four contests after taking a shot off his foot in a March 23 tilt against the Flames. His activity has been limited since then, and the team apparently wasn't optimistic of his chances at being back to full health by the time the road trip concludes. The Avalanche will only have three games remaining on its regular-season schedule after the road trip, and with Briere not necessarily a lineup regular before the injury, it wouldn't be surprised if he was shut down for good.

Clayton Stoner
Ducks' Stoner Still Dealing With Lower-Body Injury
Clayton Stoner, D, ANA
4/1/2015
News: Clayton Stoner continues to deal with a lower-body injury, Elliott Teaford of the Los Angeles Daily News reports.
Analysis: Clayton Stoner -- who has recorded eight points and 66 PIM in 67 games to date -- thus remains in the day-to-day category as Wednesday's game against the Oilers approaches.

Erik Johnson
Avs' Johnson Out For Three-Game Road Trip
Erik Johnson, D, COL
4/1/2015
News: Erik Johnson (knee) has not been cleared to play and will not join the Avalanche for their three-game road trip through California this week.
Analysis: Optimism seemed to be building over the past weekend that a lineup return was imminent for Erik Johnson, who had been able to skate with the Avalanche on Saturday morning. However, it sounds like the blueliner isn't progressing as quickly as it appeared, and it's now in question whether he'll even play again this season. After the Avalanche complete their road trip, the team will only have three games remaining on its regular-season schedule. With the playoffs likely a pipe dream at this point, it may make sense for the Avalanche to shut him down for precautionary purposes.

Matt Beleskey
Ducks' Beleskey Dealing With Lower-Body Injury
Matt Beleskey, LW, ANA
4/1/2015
News: Matt Beleskey continues to nurse a lower-body injury, Elliott Teaford of the Los Angeles Daily News reports.
Analysis: Matt Beleskey was a late scratch Sunday after suffering a lower-body injury during warmups, and based on Tuesday's practice lines, it looks like he's a candidate to miss Wednesday's game against the Oilers as well.

Henrik Lundqvist
Rangers' Lundqvist Confirmed To Start
Henrik Lundqvist, G, NYR
4/1/2015
News: Coach Alain Vigneault confirmed Henrik Lundqvist would start Tuesday's game against the Jets.
Analysis: After a seven-week absence due to a vascular issue with his neck, Henrik Lundqvist was roughed up in his return to the net Saturday against the Bruins, conceding three early goals and ultimately taking the defeat. Some rustiness should probably be expected in Lundqvist's next couple of turns, but the Rangers believe he'll be sufficiently tuned up in time for the playoffs.

 
 
 
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