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Blue Line Buzz: The young and the restless

by | Rotowire.com
  •  

Olli Maatta, Penguins: Pittsburgh seemingly generates talented young defensemen. Simon Despres is still a potential offensive talent in the NHL, plus the Penguins dealt highly-touted prospect Joe Morrow to Dallas last spring for a Brenden Morrow rental and previously developed the mercurial Kris Letang. The team has another budding star in Finnish Olympian Maata, albeit one who is still finding his legs defensively in the NHL. Maata had five points over four games this past week, including a pair of two-point games, most recently notching a goal and an assist in Thursday's win over the Islanders.

What's been impressive about Maata's recent run is that he's putting up these numbers with little to no time on the power play, generally the primary bellwether for production. His stat line is a little deceptive, as it sits at 19 points through 50 games, yet 14 of those points have come in 22 contests since the end of November. Maata is just 19, a player prone to the typical ebbs and flows of production. However, it's worth noting that Paul Martin recently returned to the Pittsburgh lineup, which will surely to eat into Maata's ice time a bit. That said, Maata is a viable commodity in keeper leagues and he's been putting at least two pucks on goal the last two weeks of play. Look for him to continue to record some points, but the Penguins score goals in bunches, so that's more a byproduct of his team context.

Maata is still improving in his own zone, but he's been doing a solid job there, spending most of his time alongside Matt Niskanen. Maata's recent rate of production is hard to ignore. Monitor his ice time and his lineup status, but this kid can play.

Calvin De Haan, Islanders: It's been no secret that the Islanders haven't exactly been able to entice players to join their squad via free agency; in fact they've had to essentially resort to legal action after acquiring Lubomir Visnovsky and Evgeni Nabokov, both of whom refused to play for the team. One was acquired via waivers the other, Visnovsky, through a trade. Visnovsky has missed most of the season with a concussion but has begun skating again, according to published reports, and could return this coming week.

Andrew MacDonald has been putting up surprisingly solid numbers, given his lack of shooting (although he has just one point in the last nine), but De Haan made a name for himself earlier in January with a five-game points streak that saw him notch seven points. His production has fallen off a bit since that run, which ended on January 14, as he has notched a mere assist in five games since, with no points in the last three. While none of De Haan's eight points have come on the power play, he's been solid in secondary statistics such as hits and blocked shots, averaging over two hits per game and recording 47 blocks in 27 contests.

With Visnovsky slated to return, De Haan can likely expect to see the little power-play time that he receives dwindle, while MacDonald and Visnovsky absorb most of it. Visnovsky has three points in eight games this season, but hasn't played since October.

On a slightly related note, if Visnovsky is kicking around in your league on waivers, give him a roll of the dice. He has a track record of producing during his career and could give a scrappy Islanders' team another scoring threat as they, along with every Metropolitan Division team not named Pittsburgh, scrap for a playoff spot.

Eric Gelinas, Devils: Gelinas' name has populated this space with some frequency over the two months, since he's made an impact following his initial AHL call-up. Moreover, he has made the most of his ice time over the last week.

Gelinas is not being deployed at even strength terribly often, but is seeing significant power-play time and his offensive zone start percentage is close to 62-percent. All his numbers are skewed toward the offensive end of the rink, as a few spotty defensive plays during December earned him a brief demotion to AHL Albany and the team resorting to dressing him as a seventh defenseman, using him largely in power play and overtime situations.

Gelinas is a talented player who will need to shore up his own end before being given the freedom to roam the ice and make a potentially huge mistake -- although the Devils already have a player who does that in Marek Zidlicky. Gelinas is poised to challenge double-digit goals, as he sits with six through 40 games and 22 total points; 13 of his points have come on the power play, including four of the goals. He has points in four of the last six games, including three points in this past Tuesday's rout of St. Louis. (It's worth noting that Gelinas' goal was the last goal in a 7-1 victory and one of his assists came on the team's fifth goal).

The Devils have admitted that Gelinas brings an element to the game that is difficult to duplicate, as he can give opposing defenses an extra player to worry about. His ability to jump into the play and contribute offensively is obvious, but on a team like New Jersey, he'll have to make certain to take care of his defensive responsibilities in order to keep seeing those attacking chances.

New Jersey has boasted one of the league's more surprisingly productive blue lines this season after contributing little to the realm of Fantasy defensemen the last few seasons. The trio of Gelinas, Zidlicky and Andy Greene aren't exactly the second coming of Brian Rafalski and Scott Niedermayer, nor are they Alex Pietrangelo and Kevin Shattenkirk, but they've likely provided owners with respectable value at the end of drafts and on waivers, notably Gelinas and Greene.

Notes

Seth Jones has recorded nine of his season's 19 points since December 23 and likely will be paired with newly-acquired Predator Michael Del Zotto, who makes the move from Manhattan to Nashville following a mid-week trade from the Rangers for Kevin Klein. Del Zotto did not have a consistent season for the Rangers, seemingly coughing up a goal for the opposition for every one he helped produce for his own team, which wasn't much. Despite the perception that Nashville isn't going to score a ton, they have a productive blue line sparked by Shea Weber and his 13 goals. Jones and Ryan Ellis have 35 points between the two of them. Meanwhile, Del Zotto recorded just 11 points in 41 games with the Rangers, seeing himself cycled in and out of the lineup often with a team recently finding its legs on offense.

• If there's any situation that could reform a wayward defensive case like Del Zotto, it exists with Barry Trotz and Nashville, a team built on stifling defense and positional hockey. Del Zotto is only 23 and in the midst of his fifth NHL season, notching his career high during the 2011-12 campaign, with 10 goals and 41 points through 77 games. His presumptive defensive partner in Nashville, Jones, is not one to shy away from jumping up into the play, so it will be interesting to see how Del Zotto adapts his game to the Predators' system. A wait-and-see approach might be best with the player some Rangers' fans dubbed "Del-zaster" over the last season.

Nick Holden has been one of the Avalanche's more productive players over the last 10 days, with five points in the last four games. Holden had played a modest seven NHL games prior to this season with the Blue Jackets, spending most of his professional time in the AHL. Holden's recent numbers are buoyed by a three-point effort against Nashville last Saturday. Holden grabbed 60 points once during his junior career in the WHL, but last week's numbers have come from seemingly nowhere. The Avs, despite their utter depth of young, talented forwards, have not been highly productive from the blue line. The odds of Holden continuing this trend are slim, but if he continues to see decent ice time with a spot on the man-advantage, give him a look in very deep leagues.

• Goon Point Updates: Tampa Bay's Radko Gudas remains the league's preeminent enforcer, for lack of a better term, leading all defensemen in penalty minutes with 96 and he has racked up 170 hits, second only to Toronto's Cody Franson, who seemingly is credited with hits at home for stepping on the ice. Gudas has a solid 15 points and a plus-7 rating (solid for a player not known for scoring, that is). On the opposite end of the continent, Vancouver's Kevin Bieksa is putting up similar numbers in terms of points (16) and penalty minutes (89) with 94 hits. (We'll chalk that up to a less zealous home scorer at Rogers Centre than the one at the ACC).

Question of the Week: What defenders moved at the deadline will be the most valuable? What does your team need (both team you follow and Fantasy roster).

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Player News
Brendan Gallagher
Montreal's Gallagher Scores In Loss
Brendan Gallagher, RW, MON
12:00 PM
News: Brendan Gallagher scored his 18th goal of the season and was plus-1 in Thursday night's 4-3 shootout loss to the Kings.
Analysis: Brendan Gallagher is enjoying life since his move to the top line -- that's the place to be for a Canadien forward. He has nine points (five goals, four assists) in the previous eight games.

Devan Dubnyk
Wild's Dubnyk Starting Friday
Devan Dubnyk, G, MIN
9:05 AM
News: Devan Dubnyk will start Friday's game against the Hurricanes, Michael Russo of the Minneapolis Star Tribune reports.
Analysis: This will be Devan Dubnyk's 23rd consecutive start since he joined the Wild in mid-January. His numbers are otherworldly, highlighted by a 17-3-1 record, 1.62 GAA and .938 save percentage. Of course, the Wild got off to such a slow start this season that they're still in considerable danger of missing the playoffs, despite playing dominant hockey for the past two months. Expect to see plenty more of Dubnyk down the stretch.

Alex Goligoski
Stars' Goligoski Records Goals In Win
Alex Goligoski, D, DAL
8:59 AM
News: Alex Goligoski netted his third goal of the season and picked up two PIM in Thursday's shootout win over the Panthers.
Analysis: Alex Goligoski's marker tied the game at three apiece with 12:21 remaining in the third period, before the Stars ultimately prevailed in the third round of the shootout. The Stars will be counting on Goligoski to raise is offensive game with 16-goal blueliner Trevor Daley scheduled to miss the next 2-to-4 weeks, but it's unclear if the 29-year-old has another gear in him. After tallying a career-best 42 points in 2013-14, Goligoski has seen his scoring regress a bit this season, mustering three goals and 24 assists over 65 games.

Andrew Hammond
Sens' Hammond Starting Friday
Andrew Hammond, G, OTT
8:49 AM
News: Andrew Hammond will start Friday's game against the Sabres.
Analysis: With both Craig Anderson (hand) and Robin Lehner (concussion) still sidelined, Andrew Hammond will try to continue his recent run of excellence. The matchup is certainly conducive to improving his record to 7-0-1.

Peter Holland
Leafs' Holland Picks Up Assist, Five PIM In Loss
Peter Holland, C, TOR
8:48 AM
News: Peter Holland gathered an assist and picked up a five-minute major penalty in Thursday's 4-2 loss to the Lightning.
Analysis: After rattling off a three-game point streak in December, Peter Holland has been mostly quiet offensively since then, registering only two goals and four assists in 22 games. He hasn't been able to hang his hat on PIM production with much frequency either, as evidenced by the 29 total penalty minutes he's served this season. Holland's usefulness remains limited to deeper leagues.

Evgeny Kuznetsov
Caps' Kuznetsov Ends Scoring Drought With Assist
Evgeny Kuznetsov, C, WAS
8:37 AM
News: Evgeny Kuznetsov assisted on Curtis Glencross' power play goal in Washington's 2-1 loss to Minnesota on Wednesday.
Analysis: The assist snaps a nine game skid where the talented Russian failed to get on the scoresheet. With the monkey of his back, hopefully the Evgeny Kuznetsov can start playing at a higher level. Keep an eye on him in the next game or two, as the renewed confidence might give him some late-season sleeper value if he can pick his game up.

Alex Ovechkin
Caps' Ovechkin Practices Briefly Friday
Alex Ovechkin, LW, WAS
8:34 AM
News: Alex Ovechkin (lower body) took the ice for Friday's practice, but he did not stick around for long, Alex Prewitt of the Washington Post reports.
Analysis: Alex Ovechkin missed Thursday's game against the Wild, and he's seemingly in danger of missing Saturday's game against the Sabres. The Capitals may provide an update Friday afternoon, but it wouldn't be surprising to see Ovechkin come down to another game-time decision.

Jonathan Ericsson
Red Wings' Ericsson Fine For Friday
Jonathan Ericsson, D, DET
8:23 AM
News: Jonathan Ericsson (undisclosed) said he is ready to play in Friday's game against the Flames, MLive.com's Ansar Khan reports.
Analysis: Jonathan Ericsson missed Thursday's practice as a precaution, but there's no indication that his undisclosed injury is anything serious. It may just have been general soreness, and he should be fine for Friday's game.

Jimmy Howard
Red Wings' Howard Starting Friday
Jimmy Howard, G, DET
8:22 AM
News: Jimmy Howard confirmed that he will start Friday's game against the Flames, MLive.com's Ansar Khan reports.
Analysis: Coming off a fantastic showing against the Rangers on Wednesday, Jimmy Howard draws a Calgary team that played an overtime game Thursday night. Howard hasn't lost a game in regulation since Feb. 16, and he'll be heavily favored Friday night.

Nathan MacKinnon
Avs' MacKinnon Out 6-To-8 Weeks With Broken Foot
Nathan MacKinnon, C, COL
8:21 AM
News: Nathan MacKinnon has been diagnosed with a fractured foot and will be out for 6-to-8 weeks.
Analysis: The injury likely ends what has been a disappointing season for Nathan MacKinnon, who had seen his scoring tail off considerably from his Calder Trophy-winning rookie campaign. It might also represent the final nail in the coffin for the Avs' fleeting playoff hopes, as the team's underwhelming offensive attack doesn't figure to improve with the removal of one of its top playmakers. The 19-year-old is still a prime piece of real estate in dynasty formats, but those in season-long leagues are best served cutting bait following the long-term injury. MacKinnon's absence should create more opportunities for youngsters Dennis Everberg and Joey Hishon to see looks on scoring lines.

 
 
 
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