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Blue Line Buzz: Making a final push

by | Rotowire.com
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Goon Points

With just two weeks left in the regular season, it's also the stretch drive for most leagues, be it playoff time in Head-to-Head leagues or the waning weeks of Rotisserie. If it's a league that rewards penalty minutes, it's time to scour the waiver wire to see who is available and who can help make up goon points. Don't entirely discount the likes of Matt Carkner and Matt Martin, both of the Islanders, for a daily pickup in the hopes of getting some cheap production. The likes of Tampa Bay's Radko Gudas are a solid choice if he's bouncing around on waivers, but considering he's leading all defensemen in penalty minutes, he's probably gone. Betting on someone to get into a fight isn't a sure thing, but there are some who are more likely to drop the mitts than others. Vancouver pest Tom Sestito is leading all players in fights with 19 bouts, followed by Luke Gazdic and Rich Clune.

Switching now to what has become a more arbitrary statistic depending in whose arena the game is played (cough ... Toronto ... cough), hits are a minor statistic that can be made up late in the season via waiver pickups. True, some players are more consistent in terms of delivering points along with throwing their body around, but there are players who can contribute in a pinch. On the blue line, Philadelphia's Luke Schenn has not been shy this season, sitting third among all defenders with 229 hits, averaging 3.2 per-game. Toronto's Cody Franson is leading all defenders with 265 hits, 18 more than Gudas through Saturday's games. Toronto has been known for counting hits rather liberally while at home, likely contributing to Franson's bloated total.  Other players who can likely be had for little include: Ottawa's Jared Cowen, Winnipeg's Mark Stuart, Anaheim's Ben Jovejoy and Montreal thumper Alexei Emelin.

As for blocked shots, the list does offer some players who may be available, such as newly-acquired Flyer Andrew MacDonald. The good news about blocked shots is that the list of leaders in both categories crosses over nicely with hits.

If streaming free agent pickups in and out of a spot or two on your roster is a possibility, don't be afraid to rotate those spots to make gains in the counting categories.

Flame On?

Calgary is beginning to score goals (Friday win over the Rangers, and an 8-1 rout of Edmonton last Saturday) and Michael Cammalleri is seeking a new contract. Mark Giordano continues to lead the way on the blue line, as one of the league's more underrated defenders, but former Blue Jacket Kris Russell had been rather active of late. He snagged a goal and two assists in last Friday's loss to the Predators and has been seeing an uptick in power play time although he hasn't been shooting the puck too much. He notched four shots in goal in the Nashville game, but in the seven games before that, he put just four pucks on net. Russell doesn't have a track record of being hugely productive in his career, but the injury to Dennis Wideman (out until next season) will give Russell and T.J. Brodie the chance to see more scoring opportunities. Russell has struggled in the days since he grabbed the three points, failing to register a point in four games since.

Brodie has also been active of late with eight assists in the last nine games, despite not scoring a goal since January 28. He notched two assists in each of Calgary's tilts against Edmonton and Anaheim this past week and owns an impressive plus-10 rating in that span, although five of that came in last week's rout of Edmonton. Brodie is the better long-term option in southern Alberta, but the presence of a healthy Wideman and Giordano will limit his chances, however Brodie is a talented keeper prospect. Temper your expectations a bit more with Brodie.

-Heading north in Alberta, to the Oil Patch, Edmonton remains a team in disarray. However, the mercurial Justin Schultz has been chipping in lately with four points in the last six games. This was on the heels of a stretch more barren than northern Alberta itself, as he put up just one point in 10 games with that span bridging the Olympic break.  Schultz is guaranteed to see scoring chances and boatloads of power play time, but the Oilers are an enigma considering how talented their top end offensive players are. Use Schultz with caution.

- Blue Line Buzz on March 16 discussed the Colorado duo of Tyson Barrie and Erik Johnson, yet Nick Holden refuses to go unnoticed in Denver. Holden has six points in the last 10 games with two of those coming on the power play. In his first full season, Holden has 21 points after playing just seven games over two campaigns for Columbus. Holden has nine of his season's 21 points after the Olympic break and can be worth a look in very deep leagues, especially with the numbers Barrie and Johnson have been delivering lately. Holden can have an impact, just don't expect the world.

-Arguably one the most frustrating players in the league this season, Tobias Enstrom, who finally managed to stay healthy, was unbelievably inconspicuous for the first half of the year. The Jets, who were sniffing at a playoff spot a few weeks ago, are seeing Enstrom deliver the way most expected him to with three goals and six assists in the last 11 games. His tally in Thursday's win over San Jose turned out to be a game-winner off a tremendous pass from Blake Wheeler. From a point-per-game perspective, Enstrom was one of the better bets for assist-heavy numbers the last few years, but he was always susceptible to nagging injuries. Considering what his teammate, Dustin Byfuglien is doing (seven goals in the last two weeks and a point in each of the last two), Enstrom has been capitalizing himself as the Jets are scoring goals.

While Enstrom and Byfuglien are the present in the Peg, Jacob Trouba continues to eat first-pairing type minutes and could be available in shallower leagues. Trouba is seeing a healthy amount of power play time and has three points in the last nine games. While his production has fluctuated, Trouba is the future of the blue line in Winnipeg and isn't too far away from breaking out.

-Minnesota's Jared Spurgeon is contributing as the shifty blue liner has six points in the last seven games, including three in the last four. Most notably, he slammed home the game-winner Saturday in a vital win over Phoenix as the Wild are all but assured the West's first wild card slot. Spurgeon has 12 of his season's 24 points since early February and has acclimated himself well after missing some time due to injury. Obviously, Ryan Suter and Jonas Brodin are the future in the Twin Cities, but Spurgeon has a tendency to remind people of what he can contribute offensively every few weeks. In terms of a point-per-game pace, this season has been his most productive and Spurgeon has a distant shot at cracking 30 points for the first time in his career.

-Once forgotten in Toronto, Jake Gardiner is finding his name on the scoresheet often as the Leafs are crashing dramatically out of the playoff race (losers of eight straight after Saturday's defeat by Montreal). Gardiner, however, is riding a four-game points streak with six assists over that span and eight points in the last seven.

-In the wake of the Cam Fowler injury, Sami Vatanen is capitalizing on his added ice to following his most recent call-up to Anaheim. The promising young Finn has a four-game points streak with five helpers in that span. He's eating power-play time and put six shots on goal in Friday's win over Edmonton. With Fowler out until the playoffs, the odds of Vatanen seeing additional scoring chances are quite high. Conversely, fellow rookie Hampus Lindholm has been quiet the last five games, failing to register a point and he was rested for this past Saturday's contest against Vancouver.

-Buffalo is getting a good look at what the team will have in the future considering how their regular season has played out. The Sabres are assured to have one of the best chances of winning the draft lottery, but now are getting to see one of their two future stud defenders in action, as Rasmus Ristolainen, last year's eighth overall pick, has put up a goal and an assist in the last two games following his most recent call-up. He might have a chance to produce in the season's final two weeks, but it's unlikely.  This kid is going to be a centerpiece around Buffalo's rebuild and is definitely worth a look in deep keeper leagues next year.

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Player News
Jonas Hiller
Flames' Hiller To Start Sunday
Jonas Hiller, G, CGY
12:38 AM
News: Jonas Hiller will be between the pipes for Game 3 of the Flames' playoff series against the Canucks, Roger Millions of Sportsnet reports.
Analysis: Despite being pulled in Game 2 after allowing three goals on 29 shots, the Flames will once again turn to Jonas Hiller for Game 3 of the series. If he continues to struggle, Calgary may have to consider giving Karri Ramo a shot in net in Game 4.

Scott Darling
Hawks' Darling To Start Sunday
Scott Darling, G, CHI
12:20 AM
News: Scott Darling will be between the pipes for Game 3 on Sunday against the Predators, Mark Lazerus of The Chicago Sun-Times reports.
Analysis: It isn't a huge surprise, as Corey Crawford has struggled in back-to-back starts, allowing nine goals on 47 shots over that span. Scott Darling, on the other hand, was phenomenal in relief of Crawford in Game 1 of the series, turning away every one of Nashville's 42 shots en route to a 4-3 double-overtime victory. He'll look to build on that outstanding performance on Sunday.

Mathieu Perreault
Jets' Perreault (Lower Body) Game Time Decision
Mathieu Perreault, C, WPG
12:14 AM
News: Mathieu Perreault (lower body) skated Saturday morning and is considered a game-time decision for Game 2 against the Ducks, Eric Stephens of the Orange County Register reports.
Analysis: Mathieu Perreault is still recovering from a lower body injury he sustained on Apr. 9. Although he's reportedly close to returning to the Jets' lineup, he may have to wait until Game 3 on Monday to do so, as he remains a true game-time decision for Saturday's Game 2. The Jets will provide an update on his status prior to puck drop on Saturday.

Matt Cooke
Wild's Cooke To Play Saturday
Matt Cooke, LW, MIN
12:05 AM
News: Matt Cooke will suit up on Saturday for Game 2 of the Wild's first-round playoff matchup with St. Louis, Chad Graff of the St. Paul Pioneer Press reports.
Analysis: Matt Cooke hasn't played since Feb. 1, and has been plagued by injury for much of the season. He leads the Wild in career playoff games (103), and will add a veteran presence to Minnesota's lineup.

Patrick Maroon
Ducks' Maroon Productive In Game 2 Win
Patrick Maroon, LW, ANA
4/18/2015
News: Patrick Maroon was productive in Saturday's Game 2 win over the Jets, scoring a goal, dishing out seven hits and firing four shots on goal.
Analysis: Patrick Maroon has recorded a point in each of the Ducks' first two playoff games, helping them grab a 2-0 series lead over the Jets. Skating on the top line with Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry, expect the 26-year-old to continue to put up points alongside two of the best players in the game. Maroon's also seeing some decent power play time, which was seen Saturday when he redirected a Cam Fowler shot past goaltender Ondrej Pavelec. He may be streaky, but if he's skating in the Ducks' top six, he's got enough offensive talent to find twine.

Jakob Silfverberg
Silfverberg's Late Goal Gives Ducks Game 2 Win
Jakob Silfverberg, RW, ANA
4/18/2015
News: Jakob Silfverberg scored the game-winning goal with 20 seconds left in regulation Saturday against Winnipeg in Game 2 of their first-round series.
Analysis: Another clutch performance from Jakob Silfverberg, who has scored the game-winning goal in two of the Ducks' past three victories. Skating on the third line, the 24-year-old is a great depth scorer behind the likes of Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry and Ryan Kesler. If the Ducks continue to get production from their bottom-six, they could definitely make a deep playoff run.

Frederik Andersen
Ducks' Andersen Stops 28 Shots In Game 2 Win
Frederik Andersen, G, ANA
4/18/2015
News: Frederik Andersen stopped 28 of 29 shots in Saturday's Game 2 win over the Jets.
Analysis: Frederik Andersen has had a strong start to the playoffs, stopping 53 of 56 shots and helping the Ducks grab a 2-0 series lead over the Jets. He's been counted on all season long for Anaheim, so as long as he doesn't go through a terrible slump, fantasy owners shouldn't have to worry about youngster John Gibson (upper body) stealing his gig. If Andersen can keep up his strong play, the Ducks are likely in for a lengthy playoff run.

Ondrej Pavelec
Jets' Pavelec Outstanding In Game 2 Loss
Ondrej Pavelec, G, WPG
4/18/2015
News: Ondrej Pavelec stopped 37 of 39 shots in Saturday's Game 2 loss to the Ducks.
Analysis: A fantastic bounce-back effort from Ondrej Pavelec, who beaten for four goals in Thursday's playoff opener. While Pavelec was great Saturday, the Ducks are now up 2-0 in the series and have looked like the better team. With Game 3 set to take place in Winnipeg Monday, look for Pavelec to put up another strong performance in front of what's sure to be an electric home crowd.

Derek Stepan
Rangers' Stepan Delivers Two Points In Game 2 Loss
Derek Stepan, C, NYR
4/18/2015
News: Derek Stepan scored his first goal of the playoffs and had an assist in Saturday's Game 2 loss to Pittsburgh.
Analysis: A good night for Derek Stepan, who was held pointless in Thursday's playoff opener. While the series is now tied 1-1, Stepan has looked dangerous in both contests, firing nine shots on goal. The second-line center is a big piece of the puzzle in New York and will need to continue to deliver if the Rangers hope to make a deep postseason run.

Shea Theodore
Ducks' Theodore Has Three Assists In AHL Saturday
Shea Theodore, D, ANA
4/18/2015
News: Shea Theodore picked up three assists in Norfolk's (AHL) 5-4 loss to Wilkes-Barre/Scranton on Saturday.
Analysis: Shea Theodore actually began the season in the AHL on a rehab assignment before spending the vast majority of the year with Seattle of the WHL. Overall, he has 12 points in just nine games with the Admirals. It would be an upset if Theodore, who is one of the best defensive prospects in the entire league, didn't spend significant time in the NHL next season.

 
 
 
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