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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
David Warsofsky
Bruins' Warsofsky Sees Added Opportunities
David Warsofsky, D, BOS
10:03 AM
News: With restricted free agent Torey Krug still unsigned, David Warsofsky has seen added opportunities at training camp, csnne.com reports.
Analysis: Similar to Krug, David Warsofsky is a smallish blueliner who relies heavily on his mobility, though once Krug is back in the fold, Warsofsky figures to slot in as a depth blueliner with the B's. That said, when Warsofsky does see ice time with the big club, he has some upside on offense in the event that he draws any power play duty.

Daniel Paille
Bruins' Paille Could Move Up
Daniel Paille, LW, BOS
9:50 AM
News: Heading into the coming season, Daniel Paille's role with the Bruins has yet to be defined, the Boston Globe reports.
Analysis: While it's possible that Daniel Paille could remain on the Bruins' fourth line -- centered by Gregory Campbell -- the configuration of the team's third line hasn't been determined yet, with the speedy Paille a candidate to move up to that trio. In such a scenario, Paille -- who had 18 points in 72 games last season -- would be in a position to see increased production, and thus potentially merit attention in deeper formats.

Gregory Campbell
Bruins' Campbell (Core) Yet To Skate
Gregory Campbell, C, BOS
9:41 AM
News: Gregory Campbell (core) has yet to skate during main camp.
Analysis: Gregory Campbell has been limited since the beginning of camp and is still hampered by the injury as the preseason begins. His condition is improving on a daily basis, but the Bruins have not provided much in the way of an estimated return date. The hope is that Campbell can get back on the ice within the next two weeks before the start of the regular season.

Brad Marchand
Bruins' Marchand Feeling Fit
Brad Marchand, LW, BOS
9:31 AM
News: Brad Marchand, who focused on his conditioning during the offseason, has looked sharp early on in training camp, the Boston Herald reports.
Analysis: Brad Marchand notes, "I just feel like I'm quicker and I can go to areas a little faster...I feel like I can control the puck a little easier than I could last year. I'm not getting knocked off (the puck). Those were a couple of big issues I had." For his part, GM Peter Chiarelli has been impressed by what he's seen from the feisty winger thus far, indicating that Marchand has "been real good. For a guy that scored 20-plus goals last year and we're telling him it's a bad year — I think [if] he keeps that up, he's going to have a good year." While playing all 82 games last season, Marchand recorded 25 goals and 53 points for the Bruins, numbers he could easily top this season, health permitting, while presumably skating on a line with center Patrice Bergeron and restricted free agent Reilly Smith (once he rejoins the team).

Evgeni Malkin
Pens' Malkin (Undisclosed) Not Practicing Tuesday
Evgeni Malkin, C, PIT
9:26 AM
News: Evgeni Malkin (undisclosed) did not practice Tuesday, Josh Yohe of the Tribune-Review reports.
Analysis: The Penguins continue to bring Evgeni Malkin along slowly as he recovers from an undisclosed injury suffered prior to training camp. He did not play in Monday's preseason opener, and it remains to be seen when he'll return to the ice. Pittsburgh certainly won't rush its star back, but the hope is that he'll be able to see some exhibition action prior to the regular season opener October 9 against the Ducks. At this point, there is no concern that the injury will sideline Malkin long-term.

Chris Kunitz
Pens' Kunitz Practicing Tuesday
Chris Kunitz, LW, PIT
9:23 AM
News: Chris Kunitz was on the ice for Tuesday's practice, Josh Yohe of the Tribune-Review reports.
Analysis: After sitting out Monday's preaseason opener, Chris Kunitz was on the ice Tuesday, a likely indication that his absence was simply for precautionary reasons.

Sidney Crosby
Pens' Crosby Skates Again Tuesday
Sidney Crosby, C, PIT
9:21 AM
News: Sidney Crosby was on the ice for Tuesday's practice, Josh Yohe of the Tribune-Review reports.
Analysis: Sidney Crosby also skated Monday, and his presence Tuesday offers further credence to the notion that he's fully healthy.

Pavel Datsyuk
Wings' Datsyuk (Shoulder) Will Undergo MRI
Pavel Datsyuk, C, DET
9:19 AM
News: Pavel Datsyuk (shoulder) will undergo an MRI but said he expects to miss at least a week, Helene St. James of the Detroit Free Press reports.
Analysis: Pavel Datsyuk suffered a shoulder injury during Monday's preseason opener against Pittsburgh, in which he recorded a goal and an assist. The 36-year-old is yet to undergo an MRI but indicated that he likely won't skate for at least a week. More will be known following the MRI, but for now it appears as though he'll miss a good chunk of the preseason.

Kyle Brodziak
Wild's Brodziak (Back) Not Practicing Tuesday
Kyle Brodziak, C, MIN
9:15 AM
News: Kyle Brodziak (back) is not practicing Tuesday, Michael Russo of the Minneapolis Star Tribune reports.
Analysis: Kyle Brodziak continues to recover from a back ailment that's kept him out of action for the past three days. He missed the team's preseason opener against the Jets on Monday and his status is up in the air for Thursday's contest against Pittsburgh.

Justin Fontaine
Wild's Fontaine (Groin) Not Practicing
Justin Fontaine, RW, MIN
9:05 AM
News: Justin Fontaine (groin) is not practicing Tuesday, Michael Russo of the Minneapolis Star Tribune reports.
Analysis: Justin Fontaine is dealing with a sore groin and missed the Wild's opening preseason game Monday. The team has not provided a timetable for his return, but it doesn't appear to be anything that will keep him out for an extended period.

 
 
 
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