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Blue Line Buzz: Opening Week Observations

Dan Pennucci

Dan is a former sportswriter and English teacher. He has been covering hockey for Rotowire since 2002. Supports the New Jersey Devils, Washington Nationals and Chelsea FC.

Opening Weekend Observations
By Dan Pennucci,

(all statistics through Sunday, Jan. 20).

-On Saturday, the Los Angeles Kings might have gone a bit overboard with their Stanley Cup banner raising, ring ceremony and victory lap, all kicked off, oddly, by My Chemical Romance's "Black Parade." The Kings then proceeded to get thumped in front of their home crowd by Chicago 5-2. Oddly, the Kings did not give a Stanley Cup ring to the Devils' Steve Bernier, the player whose hit from behind gave the Kings a 5-minute power play in their Cup-clinching Game 6 victory, a power play where they scored three times.

-Montreal looked like they missed P.K. Subban on Saturday, as the Leafs topped their hated rivals 2-1. Were it not for Canadiens' netminder Carey Price, the score could have been much worse. Nazem Kadri opened the Leafs' scoring and surprise starter Ben Scrivens not James Reimer) slammed the door on Montreal. In fact, Don Cherry reiterated to all watching Hockey Night in Canada that he knew Kadri could do this all along, but people just ignored his advice.

-As for negotiations with Subban, the dynamic Montreal blueliner and Habs' management remain far apart in their contract talks. Conventional wisdom has to suggest that a few more poor performances from Montreal will get new GM Marc Bergevin motivated to sign Subban quickly. As for P.K. himself, seems like he had a good time taking in the Toronto Raptors' game on Sunday against the Lakers.

-Phoenix has played two highly entertaining contests to open the season, both losses to Dallas and Chicago, respectively. Owners that burned a high pick on Coyotes' netminder Mike Smith can't be too happy that he's seen 10 pucks slip past him in those contests.

-The Penguins, Minnesota and Chicago are the only squads with 2-0 records after the first two days of the new season while the New York Rangers, the prohibitive Cup favorites, are 0-2. Also 0-2, Philadelphia.

-As for the Wild, newly signed Zach Parise seems to be acclimating himself just fine to the Western Conference, with two assists on Saturday and a rocket of a one-timer for the game's only goal on Sunday. It's still odd seeing Parise in a sweater other than New Jersey, but the Wild's plodding, formerly-great sniper, Dany Heatley, must be thrilled with seeing Parise there. Heater slammed home two of Parise's passes from close range on Saturday.

-Saturday night was a great night for those hockey players over 40: Martin Brodeur looked sharp in a 2-1 win over the Islanders while ageless teammates Jaromir Jagr and Ray Whitney sparked Dallas over Phoenix. Jagr factored into all four goals, including a beautiful no-look helper to Loui Eriksson on the winner. Not to be outdone, Anaheim's Teddy Flash, (aka Teemu Selanne), recorded four points as well, doing his best to help Vancouver clear up their slightly shaky goaltending situation.

Notes from the Back End

-Ottawa's Erik Karlsson didn't miss a step in the Sens' opener on Saturday, notching a mere three points, one goal and two helpers, in the 4-1 win over the Thrashers Winnipeg.

-Vancouver's Alexander Edler will see his checkbook balance increase to the tune of $30 million over the next six years, thus keeping him off the open market at season's end. As long as he keeps firing pucks past opposing netminders, like this goal from Sunday's shootout loss to Edmonton, Vancouver's front office will be satisfied. Edler has two goals and an assist through two contests and appears to be well-recovered from the bulging disk in his back that bothered him last season.

-In other surprising news, Pittsburgh's Kris Letang has a goal and an assist through two games. Even more surprising, is that his teammate, the Penguins' whipping boy, Paul Martin, has three assists through two contests. Which streak will continue?

-Florida's Brian Campbell has put up half of his goal total from last season in just one contest, notching two goals in the Panthers' opening night win over Carolina. Florida looked solid and rookie forward Jonathan Huberdeau is going to be a tough player to handle, get your hands on him if you can.

-Phoenix's Keith Yandle and the Blues' duo of Kevin Shattenkirk and Alex Pietrangelo each have two points following the opening weekend, but that's what you'd expect from that trio of dynamic playmakers.

-Supersized blueliners Tylers Myers of Buffalo and Dustin Byfuglien scored goals in their lone contests this weekend.

Leave Them Be:

-Sheldon Souray, ANA: The odds of Anaheim scoring seven goals a game are slim. Souray started hot last season in Dallas, only to massively crash. He opened this season with a goal and a helper. He'll see power-play time, but Souray is a liability to fantasy rosters in a short season.

-Paul Martin, PIT: Martin is enjoying life on the Pens' second power-play unit through two games, notching two of his three total assists on the man advantage. Martin is averaging 1:29 on the power play per-game through two contests while teammate Kris Letang is clocking in at 3:55 per-contest on the man advantage. Martin's chances of seeing top power-play duty are slim, as the Penguins regularly use four forwards along with Letang. Martin has never been a goal scorer and he's been notoriously streaky during his time with New Jersey and Pittsburgh.

-Eric Brewer, TAM: Brewer fired home two goals in the season-opening win over Washington, but finished fourth amongst Lightning blue liners in power-play ice time, recording just 1:46 while Matt Carle and Sami Salo had 10:47 between the two of them. Considering he was drafted in most leagues, Victor Hedman saw just 2:44 on the man advantage. Brewer is on the ice more to stop goals than to score them.

-Tomas Kaberle, MTL: Kaberle is seemingly a placeholder until Subban returns to Montreal. The Czech veteran recorded 6:25 on the power play and put three shots on goal in Saturday's game. Kaberle's upside is essentially gone, especially with a healthy Andrei Markov and Subban waiting in the wings. Kaberle, like most of Montreal's skaters, didn't register a point in the loss to Toronto.

Young Guns

-Dougie Hamilton, BOS: Likely to be forever remembered by Toronto Maple Leafs' fans as the second first-round pick used by the Bruins from the Phil Kessel trade (Tyler Seguin being the other), Hamilton had a respectable debut in Saturday's season-opening win over the Rangers, recording 13:40 of ice time; 4:25 of that on the man-advantage. Considering Zdeno Chara and Dennis Seidenberg eat up most of the Bruins' power-play time, Hamilton might struggle early, but the kid is loaded with Rob Blake-level upside. Keep tabs on his ice time.

-Mike Kostka, TOR: Kostka logged an impressive 5:02 on the power play complete with an assist on the man advantage. He was a late addition to Leafs 23-man roster and stands to see ice time as long as Jake Gardiner is experiencing post-concussion symptoms. It's worth noting that Kostka was playing at a point-per-game with the Marlies (AHL), notching 34 points in as many games, and he also saw 20 seconds more power-play time than Dion Phaneuf. It's just one game, but Kostka is definitely worth keeping an eye on.

Justin Schultz, EDM: In other shocking news, Justin Schutlz led all Edmonton defenders in power-play ice time, edging out Ryan Whitney by one second, 3:47-3:46. Schutlz put one shot on goal in the shootout win, but was very active in rushing into the offensive zone, getting down as far as the goal line on several occasions. Expect Schultz to roam freely this season and produce, but probably not to the level which he did in the AHL, where he was tied for the league lead in points before the lockout ended.

Justin Faulk, CAR: Last season's co-leader in goals from rookie blue liners, Faulk grabbed an assist, albeit an even-strength one, in Saturday's loss to Florida. Faulk saw 5:30 of his total ice time of 17:02 come on the man advantage. That's not a surprise considering what he did last season, but what is surprising is that three other Carolina players logged over 4:30 on the power play: Joe Corvo (5:48), Joni Pitkanen (4:34) and former first-round pick Bobby Sanguinetti (4:39).

-Adam Larsson, NJD: Larsson was a healthy scratch in New Jersey's season-opening win on Saturday, but Devils' coach Peter DeBoer believes Larsson "will play a huge role for us this year." The Devils have several defensemen with a limited offensive skill set, but Larsson does have a flair of offensive to his game, yet he can't crack the lineup. Once he does, he should see second-unit power-play time, which is hardly a ringing endorsement. He's still a project.

Players to consider:

Matt Niskanen, PIT: Already with a goal and an assist through two games, Niskanen sees second-line power-play duty and has produced in the past, totaling 61 points in his first two seasons with Dallas. Considered the throw-in in the James Neal-Alex Goligoski trade two seasons ago, Niskanen is enjoying life in Pittsburgh. His upside is higher than Martin's and he could see occasional time with the big power play unit.

Joe Corvo, CAR: Certainly a maddening player to own, Corvo led all Carolina defenders in power-play ice time in Saturday's loss to Florida and has a track record of producing. His value was a bit down heading into the season, after notching just 25 points in 75 games last year, but he is a mere season removed from 40 points. With Carolina's attack expected to produce, you could do worse than burning a waiver selection on Corvo.

Stephane Robidas, DAL: In deeper leagues, Robidas is well worth a look as he's slated to see time on Dallas' power play and both of his helpers have come on the man advantage this season. Robidas will not usurp Alex Goligoski for the top power-play spot, but he's going to be a factor. Consider him in deep leagues.

Marek Zidlicky, NJ: For what it's worth, Zidlicky is the lone defenseman on the Devils' top power play unit, a unit that regularly defers to Ilya Kovalchuk. Zidlicky has run the system the Devils are using under new assistant coach Matt Shaw. Just temper your expectations. Those in more shallow leagues may want to look at other players than Zidlicky.

Question of the week: What defensemen are you targeting on waivers? Through trades?

Follow Dan Pennucci on Twitter @dpennucci and email him here