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Blue Line Buzz: Barrie Finding His Way

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.

(all statistics through Saturday, March 15)

-Colorado continues to be one of the league's best stories. A club who finished so low last season they earned enough of a chance to win the No. 1 pick in last June's draft, a club who hired two former legends to guide it back to prominence and now they are sitting in a playoff spot in the rough and wild Western Conference. Even more impressive is that Colorado has been playing solid hockey without the likes of Paul Stastny and P.A. Parenteau in the lineup.

On the back end, it took Colorado a while to start getting productive this season, as sophomore Tyson Barrie was expected to carry over a brief shred of success all year. His season began rocky and he was shipped back to the AHL for a bit more seasoning. Now firmly on the team, Barrie has been one of the league's most productive defenders over the last two weeks with two goals and four assists in the last seven games and seven in nine games since the Olympic break ended. Just two of those seven points have come on the man-advantage, but he is eating power-play time in Denver, a power play that features Matt Duchene and Nathan MacKinnon, who is essentially a lock for the Calder Trophy as the league's top rookie.

Veteran Erik Johnson has been delivering solid production of late as well, with nine points in the last seven tilts, including points in five of the last six games (eight assists over that span. Johnson could be kicking around the waiver wire in shallower leagues and likely won't hurt your plus-minus too much. He is essentially on the ice close to half the game some nights for the Avalanche and is seeing significant power play time. You could do worse than adding a boring, old veteran to your lineup like Johnson.

-Erik Johnson isn't the only bland name putting up numbers from the blue line of late, as Brian Campbell and Lubomir Visnovsky have been seeing their names on the scoresheet as well. Campbell grabbed a goal and an assist in Friday's win over New Jersey and has five points in the last seven games. After missing most of the season recovering from a concussion suffered in October, Visnovsky has been delivering for the Islanders, notching three assists Saturday in a win over Buffalo. He has just five points in his last seven (or two in the six games other than Saturday), but the Islanders will need defensive productivity from somewhere.

This late in the season, the odds of landing a hot shot rookie are slim. Those in leagues with daily lineups might want to employ a streaming strategy focusing on veterans who have produced in the past, but are undervalued due to their age or the team on which they're playing.  Players like Alec Martinez, Jason Demers or Fedor Tyutin could be kicking around waiver wires and offer some small value. Even players on lesser teams can be of use, if you don't pay too much for them; youngster T.J. Brodie is a plus-8 with three assists in the last three games for Calgary.

-You couldn't really blame the Leafs when they cut ties with Mike Kostka last year. He wasn't consistent enough and didn't deliver enough offensively. After a nine-game stint in Chicago to start the year, Kostka now is wearing a different shade of blue, plying his trade on Florida's Gulf Coast for the Lightning Those scanning the waiver wires in their respective leagues will undoubtedly notice Kostka's name creeping up the list of available defensemen after his two-point effort in Saturday's win over New Jersey. Kostka notched a goal and an assist Saturday and also fired home a goal Thursday against Florida. The Bolts don't have anyone lighting up the scoreboard on defense after Victor Hedman, who is having his breakout offensive season with 42 points through 60 games. Rookie Mark Barberio, who put up huge numbers in the AHL has yet to find consistency or a regular lineup spot while Matt Carle is putting up his usual assist heavy numbers. Kostka has a shot to claim a regular spot in the lineup if this production keeps up, but don't count on it. Kostka has seen little power play time in his recent stint with the Bolts and simply is not guaranteed a lineup spot enough to warrant consideration in most leagues.

-Speaking of not being guaranteed a spot in the lineup, New Jersey's Eric Gelinas has seen himself watching the last three games from the press box. He put up four points in three games following the Olympics but then had three pointless efforts with spotty defensive play, thus earning him the role of a healthy scratch. He's a talented offensive player, but the Devils are one team that will make certain a player is taking care of business in his own end. Considering the Devils were just outscored 8-2 in a recent swing through Florida, don't be surprised to see the team shake up its lineup a bit and bring the mercurial rookie back into the lineup. After fellow rookies Torey Krug and Olli Maatta, Gelinas has the most points among rookie blue liners, boasting a strong point-per-game clip as well, with 25 through 54 games. Fellow New Jersey rookie Jon Merrill has had more success staying in New Jersey's lineup since he is more responsible in his own end, but does not have the offensive upside of Gelinas, with a modest seven points in 41 games.

Of Note

-Dallas blue line Alex Goligoski has six points in the last six games, seeing a five-game points streak come to an end Friday against Calgary. The man traded for James Neal had goals in three-consecutive games during that stretch and remains one of the options on a playoff-bound Dallas team to see points and scoring chances.

-Nashville's Roman Josi snapped a seemingly interminable points drought with three helpers Thursday against Chicago and an assist in the game before that against Buffalo. The Predators aren't going to score much down the stretch, but Josi remains a fixture on the team alongside Shea Weber and uber-rookie Seth Jones.

-Marek Zidlicky is a minus-9 over the last seven games, a minus-6 in the team's last two tilts. That said, he had a four-game points streak in the midst of all this that saw him notch five points.

-Edmonton's Andrew Ference has three points in the last three games heading into Sunday. That's not an endorsement for Ference, just a fact. Edmonton is hardly a reliable source of production, blue line or anywhere, despite their bevy of talented offensive players.

-Marc-Edouard Vlasic is a plus-11 in his last seven games with 14 penalty minutes to boot.

Question of the Week: Who sneaks in to the playoffs in the Eastern Conference?

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