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Cullen: Caps dominate, Columbus' woes continue

Scott Cullen
10/24/2011 12:52:34 PM
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Washington worked over Detroit, goaltending problems in Columbus, donut lines in New Jersey, no one can score on Quick and more in the Weekend Wrap.

CAPITAL PUNISHMENT
Red Wings defencemen Jonathan Ericsson and Jakub Kindl were both minus-3 in Detroit's lopsided 7-1 loss against Washington on Saturday. That's a tough night considering they spent most of the evening matched up against Jeff Halpern, Jason Chimera and Jason Ward (according to www.timeonice.com), but those guys were each plus-1. That means they got caught out against the Capitals' second line (Marcus Johansson, Alexander Semin and Mike Knuble) for one goal against and then late in the third period against Washington's top line, when line matching was no longer a concern.

While the Capitals have been cutting back on the ice time for Alexander Ovechkin and company, they've been able to succeed anyway because of the improvement by Marcus Johansson and Mathieu Perreault. Perreault scored a pair of goals against Detroit, in just 10:20 of ice time, and has five points in five games this season.

Johansson was a healthy scratch for the first game of the season, but it appears that the message was delivered loud and clear: he has four goals and five points in six games since.

Defenceman Mike Green paced the Capitals against Detroit with four points (2 G, 2 A), his first four-point game since December 5, 2009.

TROUBLE IN THE BLUE PAINT FOR BLUE JACKETS
All of the Columbus Blue Jackets' problems can't be laid at the feet of G Steve Mason, but his 3.53 goals against average and .878 save percentage are not good enough to help this team win. Mason has allowed 15 goals in his last four starts, despite facing a reasonable 110 shots (27.5 per game) in that span.

Worse for the Blue Jackets is that they don't really have anywhere to turn. Mark Dekanich was brought in to be the backup, but he suffered a high-ankle sprain in training camp and isn't ready yet. Curtis Sanford, who has NHL experience, suffered a groin injury and is out for two-to-four weeks, leaving Allen York as Columbus' backup. York, who played three seasons at RPI, has played a total of six AHL games since leaving school, so the lanky 22-year-old isn't exactly the most seasoned backup, but he might get a chance to play if Mason doesn't improve ASAP.

DEVILS MAY CARE
It's not bad enough that the Devils lost C Travis Zajac to an offseason Achilles injury, but C Jacob Josefson suffered a fractured clavicle Friday against San Jose, leaving the Devils awfully lean down the middle.

That left them with Patrik Elias, Dainius Zubrus, Adam Henrique and Bradley Mills down the middle against Pittsburgh on Saturday. Their problems down the middle could very well manifest itself by cutting into the production of the wingers that the Devils need to score, most notably Ilya Kovalchuk and Zach Parise.

Kovalchuk at least got a breather against Pittsburgh Saturday, playing 21:05, which seems like a lot for a forward until you note that Kovalchuk played 29:37, 32:04 and 32:25 in the previous three games.

QUICK
With three straight shutouts and a total of five goals allowed in six games this season, Kings G Jonathan Quick has solidified his grasp on the Kings' number one job. It wasn't necessarily in doubt to start the season, but Jonathan Bernier's appeal isn't as great as it would be if Quick had struggled at all early in the season.

JOKINEN
Flames C Olli Jokinen played 20:23 against Nashville Saturday, the second straight game in which he played more than 20 minutes, yet also the first two games of the season in which he failed to record a point. While Jokinen's never going to be the point-per-game player he once was, it's encouraging that he is getting playing time and has 19 shots on goal in the last four games.

HAVLAT
The San Jose Sharks recorded back-to-back wins for the first time this season on Friday (at New Jersey) and Saturday (at Boston). It's probably not a coincidence that the Sharks finally had Martin Havlat in the lineup. Havlat picked up an assist in each game and his presence on the second line with Ryane Clowe and Logan Couture gives the Sharks a much more balanced attack.

ELLIOTT
While Blues G Jaroslav Halak has struggled (3.47 GAA, .835 SV%), Brian Elliott (2.06 GAa, .935 SV%) is taking the reins in St. Louis. In the short-term, at least, this is an opportunity for Elliott to re-establish his credentials as an NHL goaltender after struggling in Ottawa and Colorado last season.

ENNIS
After noting how Sabres LW Tyler Ennis hadn't scored a point in the first six games, he then went out and suffered an ankle injury after playing 35 seconds against Tampa Bay Saturday night. Wait and see on the prognosis.

CONNOLLY
Lightning rookir RW Brett Connolly might have made his best case to stick around, recording seven shots in 13:06 of ice time against Buffalo, picking up his second assist of the season. Lately he's been playing with Vincent Lecavalier and Martin St. Louis, so that's an awfully good opportunity.

WEBER
Canadiens D Yannick Weber is taking advantage of injuries on the Montreal blueline, playing more than 20 minutes in each of the last four games. Weber played more than 20 minutes four times total in the 2010-2011 season and, with Andrei Markov out, Weber is seeing more substantial power play time (3:29 per game) this season, so he has some value for those in deep leagues.

STAAL
Maybe he won't see as much ice time in an offensive role when Evgeni Malkin and Sidney Crosby are in the lineup, but Penguins C Jordan Staal does appear to be on his way to a breakthrough offensive campaign, scoring five goals and eight points in the first ten games.

Staal had back-to-back 49-point seasons in 2008-2009 and 2009-2010, but has never cracked the 50-point plateau. Perhaps this is the year, particularly if he happened to get someone like Malkin on his wing for a significant portion of the season.

JOHANSEN
After seeing little ice time in four games, while being a healthy scratch in others, Blue Jackets rookie C Ryan Johansen played 17:14 at Ottawa Saturday night, recording his first NHL assist and playing with veterans R.J. Umberger and Antoine Vermette. If Johansen is going to stick in the NHL, that's the kind of opportunity that he needs, to prove that he can play with skilled players.

SMITH
With 12 points in 71 career NHL games coming into this season, Senators C Zack Smith didn't get a lot of fantasy attention coming into the season, but with four points and 15 penalty minutes in eight games, Smith does offer some value in deep leagues that reward penalty minutes. In the last four games, Smith has three points and is seeing more ice time (over 15 minutes in each of the last two games), so he's at least worth keeping on your radar.

AVALANCHE
Rookie Gabriel Landeskog scored a pair of goals at Chicago Saturday. Just as impressively, he did it on a night when his primary match-up was against Jonathan Toews' line (per www.timeonice.com). The Avalanche have been playing what would be considered their checking line (Landeskog, Ryan O'Reilly and Daniel Winnik) more than any other to this point in the season.

For his part, O'Reilly has been contributing offensively too and he is tied for fourth in the league with seven assists.

OTT
Stars C Steve Ott has always had value in leagues that count penalty minutes, recording more than 130 penalty minutes in six of the last seven seasons (the only exception was 2006-2007, when he had 35 penalty minutes in 19 games), but his game continues to evolve and he's been a little more of an offensive contributor in the past three seasons, averaging 18 goals and 39 points.

However, this might be Ott's best opportunity for a breakout season, as he's playing 19:39 per game (more than two minutes more than any other season), primarily with Loui Eriksson and Jamie Benn and now has six points and 25 penalty minutes in eight games.

HANZAL
Coyotes C Martin Hanzal led Phoenix forwards in ice time last season, playing 19:30 per game, despite managing a total of 26 points in 61 games. He leads the Coyotes forwards in ice time again this year (19:57 per game), but with two goals against the Ducks on Sunday, now has five points in seven games. With 22 shots on goal in seven games, Hanzal is getting more opportunities than ever before, so he bears watching, particularly because he also has 166 PIM in 149 games since the start of the 2009-2010 season.

Scott Cullen can be reached at Scott.Cullen@bellmedia.ca and followed on Twitter at http://twitter.com/tsnscottcullen. For more, check out TSN Fantasy on Facebook.

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