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Cullen: Notes on O'Reilly, Sabres, Wild and more

Scott Cullen
12/5/2011 1:27:01 PM
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O'Reilly is making a difference for the Avalanche, line shuffling in Buffalo, Wild wings and more.

MIDDLE MAN
While production and ice time has been hit-or-miss for Avalanche centres Paul Stastny and Matt Duchene this year, third-year pivot Ryan O'Reilly is making his mark. O'Reilly's 18:02 average ice time per game ranks second on Colorado (behind Daniel Winnik, of all people) and nine points in the last five games gives O'Reilly a team-high 21 points for the season.

In honour of Mr. Winnik, a look at the forwards with fewer than 10 points this season with the most ice time:

RANK PLAYER TEAM POS. GP TOI PTS
1. R.J. Umberger Columbus LW 26 480:30 7
2. Daniel Winnik Colorado RW 26 479:55 8
3. Patrick Dwyer Carolina RW 28 440:23 7
4. Alexei Ponikarovsky Carolina LW 28 426:37 9
5. Eric Belanger Edmonton C 27 423:34 7
6. Jarret Stoll Los Angeles C 26 420:45 7
7. Ville Leino Buffalo LW 26 407:44 9
8. David Clarkson New Jersey RW 25 404:55 9
9. Dan Cleary Detroit RW 24 401:06 7
10. Wayne Simmonds Philadelphia RW 25 392:44 9
11. Jamie Langenbrunner St. Louis RW 26 390:39 8
12. Chris Stewart St. Louis RW 23 381:33 9
13. Mike Knuble Washington RW 25 375:44 7
14. Paul Gaustad Buffalo C 26 373:29 6
15. Michael Frolik Chicago RW 25 372:28 9
16. Dominic Moore Tampa Bay C 25 371:34 6
17. Samuel Pahlsson Columbus C 26 368:35 5
18. Lars Eller Montreal C 25 362:57 8
19. Nate Thompson Tampa Bay LW 25 360:24 5
20. Erik Condra Ottawa RW 25 355:46 9

SABRE RATTLING
The lines have been changing in Buffalo, as good health and AHL call-ups have changed the personnel. Tyler Ennis returned from his sprained ankle to take up a spot alongside Derek Roy and Drew Stafford, scoring a goal on Saturday night.

Brought up from Rochester of the AHL, power forward Zack Kassian has three points in five games with minimal ice time (11:26 ATOI), but his line with Luke Adam and Ville Leino seems to have sparked Leino a little. After managing five points in 22 games, Leino has four points and a plus-4 rating in the last four games.

The Sabres' top line now is Thomas Vanek and Jason Pominville, centred by veteran Jochen Hecht. Hecht has three goals and a plus-3 rating in six games since he returned to the lineup, but is logging significant minutes, playing a seasno-high 20:35 on Saturday.

WELL ENOUGH
Wild winger Casey Wellman bears watching as the team looks for secondary offence. Signed as a free agent out of UMass-Amherst in the spring of 2010, Wellman managed six points in 27 NHL games with limited ice time over the last couple of seasons.

After putting up 11 goals, 19 points and a plus-4 rating in 20 games with Houston of the AHL this year, Wellman got the call and he played a career-high 17:11 while recording a goal and an assist against Anaheim on Sunday. As long as Guillaume Latendresse is out, Wellman has a shot to make some noise on a line with Matt Cullen and Pierre-Marc Bouchard.

Part of the reason that the Wild can try Wellman on the second line is that Cal Clutterbuck, Nick Johnson and Kyle Brodziak have been productive on the third line too. Clutterbuck has a point per game over the last seven while Johnson and Brodziak each have a point per game in the last five.

BOOTH REVIEW
Canucks winger David Booth seems to be finding his form and not just because he tallied three points against Calgary on Sunday. Booth has 15 shots on goal in the last three games, his highest total over a three-game span since early March. Booth has 10 points in his last 12 games and is fitting nicely on a line with Chris Higgins, who has six points in his last four games, and Ryan Kesler, who has nine points in his last seven games.

BLUE NOTE
St. Louis LW David Perron returned to action Saturday, scoring a goal and playing 19:05 in his first game since suffering a concussion against San Jose on November 4, 2010. Perron skated on a line with Matt D'Agostini and Patrik Berglund, while underachieving Chris Stewart was moved to a unit with Jason Arnott and Vladimir Sobotka.

MCBAIN: ACTION HERO
Hurricanes D Jamie McBain has been a healthy scratch at times this season, including the first two games under new coach Kirk Muller (after playing a season-high 24:09 in Paul Maurice's final game behind the bench) but scored his first two goals of the season Saturday.

McBain was most impressive when he broke into the league, in the spring of 2010, averaging 25:47 of ice time while putting up 10 points in 14 games late in the season. Last year, the Hurricanes reined in McBain, giving him 19:06 ice time per game, while handing veterans Joni Pitkanen, Joe Corvo and Tim Gleason more minutes.

That role hasn't entirely changed, as Pitkanen, Gleason and Jay Harrison are playing more on the Carolina blueline this year, as is rookie Justin Faulk when he's in the lineup (perhaps he should be grateful that Tomas Kaberle has struggled), but playing for a young team that should have an eye on the future, McBain should be able to establish himself in a top four role and put up some points for the Hurricanes along the way.

EVANDER IS A KNOCKOUT
Jets LW Evander Kane has nine goals in his last nine games, giving him 14 in 25 games this season, not bad for a 20-year-old. More enticing for future production is that Kane has turned into a shots-on-goal beast, registering 50 in the last 10 games. It's enough to make one wonder what Kane did to deserve spotty ice time and subpar linemates for the first handful of games this season, because he's been a star ever since.

RICHIE RICH
Lots of expectations come when you are the most sought-after free agent of the offseason and Rangers C Brad Richards started slowly in his new surroundings, putting up 13 points in 18 games out of the gate. Playing primarily with Ryan Callahan and Ruslan Fedotenko lately, however, Richards has scored nine points in the last five games, putting him much closer to his typical point-per-game numbers.

TALE OF TWO BROTHERS
Sandwiched around a lower body injury that cost him three weeks of action, Canadiens LW Andrei Kostitsyn has four goals and six points in his last seven games, which is better than his brother in Nashville these days. Sergei Kostitsyn is sidelined with an uppper body injury, but even when he's been healthy, the production hasn't been very good. Sergei has three assists in the last 11 games, and all three of those assists came in one game against Toronto.

SNIPER JONES
Oilers LW Ryan Jones made the most of his three shots on goal against Columbus on Friday, scoring on all three for his first career hat trick. They were Jones' only shots on goal in the last four games.

Oilers C Shawn Horcoff is returning to the ranks of productive playmakers, tallying 11 points in his last nine games. He suffered bruised ribs in Edmonton's game on Saturday night, but Horcoff seems to have found a good line with Ales Hemsky and Sam Gagner on his wings.

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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