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Cullen: Eller's breakthrough game

Scott Cullen
1/4/2012 10:47:08 PM
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Going into Wedneday night's action, Montreal Canadiens centre Lars Eller had four goals and 12 points in 36 games in this, his second NHL season.

In 15:50 of ice time against Winnipeg, though, everything clicked as Eller scored four goals and added an assist, capping his night with a spin-o-rama move on a penalty shot against Chris Mason, who had come in to relieve Ondrej Pavelec in the Jets' net.

While it would be preposterous to suggest that Eller was due for this kind of breakout game -- he hadn't even recorded four shots on goal in a game this season (twice last year) -- his role has been increasing. He played 16:03 per game in December and had four points and 17 shots on goal in his last eight games. Those are modest totals, sure, but Eller managed all of 17 points in 77 games as a rookie so, even if it's gradual, the 22-year-old is surely making progress.

Now that Eller has 17 points in 37 games this season, he might start to generate interest in deep fantasy leagues, but enthusiasm needs to be kept in check.

Eller's linemates, Andrei Kostitsyn and Travis Moen, can be effective complementary players, but neither has been able to get established as a consistent scorer. Additionally, Eller is still an after-thought when it comes to the power play, where he ranks tenth among Montreal forwards with 33 seconds of power play ice time per game.

It could take some time for Eller to reach the point at which he scores enough to be a viable top-six forward, but if Wednesday night's four-goal performance is a harbinger of things to come, perhaps the boost in confidence that he needs to be a more productive player at this level, then Eller could be a strong two-way pivot -- one with a developing offensive game -- for the Canadiens.

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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