Blue Line Buzz: Dealing with the deadline
Friday Night Lite
Once more, the Devils lost a game when outshooting their opponent, falling 2-1 to Vancouver on Friday evening despite outshooting the Canucks 31-16. Cory Schneider turned in an outstanding performance in what essentially could have been an audition when the offseason plays out. Schneider is an obvious fit for the Devils as Martin Brodeur is approaching the end of his career, as evidenced by his spotty play this season (also, his contract is set to expire). Schneider's status as a Canuck will hinge upon Vancouver's playoff success and the play of Roberto Luongo during said playoffs. Schneider has won his last seven starts and allowed two goals or less in five of those games.
You have to wonder how Jack Johnson felt while watching his new team get blitzed 5-0 by Colorado Friday. Columbus struggled mightily, but the Avalache's David Jones played nicely while in the league's shop window posting two goals and an assist. The Denver Post's Adrian Dater noted that scouts from numerous teams were in attendance presumably for Jones and grinder Cody McLeod . Jones grabbed the opening goal late in the first period on a 2-on-1, beating Steve Mason on a shot the netminder definitely wants back. Why was it a 2-on-1? Because Columbus had four players below the faceoff circles in the offensive zone. Welcome to the team, Mr. Johnson.
Great game on Long Island Friday, with the Isles snagging a 4-3 shootout win over the Rangers. Matt Moulson and Pierre Parenteau each finished with two points and were responsible for all three Islanders' goals. The two have combined for arguably the most surprising 108 points in the league; Parenteau is fifth in the NHL in assists with 42 through Friday. Moulson, meanwhile, owns 26 goals and is well on his way a third-consecutive 30-plus goal season. Not bad for a Cornell grad.
Has someone watched The Big Lebowski too many times when they want to shout "it's a league game, Smokey," whenever a play-by-play commentator says "over the line"?
The Jeff Carter trade to Los Angeles is a risk, but a risk worth taking for the offensively challenged Kings (just ask Jonathan Quick , who has seven losses this season when giving up just one goal). I'm still not sold on moving Johnson, who's already been dealt twice in his career. Carter acted like a petulant child once the trade to Columbus was announced last summer and effectively played his way out of the city. The move was smart for Jackets' GM Scott Howson from a contract perspective considering Carter has a no-trade clause that kicks in after this season, saddling the Kings with both the long-term Carter and Mike Richards contracts the pair inked in Philadelphia several years ago.
Johnson is a franchise-type of defender, which Columbus does need, but it would have been nice to see he and Drew Doughty develop together over the years in Los Angeles with Quick and Anze Kopitar . An Indianapolis native, Johnson now gets to play a bit closer to home and will hopefully become the leader on a team desperate for direction on the blue line. Johnson was having a serviceable offensive season with 24 points, but a minus-12 rating certainly was not sitting well the Kings and GM Dean Lombardi. In the weeks prior to the trade, Johnson had three points and a minus-4 rating over 11 games. Johnson had found his offensive stride the last two seasons with a breakout campaign of 42 points one season earlier and he's missed a mere two games the last three seasons.
To say that Columbus received an upgrade from James Wisniewski , Nikita Nikitin and Fedor Tyutin is an understatement, but Johnson has struggled with consistency this season. You have to believe that Johnson will receive every opportunity to produce offensively considering Wisniewski and Nikitin are the only defenders generating some consistent production. Nikitin has shown some ability with 19 points in 33 games, but Johnson has a chance to reinvent himself in Columbus. Odds are, Johnson will post a handful of points this season while adapting to going from a playoff hunt to a likely gig with Team USA in this April's IIHF World Championships. Johnson could be a better option next season, but there are worse players to take a chance on this year if you're in need of defensive help.
While Jack Johnson gets to go from a playoff race to, well, Columbus, Kyle Quincey receives a reprieve from his situation in Denver, where, according to The Denver Post's Adrian Dater, Quincey didn't hide his feelings about exiting Colorado. Quincey landed in Detroit following a three-team trade with Tampa Bay where the Lightning sent Steve Downie to Colorado while shipping a first-round pick to the Wings. Quincey was originally drafted by Detroit and endeared himself to the Joe faithful with a goal in Thursday's shootout loss to Vancouver.
The well-traveled defender finds himself on a more crowded offensive blue line than he did in Denver, as Nicklas Lidstrom and Ian White are a slight upgrade Erik Johnson and Ryan Wilson . Add to the mix Nick Kronwall, and Quincey will have his work cut out for him to find his niche. In his Thursday debut, Quincey did earn 2:58 of power play time, putting him third for the game behind Lidstrom and Kronwall for Detroit defensemen. Quincey certainly has the talent to make an impact with Detroit, there's just a little more competition for points on this roster than with the Avs. His 24 points on the season make him well worth the risk, especially on a stronger team that will benefit his plus-minus.
Escape From the Twin Cities
On Friday, the Devils swapped Kurtis Foster for Minnesota's Marek Zidlicky , as reported by TSN's Bob McKenzie, thus ending the wild Zidlicky situation (pun absolutely intended). The Devils sent Foster, along with minor-league forwards Stephane Veilleux and the underperforming Nick Palmieri , a 2013 third-round conditional draft pick, as well as Washington's 2012 second round pick for Zidlicky. (The Devils acquired Washington's second-round pick in the Jason Arnott deal last Spring). Zidlicky was once one of the most consistent offensive defensemen in the NHL, but has a mere 14 points this year, all assists. However, the Czech veteran had three helpers in the last four games prior to the trade.
Zidlicky simply has clashed with the Wild management this season due to philosophical differences in styles of play, as Zidlicky is much more offensively minded than the Wild would like their defenders to be. Throughout his career, Zidlicky consistently cracked 40 points, a feat he accomplished in five of his eight seasons. The Devils have not had a blue liner with this offensive acumen since they let Brian Rafalski walk several years ago, but what Zidlicky are they getting?
Is it the Zidlicky that snagged 53 points as a rookie for Nashville and had consecutive seasons of 43, 42 and 43 points or is it the Zidlicky with the declining skill set that missed 36 games due to injury one year ago?
Zidlicky has three power-play assists and a paltry 50 shots on goal this season in 41 games, but he has not been a bomber in his career, failing to average two shots per-game in any one season. Zidlicky is close friends with Devils' veteran Patrik Elias (who has 57 points in 59 games) and could fit in nicely on this team. The short-term effect should see a bump in production for Zidlicky thanks to the change of scenery alone; heading to a playoff-bound team could motivate Zidlicky more, especially considering the Devils have had a gaping Scott Niedermayer-sized need for an experienced puck-moving defenseman for years.
Zidlicky is a right-handed shot, so it will be interesting to see the Devils with two right-handed shots on the point of their power play. Expect Zidlicky to be at the top of the umbrella more often while Ilya Kovalchuk , the other right-handed shot, will drift more toward the left face-off circle.
Odds are, Zidlicky will put up 10-12 points in season's final 22 games but it will be interesting to see him in Newark for a full campaign, as Zidlicky is under contract for one more year. With players that attempt to play themselves out of a city, there usually is resurgence in their play following the trade, so, in the short-term, we'd grab Zidlicky if he's kicking around in your league, which, given his play this season, he probably is.
As for Foster, returning to Minnesota marks his third team this season. He didn't fit in with Anaheim and was shipped to New Jersey in early December but struggled to produce consistently on the power play, a task he was specifically acquired to achieve. Odds are Foster won't do much with Minnesota, but keep an eye on the Wild's Jared Spurgeon with Zidlicky now out of St. Paul.