TORONTO - This seems to be the year of the late-blooming defenceman in the NHL. Last week, undrafted 27-year-old Corey Potter was jumping off the waiver wire with some eye-popping power-play production, with Panthers’ Jason Garrison, 26, likely following suit this week after scoring in three consecutive games. (More in Waiver Watch). But the ultimate Cinderella story on the blue line has to be Marc-Andre Bergeron of the Lightning. Unlike Potter and Garrison, the 31-year-old hasn’t snuck up on anyone with three 30-point seasons already on his resume. Everyone knows he has good offensive skills, but drifted through five previous teams — spending too much time as a healthy scratch — because of a lack of size and defensive consistency. However, as of Saturday, the little veteran with the big point shot was the NHL’s top offensive defencemen with 2-13-15 totals in 13 games. The question is: Can he keep it up? While the Paul Coffey-type pace no doubt will recede, we can still see Bergeron finishing with around 55 points. The reason? Yes, he is the quarterback of a potent Tampa power play, but Bergeron, surprisingly, has done most of his damage this season at even strength where he has picked up all but four of his points. That and a stellar plus-5 rating are what bode best for maintaining both his increased ice time (up over 19 minutes for the first time in five years) and torrid early-season pace.
-- Henrik Zetterberg’s slow start (two goals in 11 games) can’t be attributed to a lack of scoring chances. The Red Wings star’s 48 shots on goal rank him third in the NHL, but puts his shooting percentage at a career low 4.2. Given the small sample size this early in the season, that shouldn’t be a concern. However, a look at the bigger picture reveals that Zetterberg’s shooting eye has been on the decline for a while, going 14.7, 12.0, 10.0, 7.4, 7.8 and 4.2 the past half dozen seasons. His career high? That came in his rookie year (’02-03) at 16.3.
-- Sharks G Antti Niemi had given up seven goals on 37 shots before being lifted two minutes into Thursday’s game. Tomas Greiss replaced him, stopped 29 of 30 shots and was expected to start Saturday night’s game. Keep an eye on this situation. Though this doesn’t appear to be any changing of the guard in the San Jose nets, Niemi’s hot/cold act has to be getting frustrating for his fantasy owners and the Sharks.
-- Predators rookie Craig Smith, since being replaced on the top line by Patric Hornqvist, is 2-4-6 in his past half-dozen games and is now second on the team in scoring with 10 points, seven of those coming on the power-play. The switch has also worked for Hornqvist who, after going pointless his first seven games while skating on a sore foot, is on a four-game goal-scoring streak with five in total.
-- Though the Wild replaced D Marek Zidlicky on its first-team power play with Jared Spurgeon for Friday’s game against Vancouver, the two D-men were pretty much even in man-advantage ice time at 2:58 and 3:16, respectively. A couple of more games are need to see how this shakes out.
-- Anders Lindback is expected to get his first start in goal for the Preds next week.
Lest you think Danny Cleary’s first goal of the year on Thursday night will jumpstart his sorry season, consider that it came when a Niklas Kronvall rebound bounced into the Calgary net off his pants. Mind you, sometimes a lucky bounce is all a struggling shooter needs to turn things around.
With fantasy rating out of five
Ben Scrivens, G, Maple Leafs
* * *
He looked composed and technically sound in his debut, but will need a couple of more outings like it against better teams to become fantasy-worthy. Realistically, as long as the Monster is performing well, we see a split in starts until Reimer returns, though Scrivens’ fantasy future heading into Saturday’s second start might have more upside than Gustavsson.
Adam Henrique, C, Devils
* * *
The Devils have run out of centres so the ex-Windsor star has found himself between Parise and Kovalchuk, picking up a goal and two assists in two games with the two star wingers. He had a 50-point rookie season in the AHL last year and will get a long look in what the team hopes is his future role.
Jason Garrison, D, Panthers
* * * *
If no one in your pool took notice after he scored twice in his first four games, they will be now following his recent three-game scoring streak. There is no history, even in the AHL, of extended offensive production, but he is earning top-four minutes, has 11 shots his past two games and leads all NHL D-men with five goals.
Mike Komisarek, D, Maple Leafs
Yes, we’re as surprised as you to see him here, but in the past two weeks he has a league-best plus-9 rating and even chipped in with three assists.
GAMES THIS WEEK
4 -- CHI, EDM, LA, MIN
2 -- CLB, NYR, PHI, PHX, PIT, TB
All other teams play 3 games
HOT AND NOT
Forwards, the past two weeks
Scott Hartnell PHIL
5-5-10, plus-6, 10 PIMs
Radim Vrbata PHX
Tomas Fleischmann FLA
Mikhail Grabovski TOR
- - -
Henrik Zetterberg DET
Eric Staal CAR
Tobias Enstrom owners have taken a big hit after the Jets D broke his collarbone on Monday. He’s gone for at least a month … Ales Hemsky (shoulder) could return to the Oilers for Tuesday’s game in Montreal ... Mike Green aggravated his ankle injury on Wednesday ... The Jackets decided to play it safe with Jeff Carter (foot) and held him out of Saturday’s return to Philly … Jussi Jokinen’s leg injury is not as serious as first feared and he’s been upgraded to day-to-day … James van Riemsdyk missed Thursday’s game because of a lower-body ailment, not because he was being benched, the Flyers insist … Chris Pronger (eye) was wearing a visor at an optional skate Friday and could return Wednesday against Tampa.
-- Statistics do not include Saturday’s games --