This week, the Eastern Edge will look at 10 Eastern Conference teams that have unsettled situations or are dealing with untimely injuries to key defenders.
The trading of defenseman Johnny Boychuk definitely hurt the team, but combine that with a projected four to six week knee injury suffered by the Bruins Mister Everything, Zdeno Chara and that is a bitter pill to swallow. The early returns look like Dougie Hamilton will get increased ice time, including where it matters most, with the man advantage. In the game Chara was injured in and the next, Hamilton received the most power play ice time on the team, recording his first power play point of the season. He is tied with Torey Krug with five points, leading the Bruins back end in scoring. Krug will also see increased responsibilities in the absence of Big Z, but likely won’t see as big a bump in scoring as Hamilton might.
Columbus Blue Jackets
No major surprises here except that David Savard is receiving top pairing ice time. Second only to Jack Johnson in overall ice time on the Blue Jackets, Savard is averaging 22:53 minutes per game, including 2:41 on the power play. He has three points in eight games so far this year, but was a big point producer in junior, recording 77 points in 64 games in his final season and had 31 points in 60 AHL games in 2012-13.
There is another interesting guy, but I’m just not sold on him. Tim Erixon is getting top power play minutes along with James Wisniewski. Erixon only has two points, one via the man advantage, despite all the extra minutes. To be fair, he scored 38 points in only 40 AHL games last year. This is a guy who was a first round pick (23rd overall) in 2009 and is only 23 years old, but he has to compete for offensive minutes with the Wiz, JJ, Savard, Tyutin and now Ryan Murray.
If you are looking at anyone on this team for scoring, you might want to look elsewhere. The Panthers are tied with Buffalo at the bottom of the league in goals scored with ten goals, although the Sabres have played nine games to Florida’s seven. Dylan Olsen leads all Panther defensemen in points with three, but it won’t take long for the team’s top two power play options, Brian Campbell and Dmitry Kulikov to surpass Olsen.
Aaron Ekblad is receiving second unit power play and top four minutes, but only has two points in his first seven games. The rookie looks good out there, but will be in tough to hit 35 points on this offensively challenged team.
New Jersey Devils
Having both Andy Greene and Jon Merrill with three points in eight games shouldn’t come as much of a surprise, but the fact they sit fourth and fifth amongst Devils defense scoring has to qualify as one. Marek Zidlicky has four points in eight games and Eric Gelinas has four points in seven games. The big surprise without a doubt has been 20-year-old Damon Severson, who has registered four goals and seven points in eight matches. Interestingly enough, none of his four goals have come via the power play, but all three of his assists have been with the man advantage. Last year in junior (literally last year), Severson notched 61 points in 64 contests and in his only AHL action, he recorded two points in two games in 2012-13. He’s not likely to maintain this pace in the NHL and will experience some ups and downs offensively throughout the season. Being paired with eight year veteran Greene will help the rookie to a 40 point campaign.
New York Islanders
In one big day, Garth Snow added two top four defensemen in Johnny Boychuk and Nick Leddy. Both have worked out very well so far with Boychuk sitting at six points in eight games, while Leddy has five points in eight contests. The return of Lubomir Visnovsky from a back injury was welcome, but how much does the 38-year-old have left in the tank? The Isles now have three legitimate options for the lone defenseman they use to run their top power play unit. I can see them going with the hot hand all year, which will limit the upside of all three this season.