Commentary

The Thin Blue Line: Campbell done

Weekly news, notes and rankings on fantasy hockey defensemen

Updated: March 17, 2010, 6:24 PM ET
By Victoria Matiash | Special to ESPN.com

This week features the loss of one steady fantasy contributor and the return of another. Chicago Blackhawk Brian Campbell is done for the rest of the regular season (at least), while Kevin Bieksa is back on the ice for the Vancouver Canucks after a lengthy absence.

You can comfortably shut the book on Campbell's splendid fantasy season. Nursing collarbone and rib fractures after being slammed into the boards from behind by Washington Capital Alex Ovechkin on Sunday, the veteran blueliner is expected to miss the next seven to eight weeks. At the earliest, Campbell may be available late in the second round of the playoffs. This provides some comfort and inspiration to his fellow skaters and more than a whiff of hope to the team's fans. Campbell's unbiased fantasy owners, on the other hand, won't give a toss.

In the meanwhile, the Hawks will lean more heavily on Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook to fill the void, especially by way of power-play presence. There's not much more one can ask of Keith, who's been spectacular in all categories this season, but Seabrook could step it up a bit, particularly on the man advantage. As for any dark horses that may emerge in Campbell's absence, Nick Boynton was recalled to take his roster spot, but he's the scrappier type and less of a scoring threat. Keep an eye on Niklas Hjalmarsson instead, as he carries more fantasy upside. Goodness knows the youngster is widely available; he holds less than 1 percent ownership in ESPN.com leagues.

While Campbell headed to the infirmary this past weekend, Bieksa happily left, outfitted with a fancy new sock protecting his formerly sliced ankle. But before breaking out the party favors, fair warning: Bieksa isn't the same fantasy asset he was before getting hurt in December. It's not that the Canucks aren't grateful to have him back in the fold, but considering the way Christian Ehrhoff, Alex Edler and Sami Salo (who, amazingly, has managed to stay healthy) played in his absence, his return is just a bonus. Keep in mind, the team is 20-8-2 since Bieksa fell to injury, and as it stands, he isn't going to see much time, if any, on the power play. He may be less inclined to try the rough stuff as well, at least until the playoffs.

If you have Bieksa on your fantasy roster, fine, just don't expect fireworks.

Rising and falling

Top 75 defensemen

Note: Victoria Matiash's top 75 defensemen are ranked for their expected performance in ESPN.com standard leagues from this point on, not the statistics that already have been accrued. ESPN standard stats include goals, assists, power-play goals, shots on goal, plus/minus, penalty minutes and average time on ice. Last week's ranking is indicated in parentheses.

1. Mike Green, Was (1)
2. Duncan Keith, Chi (2)
3. Chris Pronger, Phi (3)
4. Dan Boyle, SJ (4)
5. Sergei Gonchar, Pit (5)
6. Drew Doughty, LA (6)
7. Andrei Markov, Mon (7)
8. Nicklas Lidstrom, Det (8)
9. Zdeno Chara, Bos (9)
10. Mark Streit, NYI (13)
11. Brian Rafalski, Det (14)
12. Dion Phaneuf, Tor (11)
13. Christian Ehrhoff, Van (12)
14. Kimmo Timonen, Phi (15)
15. Tobias Enstrom, Atl (10)
16. Scott Niedermayer, Ana (17)
17. Lubomir Visnovsky, Ana (21)
18. Shea Weber, Nsh (19)
19. Bryan McCabe, Fla (20)
20. Tyler Myers, Buf (18)
21. Joni Pitkanen, Car (22)
22. Stephane Robidas, Dal (26)
23. Joe Corvo, Was (36)
24. Tomas Kaberle, Tor (24)
25. Kurtis Foster, TB (34)
26. Ryan Whitney, Edm (25)
27. Jay Bouwmeester, Cgy (23)
28. Rob Blake, SJ (28)
29. Brent Seabrook, Chi (32)
30. Matt Carle, Phi (30)
31. Erik Johnson, StL (27)
32. Marek Zidlicky, Min (31)
33. Alex Goligoski, Pit (29)
34. Michael Del Zotto, NYR (35)
35. Keith Yandle, Pho (42)
36. Mark Giordano, Cgy (41)
37. Ed Jovanovski, Pho (39)
38. Pavel Kubina, Atl (33)
39. Andy Greene, NJ (43)
40. Ryan Suter, Nsh (49)
41. Adrian Aucoin, Pho (37)
42. Cam Barker, Min (46)
43. Francois Beauchemin, Tor (40)
44. Kris Letang, Pit (45)
45. Alexander Edler, Van (47)
46. Anton Stralman, Cls (44)
47. Niklas Kronwall, Det (48)
48. John-Michael Liles, Col (63)
49. Kyle Quincey, Col (38)
50. Craig Rivet, Buf (51)
51. Roman Hamrlik, Mon (53)
52. Filip Kuba, Ott (50)
53. Sami Salo, Van (58)
54. Dennis Seidenberg, Bos (59)
55. Dennis Wideman, Bos (52)
56. Brent Burns, Min (56)
57. James Wisniewski, Ana (57)
58. Ian White, Cgy (65)
59. Kevin Bieksa, Van (75)
60. Tom Gilbert, Edm (66)
61. Brian Pothier, Car (67)
62. Jack Johnson, LA (60)
63. Jaroslav Spacek, Mon (61)
64. Braydon Coburn, Phi (54)
65. Tom Poti, Was (64)
66. Mathieu Schneider, Pho (NR)
67. Carl Gunnarsson, Tor (NR)
68. Zach Bogosian, Atl (55)
69. Tim Gleason, Car (68)
70. Matt Carkner, Ott (69)
71. Niklas Hjalmarsson, Chi (NR)
72. Derek Morris, Pho (73)
73. Randy Jones, LA (71)
74. Victor Hedman, TB (72)
75. Dmitry Kulikov, Fla (74)

Tobias Enstrom and Pavel Kubina, Thrashers (down five points, respectively): For the most part, life without Ilya Kovalchuk hasn't been as peachy for the remaining Atlanta Thrashers. Simply put, the team scored more with Kovalchuk in the lineup than without. The residual effects felt through the loss of such a unique player arguably hit the offensive defensemen the most (trickle-down effect). That would explain why Enstrom and Kubina have only five points in their past nine games. Combined.

Ryan Suter, Predators (up nine spots): Even though the Olympics are over, Suter is still skating with the same fire in his pants he displayed while representing his American homeland so admirably in Vancouver. With seven points in the nine games since the break, the lad is hot.

Kyle Quincey, Avalanche (down 11 spots): There are too many healthy, decent defensemen in Colorado at the moment, at least from a fantasy standpoint (otherwise a wonderful problem for a team to have). With the exception of John-Michael Liles, who appears to be golden in coach Joe Sacco's books once again, everyone with a sniff of fantasy value seems to be taking a turn wearing the "healthy scratch" T-shirt. Quincey wore it Thursday and could sit out again at any time.

Carl Gunnarsson, Maple Leafs (debuts at number 67): There's just the right amount of pressure on this young player to exploit his potential fantasy value fully right now. Although the Maple Leafs are clearly out of the playoff hunt and playing with a looseness only those in that position can enjoy, Gunnarsson is still fighting for a full-time job next season. He wants to prove that he can contribute offensively, and he's making a decent case for himself with four points in his past six games while sporting a plus-6.

Injury notes: Paul Martin is reportedly ready to return to the New Jersey Devils' lineup shortly. Not to take too cynical an approach, but considering all the setbacks Martin has endured with his arm injury, one can't get too excited about this prospect. He'll be re-evaluated after he sees real game action.

Although listed as day-to-day with a hip injury, there's a decent chance Brent Burns will be back on the ice for the Minnesota Wild for Thursday's tilt with the Predators.

Anton Stralman missed Monday's contest against the Edmonton Oilers with an illness. The Columbus Blue Jackets won't play again until Friday, which, assuming he's not too sick, allows for a good hunk of recuperation time.

Mattias Ohlund is out for the foreseeable future after hurting his ankle fairly badly. Because he has three points in his past 25 games for the Lightning, his absence is no great fantasy tragedy.

It's becoming increasingly difficult to get a real feel for when Ottawa Senator Filip Kuba will return. He hasn't played since March and is listed as day-to-day with the ever-popular lower-body injury. It wouldn't matter as much if Kuba hadn't produced well before the Olympic break, and his fill-in on the power play, Erik Karlsson, were making some waves. The situation, annoyingly, remains wait-and-see.

Power-play performers

It's hard to believe because Phoenix Coyotes are playing so well, but they have the worst power play in all the NHL. And that's why the team acquired Mathieu Schneider at the trade deadline. In his first two games as a Coyote, Schneider logged nearly nine minutes on the man advantage and rifled off seven shots. Given his experience, it won't take long before the veteran power-play specialist contributes. If he's available in your league, considering grabbing Schneider for the homestretch.

Victoria Matiash is a fantasy hockey analyst for ESPN.com.

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