Wednesday, April 14, 2010

NHL Role Players to Watch

The playoffs start tonight. Below is a list of a few players that have the opportunity to excel this time of the year.

Brooks Laich, Washington Capitals. Everyone knows about Ovechkin, Semin, Backstrom and Green. Those guys should and will excel against the Canadiens. But Brooks is going to play a very important role for the Caps holding down the fort while linemates Semin and Backstrom work their magic.

Benoit Pouliot, Montreal Canadiens. Benoit spent most of his time in Minnesota. He's a player that is responsible defensively with some offensive upside. He's a young guy, and this will be only his second game in the NHL playoffs. Should get ample opportunity against weaker defenders, since Cammalleri & Co. will draw the other team's top defensemen.

Jordan Staal, Pittsburgh Penguins. OK. So he might not be a role player, but he is a huge part of the Pens, and fills a role. (get that?) A penalty kill specialist is going to have plenty of opportunity to shut down other teams' top lines.

Chris Neil, Ottawa Senators. He's a tough customer. Watch his physical play and ability to get nasty in the corners pay off and piss off Brooks Orpik.

Drew Stafford, Buffalo Sabres. Didn't have the best regular season by any stretch of the imagination, but his offensive upside in the playoffs is going to be needed by the Sabres if they're going to get out of the first round. He finished the season hot with 4 points in 4 games.

Michael Ryder, Boston Bruins. He's one of those role players that comes alive in the playoffs. Never one to be counted out of a play, he can usually be found crashing the net.

Travis Zajac, New Jersey Devils. One of the Devils top five scorers. Mostly overlooked with bigger names on the team like Rolston, Kovalchuk, and Elias. Expect this guy to get a little extra space on the ice, even against the hard checking Flyers.

Matt Carle, Philadelphia Flyers. A solid d-man that will not have to worry about shutting down the other teams top lines, but could certainly be the shut down guy if they Flyers need him to be.

As usual, the links will take you to a card of that player on

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