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The Hockey News

The Hockey News

Watched some of the Detroit-St.Louis game on Versus last night. The panel was gushing over the Blues’ kid line of Patrik Berglund between T.J. Oshie and David Backes. Can’t say I blame them.

Berglund is third in rookie scoring with 16 goals and 32 points, while Oshie is 19th with 15 points, but has played just 25 games due to injury. Third-year man Backes, meanwhile, has tallied 17 goals and 27 points to go along with 127 penalty minutes this season. He’s already surpassed his career-high in goals and is on pace to shatter his points mark.

Most telling, the young trio is a combined plus-11 (with Berglund leading the Blues at plus-13 and Oshie second at plus-6), while Brad Boyes and Keith Tkachuk – the team’s veterans up front – have combined for a miserable minus-38 rating (Boyes’ minus-25 puts him at No. 814 in the NHL, third-last overall, despite a team-leading 41 points).

With Tkachuk likely on his way out – possibly for good this time – around the March 4 trade deadline, Andy McDonald an unrestricted free agent come July 1 and Paul Kariya heading into the final season of his contract in 2009-10, the Blues will be handed over to the kids soon enough.

Boyes will be around for a while, but will benefit from being rid of Tkachuk and with Berglund, Oshie, Backes and sophomore David Perron, St. Louis is looking fine at forward moving forward. Coupled with a blueline that will soon boast a healthy Erik Johnson and Alex Pietrangelo, this team’s offensive future looks bright. And let us not forget; the Blues are a good bet to have a lottery pick this June, which will add another piece to the puzzle.

At the other end of the NHL spectrum are the Atlantic Division-leading and fifth-overall New Jersey Devils. Not only are the Devils a full 21 spots ahead of the Blues in the standings, but they also boast the newly-formed, but not yet game tested, elder statesmen-line (average age: 37) of John Madden between Brendan Shanahan and Brian Rolston.

The tri-old is taking the possibility of playing together in humorous stride.

“I just like being the youngest guy on the line,” an insolent Madden told the New York Post.

And while Madden was disrespecting his elders, Rolston was taking the opposite stance.

“(To) miss as much time as he has and do what he's doing - as young as he is…” Rolston gushed of Shanahan.

Shanahan, of course, has so far proven to be an ageless wonder. The 40-year-old has three goals and four points through his first five games since signing on in late January. Rolston, who turns 36 in a few weeks, has been somewhat disappointing this season with just eight goals and 14 points through 32 games, while Madden, 35, has seen his ice time reduced, but is still playing an important role as a defensive center.

As a third line, the Graveyard Shift – sorry guys – has the potential to be one of the league’s best. Obviously these three won’t be around as long as the kid line in St. Louis, but if Shanny can keep producing and somehow light a fire under Rolston’s still potent stick, the veterans could provide a defensive presence with some pop that would nicely complement the likes of Zach Parise, Patrik Elias, Travis Zajac, Jamie Langenbrunner and Brian Gionta in the top six.

With New Jersey’s depth at forward, a lunch-pail yet capable defense corps and the semi-imminent return of another greybeard – goaltender Martin Brodeur, 36 – the Devils are primed to make a serious playoff run come April.

John Grigg is a copy editor with The Hockey News and a regular contributor to with his blog and the Top 10.

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