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THN.com Blog: Love for the lesser-lights

Dan Girardi of the New York Rangers has three goals and 15 points this season. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

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Dan Girardi of the New York Rangers has three goals and 15 points this season. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

As much fun as it is to watch Alex Ovechkin, Rick Nash, Jarome Iginla and Vincent Lecavalier, you just gotta love those guys you never see in the spotlight and rarely in TV highlights.

You know the ones; buried in the depth charts or hidden on teams you never see. But if you look for them, they’re certainly there. He’s a hard worker, not afraid of the corners, maybe has some hands, maybe it’s just speed; maybe he’s a stay-at-home defender; or maybe he’s a backup goalie who gets that big win when called upon.

In your city you could be all about one of these players and can’t believe he doesn’t get more recognition and you’re even more shocked when you talk to someone who doesn’t recognize his name.

So here are a few – not necessarily at the same talent-level per se – who I think play a good brand of fun-to-watch hockey, without getting much fanfare.

Dan Girardi
Played five seasons in the Ontario League, bouncing around to three different teams, and actually started his pro career in the ECHL. But now? Girardi is one of the most unheralded defensemen in the game.

He’s fourth on the Rangers in points, fifth in ice time and plays on both the power play and penalty kill. But Girardi is still not one of those familiar names that come to mind when you’re asked to name Rangers defensemen. This guy makes some great plays and is an up-and-comer to keep a close eye on.

Stephane Robidas
Robidas is a first-line defenseman, so while he’s not buried on the depth chart, I still think he’s buried when talk turns to the NHL’s top defensive defensemen. Dallas has been off to a rough start – that’s not news to anyone – but consider this: Robidas was given the task of replacing Sergei Zubov’s calm leadership with his gritty, head-first style of play and has done a masterful job.

Robidas is a plus-4 – the only plus-rated defenseman among those who have been in the lineup since Day 1 – and is one of the best at defending a 2-on-1.

Craig Anderson
Forget about Nikolai Khabibulin or Vesa Toskala. If you want to acquire a goalie to help you win and is cheap against the cap, look no further than sunny Miami.

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Anderson is the best backup goalie in the NHL right now: a 3-1-1 record, 2.08 goals-against average and a .940 save percentage…on Florida. Are you kidding me? Their starter is 5-10. While Tomas Vokoun is formidable between the pipes, his numbers just don’t hold up to the 27-year-old Anderson’s, whose stats have been on the upswing for the past three seasons.

Jason Chimera
I mentioned how big of a fan I was of this guy in last week’s blog, but this is the perfect opportunity to do it again. Chimera is part of the secondary scoring machine Columbus has finally generated after years of relying on only one player for offense.

Chimera’s game blends perfectly in the wide-open, speed-driven NHL and he isn’t afraid to challenge shots along the blueline every once in a while. He’s never been a point producer and has slowed down a little after a hot start, but the left winger is still making things happen.

Dominic Moore
Will never be a top line player or even a second-liner, but the Toronto center is a tremendous checker and isn’t afraid to be the first one to the corner despite a somewhat slight and lanky frame. It seems whenever the puck gets dumped into the opposing team’s end Moore is on it hard and fast and is usually the first one there.

He isn’t a fighter or an agitator, he’s a straight-up checker and the little plays he makes to advance the puck or get it off the other team is what makes him a good, yet underrated player.

Rory Boylen is TheHockeyNews.com's web content specialist and a regular contributor to THN.com. His blog appears Tuesdays and his feature, A Scout's Life, appears Thursdays.

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