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Friday, March 11, 2011
Where is Norris talk for Lubomir Visnovsky?

By Pierre LeBrun

Funny how one player who is vying for the NHL scoring lead among defensemen fails to get his name even mentioned in the conversation for the Norris Trophy.

Hey, my top vote goes to Nicklas Lidstrom for a seventh Norris Trophy. But why isn't Lubomir Visnovsky among the names thrown around alongside Kris Letang, Zdeno Chara, Shea Weber and Keith Yandle?

It says here that he should be.

Lubomir Visnovsky
Ducks defenseman Lubomir Visnovsky has 23 points in his last 24 games.
"Well, he's had the type of year that people would have to take notice, not only from a goal-scoring standpoint, but the number of minutes he plays, the matchups he plays -- both him and [Toni] Lydman play against the other teams' top lines consistently," Ducks coach Randy Carlyle told ESPN.com Thursday.

"So people have to take notice when a player is achieving what he's achieving stats-wise, and then you look at the minutes and his role, he's played good hockey for our hockey club."

Visnovsky, who was plus-5 Wednesday night in his team's 5-2 win over the New York Rangers, has been largely ignored despite a fantastic season. His 54 points (14-40) are tied for second in league scoring among blueliners with Lidstrom, just one point behind the talented youngster Yandle. Visnovsky is trying to become the second Ducks player in franchise history to lead NHL defensemen in scoring for the season. (The great Scott Niedermayer did it in 2006-07.)

Former Ducks teammate Joffrey Lupul, traded to Toronto in midseason, told ESPN.com on Thursday he appreciated Visnovsky's all-around play.

"He's competitive guy, he's also been very durable this year," Lupul said. "He's played a lot, especially earlier in the year when we were short-staffed on D. I mean, he can shoot the puck, he can rip it from the point and he's able to get a lot of those shots through. And, you know, defensively he reminds me of a guy like Kimmo Timonen in Philly. He doesn't get as much recognition because he's a smaller D, but I've seen him shut down guys like Crosby and Ovechkin and play head to head with them all night."

That's heady praise for the 34-year-old Slovak. The Ducks star has 23 points (6-17) in his past 24 games and leads the team in ice time at 24:25 minutes per game, good for 19th in the NHL. Visnovsky's game has really blossomed with the post-lockout rule changes that opened up the offensive game around the NHL.

"I think the game has changed from that standpoint," said Carlyle. "That skill has an opportunity to show itself more than it did before. The no hooking, no holding, no obstruction, it allows the skill player to get himself in position to move the puck more effectively. He's one of those guys, he's a first-pass player, he sees things on the ice that other guys don't see."

The Ducks are hanging on in the Western playoff race and these days are doing it without Vezina-caliber goalie Jonas Hiller. That their season didn't go down the tubes without Hiller shows me just how valuable both Corey Perry and Visnovsky have been this season.

Whether or not the Norris Trophy voters notice is another question.