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Neutral Zone Wrap: You must make the tough decision

by | Rotowire.com
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Breaking up is hard to do. Just ask the Fantasy owner who can't get rid of a certain player mainly out of devotion. You've given so much to support him but he hasn't recently reciprocated the love. You lose sleep trying to figure out the reason for his pathetic performance. Why is he hurting you when you've stood by him for so long?

So when is it time to say goodbye?

Knowing when to drop is not an exact science and often depends on league structure and available replacement options. First, there's the difference between keeper and one-year formats. They are similar in many ways, but the carryover involves an added decision of whether or not you would retain a player for the following season and beyond. Of course, you would not dump anyone without a suitable fill-in. Can Player X in the free-agent pool do more? Or would Player Y on that other owner's squad be a better fit (provided the asking price isn't too steep)?

Patience is a virtue. But sometimes, it gets in the way of statistics and good old-fashioned common sense. Even if your underperformer has established himself as a mid-level scorer, maybe he's better off gone if he hasn't done anything in 10 games and his ice time is steadily decreasing. The signs are often present, but we often ignore them because we believe in what a player once did - and not what they are failing to do now. If that's the case, then cut the cord. Most likely, he will be happier with someone else.

Maybe you'll discover the perfect mate on one of the following teams. Or a match made in Fantasy hell:

In the continuing love-hate relationship between Leaf fans and the club, the momentum is quickly shifting to the negative side. After a preseason romance and a shotgun fling, the mood has soured of late. Is this typical reactive support behavior? Or is the honeymoon over in Toronto? The goaltending situation is deteriorating without James Reimer (concussion), as neither Jonas Gustavsson (3.78 goals-against average, .880 save percentage in nine) nor Ben Scrivens (4.05 GAA, .870 save percentage in three) can handle #1 duties, let alone serve as an able #2. Tim Connolly (upper-body injury absolutely, positively not related to earlier shoulder problem) has already reverted to fragile form after a promising run (six points in four). And Tyler Bozak (zero in six) isn't the solution as the top-line center, but 6-foot-5 kid Joe Colborne (19 in 12 in the AHL) could be the savior down the road. Maybe Cody Franson (one assist, minus-5, healthy scratch in eight of the last nine) isn't fitting in, but that might have more to do with the depth of blueline competition.

After an early European swoon (listless in two OT defeats), the Rangers are flourishing closer to home (winners of five straight). It's always sweet to tag along with a healthy Marian Gaborik. The latest beneficiaries are Artem Anisimov and Derek Stepan (combining for 13 in the last three), but that could easily change with the flick of a head coach's mood. Ruslan Fedotenko (one in seven after five in the first seven) has successfully performed another disappearing act. And hey, Ryan Callahan, you may be up there in goals (six), shots (52), hits (32), and blocks (20) but please try to do more in the points department (only one assist). You too, Brandon Dubinsky (no goals, six assists), although you're a pleasant surprise in the penalty minute category (tied for fourth in the NHL with 47). Ryan McDonagh may not receive much power-play time, but he's the defensive workhorse without Marc Staal (at over 25 minutes a night) and chipping in with the right amount of offense (six).

Not much changed over the summer, so no surprise on Anaheim's terrible beginning following a disappointing playoff exit. When you rely so much on your big guns to carry the load, the deficiencies really show when they - and everyone else - struggle to score (the Ducks sit last averaging 1.83 goals per game). It's unfortunate what happened to Jason Blake (lacerated arm, out another two months), but it is also important to realize he wasn't that important Fantasy-wise (name something relevant he has done since the 63 points of 2008-09). Neither Andrew Cogliano (two) nor Brandon McMillan (three) has earned the open second-line slot, so perhaps it's time to provide rookie Devante Smith-Pelly (first NHL goal Wednesday night, arguably Anaheim's hardest working forward) with more chances to shine. And where in the world is Lubomir Visnovsky (four, minus-9)?

When Mike Richards headed to Hollywood, many believed he was the final piece to place Los Angeles as legitimate Cup contenders. But after the first 15 contests, the Kings do not display any resemblance to hockey royalty, at a mediocre 7-5-3. The eternal Dustin Penner problem may have finally yielded a glimmer of hope (woke up with two points Tuesday). Jarrett Stoll may also be breaking out of a slump (adding two on Tuesday). Scott Parse was looking to be a worthy secondary contributor (two goals), but now he's gone indefinitely with some mystery malady. For someone who showed promise in his first full year (16 in 60), it's amazing it took 14 outings for Alec Martinez to register his first point. No question Jonathan Quick can dominate in net (1.87 goals-against average, .940 save percentage, three shutouts), as Jonathan Bernier (3.37 goals-against average, .870 save percentage in three) hasn't exactly stolen the headlines with his play so far.

This ain't your father's Minnesota Wild. You know, the one that has existed since inception with a defense-first mentality. This version will come at you with, well, moderate offense (still near the bottom of the league in goals for). Remember when many gave up on Pierre-Marc Bouchard (four in four) due to health issues? And others who pigeonholed Guillaume Latendresse (eight) as a shoot-first, power-play specialist (although the last three were goals)? Surprised Matt Cullen (six) is leading the team in goals? Who is waiting for Jared Spurgeon (three) or Marco Scandella (two) to emerge as second-tier D-men? And does anyone really believe Josh Harding (1.18 goals-against average, .965 save percentage, undefeated in five) can surpass stalwart Niklas Backstrom (2.05 goals-against average, .926 save percentage) on the depth chart?

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Player News
Adam Clendening
Canucks' Clendening To Debut Sunday
Adam Clendening, D, VAN
2/1/2015
News: Adam Clendening will make his Canucks debut Sunday against the Wild, Elliott Pap of the Vancouver Sun reports.
Analysis: The Canucks were motivated to acquire the young blueliner from the Blackhawks. after Kevin Bieksa (hand) was ruled out for 6-to-8 weeks. Adam Clendening will immediately assume a spot on the club's third pairing, joining Luca Sbisa. While he won't eat up all of Bieksa's 21:16 average TOI, Clendening should slot in on the second power-play unit, displacing Yannick Weber. The rearguard lacks much experience at the NHL level, but did show a dash of offensive potential during his four-game stint with the Blackhawks earlier in the season, tallying a goal and an assist.

Derek Dorsett
Canucks' Dorsett Returns To Practice
Derek Dorsett, RW, VAN
2/1/2015
News: Derek Dorsett (neck) took part in Saturday's practice, Jon Abbott of TSN Radio Vancouver reports.
Analysis: Derek Dorsett appeared to be a full participant in his first practice since suffering the injury Wednesday against the Ducks, taking part in battle drills with the team's other healthy skaters. Coach Willie Desjardins indicated Dorsett will be a possible lineup option for Sunday's game against the Wild, but his status likely won't be known until the Canucks hold pregame warmups.

Alex Tanguay
Bruised Hand Knocks Avs' Tanguay Out Of Practice
Alex Tanguay, LW, COL
2/1/2015
News: Alex Tanguay missed Saturday's practice due to a bruised hand, Mike Chambers of the Denver Post reports.
Analysis: Alex Tanguay suffered the injury in Friday's game against Nashville, when a slap shot from Seth Jones ricocheted off his hand. He is expected to resume practicing with the team Monday, which would put him on track to play Tuesday against the Stars.

Martin Hanzal
Coyotes' Hanzal Has Upper-Body Injury
Martin Hanzal, C, ARI
2/1/2015
News: The Coyotes announced prior to Saturday's game against the Senators that Martin Hanzal is day-to-day with an upper-body injury, Sarah McLellan of the Arizona Republic reports.
Analysis: Martin Hanzal's injury was deemed "minor" by coach Dave Tippett on Friday, and the day-to-day designation would seem to verify that's indeed the case. The Coyotes will check in on his condition Sunday morning before deciding if he'll be available for the matinee with the Canadiens.

Colin McDonald
Isles Reassign McDonald
Colin McDonald, RW, NYI
2/1/2015
News: Colin McDonald was reassigned to AHL Bridgeport prior to Saturday's game against the Red Wings, Arthur Staple of Newsday reports.
Analysis: Colin McDonald was strictly considered an emergency option Saturday while Casey Cizikas contended with a foot injury. After Cizikas was able to skate during the warmup without incident, McDonald's services were no longer needed by the Islanders.

Tyler Kennedy
Sharks' Kennedy Gets In A Skate Saturday
Tyler Kennedy, C, SJ
2/1/2015
News: Tyler Kennedy (lower body) was able to take part in Saturday's morning skate, but won't be a lineup option for the Sharks' tilt with the Blackhawks, David Pollak of the San Jose Mercury News reports.
Analysis: Tyler Kennedy is reportedly dealing with muscle spasms in the lower-body injury, the fourth unique ailment he's had to deal with this season. The winger declined to put an estimate on a potential return date, but if he continues to practice without much pain over the next couple of days, he could be ready to go for Monday's match against Edmonton.

Nikita Nikitin
Oilers' Nikitin Ruled Out 4-6 Weeks
Nikita Nikitin, D, EDM
2/1/2015
News: Nikita Nikitin (shoulder) was officially ruled out for 4-to-6 weeks Saturday, Jack Michaels of the Oilers Radio Network reports.
Analysis: The Oilers will more than likely place Nikita Nikitin on injured reserve in the coming days while he contends with the long-term injury. His absence should go relatively unnoticed in the fantasy realm, as eight points and a minus-9 rating in 34 games don't exactly scream "roster me." Keith Aulie looks to be Niktin's primary replacement on the Oilers' third defensive pairing.

Ben Scrivens
Oilers' Scrivens Garners Nod Saturday
Ben Scrivens, G, EDM
2/1/2015
News: Ben Scrivens will be in the cage for Saturday's game against the Flames, Jack Michaels of the Oilers Radio Network reports.
Analysis: After a capable showing Thursday against the Sabres during which he allowed two goals on 20 shots, Ben Scrivens will earn a second consecutive nod. The Oilers have been playing better hockey since the calendar turned to 2015, but it's still difficult to count on Scrivens for wins against the NHL's elite teams, and even middle-of-the-pack squads like the Flames. Scrivens' value is further hindered by the Oilers seemingly adopting a timeshare in goal, as Viktor Fasth has kept his name salient in the battle for starting duties.

Brett Ritchie
Stars' Ritchie To Sit Again Saturday
Brett Ritchie, RW, DAL
2/1/2015
News: Brett Ritchie will be held out of Saturday's game against the Coyotes while he continues to nurse an undisclosed injury, Mike Heika of the Dallas Morning News reports.
Analysis: While the Stars decided to activate Brett Ritchie from injured reserve Wednesday, his unavailability in the team's subsequent two games suggests he's not feeling 100 percent just yet. His next chance to play will come Tuesday against the Avalanche.

Erik Cole
Stars' Cole Out Again Saturday
Erik Cole, RW, DAL
2/1/2015
News: Erik Cole (upper body) will not play Saturday against the Jets, Mike Heika of the Dallas Morning News reports.
Analysis: Erik Cole will miss his third straight game due to the injury. He's been able to practice the last few days, so he'll remain in the day-to-day camp for the time being, with a return to action perhaps coming next week.

 
 
 
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