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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
Anders Lee
Islanders' Lee Likely Scratch Saturday
Anders Lee, C, NYI
4/26/2015
News: Anders Lee is likely to be a scratch for Game 6 on Saturday, Zac Boyer of the Washington Times reports.
Analysis: Anders Lee will likely be replaced by Eric Boulton in the lineup. The 24-year-old had been ineffective through the first five games of the Islanders' series and all signs point to Lee sitting out for Game 6.

Ben Bishop
Lightning's Bishop In Net Saturday
Ben Bishop, G, TB
2:56 PM
News: Ben Bishop will start in net Saturday for Game 5 against Detroit.
Analysis: Ben Bishop draws his fifth start of the series Saturday as the Lightning look to take a 3-2 advantage over the Red Wings. He allowed two goals on 24 shots in Thursday's overtime victory.

Tom Gilbert
Habs' Gilbert Scores First NHL Playoff Goal
Tom Gilbert, D, MON
12:27 PM
News: Tom Gilbert scored his first career NHL playoff goal in Friday's Game 5 loss to Ottawa.
Analysis: While it was a nice milestone for Tom Gilbert, the Habs are in trouble, having lost two straight games. The 32-year-old isn't a big offensive producer, having registered just one point in these playoffs, but he's logging decent minutes and has posted a 45-point season in his past. Don't expect many more goals, but he does play on the second power-play unit, so he could rack up a few more points if the Habs make it out of the first round.

Mika Zibanejad
Sens' Zibanejad Dishes Out Two Assists In Game 5
Mika Zibanejad, C, OTT
12:15 PM
News: Mika Zibanejad contributed a pair of helpers in Friday's Game 5 win over Montreal.
Analysis: It was the second multi-point outing of the playoffs for Mika Zibanejad, who has collected four points in five games. Trailing the Canadiens 3-2 in their first-round series, the Senators will be looking to Zibanejad's line of Bobby Ryan and Milan Michalek to have another strong showing in Sunday's Game 6 in Ottawa. With Ryan snapping a 16-game goalless drought Friday, Zibanejad's production could increase by association if Ryan is able to parlay the effort into something more.

Mike Hoffman
Sens' Hoffman Collects Two Assists
Mike Hoffman, LW, OTT
12:10 PM
News: Mike Hoffman collected a pair of assists in Friday's Game 5 win over Montreal.
Analysis: After scoring the game-winner in Game 4, Mike Hoffman stepped up his offensive involvement again Friday. Over the last two games, the 25-year-old has fired off seven shots on goal and recorded three points to help the Sens fend off elimination. Hoffman will try to keep the wave of production going Sunday, when the Senators will take on the Canadiens in Game 6 at the Canadian Tire Center.

Ryan Pulock
Islanders' Pulock Out Saturday
Ryan Pulock, D, NYI
11:56 AM
News: Ryan Pulock is not in the Islanders' lineup Saturday, Arthur Staple of Newsday reports.
Analysis: There had been some indication that Ryan Pulock could be in the Islanders' lineup for Game 6 after a glut of injuries along their blue line, but that won't be the case Saturday. Pulock could be available should the Islanders extend their series to Game 7.

Jori Lehtera
Blues' Lehtera (Lower Body) Skates In Full
Jori Lehtera, C, STL
11:27 AM
News: Jori Lehtera (lower body) skated in full on Saturday, Lou Korac of NHL.com reports.
Analysis: Jori Lehtera was held out of Friday's Game 5 with a lower body injury, so the fact that he was able to skate in full on Saturday bodes well for his potential availability for Game 6 of the series. The Blues will confirm his status prior to puck drop on Sunday.

Jake Allen
Blues' Allen To Start Sunday
Jake Allen, G, STL
11:16 AM
News: Jake Allen will be in net in Sunday's Game 6 against the Wild, Jeremy Rutherford of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports.
Analysis: Despite his poor performance in Game 5, in which he allowed four goals on 19 shots, Jake Allen will get the call again for Game 6 on Sunday. It's hardly a surprise, however, as Friday's Game 5 marked the first time since March 1 that Allen allowed more than two goals. He'll need to be better in Game 6 for the Blues to have a shot at staving off elimination.

Alexander Steen
Bues' Steen Has Assist In Game 5 Loss
Alexander Steen, LW, STL
10:38 AM
News: Alexander Steen picked up an assist on the power play Friday in a 4-1 loss to the Wild. He took four shots and added two hits and a blocked shot in the contest.
Analysis: Alexander Steen has four points and 13 shots in the series despite being held off the score sheet in the previous two games. It's tough to say the Blues are down three games to two because of anything Steen has or hasn't done, but facing elimination they need even more from their second-leading regular season scorer.

Joe Colborne
Calgary's Colborne Set To Play Saturday
Joe Colborne, C, CGY
10:32 AM
News: Despite missing Saturday morning's skate for maintenance reasons, Joe Colborne will be in the lineup in the evening for Game 6 vs. Vancouver, Pat Steinberg of Sportsnet 960 reports.
Analysis: Joe Colborne has been a physical force in the series, helping push back against a tough Canucks team. He has also chipped in a pair of points and will be called upon heavily in a pivotal Game 6 Saturday.

 
 
 
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