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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
Matt Beleskey
Ducks' Beleskey Out Friday
Matt Beleskey, LW, ANA
12:22 AM
News: Matt Beleskey (lower body) will not play in Friday's game against the Stars.
Analysis: The nature and extent of Matt Beleskey's setback are uncertain, but whatever ailment he is dealing with will prevent him from taking the ice Friday. Consider him questionable for Monday's Game 3.

Ryan Miller
Despite Shaky Start, Blues' Miller Wins Game 1
Ryan Miller, G, STL
12:17 AM
News: After gifting the Blackhawks three goals on just seven first-period shots Thursday, Ryan Miller was perfect the rest of the way, turning aside the next 35 in a 4-3 triple overtime win in Game 1.
Analysis: The nightmarish start by Ryan Miller caused panic among the Scottrade Center faithful, but the veteran netminder settled in nicely to prevent a seventh straight Blues loss. He got a little help by Max Lapierre -- who prevented an overtime goal when he covered a gaping net to stone the Blackhawks' Kris Versteeg -- but sometimes you've gotta be good to be lucky. Miller and the Blues should tighten things up even further when Game 2 goes Saturday afternoon.

Andrew Cogliano
Ducks' Cogliano Scores To Help Keep Home Ice
Andrew Cogliano, C, ANA
4/18/2014
News: Andrew Cogliano scored a shorthanded goal during the third period of a 3-2 victory over the Stars in Game 2 of the Stanley Cup playoffs on Friday.
Analysis: Game 2's goal is Andrew Cogliano's first ever in the postseason. It is worth noting that Cogliano has scored more goals this season than any other in his career, so it would not be surprising to see him be more productive in the second playoff appearance of his career.

Corey Perry
Ducks' Perry Ends Playoff Goalless Streak
Corey Perry, RW, ANA
4/18/2014
News: Corey Perry scored an unassisted goal during the second period of a 3-2 victory over the Stars in Game 2 of the Stanley Cup playoffs on Friday.
Analysis: Friday's goal snaps a 10-game-long postseason goalless streak for Corey Perry. However, the last time he had a regular season like this one, had eight goals in 13 games. Either way, the Ducks will look for him to be a major offensive presence both to win this series and to go on a possible Stanley Cup Finals run.

Frederik Andersen
Ducks' Andersen Remains Unbeaten In Playoffs
Frederik Andersen, G, ANA
4/18/2014
News: Frederik Andersen stopped 34 of 36 shots on goal during a 3-2 defeat of the Stars in Game 2 of the Stanley Cup playoffs on Friday.
Analysis: Frederik Andersen continues to look solid in net in the postseason. He has a combined save percentage of .930 in these first two games of the opening series.

Ryan Getzlaf
Ducks' Getzlaf Amazing In Return
Ryan Getzlaf, C, ANA
4/18/2014
News: Ryan Getzlaf scored an unassisted goal and registered a shorthanded assist during a 3-2 victory over the Stars in Game 2 of the NHL playoffs on Friday.
Analysis: A goal and an assist in his first game back from taking a puck to the face. There's not much more to say, other than that Ryan Getzlaf is the man.

Patrik Berglund
Blues' Berglund Doubtful For Game 2
Patrik Berglund, C, STL
4/18/2014
News: Patrik Berglund (upper body) is doubtful to play in Saturday's Game 2 matinee against the Blackhawks, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports.
Analysis: The versatile Swede -- who has played both at center and wing this season -- was also reported as "skating well and taking good shots" in the Blues' brief practice Friday. Fortunately for St. Louis, the absences of Patrik Berglund and T.J. Oshie, who also sat out Game 1 with an upper-body injury, were offset by the return of their 21-goal scorer Vladimir Tarasenko, playing in his first game since suffering a broken hand 15 games prior. It appears as though Oshie is closer to returning than Berglund, so while the Blues brass would no doubt like to see him back in action, their forward depth affords them the luxury to take their time with his ailment.

Steve Ott
Blues' Ott Receives Top Line Assignment
Steve Ott, C, STL
4/18/2014
News: Steve Ott spent Game 1 against the Blackhawks on the Blues' top line with captain David Backes and Alex Steen, the team's leading scorer. He was productive in his new role, setting up Steen's game-winner in triple OT and firing three shots on goal.
Analysis: Steve Ott, normally a bottom-six guy since arriving in St. Louis 24 games ago near the trade deadline, got the nod to fill in for the injured T.J. Oshie (upper body). The abrasive veteran actually saw the fourth most ice time (30:53) among Blues forwards in the triple OT marathon, and could get another shot with the big boys as Oshie is questionable to play in Game 2 on Saturday. His assist was just his fourth point as a member of the Blues.

Tuukka Rask
Rask, Bruins Drop Game 1
Tuukka Rask, G, BOS
4/18/2014
News: Tuukka Rask allowed one goal on 24 shots in Friday's 1-0 loss to Detroit in Game 1 of the teams' Atlantic Division semifinal series.
Analysis: Tuukka Rask was beaten late in the third period on a tremendous individual effort from Pavel Datsyuk he may not have seen completely. Rask played well in the game, but so did his counterpart, Jimmy Howard. Rask is the frontrunner for the Vezina Trophy and the Bruins will ride their star goalie every night of the playoffs.

Johan Franzen
Franzen On Scoresheet For Wings
Johan Franzen, LW, DET
4/18/2014
News: Johan Franzen assisted on the game's only goal Friday as Detroit beat Boston 1-0 in Game 1 of their Atlantic Division semifinal series.
Analysis: Johan Franzen is one of several experienced playoff performers on Detroit's roster and can be expected to fill a vital role until captain Henrik Zetterberg returns to action. Franzen's regular season was plagued with injury but he still managed 41 points in 54 games.

 
 
 
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