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Neutral Zone Wrap: It's time to flex your muscle

by | Rotowire.com
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The road to Fantasy success is rarely paved with good intentions.

You might not want to hurt someone else's team, but that's the price you pay for wanting to do well. So you improve your squad while taking away a key piece or two from a non-contender. Don't worry about it. Just think if the situations were reversed: Your roster would be gutted worse than a turkey before Thanksgiving.

There is no remorse in Roto.

Well, only when you have the chance to strike and you fail to pull the trigger. Now that's something that could haunt you down the line.

So go ahead and take the initiative. Be ruthless. Make that move now. Yes, now. Don't delay. C'mon, time is wasting. After all, being proactive worked for a few NHL clubs. Like, perhaps, one or more of the following:

You would expect a team to struggle after moving across the continent and enduring ridiculous travel schedules. But the Winnipeg Jets have been able to defy the odds to become a respectable outfit (10-4-1 since mid-November). Reason No. 1 for their success would be their top man in net. Ondrej Pavelec (3.11 goals-against average, .903 save percentage) has exceeded expectations by standing on his head most nights (top 5 in shots). Right behind him in importance are the trio of Evander Kane, Bryan Little and Blake Wheeler (43 combined points in 13 contests). After a blistering beginning (nine points in nine games) Alex Burmistrov has fallen off the map (two in 10 and a minor injury to boot). Will Antti Miettinen (a double-digit goal scorer in each of his six full seasons) be able to add some offense? Tobias Enstrom (fractured collarbone) is still out, but Zach Bogosian (six points in 10 games, 23 PIM) has been able to carry a bit of the load. Ron Hainsey (back from consecutive maladies) can also add some stats if he feels like it.

The Blues are proving a coaching change and an awful power-play can spur anyone to greatness. (OK, maybe not the latter. But they've promised to improve. And we should take their word for it.) The dynamic duo of T.J. Oshie and Alexander Steen top the charts (with 19 each). Poolies and hockey fans alike have cheered the return of David Perron (three points in four games). Grab Jason Arnott if you need someone who is only useful in one area (half of his 14 points have come on the man-advantage). Meanwhile, Chris Stewart (four-game point streak ended last week) is struggling less than usual. A similar state exists for Patrik Berglund (also had a four-game run halted), a perennial favorite of this column. Another player mentioned often here, Kris Russell, has surprised at times since coming from Columbus (although one point in nine games sounds more like the old Kris). And when will Brian Elliott (with a Parent-like 12-2 mark, 1.46 goals-against average, .947 save percentage and four shutouts) finally show weakness?

It’s good to see Dallas still up in the standings, even with a couple notable absences. When Kari Lehtonen (groin injury, probably gone until 2012) went down, many thought Andrew Raycroft (3.53 goals-against average, .897 save percentage in nine) would be the one to step in, but no one believed Richard Bachman (one goal allowed in three appearances) would turn it into overdrive. Brenden Morrow is back again from his latest training room sabbatical. No worries about Jamie Benn and his mini-slump (one in seven, minus-5). Michael Ryder has made a marked improvement after a slow start. Steve Ott will still earn you enough assorted goodies (68 PIM and 90 hits expected, 12 points added bonus). And where did all those goals from, Eric Nystrom (tied for team lead with 10)? Sheldon Souray (scoreless in 15) has been trending downward for weeks, but Trevor Daley (three in two, more special-teams minutes) deserves an uptick for his recent efforts.

Why can't Buffalo stay consistent (currently at two wins in seven)? Does Sabre life mainly revolve around Ryan Miller (team was 3-5-2 while he recovered)? Is Tyler Myers (broken wrist, close to practicing again) that big an influence? Can Ville Leino's undisclosed, potentially long-term injury be considered catastrophic if he was underperforming (10 in 29, minus-7)? Many questions remain, but there still is hope. Tyler Ennis and Drew Stafford have the opportunities and tools to produce. Zack Kassian looks to be developing into a nice all-around winger. Without Myers, the blue line hasn't filled in adequately. Jordan Leopold isn't faring too poorly, although Marc-Andre Gragnani (three in 13) could be contributing a lot more.

And, hey, congrats to Detroit on completing our team tour this season. It's a shame there isn't more we could discuss, but they need more notables injured -- or at least rotate a couple different players in the lineup now and then. It's difficult to ignore Todd Bertuzzi slotted on the top line, although it's easier to discount his mediocrity (still out there between 13-14 minutes a night). Someone has lit a fire under Jiri Hudler (six in four) and Danny Cleary (five in five). The same spark may have transferred to Darren Helm (five in eight), but it was extinguished before reaching Justin Abdelkader. And with five power-play assists and a top-10 rating of plus-17, there’s no need to mention Ian White, right?

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Player News
Matt Duchene
Avs' Duchene To Start Skating Monday
Matt Duchene, C, COL
4/21/2014
News: Matt Duchene (knee) will join the Avalanche for the two-game road swing in Minnesota, Adrian Dater of the Denver Post reports.
Analysis: Matt Duchene will resume skating Monday, but it's still looking unlikely that he'll be available for Round 1. However, with the Avalanche already owning a commanding 2-0 lead, the series could end up going as few as four games, affording ample time for Duchene to rest up before Round 2 commences.

Jonathan Quick
Kings Roll With Quick
Jonathan Quick, G, LA
6:47 PM
News: Jonathan Quick will start Sunday's game against the Sharks, Elliott Teaford of InsideSocal.com reports.
Analysis: Jonathan Quick, who will square off against Antti Niemi, will try to help the Kings even their playoff series with the Sharks on Sunday, after the team dropped Thursday's Game 1 by a 6-3 mark.

Jason LaBarbera
LaBarbera Recalled By Chicago
Jason LaBarbera, G, CHI
6:29 PM
News: The Blackhawks have recalled Jason LaBarbera from AHL Rockford, ESPN Chicago reports.
Analysis: Jason LaBarbera, who went 15-15-12 with a 2.94 GAA and a .901 save percentage in 32 games with Rockford this season, gives the Hawks an emergency backup option, now that his team's AHL season is done.

Steven Stamkos
Lightning's Stamkos Returns To Sunday's Game
Steven Stamkos, C, TB
6:23 PM
News: Steven Stamkos, who left Sunday's game against Montreal after taking a knee to the back of the head in the second period, was able to return to the contest.
Analysis: The star forward's return is great news for the Lightning, as the team is down 2-0 in its playoff series against Montreal and entered the third period of Sunday's game trailing by a score of 2-1.

Ondrej Palat
Lightning's Palat Set To Play
Ondrej Palat, LW, TB
3:53 PM
News: Ondrej Palat (upper body) is slated to play Sunday against the Canadiens, TSN's John Lu reports.
Analysis: Based on warmups, Ondrej Palat -- who missed Friday's contest against the Habs -- is slated to work on a line with Tyler Johnson and Steven Stamkos on Sunday.

Martin Havlat
Sharks Likely To Scratch Havlat In Game 2
Martin Havlat, RW, SJ
3:51 PM
News: With no lineup changes for Game 2, it looks like Martin Havlat will again be a healthy scratch for the Sharks, according to David Pollak of the Mercury News.
Analysis: Martin Havlat finished a tough season fairly strong and is likely to be the first forward brought in if a lineup change is necessary. But there's no reason to change anything after a strong Game 1 performance from the Sharks. As long as they keep winning, Havlat may continue to be scratched.

Tyler Kennedy
Kennedy Likely A Scratch For Sharks In Game 2
Tyler Kennedy, C, SJ
3:49 PM
News: With the team reporting no lineup changes for Game 2, it looks like Tyler Kennedy will be a healthy scratch again, according to David Pollak of the Mercury News.
Analysis: Tyler Kennedy's season-long struggles are taking precedent over his playoff experience. Kennedy, short of some bad play by a bottom six forward or an injury, may be hard pressed to find playing time in round one.

Raffi Torres
Torres To Play For Sharks In Game 2
Raffi Torres, LW, SJ
3:46 PM
News: There wasn't much question if he'd play two straight, but it's now confirmed that Raffi Torres will play for the Sharks in Game 2, according to David Pollak of the Mercury News.
Analysis: Raffi Torres scored the game-winner in Game 1, his return after some knee soreness. He's barely played this season, but when he has, he's been excellent. The only thing to be wary of is his playing time. The Sharks are being cautious with his knee. They expect a long playoff run and want Torres healthy throughout. With Torres getting under ten minutes per game, it may be hard for him to keep up the productivity we've seen thus far.

Sami Salo
Lightning's Salo Out For Sunday's Game
Sami Salo, D, TB
3:46 PM
News: Sami Salo (upper body) will miss Sunday's game against the Canadiens, Erik Erlendsson of The Tampa Tribune reports.
Analysis: Sami Salo will thus take a seat Sunday after having been held without a point over the first two games of the Lightning's series against Montreal.

Antti Niemi
Niemi Starts For Sharks In Game 2
Antti Niemi, G, SJ
3:44 PM
News: Antti Niemi will get the net for Game 2, according to David Pollak of the Mercury News.
Analysis: Antti Niemi will get the start after stopping 31 of 34 for the win in Game 1. Expect him to start every game for the Sharks until LA finds a way to expose him. If that happens there may be a change as backup Alex Stalock has played strong all season.

 
 
 
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