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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
Kari Lehtonen
Stars' Lehtonen Stops 35 To Beat Oilers
Kari Lehtonen, G, DAL
12:34 PM
News: Kari Lehtonen made 35 saves on 37 shots in Tuesday's victory over Edmonton.
Analysis: That's three straight wins for Kari Lehtonen now, and if he gave up four goals in one of them, well, at least he faced 41 shots in that game. All in all, he's showing good signs of getting his game on track after a disappointing start to the season.

Viktor Fasth
Oilers Fall Despite Fasth's 31 Stops
Viktor Fasth, G, EDM
12:27 PM
News: Viktor Fasth allowed three goals on 34 shots in Tuesday's 3-2 loss to Dallas.
Analysis: A pair of Tyler Seguin goals in the second period ended up giving the Stars enough cushion to beat Edmonton, and Viktor Fasth can hardly be faulted for being Seguin's latest victim. Nonetheless, he's now taken losses in three straight starts and six out of eight on the season.

John Klingberg
Stars' Klingberg Starring
John Klingberg, D, DAL
12:22 PM
News: John Klingberg extended his goal streak to three games and his point streak to five in Tuesday's win over Edmonton, going plus-3 with his third marker of the year and an assist.
Analysis: John Klingberg's achieved near-instant stardom in his first taste of the NHL, having started with three scoreless contests before exploding for eight points over the last five games.

Tyler Seguin
Stars' Seguin Heating Up Again
Tyler Seguin, C, DAL
12:12 PM
News: Tyler Seguin scored a pair of goals on five shots and went plus-2 in Tuesday's win over Edmonton.
Analysis: Uh oh, he's starting another one of those super-hot streaks now. That's five goals, an assist and a plus-7 rating for Tyler Seguin over the last four games.

Jacob Trouba
Jets' Trouba Notches Two Helpers
Jacob Trouba, D, WPG
12:01 PM
News: Jacob Trouba picked up a pair of assists on Evander Kane power-play goals -- the second an empty-netter -- in Tuesday's win over Columbus.
Analysis: It's not exactly front-page news, but Jacob Trouba does have three points over the last three games after totaling just three over his first 20 contests of the year. He's had a little bit of bad puck luck, but remains superbly talented and is skating major minutes -- 24:11 on Tuesday -- for the Jets.

Mike Smith
Coyotes' Smith Allows Four In Loss
Mike Smith, G, ARI
3:07 AM
News: Mike Smith allowed four goals on 35 shots in Tuesday's loss to Arizona.
Analysis: With yet another loss, Mike Smith falls to 0-6-1 in his last seven starts. Yikes. He's had a couple good starts mixed in there, but four-plus-goal outings like this have been far from unusual for Smith this year.

Reto Berra
Avs Pull Berra Early
Reto Berra, G, COL
3:04 AM
News: Reto Berra was pulled after playing just 10:53 on Tuesday and giving up three goals on eight shots. Calvin Pickard was perfect in his place, stopping 25 of 25.
Analysis: Looking down the season stat line, it becomes quite clear that Reto Berra is about as low-end as NHL goalies come. The Avs must be hungering for Semyon Varlmaov to come back from his groin issue.

Frederik Andersen
Andersen's 32 Stops Help Ducks To Win
Frederik Andersen, G, ANA
2:59 AM
News: Frederik Andersen saved 32 of 34 shots Tuesday in a 3-2 victory over Calgary.
Analysis: That's three straight wins for Frederik Andersen, who's back to building momentum following a period of inconsistent play. With John Gibson (groin) still out, he should be starting nearly every game.

Colin Wilson
Two Helpers For Preds' Wilson
Colin Wilson, C, NSH
2:55 AM
News: Colin Wilson notched a pair of assists in Tuesday's shootout win over the Kings.
Analysis: He's been producing over the last four games, racking up two goals, three assists and a plus-4. However, Colin Wilson's overall production has, as usual, been fairly sporadic, as he has just nine points in 19 games for the season.

Craig Smith
Preds' Smith Notches Two Points In Win
Craig Smith, C, NSH
2:52 AM
News: Craig Smith gathered a goal and an assist in Tuesday's shootout win over the Kings, finishing plus-1 with four shots on goal and two takeaways.
Analysis: Craig Smith's been rolling along nicely of late, with two goals, three helpers, a plus-5 rating, six PIM and 21 shots on goal over the last five games. He's still a decent bit short of last season's scoring pace, but things are definitely coming along.

 
 
 
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