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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
Semyon Varlamov
Avs Confirm Varlamov As Friday Starter
Semyon Varlamov, G, COL
12:57 AM
News: Coach Patrick Roy confirmed Semyon Varlamov (groin) as the Avs' starter Friday against the Canucks.
Analysis: Semyon Varlamov will officially be activated from injured reserve prior to Friday's game, with Calvin Pickard likely heading back to AHL Lake Erie in a corresponding move. The goalie missed only three games due to the groin injury and should man the net for the entirety of Friday's game, barring an early scoring barrage by the Canucks.

Corey Crawford
Chicago's Crawford Could Skate In Next Day Or Two
Corey Crawford, G, CHI
12:53 AM
News: Coach Joel Quenneville said Thursday that Corey Crawford (upper body) could begin skating in the next day or two, CSN Chicago's Tracey Myers reports.
Analysis: The Blackhawks continue to view Corey Crawford's upper-body injury as short-term concern, with the team only ruling him out for their next two games thus far. With Crawford unavailable Thursday, Antti Raanta will make the start against the Predators. Raanta or call-up Scott Darling would then be called upon to man the net in the final game of the Blackhawks' road trip, which will take place Saturday in St. Louis.

Jonas Hiller
Flames Go With Hiller On Thursday
Jonas Hiller, G, CGY
12:49 AM
News: Jonas Hiller has been confirmed as Thursday's starter in goal for the Flames' tilt with the Hurricanes, Scott Cruickshank of the Calgary Herald reports.
Analysis: Coach Bob Hartley will continue to deploy his pattern of alternating starts between his two goalies, as Jonas Hiller gets the nod after resting Tuesday against the Lightning. The Flames are expected to turn the net back over to Karri Ramo on Saturday, when the Capitals will come to town.

Jhonas Enroth
Sabres Will Start Enroth On Thursday
Jhonas Enroth, G, BUF
12:38 AM
News: Jhonas Enroth will be in the crease Thursday against the Kings.
Analysis: After backup Michal Neuvirth received the nod in Thursday's loss to the Ducks, Jhonas Enroth will return to the net against a tough Kings squad on the road. Enroth may need to hold the opposition to one or fewer goals to give the Sabres any chance at salvaging a point Thursday.

Anthony Peluso
Jets' Peluso Nursing Upper-Body Injury
Anthony Peluso, RW, WPG
12:32 AM
News: Anthony Peluso missed Thursday's practice with what was described as a minor upper-body injury, Ken Wiebe of the Winnipeg Sun reports.
Analysis: While it doesn't look like the ailment is serious enough to result in a move to injured reserve for Anthony Peluso, he could still be forced out of Friday's game against the Lightning. Since Peluso's a fourth-liner who averages only 6:35 of ice time per game, the Jets wouldn't lose much by swapping him out for Matt Halischuk for a game or two.

Evander Kane
Jets' Kane Making Positive Progress
Evander Kane, LW, WPG
12:28 AM
News: Coach Paul Maurice said Evander Kane (knee) is progressing well and could begin skating before the end of the week, Ken Wiebe of the Winnipeg Sun reports.
Analysis: The Jets likely won't have a definitive timetable on Evander Kane until after he starts taking part in practices in some capacity, but an early- to mid-November return would seem realistic at this time. The winger was set to play a vital role for the Jets on the second line to open the season, before he suffered the knee injury after just 1:24 of action in the team's first game.

Thomas Hickey
Isles' Hickey Will Play Thursday
Thomas Hickey, D, NYI
12:22 AM
News: Thomas Hickey (face) will play Thursday against the Bruins.
Analysis: Thomas Hickey exited Tuesday's game against Toronto after suffering a cut to his face, but it was never viewed as serious enough to keep him out of further action. He'll occupy a spot on the Islanders' second pairing, where he'll be joined by a new partner in Lubomir Visnovsky (back), who was activated from IR on Thursday.

Martin Hanzal
Coyotes' Hanzal Could Resume Skating Friday
Martin Hanzal, C, ARI
12:19 AM
News: Coach Dave Tippett said Martin Hanzal (lower body) could resume skating Friday, Sarah McLellan of the Arizona Republic reports.
Analysis: Martin Hanzal didn't make the trip with the Coyotes to Minnesota for Thursday's game, but the team seems to believe the forward is only in line for a short-term absence. While Hanzal's injury might not clear up in time for him to play Saturday against the Panthers, there's a good possibility he'll be back in action at some point next week.

Alex Killorn
Bolts' Killorn Likely Out Friday
Alex Killorn, C, TB
12:15 AM
News: Alex Killorn (shoulder) isn't expected to play Friday against the Jets, Erik Erlendsson of the Tampa Tribune reports.
Analysis: Alex Killorn acknowledged that his previously undisclosed injury occurred when he banged his shoulder and head on the boards Monday. While he wasn't diagnosed with any concussion symptoms and was able to get in a light skate Thursday, the Bolts seem inclined to give him a few more days off to aid his recovery.

Marian Gaborik
Kings' Gaborik Won't Skate Until Next Week
Marian Gaborik, RW, LA
12:01 AM
News: Marian Gaborik (undisclosed) isn't expected to resume skating until early next week, Jon Rosen of LA Kings Insider reports.
Analysis: Marian Gaborik hasn't played since Oct. 12 while dealing with the mystery injury, and it sounds like at the very least, the forward could miss an additional handful of games. While getting on the ice would mark a positive step for Gaborik, coach Darryl Sutter wasn't willing to speculate if the forward would be available for the Kings' five-game road trip that runs from Oct. 28 to Nov. 4. Fantasy owners likely drafted Gaborik with the knowledge that his shaky health would make him a huge risk, but it wasn't believed that he'd miss this much action so early in the campaign.

 
 
 
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