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Neutral Zone Wrap: Gifts that keep on giving

by | Rotowire.com
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The holidays are all about giving -- and investing substantial resources to make others happy. The gifts you've purchased this season will only improve your social standing for months to come. Unless, of course, you figured any one of a pair of socks, a sweater or that limited edition Phillipe Bozon bobblehead would make the perfect gift.

Like the presents we receive, a Fantasy trade can often be well-intended but sometimes ends up looking like last year's fruitcake. The thing was probably conceived quickly and without much thought, the ingredients remain questionable, and no one wants to go near it. So why is this type of transaction so frequent in leagues? Does one really believe they can sneak talent through and not consider the consequences? Or is it assumed the opening offer will always be the worst?

The first rule of negotiations is to deal with the other owners like you'd want them to treat you. And it doesn't matter if there's that one yahoo who always runs his/her mouth throughout the season. Most likely, everyone is playing because they hold some basic Fantasy knowledge. So don't insult others with lowball deals; it only reduces the overall level. And don't think including more players to the trade will increase the likelihood of completion. You can't sell a lemon even if you hide it behind a bunch of grapes.

Enough about gift- or food-related analogies. You want the Fantasy goods. So here are a few teams striving for the prize and others resembling bad apples:

It used to be said the secret to Nashville's success was balanced scoring. Now the Predators have nothing to hide and they're still competing well above payroll. If you believed freshman Craig Smith would slow down (seven points in nine games), then you would've lost a few bets. Although you could've recouped a bit of money on Sergei Kostitsyn (three in 13, minus-4). Nothing wrong with Martin Erat of late (nine in nine). Jordin Tootoo (10 in 12 to go along with 47 PIM and 64 hits on the season) isn't as one-dimensional as you'd think. For as much talent as Patric Hornqvist possesses, you'd think he could treat his Fantasy owners better (two in 18). Don't jump on Roman Josi just yet (netted his first NHL goal on the power-play last week), but the Swiss defender is worth a look in keeper leagues.

Unlike Nashville, everybody knew Calgary couldn't compete due to streaky shooters. The same holds true these days, but the situation could be worse. I mean, the Flames could be wallowing near the bottom of their division and fighting with their provincial rivals. Oh, right, they are. No one could have predicted Olli Jokinen as the Flames' leading scorer (28, including an amazing 14 points in his last 11 games). If you aren't already a fan of Curtis Glencross (seven in seven), then get ready to join the club. The ride was sweet while it lasted, right, Brendan Morrison (nothing in five after seven in three thanks a spot beside Jarome Iginla)? Thanks for the memories, Lee Stempniak (zero in six). Someone needs to jumpstart Mikael Backlund (three in 19) or else it's back to the AHL for him. And without Mark Giordano (torn leg tendons, return unknown), Derek Smith (five in six, including two PPAs) has fit in on D and contributed.

Fact: Columbus doesn't suck as much as the first report would've led you to believe. OK, so they won't be raising the Cup in June. But they're actually half-decent if given the chance. Like Jokinen on the Flames, Vaclav Prospal (26, with seven in December) is truly making the most out of his Blue Jacket revival. Try not to fall into the Derick Brassard trap, even if he's recovered a bit (two in the Jackets’ last outing). And Derek Dorsett may have added a few goals to his resume (adding seven to his career total of 19), but don't be fooled. Besides the cool spy name, Nikita Nikitin (all 12 of his points have come since arriving from St. Louis) is also a stealth scorer. And somehow, Steve Mason (3.52 goals-against average, .880 save percentage, dismal 4-14-1 record) has earned a couple starts while Curtis Sanford (2.42 goals-against average, .914 save percentage in 15) waits for the next chance to strike.

If Montreal can string a few wins together, then it doesn't matter what language the head coach speaks. Of course, when you've lost four in a row and have to go without three key regulars, none of that makes a difference. After some early trepidation (one in seven to start), Erik Cole (seven in seven) has no issues finding the scoresheet. Same goes for David Desharnais (five in five). As a result of others' struggles, first-year center Louis Leblanc (two in four) has been asked to assume more responsibility. So much for P.K. Subban (14, with only four PPPs) stepping up as the top defenseman. Don't expect newcomer Tomas Kaberle to assume that role, even if the opening returns (five in six) are encouraging.

With all the injuries in Colorado, you could say the Avs are being held together by glue and hope. But that hasn't stopped the club from winning four of their last five. Or having Jean-Sebastien Giguere (1.87 goals-against average, .931 save percentage in 13, winner of three straight) wresting the #1 mantle from Semyon Varlamov (3.14 goals-against average, .896 save percentage). Ryan O'Reilly (leading the team with 23) is enjoying a career year. Daniel Winnik (four in seven) has been promoted to the top unit thanks to his hard work. The numbers may not be spectacular for Gabriel Landeskog (15, 22 PIM, 93 hits), but the rookie is sticking and - more importantly - learning on the job. Kyle Quincey has served as top blueliner (17, but only one in eight), although he was surprisingly scratched Wednesday. Thanks to a couple missing defenders, Stefan Elliott (three in five) is once again getting the opportunity to do his thing.

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Player News
Tom Wilson
Caps Reassign Wilson
Tom Wilson, RW, WAS
10/21/2014
News: The Capitals reassigned Tom Wilson (ankle) to AHL Hershey on Monday.
Analysis: Tom Wilson has been on IR with an ankle injury, and will likely use the stint in Hershey to get back up to speed. Expect him to be called back up to the big club when he's healthy.

Seth Griffith
Bruins' Griffith Skates With Lucic, Krejci
Seth Griffith, C, BOS
10/21/2014
News: Seth Griffith, whom the Bruins recalled from AHL Providence on Monday, skated with Milan Lucic and David Krejci during Monday's practice, the team's official site reports.
Analysis: The Bruins return to action Tuesday against the Sharks, and if Seth Griffith rejoins the team's lineup for that contest, it's plausible that he and Simon Gagne could both end up seeing ice time with Lucic and Krejci.

Jason LaBarbera
Ducks Reassign LaBarbera
Jason LaBarbera, G, ANA
10/21/2014
News: The Ducks reassigned Jason LaBarbera to AHL Norfolk on Monday, Eric Stephens of the Orange County Register reports.
Analysis: Labarbera filled in for John Gibson as Frederik Andersen's backup for a while, but will return to the minors, where he's expected to spend most of the season.

John Gibson
Ducks Recall Gibson
John Gibson, G, ANA
10/21/2014
News: The Ducks recalled John Gibson from AHL Norfolk on Monday, Eric Stephens of the Orange County Register reports.
Analysis: John Gibson earned the first start of the season for the Ducks, but gave up six goals on 39 shots in a loss to the Penguins. He'll return from the AHL and try to prove himself once again when he gets the opportunity. Gibson went 1-1, allowing two goals on 61 shots for a .902 save mark, in his two games with Norfolk.

Kevan Miller
Bruins' Miller Out Indefinitely
Kevan Miller, D, BOS
10/21/2014
News: Kevan Miller is out indefinitely with a dislocated shoulder, Amalie Benjamin of the Boston Globe reports.
Analysis: Kevan Miller injured his shoulder during a fight with the Sabres' Nicolas Deslauriers on Saturday, and will be sidelined indefinitely until he recovers. Miller has yet to record a point, but had a plus-4 rating and five PIM in six games before getting hurt. In his absence, look for Matt Bartkowski to return to the Bruins' blue-line mix, beginning Tuesday against the Sharks.

Scott Harrington
Pens Reassign Harrington
Scott Harrington, D, PIT
10/21/2014
News: The Penguins reassigned Scott Harrington to AHL Wilkes-Barre/Scranton on Monday, Seth Rorabaugh of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports.
Analysis: Scott Harrington didn't see any NHL action while he was up with the big club, but will try to play well enough in the AHL to earn another shot.

Kris Versteeg
Hawks' Versteeg Expected In Lineup Tuesday
Kris Versteeg, RW, CHI
2:05 PM
News: Kris Versteeg (lower body) said that he expects to be in the lineup Tuesday at home against the Flyers, the Chicago Tribune reports.
Analysis: Kris Versteeg has not played in the Blackhawks' first four games, but is actually ahead of schedule. He skated with the second line on Monday, alongside Patrick Kane and center Andrew Shaw.

Braydon Coburn
Flyers' Coburn Expected To Play Tuesday
Braydon Coburn, D, PHI
1:25 PM
News: Braydon Coburn (lower body) is expected to play Tuesday against the Blackhawks, Tim Panaccio of CSN Philadelphia reports.
Analysis: Braydon Coburn sat out Saturday's game against the Stars, but felt much better Monday, and should be back in the lineup for Tuesday's contest. Coburn was plus-1 in the first game of the season, but hasn't been healthy since, and has yet to crack the score sheet.

Andrew Ebbett
Pens Reassign Ebbett
Andrew Ebbett, C, PIT
11:51 AM
News: The Penguins reassigned Andrew Ebbett to AHL Wilkes-Barre/Scranton on Monday, Seth Rorabaugh of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports.
Analysis: Andrew Ebbett didn't play in any games during his brief stint with the Penguins, but could get called back up if the injury bug bites Pittsburgh.

Semyon Varlamov
Avs' Varlamov Will Play Friday
Semyon Varlamov, G, COL
11:45 AM
News: Semyon Varlamov (groin) will suit up for Friday's game against the Canucks.
Analysis: Semyon Varlamov won't play Tuesday against the Panthers, but is expected to get the start Friday after the team has a couple days off. The netminder was on a cold streak before getting injured, going 0-2-1 and giving up a total of 10 goals in three games on the season.

 
 
 
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