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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
Damon Severson
Devils' Severson (Ankle) Out 4-5 Weeks
Damon Severson, D, NJ
10:16 AM
News: Damon Severson was diagnosed with a hairline fracture in his ankle Thursday and will miss the next four-to-five weeks, Tom Gulitti of The Record reports.
Analysis: Though his offensive production has tailed off dramatically since the end of October, Damon Severson was still an important cog on the Devils' top pairing, averaging 23:02 of ice time per game. The rookie apparently first suffered the injury after taking a shot to his ankle in a Dec. 6 game against the Capitals, playing through the fracture until he began to experience significant swelling Wednesday. Though he won't require surgery, Severson will still be out until mid- or late-January, forcing coach Pete DeBoer to turn to Eric Gelinas, Seth Helgeson and Adam Larsson to assume more prominent roles on the New Jersey blue line.

Dainius Zubrus
Devils Place Zubrus On IR
Dainius Zubrus, RW, NJ
10:07 AM
News: Dainius Zubrus (leg laceration) was placed on injured reserve Thursday, Tom Gulitti of The Record reports.
Analysis: The Devils are still considering Dainius Zubrus day-to-day after he was able to skate earlier in the day, but was moved to IR to create some roster flexibility. Since he's already missed the minimum seven days required for an IR stint, he'll be eligible for activation immediately once he becomes healthier.

Carey Price
Habs' Price To Start Thursday
Carey Price, G, MON
10:02 AM
News: Carey Price will be in the crease Thursday against the Ducks, Eric Stephens of the Orange County Register reports.
Analysis: Carey Price has been spectacular in claiming three consecutive wins, stopping 84-of-88 shots (.954 save percentage) to bring his record up to 17-8-1 for the season. The Ducks, who recently saw a seven-game winning streak come to an end, figure to be a stiff test for Price, but it's probably worthwhile to use him while he's playing impressively and on home ice.

Frederik Andersen
Ducks Tab Andersen For 20th Straight
Frederik Andersen, G, ANA
9:54 AM
News: The Ducks will give Frederik Andersen the start in net Thursday against the Canadiens, Eric Stephens of the Orange County Register reports.
Analysis: Frederik Andersen was pulled early in the third period of Tuesday's outing against the Maple Leafs after surrendering four goals, allowing Ilya Bryzgalov to make his team debut. Bryzgalov could make his first start for the Ducks on Friday in Ottawa, but because Andersen didn't see a full 60 minutes his last time out, coach Bruce Boudreau will roll with his No. 1 netminder for the 20th straight time. Despite his heavy usage, Andersen had generally played well prior to Tuesday's debacle, winning in his previous seven starts.

Colton Sceviour
Stars' Sceviour Scores Again
Colton Sceviour, C, DAL
9:49 AM
News: Colton Sceviour grabbed his second goal of the year in a win over Vancouver on Wednesday.
Analysis: Colton Sceviour had a big impact in limited time last year, scoring eight goals and four assists in 26 games last season. In 25 games this season he has just two goals and four assists. However, those two goals came in the last five games and he may be finding his touch again.

Vernon Fiddler
Stars' Fiddler Has Assists In Back To Back Games
Vernon Fiddler, C, DAL
9:46 AM
News: Vernon Fiddler had an assist, a plus-2 rating, and a pair of shots in Dallas' win over Vancouver on Wednesday.
Analysis: Vernon Fiddler has two goals and seven assists through 30 games. He's about on pace for where he's been in recent years, a little behind, but Fiddler has been about what you'd expect this season.

Sergei Bobrovsky
Blue Jackets Give Another Start To Bobrovsky
Sergei Bobrovsky, G, CLB
9:46 AM
News: Sergei Bobrovsky will make the start in goal Thursday against the Capitals, Jeff Rimer of FOX Sports Ohio reports.
Analysis: While his workload has started to mount of late, Sergei Bobrovsky will likely assume every start for the Blue Jackets until he begins to cool off. He's almost single-handedly willed the Blue Jackets away from the Connor McDavid sweepstakes and into contention for an Eastern Conference playoff spot to this point in December, winning in all seven of his starts and posting a 1.64 GAA. Fantasy owners should roll with Bobrovsky in their lineups regardless of his opponent while he continues to sizzle.

Braden Holtby
Caps To Start Holtby On Thursday
Braden Holtby, G, WAS
9:42 AM
News: Braden Holtby will be between the pipes Thursday against the Blue Jackets.
Analysis: Braden Holtby missed out on his 13th victory of the season Tuesday against the Panthers by the narrowest of margins, falling in a shootout that lasted an NHL-record 20 rounds. The netminder has been mostly good of late with save percentages of .916, .869, .928 and .965 over his last four starts, but has taken two overtime losses during that span. He'll probably need to turn in another superb outing Thursday if he hopes to topple Columbus and their netminder, Sergei Bobrovsky, who owns a 7-0 record, 1.63 GAA and .950 save percentage thus far in December.

Braydon Coburn
Flyers' Coburn Ready To Go Thursday
Braydon Coburn, D, PHI
9:34 AM
News: Braydon Coburn (general soreness) will play Thursday against the Panthers, Bill Meltzer of NHL.com reports.
Analysis: Braydon Coburn was in some pain after he was hit into the boards during Tuesday's loss to Tampa Bay, but was able to recover sufficiently in advance of Thursday's morning skate. Coach Craig Berube will stick with the same six defensemen Thursday that he used two nights earlier.

Roberto Luongo
Panthers' Luongo To Take Net Thursday
Roberto Luongo, G, FLA
9:31 AM
News: Roberto Luongo will man the net Thursday for the Panthers on the road in Philadelphia, Harvey Fialkov of the South Florida Sun Sentinel reports.
Analysis: Coach Gerard Gallant will stick with the same lineup that came out on top in a 20-round shootout Tuesday against the Capitals, with no player being more instrumental in that victory than Roberto Luongo. The 35-year-old has won both of his last two outings while posting save percentages above .930, bring his record to 11-6-6 on the campaign. He should be a decent play against a Flyers attack that ranks in the middle of the pack league-wide in goals per game.

 
 
 
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