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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
Kimmo Timonen
Blackhawks Expected To Pull Timonen From Lineup
Kimmo Timonen, D, CHI
9:35 AM
News: Kimmo Timonen appears to be headed to the press box for Wednesday's Game 6 against the Ducks, Chris Kuc of the Chicago Tribune reports.
Analysis: The Blackhawks acquired Kimmo Timonen at the trade deadline with the hope that he'd provide the team with some added scoring punch from the blue line, but he's been a total bust. While it didn't help matters that he missed the first five months of the season while recovering from blood clots, Timonen just hasn't rounded into shape the way the Blackhawks imagined. In his 31 games with Chicago spanning the regular season and playoffs, Timonen has yet to record a single point and has become a defensive liability on the back end. With the Blackhawks facing elimination, it looks like Quenneville will make the tough choice to bench the accomplished veteran and turn to David Rundblad on the defensive pairing next to Brent Seabrook.

Trevor van Riemsdyk
Blackhawks' Van Riemsdyk Not In For Game 6
Trevor van Riemsdyk, D, CHI
9:29 AM
News: Van Riemsdyk (wrist) will not enter the lineup for Wednesday's Game 6 against the Ducks, NHL.com's Brian Hedger reports.
Analysis: While it appears coach Joel Quenneville will adjust his defensive ranks with the Blackhawks facing elimination, it's David Rundblad -- not Trevor van Riemsdyk -- that is in line to replace the struggling Kimmo Timonen. Though van Riemsdyk is probably the more talented of the two players, it's still risky to the throw him back in the lineup after he's barely seen any competitive action over the last six months. He'll continue to work out with the team over the next few days, but don't count on van Riemsdyk warranting consideration for playing until perhaps the Stanley Cup Finals.

Anton Stralman
Bolts' Stralman Nabs Power-Play Assist In Game 6
Anton Stralman, D, TB
7:47 AM
News: Anton Stralman assisted on Ryan Callahan's first-period power-play goal in Tuesday's Game 6 loss to the Rangers.
Analysis: Anton Stralman delivered a beautiful outlet pass to Callahan to trim the Bolts' deficit to 2-1, but it wasn't nearly enough to keep pace with the Rangers, who rode the sensational play of Derick Brassard to a 7-3 victory. Both of Stralman's points in the series against his former team have come in the last two games.

Tanner Glass
Rangers' Glass Registers Assist In Game 6
Tanner Glass, LW, NYR
7:42 AM
News: Tanner Glass recorded an assist in Tuesday's Game 6 win over the Lightning.
Analysis: It's the first point in 18 playoff games for Tanner Glass, who has deferred most offensive responsibilities to the Rangers' top-six forwards. Instead, Glass is relied upon to dish out punishment and kill penalties, a role which seems fairly solidified this deep into the postseason.

Dan Boyle
Rangers' Boyle Stays Productive In Game 6
Dan Boyle, D, NYR
7:38 AM
News: Dan Boyle assisted on one of seven Rangers goals in a decisive Game 6 win over the Lightning on Tuesday night.
Analysis: Dan Boyle is finding his stride in the postseason, totaling three goals and seven assists across 10 games. That's exactly half of the scoring production he provided during the regular season, during which it took him 65 games to accrue 20 points.

Andrei Vasilevskiy
Bolts' Vasilevskiy Sees Rare Postseason Duty
Andrei Vasilevskiy, G, TB
7:35 AM
News: Andrei Vasilevskiy replaced Ben Bishop with 12:46 remaining in the third period of Tuesday's 7-3 loss to the Rangers in Game 6. The Bolts backup goalie stopped six of seven shots.
Analysis: It was the 20-year-old's second appearance of the postseason, with both coming when the Lightning were on the wrong end of blowouts. While Bishop's outing in front of the home crowd was hardly inspiring, there's little chance that coach Jon Cooper will turn away from his No. 1 netminder with the series on the line in Friday's Game 7. Don't expect Cooper to even entertain the idea of going with Andrei Vasilevskiy.

Tyler Johnson
Bolts' Johnson Takes Postseason Scoring Lead
Tyler Johnson, C, TB
5/26/2015
News: Tyler Johnson dished out two assists in Tuesday's Game 6 loss to the Rangers, giving him 20 points in the playoffs.
Analysis: That's good for tops in the league, one point ahead of his linemate Nikita Kucherov and Anaheim's Ryan Getzlaf (who's played five fewer games). Tyler Johnson's dozen goals easily lead the playoffs, so it's nice to see him balance out his stat line with a couple helpers, although they both came in garbage time.

Nikita Kucherov
Bolts' Kucherov Scores Twice In Game 6 Loss
Nikita Kucherov, RW, TB
5/26/2015
News: Nikita Kucherov potted a pair of garbage-time goals in Tuesday's Game 6 loss to the Rangers.
Analysis: His eighth and ninth goals of the playoffs came with the Lightning trailing 5-1 and then 6-2, so they were mainly good for padding his playoff stat line. It's a fine line indeed, as he's sitting on an outstanding 19 points in 19 contests -- good for a tie with Anaheim's Ryan Getzlaf for second in postseason scoring behind Nikita Kucherov's linemate Tyler Johnson.

Ryan Callahan
Bolts' Callahan Finally Tallies Against Rangers
Ryan Callahan, RW, TB
5/26/2015
News: Ryan Callahan potted his first playoff goal -- and first point since April 29 -- on a power play in Tuesday's Game 6 loss to the Rangers. He finished minus-2 with five shots.
Analysis: Ryan Callahan got left all alone by the Rangers' defensemen as he floated by the blue line, got fed a long lead pass, and broke in on Henrik Lundqvist with a quick deke to beat him for a stick-side goal. His last point came in Game 7 against Detroit, and Cally had only tallied three helpers over his first 17 playoff games. The appendix surgery that kept him out of the series-clinching Game 6 against Montreal only excuses part of that. Nonetheless, he looks like he's back to full health already, and you can be sure that he'll put forth a strong effort in Game 7 back at his old haunt, Madison Square Garden.

James Sheppard
Rangers' Sheppard Scores First Playoff Goal
James Sheppard, LW, NYR
5/26/2015
News: James Sheppard scored his first goal of the playoffs in Tuesday's Game 6 against the Lightning, tallying the eventual game-winning tally in the third period.
Analysis: James Sheppard played a game-low (among Rangers) 8:35 in fourth-line duty, but scored a hard-working goal to put the Rangers up 4-1. It was the second tally of what ended up being a five-goal period for the Rangers, with Tampa chipping in a pair of goals to turn Sheppard's into the game-winner. It was his first point since May 10 against Washington.

 
 
 
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