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Neutral Zone Wrap: Worth another look?

by | Rotowire.com
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Following up on last week's underappreciated player review, we now turn to those overlooked on the waiver wire. Alas, there will be no list. But hopefully, you will still learn something. (There will be a quiz after, so pay attention).

As your league's trade deadline has either passed or is reaching its conclusion, you need other sources to fill your roster requirements. And since you can't forcibly steal property from any of the other owners (as detailed in Section 1.2.92 of the Geneva Convention), then what better way to replace/upgrade than wading in the free agent pool. This idea may elicit chills, but you will warm up to it…when you realize you have no other choice.

If you currently stand as a contender (and why wouldn't you be?), then here are a couple waiver tips to provide that extra boost:

• Grab the best player available. This may sound obvious, but many are easily attracted to recent performance. While a hot streak may signal an ice-time increase or an advanced line situation, it sometimes hides the fact others exist that carry better pedigrees but may have either returned from injury or were just dropped due to unknown circumstances.

• In a year-long rotisserie-style league using position maximums, it may become necessary to mix and match your pickups. Projected to be low on LW but high on C? Then find a winger and dump the center (more of the latter will be available). But don't always follow these trends, especially when it comes to goaltending. Even if their appearances are approaching the upper threshold, it's often better to retain as many ‘tenders as possible – unless you really need to substitute in another area. Remember goalies generally comprise two-fifths of the standing categories, so maintaining the best nightly options in net may just be the solution to push you up the standings.

• If your league involves head-to-head, then take a look at upcoming weekly schedules. A skater who will see action four times in the next seven days is often preferred to one who will only go out twice (exceptions obviously apply). As well, it may pay off to scout your opponent and seek out available linemates to counteract. But at the same time, don't do so if it significantly worsens your overall production.

And now that you have absorbed this material, perhaps you can apply the knowledge to one of these NHL clubs:

After a brief lull, Nashville has turned into the latest league model (12-2 in 2012). He always gets lost in the shuffle, but Martin Erat (10 points in 11 games) continues to be reliable. Welcome back to prominence, Mike Fisher (14 in 11). Way to rebound, Sergei Kostitsyn (12 in 13, including seven goals). You're not bad either, Colin Wilson (five in seven). And don't tail off too drastically, Craig Smith (four-game point streak helps). Roman Josi has been entrusted with significant minutes in the last six weeks (12 of 16 at 20-plus) but hasn't exactly shone (only five assists during that stretch), while Ryan Ellis gets short-shifted (never seen anything above 19:25) but comes out more valuable (seven, including four on the power-play).

The Islanders have showed promise (back-to-back road victories versus Washington and Philly), but you won't see much of it outside their core group. Re-enter Kyle Okposo (14 in 15, plus-six) into the mix, but that's where the offense ends. Frans Nielsen (two in 10) can claim a spot on the Isles' top PP unit, but no would be able to tell. All Michael Grabner has done lately is score goals (four in 10), but the rest (no assists in 11) isn't even close to last year's pace. Beyond the great Mark Streit, the blueline is pretty bare. None of Andrew MacDonald (three in 14), Travis Hamonic (two in 12), or Milan Jurcina (pointless in 23 games!) has been able to make a sound. At least Evgeni Nabokov (recent owner of a four-game winning streak) is reclaiming his role as fantasy regular.

Something is still amiss in Washington, but the Capitals are slowly pulling the pieces together. There was no doubting Alexander Semin (13 in 15) and Marcus Johansson (nine in 13) would step out of their ruts. Troy Brouwer (six in nine, 27 hits, 11 PIM) maintains his underrated status. Anyone who saw Mathieu Perreault (seven in six, including a hat trick) jumping up to benefit, hey, good for you. Everyone who realized the reign of Jason Chimera (four in 17) wouldn't last, well, brave call there. Waiting for Mike Green to return (from his perma-groin strain) is like pulling teeth. But hoping John Carlson (two in 15, minus-12) can fill a significant portion is similar to doing that nail scratching thing on the blackboard.

Can Los Angeles continue to stay afloat (hanging on to a playoff berth in the West) even if they have trouble producing (last in the NHL at 2.11 goals/night)? Don't tell Justin Williams (he of the nine-match point run) about the offensive drought. Please keep Dustin Penner (four in nine) away from fluffy breakfast foods. You've got to give us more, Kyle Clifford (like something more than 15 minutes to go with four in nine plus 24 PIM), before we can pull the trigger. You still with us, Jarrett Stoll (three in 12, hasn't tasted a PPP since December)? Andrei Loktionov (four in 30) doesn't appear to be ready for the show. Slava Voynov displayed a bit of spark to start (few recall his three-point moment in October), but that's quickly burning out (one in eight).

And what can one really say about Carolina? They've been awful, but at least their prolonged slump is allowing their role players extra chances. This is your moment, Brandon Sutter (six in 12), so don't mess it up. The world has been handed to Jiri Tlusty (four in 12), as he now finds himself between Eric Staal and Jeff Skinner. Even a late-blooming journeyman like Tim Brent (five in eight) can earn a living. Cherish that 2009 playoff stardom, Chad LaRose, because your number is almost up. Without Joni Pitkanen (concussion/knee surgery) and Jaroslav Spacek (now back from facial injuries) manning the point, not-so-young Jay Harrison (eight in 13) and definitely fresh-faced Justin Faulk (dismiss the scoreless in six and focus on the six in eight immediately before) have reaped the rewards.

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Player News
Anton Stralman
Bolts' Stralman Poised For More Ice Time
Anton Stralman, D, TB
7:19 PM
News: Anton Stralman is poised to see an increase in ice time in all situations now that Matt Carle is scheduled for surgery on a torn abductor muscle.
Analysis: Carle is slated to be out six-to-eight weeks, so the pillars on the Bolts' blue line will see extra duty to support some of the younger players. Anton Stralman should be able to sustain his current offensive pace in this situation and that makes him a solid fantasy activation until season's end.

Dennis Rasmussen
Chicago Recalls Rasmussen
Dennis Rasmussen, LW, CHI
2:58 PM
News: The Blackhawks have recalled Dennis Rasmussen from AHL Rockford, the team's official site reports.
Analysis: Dennis Rasmussen, who has recorded 16 points in 44 games AHL games to date, gives the Blackhawks some extra forward depth for the team's upcoming six-game road trip.

Patrick Kane
Hawks' Kane Wins Most Accurate Shooter Contest
Patrick Kane, RW, CHI
1/24/2015
News: Patrick Kane won the Shooting Accuracy competition at the NHL All-Star Skills Competition in Columbus on Saturday night.
Analysis: He needed just five shots to get through all four targets in the fastest time (13.529 seconds).

Shea Weber
Preds' Weber Wins Hardest Shot Competition
Shea Weber, D, NSH
1/24/2015
News: Shea Weber won the Hardest Shot competition at the NHL All-Star Skills Competition in Columbus on Saturday.
Analysis: He fired the puck at 108.5 mph, just 0.3 mph off Zdeno Chara's record (2012). There were plenty of nods and murmurs among the other all stars, so perhaps this win will buy Shea Weber a few more lanes to the net for that shot. No-one will want to stand in front of one of those.

Steven Stamkos
Bolts' Stamkos Hopes To Sign Extension Next Summer
Steven Stamkos, C, TB
1/24/2015
News: Steven Stamkos is eyeing a summer contract extension with the Lightning, reports the Tampa Bay Times. He can't sign an extension until July 1.
Analysis: Stammer is in line for a deal like the ones that Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews signed in Chicago. Those are eight-year, $84 million contracts and they both inked the deals a year before they could become unrestricted free agents. It looks like he'll be a fixture in Tampa for a long time and that's great news for fans and fantasy owners alike.

Tyler Johnson
Tampa Bay's Johnson Out For All-Star Game
Tyler Johnson, C, TB
1/24/2015
News: Tyler Johnson (lower body) will not play in Sunday's All-Star Game, but he will be eligible to play in Tuesday's game against the Hurricanes if healthy, ESPN reports. He is at the All-Star festivities even though he isn't going to play.
Analysis: Tyler Johnson appears to be sitting out as a precaution more than anything. He played in the last three games leading up to the All-Star break, so there's little reason to think he won't be ready to go for Tuesday's game.

Jonathan Drouin
Bolts' Drouin Fastest Skater In NHL
Jonathan Drouin, LW, TB
1/24/2015
News: Jonathan Drouin won the Fastest Skater competition at the NHL All-Star Skills Competition in Columbus on Saturday night. His time was 13.103.
Analysis: He's been in and out of the lineup, but he is an elite talent. He also scored a beauty goal in another part of the competition. Short term, his value may be limited, but long term, he will be among the league's elite.

Clayton Stoner
Ducks' Stoner Expected To Play Next Week
Clayton Stoner, D, ANA
1/24/2015
News: Coach Bruce Boudreau said that he expects Clayton Stoner (lower body) to be available when the Ducks resume play the Canucks on Tuesday, Eric Stephens of the Orange County Register reports.
Analysis: Clayton Stoner was a late scratch for the Ducks' final game before the All-Star break this past Wednesday due to the lower-body ailment, which he sustained the previous weekend against the Kings. It appears to be just a minor concern for Stoner, whose availability for the game against the Canucks should be confirmed when he returns to practice Monday.

Stephen Johns
Hawks' Prospect Johns Suffers Knee Injury
Stephen Johns, D, CHI
1/24/2015
News: Stephen Johns, who is considered one of the top Blackhawks' top prospects at AHL Rockford, suffered a knee injury on Monday and is expected to miss two-to-three weeks, ESPN Chicago reports.
Analysis: The 22-year-old defenseman suffered a head injury Nov. 26 that forced him to miss nearly two months. After his return last week, he skated in only three games before being dealt yet another setback on the health front. He has six assists and is plus-13 in 23 games with Rockford, his first season as a pro after finishing four years at the University of Notre Dame.

David Rundblad
Hawks' Rundblad Making His Mark In First Half
David Rundblad, D, CHI
1/24/2015
News: David Rundblad has been showing some good stuff in the first half as one of the last pair of defensemen on the Blackhawks, Hawks general manager Stan Bowman told ESPN Chicago.
Analysis: David Rundblad scored goals in back-to-back games earlier this week and has collected three goals and six assists in 27 games this season. The games skated is the most in his six seasons in the NHL, including stints with Ottawa and Arizona. Bowman gave Rundblad raves so far this season, but it will be interesting once rookie defenseman Trevor Van Riemsdyk returns from a leg injury which could be as early as mid-February. "I think David has probably grabbed the reins the most of all those guys," Bowman said. "He's (Rundblad) really shown he's kind of emerged as a guy that's getting more comfortable. He's always had the talent. I think as a young defenseman it's trying to gain the game-to-game confidence. He's moved from the left side to the right side. Having not only not played the left side much, that was an adjustment for him, but I thought he got pretty good at it."

 
 
 
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