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Neutral Zone Wrap: Down the stretch we come

by | Rotowire.com
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Even though the holiday season has long gone, presents can still be received in various ways. And like the definition suggests, many of them are unexpected providers of joy. Whether it is as minor as a day off work or as important as a wedding proposal (hi, honey!), everyone likes a good old-fashioned gift.

The same goes for Fantasy Hockey, especially in the Rotisserie format. With a maximum position allocation, contenders may shed decent starters to ensure quotas aren't exceeded. Or perhaps someone wants to gain or maintain their standing in a certain category but must give up ground in other stats. In a competitive league, either of these scenarios occurs often and leads to a higher quality of free agents.

If you still hold aspirations of winning or finishing well this season, then you must be sure to keep a close eye on league transactions. For the player you don't acquire could be the one who lifts your rival to glory. Although a better talent pool generally means any individual will not influence the whole thing. Unless that individual is someone who has magically returned to the NHL after ditching his contract many moons ago for the opportunity to play closer to home. But enough about Marty Turco.

As always, be sensible in your activity. Remember to figure out the best path for your squad, even if that means day-by-day roster planning. The games are dwindling, but your chances of doing well shouldn't. And on that note, here are a few not-so-hidden gems from five teams who may be of service:

Dallas may lead the Pacific today, but could very well be on the outside in two weeks. Heading into the weekend, the Stars sat third in the conference but were only one point out of 9th place (and only three out of 11th). It's nice to have captain Brenden Morrow on the ice again, even if the points (two in seven games, with a minus-5 but 15 PIM) are delayed. No matter how much others hate him, Steve Ott (eight in 12, 25 PIM, 38 hits) will keep proving naysayers wrong. It's been a long, cold winter for Eric Nystrom (two in 24) and little warmth has been bestowed upon Adam Burish (three in 15, only 16 PIM). Hard to gauge Sheldon Souray's performance (three in 14) when he's essentially hurting and being phased off the man-advantage; enter Trevor Daley and his moderately positive numbers (six in 14).

Bet you didn't expect Florida to keep up this pace, especially with Washington and Winnipeg close behind. Credit Tomas Fleischmann (six in seven, tied for team lead with 53) for being both consistent and healthy up front. No time missed for Tomas Kopecky, but the stats (four in six) are slowly catching up. Gotta love having a veteran like Mikael Samuelsson (five in five, including three power-play points) to spur the offense. Even defensive-minded Marcel Goc (four in six) has joined the party. He's usually good for a few shots, but it's been a while since Sean Bergenheim (three -- all goals -- in 11) did anything on a regular basis. After killing it for the first two-plus months, Dmitry Kulikov (knee surgery) will need to restore his place on the point after two months away. It's been four weeks (and 12 outings) since Jason Garrison netted one on the power play but he'll continue to lay the minutes (over 23 a night) in all situations.

It's a shame Chicago plays in the Central Division because they'd be dominating any other group (ditto for Detroit or Nashville). Andrew Shaw (seven in four, plus-6) has been the freshman find of 2011-12. Viktor Stalberg (six in six) has switched back to relevance at the perfect moment. Best known for flattening opponents, Bryan Bickell (five in four) has also contributed where it counts. All Marcus Kruger needed was a boost (four in seven) and a pat on the back. The whereabouts of Michael Frolik (healthy scratch for most of February and March) are murky at best. When the Hawks picked up Johnny Oduya (five in seven), few anticipated he'd be getting it done at the other end too. A little slowdown for Nick Leddy (two in 10), but expect another boon with the impending suspension of Duncan Keith.

With their playoff dreams crushed and tossed into the ocean, Anaheim can now focus on showcasing their youngsters. Cue Devante Smith-Pelly (two in three, 10 SOG) and his ascension to the top unit. Nick Bonino (three assists on Monday) has also been asked to step up his effort, along with former US junior standout Kyle Palmieri (five in five). Meanwhile, the old guard including Saku Koivu (two in 15, minus-4), Niklas Hagman (two in 15, minus-2), and Jason Blake (two in 16, minus-3) have disappointed of late. No doubt Cam Fowler (five in six, including two PPGs) would regain his magic touch. If only Luca Sbisa (one in 12) could manage anything close to even mediocre stats.

If Edmonton continues to draft well, then they'll be postseason regulars in no time. But alas, at least some truth exists in defense winning championships (and the club find themselves in 26th overall in goals against). Devan Dubnyk has looked promising recently (seven wins in 11, no more than three allowed per start) but is he the Oilers' long-term solution in net? No injury lag for Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (10 in 13 since returning) and no new contract hangover for Ales Hemsky (scored four in two games since re-signing). We all realized Sam Gagner wouldn't hit Gretzky-like numbers every night, but the drop off (four in 14) has been dramatic. Nothing terribly exciting from Shawn Horcoff (four in 14, although three of them are PPPs), but there's a glimmer of promise from Teemu Hartikainen (three in three after 30 in 48 with the AHL affiliate). Corey Potter's decline (one in 10) becomes Jeff Petry's gain (four in three).

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Player News
Martin Havlat
Devils' Havlat Tests Negative For Mumps
Martin Havlat, RW, NJ
12:05 AM
News: Martin Havlat's test results for the mumps have come back negative, but he will be unavailable for Saturday's game against the Rangers, Tom Gulitti of The Record reports.
Analysis: Martin Havlat is still dealing with a virus that will keep him out of Saturday's game at a minimum, making his next eligible return date Monday against the Penguins. The Devils will go into Saturday with a maximum of 12 healthy forwards, though it's possible the team will add someone before the game.

Patrik Elias
Devils' Elias (Illness) Placed On Injured Reserve
Patrik Elias, LW, NJ
12/26/2014
News: Patrik Elias (illness) was placed on injured reserve Friday.
Analysis: Patrik Elias was confirmed to have a case of the mumps when his test results came back Friday, and the Devils decided to move him to injured reserve as a result. He last played in a game well over a week ago anyway, meaning the move will just temporarily open a roster spot and he should be able to return when he's ready. The winger has already been ruled out for Saturday's contest, so his next possibility to return will be Monday against the Penguins.

Brendan Woods
Hurricanes Recall Woods
Brendan Woods, LW, CAR
12/26/2014
News: Brendan Woods was called up by the Hurricanes on Friday.
Analysis: Brendan Woods was sent down to AHL Charlotte for the duration of the NHL's holiday break. Woods has accumulated 13 points and 64 PIM through 29 games this season with AHL Charlotte.

Petteri Lindbohm
Blues Recall Lindbohm
Petteri Lindbohm, D, STL
12/26/2014
News: The Blues recalled Petteri Lindbohm from AHL Chicago on Friday, Jeremy Rutherford of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports.
Analysis: With Carl Gunnarsson still dealing with symptoms of a concussion, Petteri Lindbohm has been called up to serve as a seventh defenseman for the Blues while Gunnarsson recovers. Lindbohm has one assist and six PIM through eight games with St. Louis this season.

Micheal Haley
Sharks Recall Haley
Micheal Haley, RW, SJ
12/26/2014
News: Micheal Haley was recalled by the Sharks on Friday, David Pollak of the San Jose Mercury News reports.
Analysis: With John Scott (suspension) and Mike Brown (leg) both out of the lineup, Micheal Haley has been called up to provide some much needed depth at right wing. Haley has tallied 13 points and 60 PIM through 27 games with AHL Worcester this season.

Corey Potter
Flames Recall Potter
Corey Potter, D, CGY
12/26/2014
News: Corey Potter was recalled from AHL Adirondack on Friday, Pat Steinberg of Sportsnet 960 The FAN reports.
Analysis: Corey Potter was sent back to the AHL Tuesday, but was recalled again Friday, likely indicating Ladislav Smid isn't ready to return. It also could could signify that one of the six blueliners on the active roster is dealing with an injury or illness. Regardless, Potter will take his spot back with the Flames, though it probably won't be for an extended period of time.

Alex Biega
Canucks Reassign Biega
Alex Biega, D, VAN
12/26/2014
News: Alex Biega was reassigned to AHL Utica on Monday.
Analysis: Alex Biega was recalled Dec. 16 but hasn't played a game with the Canucks since being recalled. he will head back to AHL Utica, where he has 10 points (two goals, eight assists) in 25 games this season.

Brandon Sutter
Penguins' Sutter Tests Negative For Mumps
Brandon Sutter, C, PIT
12/26/2014
News: Brandon Sutter has tested negative for the mumps virus, Josh Yohe of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reports.
Analysis: Brandon Sutter missed two games earlier this week with an illness, but it turns out he is not dealing with the mumps virus that is bothering a couple of his teammates. Sutter will likely be available for Pittsburgh's next game Saturday, but an official call on his status may not come until after the team's morning skate.

Thomas Greiss
Penguins' Greiss Dealing With Mumps
Thomas Greiss, G, PIT
12/26/2014
News: Thomas Greiss has been diagnosed with the mumps, Josh Yohe of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reports.
Analysis: A mumps test performed on Thomas Greiss last week came back negative, but it turns out he is actually dealing with the same setback that has affected numerous NHL players over the last several weeks. Jeff Zatkoff figures to serve as the backup goaltender behind Marc-Andre Fleury until Greiss is able to resume playing sometime in the next week or two.

Steve Downie
Penguins' Downie Diagnosed With Mumps
Steve Downie, RW, PIT
12/26/2014
News: Steve Downie has been diagnosed with the mumps, Josh Yohe of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reports.
Analysis: Steve Downie first started showing mumps symptoms earlier this week, and it turns out he is the latest to come down with the disease that is sweeping through the NHL. He will remain isolated from his teammates until he has recovered, but figures to resume playing sometime in the next week or two.

 
 
 
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