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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
Adam Pardy
Pardy Scores Lone Jets' Goal In Game 2 Loss
Adam Pardy, D, WPG
12:07 PM
News: Adam Pardy scored the lone Winnipeg goal in Saturday's Game 2 loss to the Ducks.
Analysis: It was Adam Pardy's first career playoff goal and his first goal overall since Jan. 26 2011, ending a 172 game drought. While he logged 17:32 of ice time in the loss, don't expect much more offense from Pardy, as the stay-at-home blueliner notched just nine points in 55 regular-season games this year.

Jonas Hiller
Flames' Hiller To Start Sunday
Jonas Hiller, G, CGY
12:38 AM
News: Jonas Hiller will be between the pipes for Game 3 of the Flames' playoff series against the Canucks, Roger Millions of Sportsnet reports.
Analysis: Despite being pulled in Game 2 after allowing three goals on 29 shots, the Flames will once again turn to Jonas Hiller for Game 3 of the series. If he continues to struggle, Calgary may have to consider giving Karri Ramo a shot in net in Game 4.

Scott Darling
Hawks' Darling To Start Sunday
Scott Darling, G, CHI
12:20 AM
News: Scott Darling will be between the pipes for Game 3 on Sunday against the Predators, Mark Lazerus of The Chicago Sun-Times reports.
Analysis: It isn't a huge surprise, as Corey Crawford has struggled in back-to-back starts, allowing nine goals on 47 shots over that span. Scott Darling, on the other hand, was phenomenal in relief of Crawford in Game 1 of the series, turning away every one of Nashville's 42 shots en route to a 4-3 double-overtime victory. He'll look to build on that outstanding performance on Sunday.

Mathieu Perreault
Jets' Perreault (Lower Body) Game Time Decision
Mathieu Perreault, C, WPG
12:14 AM
News: Mathieu Perreault (lower body) skated Saturday morning and is considered a game-time decision for Game 2 against the Ducks, Eric Stephens of the Orange County Register reports.
Analysis: Mathieu Perreault is still recovering from a lower body injury he sustained on Apr. 9. Although he's reportedly close to returning to the Jets' lineup, he may have to wait until Game 3 on Monday to do so, as he remains a true game-time decision for Saturday's Game 2. The Jets will provide an update on his status prior to puck drop on Saturday.

Matt Cooke
Wild's Cooke To Play Saturday
Matt Cooke, LW, MIN
12:05 AM
News: Matt Cooke will suit up on Saturday for Game 2 of the Wild's first-round playoff matchup with St. Louis, Chad Graff of the St. Paul Pioneer Press reports.
Analysis: Matt Cooke hasn't played since Feb. 1, and has been plagued by injury for much of the season. He leads the Wild in career playoff games (103), and will add a veteran presence to Minnesota's lineup.

Patrick Maroon
Ducks' Maroon Productive In Game 2 Win
Patrick Maroon, LW, ANA
4/18/2015
News: Patrick Maroon was productive in Saturday's Game 2 win over the Jets, scoring a goal, dishing out seven hits and firing four shots on goal.
Analysis: Patrick Maroon has recorded a point in each of the Ducks' first two playoff games, helping them grab a 2-0 series lead over the Jets. Skating on the top line with Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry, expect the 26-year-old to continue to put up points alongside two of the best players in the game. Maroon's also seeing some decent power play time, which was seen Saturday when he redirected a Cam Fowler shot past goaltender Ondrej Pavelec. He may be streaky, but if he's skating in the Ducks' top six, he's got enough offensive talent to find twine.

Jakob Silfverberg
Silfverberg's Late Goal Gives Ducks Game 2 Win
Jakob Silfverberg, RW, ANA
4/18/2015
News: Jakob Silfverberg scored the game-winning goal with 20 seconds left in regulation Saturday against Winnipeg in Game 2 of their first-round series.
Analysis: Another clutch performance from Jakob Silfverberg, who has scored the game-winning goal in two of the Ducks' past three victories. Skating on the third line, the 24-year-old is a great depth scorer behind the likes of Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry and Ryan Kesler. If the Ducks continue to get production from their bottom-six, they could definitely make a deep playoff run.

Frederik Andersen
Ducks' Andersen Stops 28 Shots In Game 2 Win
Frederik Andersen, G, ANA
4/18/2015
News: Frederik Andersen stopped 28 of 29 shots in Saturday's Game 2 win over the Jets.
Analysis: Frederik Andersen has had a strong start to the playoffs, stopping 53 of 56 shots and helping the Ducks grab a 2-0 series lead over the Jets. He's been counted on all season long for Anaheim, so as long as he doesn't go through a terrible slump, fantasy owners shouldn't have to worry about youngster John Gibson (upper body) stealing his gig. If Andersen can keep up his strong play, the Ducks are likely in for a lengthy playoff run.

Ondrej Pavelec
Jets' Pavelec Outstanding In Game 2 Loss
Ondrej Pavelec, G, WPG
4/18/2015
News: Ondrej Pavelec stopped 37 of 39 shots in Saturday's Game 2 loss to the Ducks.
Analysis: A fantastic bounce-back effort from Ondrej Pavelec, who beaten for four goals in Thursday's playoff opener. While Pavelec was great Saturday, the Ducks are now up 2-0 in the series and have looked like the better team. With Game 3 set to take place in Winnipeg Monday, look for Pavelec to put up another strong performance in front of what's sure to be an electric home crowd.

Derek Stepan
Rangers' Stepan Delivers Two Points In Game 2 Loss
Derek Stepan, C, NYR
4/18/2015
News: Derek Stepan scored his first goal of the playoffs and had an assist in Saturday's Game 2 loss to Pittsburgh.
Analysis: A good night for Derek Stepan, who was held pointless in Thursday's playoff opener. While the series is now tied 1-1, Stepan has looked dangerous in both contests, firing nine shots on goal. The second-line center is a big piece of the puzzle in New York and will need to continue to deliver if the Rangers hope to make a deep postseason run.

 
 
 
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