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Neutral Zone Wrap: Get ready for the finals

by | Rotowire.com
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Assuming no one saw this coming. A six seed taking on an eight seed, but it's not as if either finalist finished way behind heading in to the postseason. Let's just call this the usual wackiness that happens this time of the year. For those who don't normally follow hockey, these playoffs have been as easy to predict as guaranteeing which team Rick Nash will end up with this summer. (Spoiler alert: It won't be Columbus).

Congrats to both the Devils and the Kings for reaching hockey's pinnacle. And to that one guy's dog who filled out the only correct playoff bracket on the planet. But enough about fictitious Fantasy glory. Let's see what these two have to do to get a clue. Or win it all. Whatever comes first.

Stanley Cup Finals Preview

New Jersey (No. 6 seed in the East) vs. Los Angeles (No. 8 seed in theWest)

Season series: New Jersey 2-0

Guess Ilya Kovalchuk (now on top in postseason scoring with 18 points) is really worth all that $100 million ... After heating up the first two series, Travis Zajac (10 in 11) fell back to Earth (two in seven)... Paging Patrik Elias (only six, with a lone goal in the Rangers series). Would someone please find out to where he has disappeared? ... Not bad when your fourth line (Stephen Gionta, Ryan Carter, and Steve Bernier combining for 19 points) becomes a regular contributor ... Marek Zidlicky (eight, including four on the power-play) may be the blueliner everyone expects to produce but Bryce Salvador not only leads Jersey defensemen in points (11) but can claim the best plus-minus (plus-10) of any Devil...Is there anything Dustin Brown (leads or is tied for first with plus-13, 24 penalty minutes, 49 shots on goal, 67 hits, two short-handed goals) can't do? ... After their adventures in Philly, Mike Richards and Jeff Carter (totaling 20, including four power-play goals) have been able to chip in very nicely ... Never really heard much from Trevor Lewis (13 in 72) during the regular season, but way to step it up lately -- especially against Phoenix (four in five) ... Another surprise up front has been rookie Dwight King (four in five), who posted solid numbers in two different leagues (14 in 27 in the NHL and 29 in 50 in the AHL) ... There is life beyond Drew Doughty (10) on defense, although neither Slava Voynov (three) nor Willie Mitchell (two) has regularly found the scoresheet.

Prediction: Both head-to-head meetings (2-1 and 3-0) were way back in October, so you can't really take much from them...The Devils' roster may contain more playoff experience, but there's no discounting how well the Kings have worked as a unit. The two sides have increased momentum as the rounds have progressed, so no advantage there. The city of Los Angeles has been waiting for a local winner since the franchise began 45 years ago (sorry, Anaheim doesn't count), although many residents still think the Kings play out of Sacramento. So, yeah, I'll stick to the boring pick of ... Kings in six.

The Conn Smythe candidates become increasingly obvious at this stage. You could almost swap any of these players at any spot in the following Top 5: 1. Dustin Brown; 2. Jonathan Quick; 3. Martin Brodeur; 4. Ilya Kovalchuk; 5. Adam Henrique. (Henrique may not possess the eye-popping stats (11), but you can't argue with two overtime game-series winning goals.)

Well, it's been an exciting season. But, as you well know, hockey never sleeps. There's the draft next month, but the real excitement begins July 1 when free agent season opens for business. So after the on-ice activity has concluded, sit tight and dream about the players your team will acquire (or jettison). I will return soon. Promise.

Want an edge in your draft? Download the Fantasy Draft Kit App.

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Player News
Mike Mottau
NHLer Mottau Calls It A Career
Mike Mottau, D, FLA
8/19/2014
News: Mike Mottau announced his retirement from professional hockey Tuesday, Joe Haggerty of CSNNE.com reports.
Analysis: The Massachusetts native was exploring the option of playing with AHL Providence to stick with his hometown Bruins organization, but decided he was content to spend more time with his family. Mike Mottau, 36, appeared in 321 career NHL games with the Rangers, Flames, Devils, Islanders, Bruins and Panthers, with his most productive seasons coming in the late-2000s with New Jersey.

Josh Harding
Wild's Harding Cleared For Training Camp
Josh Harding, G, MIN
8/19/2014
News: Wild GM Chuck Fletcher said Josh Harding is "a go" for training camp, Michael Russo of the Minneapolis Star Tribune reports. "Everybody seems to be feeling pretty good, and at this stage, all of our players who were banged up at the end of the season are feeling better. Josh has felt good. Right now we're not expecting any issues for anybody with respect to passing training camp medicals."
Analysis: With an 18-7-3 record, 1.65 GAA and .933 save percentage, Josh Harding was playing as well as any goal in hockey before a setback in his treatment for multiple sclerosis sidelined him after the end of December. Because he's missed large chunks of both of the last two seasons while dealing with the effects of the illness, fantasy players shouldn't look to invest heavily in Harding. Even if healthy, he's no lock to open the season as the regular starter in goal for the Wild with Niklas Backstrom and Darcy Kuemper still around.

Niklas Backstrom
Wild's Backstrom Good To Go For Camp
Niklas Backstrom, G, MIN
8/19/2014
News: Wild GM Chuck Fletcher said Niklas Backstrom (abdomen, hip) is feeling good and and will be ready to participate in training camp, the Minneapolis Star Tribune reports.
Analysis: Any way you spin it, Niklas Backstrom had a miserable 2013-14 campaign, as the veteran netminder suited up for 21 games and posted a lousy 3.02 GAA and .899 save percentage before undergoing season-ending abdominal and hip surgery. Though he's ostensibly healthy, Backstrom is now 36 and doesn't appear poised to enter the season as the club's starter, especially with Darcy Kuemper and Josh Harding still around. His sizable contract may be the only thing keeping him around.

Jonas Hiller
Flames' Hiller: Fully Recovered From Appendicitis
Jonas Hiller, G, CGY
8/19/2014
News: GM Brad Treliving said Jonas Hiller is "100 percent" recovered from the appendicitis attack that sidelined him in July, NHL.com reports.
Analysis: The incident prevented Jonas Hiller from working out for about three weeks, but he's since returned to the ice to resume his usual pre-camp routine in his native Switzerland. Hiller, 32, is the heavy favorite to serve as the Flames' No. 1 goalie this season after inking a two-year contract with Calgary on the first day of free agency.

Ryan Malone
Free Agent Malone Pleads No Contest
Ryan Malone, LW, TB
8/19/2014
News: Ryan Malone pleaded no contest Tuesday to his DUI charge stemming from an April arrest, but did agree to a pretrial diversion program for the cocaine possession charge he received in the same incident, Matt Baker of the Tampa Bay Times reports.
Analysis: The diversion program will help Ryan Malone's chances of getting the felony drug charge dismissed if he completes the required criteria. Malone's pending legal issues have made teams reluctant to extend a contract offer just yet, but several clubs are said to be interested in the 34-year-old. Once he completes the program and completes community service for his DUI charge, Malone should latch on with a team.

Nick Petrecki
Ex-Shark Petrecki Signs AHL Deal
Nick Petrecki, D, SJ
8/19/2014
News: Nick Petrecki signed a one-year AHL contract with Rochester on Tuesday.
Analysis: Nick Petrecki spent most of the past season with AHL Worcester of the San Jose organization, before joining Rochester in a late-season loan. In total, the former first-round selection totaled a goal, three assists and 82 PIM in 49 minor league games. He'll function as a depth player for the Buffalo organization.

Eric Selleck
Coyotes Ink Selleck To AHL Contract
Eric Selleck, LW, FLA
8/19/2014
News: Eric Selleck signed a minor-league contract with AHL Portland on Tuesday.
Analysis: Eric Selleck, 26, is a longtime AHL vet who offers much physicality on the checking line. He's totaled at least 160 penalty minutes in each of his last four seasons in the minors, but won't have great odds of earning a promotion to Arizona at any point.

Clarke MacArthur
Sens Extend MacArthur Five Years
Clarke MacArthur, LW, OTT
8/19/2014
News: Clarke MacArthur inked a five-year, $23.25 million extension with the Senators on Tuesday, Bruce Garrioch of the Ottawa Sun reports.
Analysis: Clarke MacArthur was already under contract for $3.25 million for this season, so the new five-year deal won't kick in until 2015-16, keeping him under team control through the end of the 2019-20 campaign. The 29-year-old totaled a career-best 24 goals, 78 PIM and plus-12 rating in his first season in Ottawa, and will be counted on to fill a top-line role long-term on the left wing.

Steve Mason
Flyers' Mason Returns To Ice
Steve Mason, G, PHI
8/18/2014
News: Steve Mason (finger) returned to the ice Monday for the first time since breaking his finger three weeks ago, Frank Seravalli of the Philadelphia Daily News reports.
Analysis: With training camp still a month away, the expectation is that Steve Mason will be healthy enough by that time to participate in full activities. After having to fight for his job as the No. 1 goalie a season ago, Mason will be the team's unquestioned top option between the pipes after going 33-18-7 with a 2.50 GAA and .917 save percentage in 2013-14.

Mark Borowiecki
Sens' Borowiecki Receives Three-Year Extension
Mark Borowiecki, D, OTT
8/18/2014
News: Mark Borowiecki and the Senators agreed to terms on a three-year, $3.3 million contract Monday, Ken Warren of the Ottawa Citizen reports.
Analysis: Mark Borowiecki was already set to enter the upcoming season with a guaranteed NHL contract for the first time in his career, so the extension just give him some more long-term security with the Senators. The 25-year-old hasn't shown much of a knack for scoring with the Senators or at AHL Binghamton over the last several seasons, but with regular playing time, he could rank among the league's PIM leaders on the blue line.

 
 
 
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