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Neutral Zone Wrap: Who will avoid the jinx?

by | Rotowire.com
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You've been ready for months with stats in hand and hope in heart. But no matter how long you wait or how hard you will the NHL powers to make a deal, the information becomes stale and slowly slips away from conscious memory. We understand how you feel. That's why this column continues amidst the turmoil. To provide the best in Fantasy coverage so everyone stays sharp in anticipation of the first puck drop.

Many phenomena occur in natural existence and you'll find a bunch of them widely used in sports. The sophomore jinx is a concept as old as the earliest post-secondary academic institution. In 2011-12, we saw the likes of Michael Grabner (slipped from 52 down to 32) and Magnus Paajarvi (34 to eight, but part of that was due to injuries) drop off the expectation charts.

The second-year resurrection is almost as common and, frankly, much more interesting to speculate. Think back to last season, when Tyler Seguin (more than tripling from 22 to 67), David Desharnais (22 to 60), and Nick Leddy (seven to 37) turned around disappointing debut campaigns and rewarded those owners who held on to their stock.

While predicting negative trends may look like a worthwhile hobby, you won't see it detailed in this edition. I've never been shy to bash those who could be best described as overrated and/or underperforming. But when it comes down to it, the idea of boosting rookie morale proves to be a more appealing proposition. And with all the bad vibes surrounding the lockout negotiations, wouldn't it be nice to look at something a little more positive?

Here are the top candidates to break through in their second season, whenever this crazy game resumes. No one who was featured in any of the previous installments will be mentioned, although only Roman Horak and Nino Niederreiter (or possibly Jonathon Blum) would qualify amongst last season's so-called busts. Most of these skaters lasted the bulk of the season in the bigs and some recorded significant ice time. The following is based purely on hearsay and hunches. Fine, and a few pieces of real information for show:

Brett Connolly, F, Lightning: The sixth pick of the 2010 draft has already logged 68 NHL games (but only 15 points) and is tearing it up in the AHL (12 points in 14 games). You'd think there would be no room for Connolly among the glut of Tampa forwards, but the 6-foot-2 sniper can work as the perfect complement for either Steven Stamkos or Vincent Lecavalier.

Ryan Johansen, F, Blue Jackets: The perpetually rebuilding Blue Jackets finally said goodbye to Rick Nash and can now safely look to the future. One of their cornerstones up front looks to be Johansen, who is putting together a nice starting resume in Springfield (10 in 14 after 21 in 67 with Columbus). He's another member of the stellar draft class of 2010 (at No. 4 overall) and someone who isn't afraid to outmuscle and outhustle the opposition to make life easier for his teammates.

Adam Larsson, D, Devils: The Swedish phenom was inserted almost immediately into a regular role after arriving from Europe but ended up struggling on the defensive side. His point totals ended up suffering (18 is respectable, although most of them were concentrated in a four-week stretch) as his shifts dwindled and he disappeared during the Devils' Cup run. But thanks to offseason training and his current success (eight in 13 with Albany), Larsson should be more at ease on the smaller rink.

Marco Scandella, D, Wild: Betcha didn't know Scandella ranked second last year in rookie defensemen minutes per game (21:46, only behind Justin Faulk at 22:50). He earned a fair share on the man-advantage last season (six power-play points) as other Wild regulars went down/out. The good news is that Scandella is continuing this role adequately in the AHL (six of his nine assists are power-play points) and should increase his value with the parent club - even with mega-millions winner Ryan Suter in the fold.

Brayden Schenn, F, Flyers: The numbers weren't terrible in 2011-12 (18 in 54) but the playoff figures (nine in 11, which include two power-play goals) point to Schenn improving the second time around. He has showed off his wheels and playmaking skills (nine goals, 11 assists) in the AHL. And if Claude Giroux's ‘neck' injury turns out to be something worse (like, say, a concussion), then expect Schenn to rise to the occasion. Having older brother Luke join him in town won't hurt his chances either.

I don't really want to delve too deep into the lockout because, well, you are probably as frustrated as I am. The outlook appeared promising from the onset but it has steadily deteriorated in the subsequent weeks. Let's just say a deal is difficult to properly work out if one side doesn't know what the other side really wants. I'd characterize this whole situation as ridiculous but that description clearly doesn't do it justice. How many more steps back must it take to finally bridge the gap and reach a resolution?

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Player News
Frederik Andersen
Ducks' Andersen Draws Start Tuesday
Frederik Andersen, G, ANA
1/28/2015
News: Frederik Andersen will be in the crease for Tuesday's game against the Canucks, Eric Stephens of the Orange County Register reports.
Analysis: Frederik Andersen closed the first half on a high note, winning six straight games to boost his season record to an outstanding 26-6-5 record. He's set to face a similarly hot goalie Tuesday in Ryan Miller, who has won three of his last four while surrendering a combined total of four goals in that span.

Brett Ritchie
Stars' Ritchie Remains Out Tuesday
Brett Ritchie, RW, DAL
1/28/2015
News: Brett Ritchie (undisclosed) will not return to the lineup Tuesday against the Canadiens.
Analysis: Brett Ritchie looked like he would slot back into the lineup after practicing fully Monday, but he didn't take part in regular line work during Tuesday's morning skate to suggest that he'll remain out. The Stars continue to list Ritchie on injured reserve, so the team will have to make a roster move in order to facilitate his return to active duty, which could come ahead of Thursday's game against the Senators.

Patrick Eaves
Stars Activate Eaves (Lower Body) From IR
Patrick Eaves, RW, DAL
1/28/2015
News: Patrick Eaves (lower body) has been activated from injured reserve and will return to the lineup Tuesday against the Canadiens.
Analysis: Patrick Eaves missed the Stars' previous 21 games with an ankle injury. It sounded like he was ready to play as early as last week, but since the All-Star break was set to take place, the Stars elected to give the winger some further time to rest. Based on how line rushes were conducted at morning skate, it appears Eaves will skate on the top trio with Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin to start Tuesday's game.

Trevor Daley
Stars' Daley (Groin) Will Play Tuesday
Trevor Daley, D, DAL
1/28/2015
News: Trevor Daley (groin) was on the ice for morning skate and looks poised to return to the lineup Tuesday against the Canadiens.
Analysis: Trevor Daley returned to practice Monday after missing the Stars' final three games prior to the All-Star break. The extra time off during the break was likely all Daley needed to get fully healthy, and he'll now be ready to rejoin Jason Demers on the Stars' second pairing Tuesday. The blueliner leads all Dallas blueliners with 11 goals on the season.

Nikita Zadorov
Sabres' Zadorov To Join Team In Calgary
Nikita Zadorov, D, BUF
1/28/2015
News: Nikita Zadorov will join the Sabres in Calgary for Tuesday's game and will have his team-imposed suspension lifted once he arrives, Bob McKenzie of TSN reports.
Analysis: While it looks like all his forgiven after Nikita Zadorov didn't report back to the Sabres back in time following the All-Star break, it still seems likely that he'll sit out Tuesday's game as a healthy scratch. It sounds like Zadorov simply had a issue with his flight rather than neglecting to return on time, but because he's previously irked the Sabres with his lack of maturity, the team was less understanding about his absence. Look for him to rejoin the lineup before the Sabres' road trip draws to a conclusion.

Jhonas Enroth
Sabres Turn To Enroth On Tuesday
Jhonas Enroth, G, BUF
1/28/2015
News: Jhonas Enroth is slated to start Tuesday's game against the Flames, Mike Harrington of the Buffalo News reports.
Analysis: With Michal Neuvirth dealing with a lower-body injury, Jhonas Enroth and Matt Hackett are in line to handle the Sabres' goaltending duties for the time being. Of course, with the team on an 11-game slide, there's not much fantasy upside to be had with either of the two keepers.

Zbynek Michalek
Coyotes' Michalek (Upper Body) Set To Play Tuesday
Zbynek Michalek, D, ARI
1/28/2015
News: Zbynek Michalek (upper body) is expected to return to the lineup Tuesday against the Flyers, Sarah McLellan of the Arizona Republic reports.
Analysis: Zbynek Michalek hasn't played since Jan. 17 due to the upper-body injury, but looks to be good to go after returning to practice Monday. The blueliner, who has seven points and a minus-4 rating in 42 games this season, will form a pairing with the more offensive-minded Oliver Ekman-Larsson on Tuesday.

Devan Dubnyk
Wild's Dubnyk Draws Tuesday Start
Devan Dubnyk, G, MIN
1/28/2015
News: Devan Dubnyk has been confirmed as the starter in net for Tuesday's game against the Oilers.
Analysis: With fellow goaltender Darcy Kuemper currently with AHL Iowa on a conditioning assignment, Devan Dubnyk is slated to make his fifth straight start in net for the Wild on Tuesday.

Nick Schultz
Flyers' Schultz (Upper Body) Set To Play Tuesday
Nick Schultz, D, PHI
1/28/2015
News: Nick Schultz (upper body) appears set to play Tuesday against the Coyotes, Sarah McLellan of the Arizona Republic reports.
Analysis: Nick Schultz was sidelined for the Flyers' final game prior to the All-Star break due to the injury, but a full week off to recover appears to have done the trick for the blueliner. He's expected to pair up with Michael Del Zotto in the Flyers' first game of the second half.

Scott Wilson
Penguins Reassign Wilson
Scott Wilson, C, PIT
1:50 PM
News: Scott Wilson was reassigned to AHL Wilkes-Barre Scranton on Tuesday, Seth Rorabaugh of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports.
Analysis: Scott Wilson's demotion suggests that David Perron (illness) will be ready to play Tuesday against the Jets after sitting out Monday's practice. His stay with the Penguins lasted all of one day.

 
 
 
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