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Neutral Zone Wrap: Managing disappointment

by | Rotowire.com
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Disappointment just happens. Face it. You just can't be perfect all the time. There's no way to live up to unrealistic expectations when reality ends up blocking the way.

The same principles apply to Fantasy hockey. The history of a player could tell a story of awesome achievements and incredible intangibles, but certain factors may currently exist to diminish their value – whether it be a deteriorating body, decreased opportunities, or the unwanted appearance of Father Time.

You may be able to spot a few trends from the early returns, but we're way too early to base players' worth from these over a full season. I will use every attempt to leave out obvious statistics, but may be forced to do so if the numbers explain the insight. Look over the following fellows and try to hold back your hopes on their 2013-14 prospects:

(For related material on the same subject, check out Jan Levine's busts column.

Niklas Backstrom, G, Wild: Not to be confused with the Washington star forward of the extra 'c', this Finnish netminder has served as the Wild's backbone the last seven-plus seasons. At 35 and with a new three-year deal, Backstrom looks ready to continue his legacy. That may become difficult with backup Josh Harding waiting for his full-time break and prospects Darcy Kuemper and Johan Gustafsson excelling in other leagues. Even if the incumbent can hold on to No. 1, his stats could suffer as Minnesota seems to be built around an offense that looks like it will be regularly involved in high-scoring shootouts.

Daniel Briere, F, Canadiens: The Habs presumably signed Briere for his French Canadian heritage and/or his ability to seamlessly adapt to their vertically challenged lineup. The 36-year old was once known for his scoring touch but has lately been more associated with injuries. Philly deemed Briere buyout-worthy, but his arrival in Montreal looks to be leadership-based. He may be skating on the first line and earning significant power-play minutes, but try to be like the Flyers and stay away.

Jarome Iginla, F, Bruins: Yes, Iginla is really on the Bruins this time. No online trickery, no last-minute destination changes. Like Briere, he is 36. But unlike the diminutive winger, Iginla appears to have at least something left in the tank. The key issue to remember about the Edmonton native is that he isn't the power forward he used to be (although he did drop the gloves in Game 1). Teaming up with David Krejci and Milan Lucic may be one thing; keeping up with them (and other younger scorers) over the long haul is the problem.

Jaromir Jagr, F, Devils: By now, we're betting you can spot the trend. If you didn't notice 'ancient, past prime, and advance hospital reservations', then you can go ahead and skip to the next player. Jagr's career credentials are impressive and lengthy, so they need not be mentioned. As active players go, only Teemu Selanne (at 43!) is older. Recent point totals (35 points in 45 regular-season games split between Dallas and Boston) may suggest the Silver Mullet can still provide a significant offensive contribution. And especially since the Devils lost Ilya Kovalchuk to defection, it would seem as if Jagr would be the perfect fill-in to offset some of the missing production. But anyone who witnessed his struggles skating last postseason will easily be able to resist owning him.

Erik Johnson, D, Avalanche: How dare we include someone here who is only 25?! Well, if you were selected first overall in the 2005 draft and haven't lived up to the hype, then it's probably no surprise to be listed amongst these fossils well-preserved examples. Johnson topped out at 33 and 39 points in his first two years but the decline since has proved painfully obvious. The USNTDP alumnus still logs mega minutes (at least 20 a night, including top power-play billing), but the output has been lacking. So with Tyson Barrie in the background, Ryan Wilson soon to return from injury, and blueline bluechippers like Duncan Siemens and Chris Bigras next in line, there's enough talent to eventually supplant Johnson in the pecking order.

Honorable mention: Derick Brassard, F, NY Rangers; Troy Brouwer, F, Washington; Erik Cole, F, Dallas; Christian Ehrhoff, D, Buffalo; Kari Lehtonen, G, Dallas

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Player News
Brett Bellemore
Canes' Bellemore Pots First Goal Of Season
Brett Bellemore, D, CAR
12:00 PM
News: Brett Bellemore scored his first goal of the season and collected five PIM in Friday's win over Washington.
Analysis: Brett Bellemore now has six points and a plus-3 rating in 33 games on the season. Considering the defenseman averages just 15:32 of ice time and has only recorded 16 shots on goal, Bellmore is only valuable in the deepest of fantasy leagues.

Tyler Ennis
Sabres' Ennis Ruled Out For Saturday
Tyler Ennis, LW, BUF
10:19 AM
News: Tyler Ennis (lower body) will not play Saturday afternoon against the Panthers.
Analysis: Because of the 3:00 p.m. ET start time, the Sabres didn't hold a morning skate, which won't allow the team to get a proper gauge for Tyler Ennis' health heading into the game. Ennis will still be a participant in pregame warmups, but will head to the press box afterward to serve as a scratch for the second straight game. He appears to be firmly in the day-to-day camp with his injury, so there's a decent chance he could be healthy in time for Tuesday's game against the Lightning.

Michal Neuvirth
Sabres Sticking With Hot Neuvirth For Saturday
Michal Neuvirth, G, BUF
10:15 AM
News: Michal Neuvirth will be between the pipes for Saturday's game against the Panthers.
Analysis: Michal Neuvirth enters the crease Saturday looking to build on his first winning streak of the season, as he's captured back-to-back victories over the Blue Jackets and Canucks. Wins haven't come easy for an Sabres goalie the past two seasons, but Neuvirth has at least done a commendable job of keeping the team competitive since assuming the No. 1 gig in the wake of Jhonas Enroth's trade to the Stars. He's posted a .942 save percentage over eight starts in February, and looks like he might be a reasonable fantasy option against a Panthers squad that ranks 25th in goals per game.

Aaron Volpatti
Capitas Waive LW Volpatti
Aaron Volpatti, LW, WAS
10:15 AM
News: Aaron Volpatti was placed on waivers Saturday, Bob McKenzie of TSN reports.
Analysis: The move clears up a roster space ahead of Monday's trade deadline. Aaron Volpatti is expected to report to AHL Hershey if he goes unclaimed. Having only played in two games after spending most of the season recovering from offseason neck surgery, the British Columbia native has zero points and one shot while averaging 9:37 in ice time this season and remains largely irrelevant in terms of fantasy considerations.

Xavier Ouellet
Wings Recall Ouellet From AHL Grand Rapids
Xavier Ouellet, D, DET
10:08 AM
News: Xavier Ouellet was recalled from AHL Grand Rapids on Saturday, MLive.com's Ansar Khan reports.
Analysis: With Brendan Smith nursing a sore arm and Kyle Quincey still recovering from an ankle injury, Xavier Ouellet will be on hand as insurance on defense. In the event Smith is formally ruled out prior to Saturday's game against the Predators, Ouellet would likely draw in on the Red Wings' third defensive pairing. During his stay with the big club earlier this season, Ouellet generated two goals and an assist over 21 games.

Jesper Fast
Rangers' Fast Won't Play Saturday
Jesper Fast, RW, NYR
10:06 AM
News: Jesper Fast (knee) will not return to the Rangers' lineup Saturday against the Flyers, Steve Zipay of Newsday reports.
Analysis: Jesper Fast is rapidly closing in on a return, but coach Alain Vigneault suggested after Saturday's morning skate that the forward needed one more practice Sunday before the team would feel comfortable inserting him back in the lineup. Assuming Sunday's session goes well, look for Fast to make his first game appearance since Feb. 7 when the Rangers take on the Predators on Monday.

Cam Talbot
Rangers' Talbot Takes Net Saturday
Cam Talbot, G, NYR
10:04 AM
News: Cam Talbot will be in the crease for Saturday's game against the Flyers.
Analysis: Cam Talbot has been victorious in his previous three starts, posting save percentages above .900 on each occasions, including a shutout of the Flames on Tuesday. The netminder has been the beneficiary of some outstanding offensive support during his run as the Rangers' No. 1 goalie, which should allow the wins to keep flowing in with frequency.

Mark Pysyk
Sabres' Pysyk Collapses During Off-Ice Activity
Mark Pysyk, D, BUF
10:00 AM
News: Mark Pysyk, who was reassigned to the AHL on Friday, collapsed while playing basketball with a few of his Rochester teammates and was rushed to the hospital, Bill Hoppe of the Olean Times Herald reports.
Analysis: According to the report, Mark Pysyk "was fairly alert" at the hospital and displayed "vital signs that were close to normal." Pysyk wasn't known to have any preexisting heart issues, but the episode will likely prompt the team to closely evaluate him over the next couple days to assess his medical records. The 23-year-old had played impressively during his latest stint with the Sabres and was expected to receive another call-up in the near future, but that may have to be delayed after these latest events. There is no timetable for Pysyk's return until an official diagnosis has been made. While everyone is hoping for a speedy recovery, Jake McCabe has become the next option.

Shawn Thornton
Panthers' Thornton Struggles To Find Ice Time
Shawn Thornton, RW, FLA
9:54 AM
News: Shawn Thornton posted a minus-1 with two shots on goal in 8:27 of ice time in Thursday's loss to the Blackhawks.
Analysis: Shawn Thornton has only seen more than 10 minutes of ice time four times in 2015. He is not afraid to pick up penalty minutes—he has 48 in 35 games played—but his inconsistent ice time and his inability to score points—his last point came on Nov. 24—gives him limited fantasy value.

Kris Russell
Flames' Russell Picks Up Assist In Loss
Kris Russell, D, CGY
9:52 AM
News: Kris Russell picked up an assist while seeing 28:21 of ice time in Friday's 2-1 loss to the Islanders.
Analysis: Kris Russell helped spoil goalie Jaroslav Halak's shutout bid with 21 seconds remaining in the third period, as he found Josh Jooris for the Flames' only tally of the evening. More notable than the helper was Russell's TOI, which was his second-highest mark of the season. It's no coincidence that it came on a night when Mark Giordano (upper body) was unavailable, with Russell absorbing most of the minutes that became available. Should Giordano's injury result in a long-term absence, Russell's fantasy value would likely notice a modest spike.

 
 
 
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