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Neutral Zone Wrap: Rookie on the rise

by | Rotowire.com
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It's early, so the numbers may look somewhat skewed. Not only for individual results to date, but also for group accomplishments. Can you name the four teams who haven't lost in regulation? The fact all of them come out of the Western Conference may not shock you. San Jose and St. Louis undefeated? Hardly surprising. Colorado? OK, mildly interesting. But Calgary posting a 3-0-2 record?!? Fine, now you've got our complete attention.

Back East, the theme has been one of slow starts - concentrated mainly in the posh Metropolitan Division. Congrats to those who picked Philly to kick off the coach cleansing, albeit a move that was expected in the preseason. Washington's attacking futility does not compare to their defensive ineptitude. But the biggest nuclear meltdown has to be the Rangers, who recently endured a horrific West Coast trip that saw their opponents embarrass them all the way up and down the Pacific Coast Highway.

Let's return to the standard fare of this column and focus on five of the aforementioned clubs who should catch your fantasy eye:

The Flames are scorching ... for now. So try not to go overboard and snap up every possible Calgary waiver option. Especially rookie Sean Monahan, who has excelled in the offensive end (six points) but may be shipped back to juniors before he hits the 10-game mark (i.e. the point where he would burn a year of his entry-level contract). And neither goalie - Joey MacDonald nor Karri Ramo (combined 3.11 GAA, .897 save percentage) - elicits any form of excitement. Don't sell the farm for Jiri Hudler (team-leading seven points), but consider he may be the top option with Michael Cammalleri (broken hand) missing indefinitely. No worries about Dennis Wideman, as his numbers (three points despite sitting second in the league at 27:46 a game, including 4:24 on the power-play) will eventually catch up and surpass those belonging to Mark Giordano (six).

Colorado's blue-chip talent looks to be maturing at the perfect time. Is it any surprise that first pick Nathan MacKinnon (six) leads the Avs in scoring? Or that Steve Downie (goal, three assists) can do more than drop the gloves or earn suspensions (17 PIM)? Good to see Ryan O'Reilly take charge (four, with two on the PP), but the best story must be Alex Tanguay's triumphant return to the Rockies (five, two PPAs). Not many noticed when Andre Benoit signed in July but he's currently on the radar (three assists, 21:41). Beware of Jamie McGinn (five, but 13 hits and five blocked shots), who has never performed at this level with any significant consistency. And good news for anyone who read last week's NZW, as Erik Johnson (zero) is living up to advanced billing.

With all the hype surrounding other Western outfits, the Blues can boast one of the most skilled lineups from top to bottom. There is almost a perfect mix of veteran leadership to complement the burgeoning youth. For every Vladimir Tarasenko (four) and Jaden Schwartz (three) exist an Alexander Steen (eight, plus-5) and Derek Roy (five, including four PPPs). A little bit of patience for Chris Stewart (two and 17 PIM, but a spot on the first man-advantage unit), who perhaps hasn't hit his stride. Look away from Brenden Morrow (PP goal, assist); he's too far down on the depth chart to serve any important role. Ditto for Jay Bouwmeester (two assists), no matter how many minutes he sees.

Keeping the fans happy in Philadelphia isn't as much a concern as putting some pucks in the net. The Flyers' goaltending, which had been a long-standing concern, is clearly not the problem. With several glowing production resumes, there's no reason they should rank 29th on goals per game (at 1.33). Unless your name is Brayden Schenn (four, two PPPs), improvement should be the main priority. Vincent Lecavalier (lower body injury, out a week) had also been decent (three), but now spends time in the press box. While Claude Giroux (one) is virtually a shoo-in to regain his form, others like Wayne Simmonds (one), Matt Read (none), and Kimmo Timonen (none) will require more of a push to recover. With Scott Hartnell (upper body injury) gone up to a month, Read receives more minutes. And with Lecavalier's absence, Timonen returns to a lead role on the power-play point.

Unless you're late for a dinner reservation, there's no need to hit the panic button on Broadway. With one head coach gone, one could assume Alain Vigneault would become the next sacrifice. Fortunately, several signs of promise exist. Brad Richards (five, including four goals) is once again a valuable fantasy commodity. Ryan Callahan (two PPGs and 20+ minutes Saturday) is back to full capacity. It's unknown how long Rick Nash (concussion) will be sidelined, but that should allow guys like Benoit Pouliot (zip) and J.T. Miller (3:21 PP time in his first appearance) to climb the ranks and contribute immediately.

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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 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 has missed the Stars' last 21 games with an ankle injury. It sounded like he was ready to play as early as last week, but the Stars took advantage of the All-Star break to get him extra rest. Based on how line rushes were conducted at morning skate, it appears Eaves will join the top trio with Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin to start Tuesday's game.

Trevor Daley
Stars' Daley 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 veteran 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 is forgiven after Nikita Zadorov didn't report back to the Sabres 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 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 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.

Fedor Tyutin
Jackets' Tyutin Ends Extended Offensive Slump
Fedor Tyutin, D, CLB
8:07 PM
News: Fedor Tyutin found the scoresheet for just the second time in the new year Tuesday, collecting a goal, an assist, a plus-2 rating and two PIM in a 4-3 win over Washington.
Analysis: He'd gone scoreless for nine straight games, dating back to Jan. 3, when he scored his first and only goal of the year before Tuesday. Fedor Tyutin's fantasy utility this year has been confined almost solely to hits and blocked shots, and one good game isn't likely to change that.

 
 
 
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