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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
Clayton Stoner
Ducks' Stoner Scores Game Winner Sunday
Clayton Stoner, D, ANA
12:29 PM
News: Clayton Stoner scored the game winner in the third period of Sunday night's clash in Dallas.
Analysis: Not normally known for his goal-scoring prowess, the defenseman was able to score his first goal in nearly a full calendar year. Seeing as how his career total is now at five goals and 33 assists, don't expect the 30-year old to suddenly become fantasy viable.

Corey Perry
Ducks' Perry Hits Scoresheet Twice In Win Sunday
Corey Perry, RW, ANA
12:22 PM
News: Corey Perry tallied a goal and an assist in Sunday's win over the Stars.
Analysis: The points give Corey Perry 45 points on the season. Despite missing 15 of his team's 64 games this season, Perry is only second to linemate Ryan Getzlaf in team scoring.

Ryan Getzlaf
Ducks' Getzlaf Records Milestone Marker
Ryan Getzlaf, C, ANA
12:16 PM
News: Ryan Getzlaf tied Paul Kariya for second on the Ducks' all-time scoring list with a goal and an assist Sunday in Dallas.
Analysis: This gives Ryan Getzlaf 669 points in 693 career games for the Ducks. He now has 61 points in 61 games this season, good enough for eighth place in NHL scoring.

John Gibson
Gibson Shines For Ducks In Win Over Stars
John Gibson, G, ANA
12:05 PM
News: John Gibson stopped 39-of-40 shots faced Sunday night in Dallas.
Analysis: This was John Gibson's fifth win in his last six starts, as it appears that both him and his team have worked their way out of a slump. However, it appears that Gibson will be relegated to backup duties very soon with regular starter Frederik Andersen fully recovered from a head/neck injury. Keep a close eye on Gibson's status for upcoming games.

Victor Rask
Canes' Rask Gaining Momentum
Victor Rask, C, CAR
8:58 AM
News: Victor Rask recorded a power-play assist and skated a season-high 21:27 during Saturday's 5-3 win over the Islanders.
Analysis: Since sitting out two games as a healthy scratch, Victor Rask has seen an uptick in his ice time, averaging 17:29 over the past five games, including roughly three minutes on the power play. Rask and his linemates Nathan Gerbe and Andrej Nestrasil were effectively the Canes' second line against the Islanders, bumping Jeff Skinner, Riley Nash and Elias Lindholm down to third-line status. Assuming this trend continues, it represents an opportunity for Rask to play a larger role in the Canes' lineup, so fantasy owners should be prepared to take advantage accordingly.

Tyler Ennis
Sabres' Ennis Practices Monday
Tyler Ennis, LW, BUF
8:57 AM
News: Tyler Ennis (lower body) was a participant in Monday's practice.
Analysis: Tyler Ennis skated on a regular line with Chris Stewart and Nick Foligno, a sign that the Sabres expect to have the forward available for Tuesday's game against the Lightning. The lower-body injury has kept Ennis out for the last two games, but the Sabres never considered it to be anything serious.

Rob Scuderi
Pens' Scuderi Returns To Action
Rob Scuderi, D, PIT
8:49 AM
News: Rob Scuderi (foot) returned to action Sunday against the Blue Jackets, logging 18:26 of ice time.
Analysis: Rob Scuderi hurt his foot in the Penguins' previous game against the Capitals last Wednesday, but the team's three-day break in the schedule before Sunday's game afforded him enough recovery time. Christian Ehrhoff sat out Sunday to accommodate Scuderi's placement in the lineup.

Tyson Strachan
Sabres' Strachan Practicing Monday
Tyson Strachan, D, BUF
8:47 AM
News: Tyson Strachan (illness) participated in Monday's practice.
Analysis: Tyson Strachan has missed the last four games with an infection, but his presence on the ice at practice suggests he might be a lineup option for Tuesday's game against the Lightning. Expect coach Ted Nolan to clarify Strachan's status after the Sabres conduct their morning skate Tuesday.

Riley Nash
Nash Slipping Down Canes' Depth Chart
Riley Nash, C, CAR
8:44 AM
News: Riley Nash skated just 11:24 Saturday against the Islanders, the lowest amount of ice time he's seen all season. He finished the game with zero points, a minus-1 rating and just a single shot on goal.
Analysis: Riley Nash continues to skate with Jeff Skinner and Elias Lindholm, however based solely on ice time, the trio has effectively been bumped down to third-line status. Nash was seeing as much as 18-19 minutes earlier in the season, including 2-3 minutes on the power play, however those days appear to be long gone. With just five points in his last 20 games, including a three-game stint as a healthy scratch, Nash does not make for an attractive fantasy play outside of very deep leagues.

Anthony Stolarz
Flyers Reassign Stolarz To AHL
Anthony Stolarz, G, PHI
8:43 AM
News: Anthony Stolarz was reassigned to AHL Lehigh Valley on Monday.
Analysis: Anthony Stolarz being sent back to the minors likely signifies the return of Ray Emery as the backup netminder behind Steve Mason. The 21-year-old hasn't started a game in the NHL this season, but has posted a 3.11 GAA and .908 save percentage over 26 games at Lehigh Valley this season, and will return there to receive more consistent time in net.

 
 
 
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