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Neutral Zone Wrap: Success through preparation

by | Rotowire.com
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Fantasy can be a fickle fancy. The first moments may be exciting and full of bliss. Your team sits on top and there is no way your mood could ever be soured.

Then reality sets in. Up pops an injury. And another one. A couple skaters aren't contributing anymore. One of your goalies was just knocked out after a freak on-ice accident. Happy days have gone away.

The lesson in this story is to always be prepared. If an injury occurs, then there are always available replacements on your bench, other teams, and the waiver wire. Don't panic; the solutions are always out there and can be carried out easily.

This week, we display five NHL organizations in various states of joy. But no matter their situations, don't think for one second any of them are ill equipped to handle the next roadblock. (SPOILER ALERT: Except for Dallas.)

If you live in the Greater Toronto Area and have already mapped a Stanley Cup parade route for the Leafs, then you may want to postpone these preparations. A slip in the schedule has neatly coincided with James Reimer going down (hopefully not a concussion), although that means Jonathan Bernier (2.14 GAA, .938 SV% in seven appearances) will serve as the starter until further notice. Unless your league goes pretty deep, there's no reason to tie up a center spot with Dave Bolland (three goals, three assists). Let's welcome Mason Raymond (eight points in nine games) to 2008-09 levels (where he peaked at 53). On the blueline, Jake Gardiner (two assists) is slumping slightly and may not be the coach's favorite but give him a couple more outings before cutting or trading. And youngster Morgan Rielly has shown some nice offensive touch (four assists, with two on the power-play), so grab him if his ice time (breaking through the 20-minute mark Saturday) holds.

Three things are certain in life: death, taxes, and Teemu Selanne scoring for Anaheim. The now 43-year old can still find the net (goals in three straight), although beware of him sitting for one of the Ducks' back-to-back nights throughout the season for maintenance reasons. While Bobby Ryan was the cost, Jakob Silfverberg (six) is definitely acting as the reward. Good thing Washington gave up on Mathieu Perreault (eight, with none on the PP to date), since he's already taken a liking to his new surroundings. Emerson Etem (first two points Sunday) is back from injury, so he'll need a little longer to get going. We're sure you've heard about Sami Vatanen (only two, but on first PP duty). If not, there's always rookie Hampus Lindholm (also at two) on the radar.

There's nothing wrong in Carolina these days. One of the more surprising fantasy forwards so far has to be Nathan Gerbe (six, including four PPPs). Stay patient with Jordan Staal (one goal, one assist, minus-3) and you will be repaid in full. Remember Tuomo Ruutu (two in four) has recently returned from some form of lower-body injury, so the stats will revert to regular numbers. Justin Faulk may be the #1 defender, but former Sabre Andrej Sekera (three assists, 23:49 a night) has clearly stepped up as #2. Even without a ton of minutes (17:22), Ryan Murphy is earning first power-play duties (two of his five).

The Big D in Dallas currently stands for 'doubtful'. With starter Kari Lehtonen sidelined, the Dan Ellis and Jack Campbell production (with the former sporting a 3.60 GAA and .895 SV% in five) has received rotten reviews. No complaints about third-year pro Alex Chiasson (six, three on the PP) or veteran newcomer Rich Peverley (four). That huge exhale you heard Sunday evening was for can't-miss forward Valeri Nichuskin finally notching his first NHL point (after six misses and one trip to press box). Wanna know the Stars' biggest weakness? Check out these combined figures from Alex Goligoski and Sergei Gonchar: one point, minus-16. At least they're slightly offset by the promising play of Brendan Dillon (four, plus-4, leads club with 20:07).

Remember when I mentioned a couple weeks ago how Buffalo should be much improved this season? So sorry about that. How terrible are the Sabres? Only two skaters have exceeded three points while the local supporters have urged just about anyone on the team over 22 to leave town immediately. And you can't blame Ryan Miller for this mess (2.73 GAA, .926 SV%), as opponents have peppered the American with more shots (just under 37 a start) than that guy who comes to paintball and doesn't know how to play. While Marcus Foligno (two goals, developing power forward skills) presents at least a glimmer of hope, there seems to be no trusting either Tyler Ennis (one) or Mikhail Grigorenko (zero) until one of them wins the lottery. Jamie McBain (two PPPs) would be recommended material if he didn't have this nasty habit of getting scratched (like, twice).

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Player News
Derick Brassard
Rangers' Brassard Will Play Saturday
Derick Brassard, C, NYR
12/21/2014
News: Derick Brassard (illness) will play Saturday against the Hurricanes, Andrew Gross of The Record reports.
Analysis: Coach Alain Vigneault signed off on Derick Brassard's return after he was able to take part in the team's morning skate. The center missed the Rangers' last two contests with the mumps virus.

Ryan Carter
Wild Activate Carter (Upper Body)
Ryan Carter, C, MIN
12/21/2014
News: Ryan Carter (upper body) was activated from injured reserve Saturday, Rachel Blount of the Minneapolis Star Tribune reports.
Analysis: After missing the Wild's previous three games, Ryan Carter was cleared to return after practicing Friday. He'll be reinserted on the fourth line for Saturday's game against the Predators.

Jonathan Quick
Kings Tap Quick For Saturday Start
Jonathan Quick, G, LA
12/21/2014
News: Jonathan Quick led the Kings on to the ice for pregame warmups and will thus get the start Saturday against the Coyotes, Elliott Teaford of the Los Angeles Daily News reports.
Analysis: Jonathan Quick will likely be a heavy favorite to come away with the victory against a Coyotes squad that has lost eight of its last 10 games, with its lone two wins during that stretch coming against the sad-sack Oilers. The netminder hasn't been particularly sharp lately, so this should represent a good bounce-back opportunity for him.

Matt Cooke
Wild's Cooke (Hip) Activated For Saturday's Game
Matt Cooke, LW, MIN
12/21/2014
News: Matt Cooke (hip) was activated from injured reserve Saturday and will suit up against the Predators, Rachel Blount of the Minneapolis Stat Tribune reports.
Analysis: He'll replace Justin Fontaine in the lineup, joining Charlie Coyle and Nino Niederreiter on the Wild's third line. Matt Cooke last played on Oct. 28 before missing the last 22 games with a hip flexor.

Jonas Hiller
Flames To Start Hiller Saturday
Jonas Hiller, G, CGY
12/21/2014
News: Jonas Hiller will get the start in net Saturday, Scott Cruickshank of the Calgary Herald reports.
Analysis: Jonas Hiller and the Flames have hit the skids in December, as Calgary has lost seven straight and Hiller has lost six in a row. Until they right the ship, Hiller should be avoided, especially with his mates giving him a grand total of four goals combined in his last four outings.

Jake Allen
Allen, Blues Looking For Road Victory
Jake Allen, G, STL
12/21/2014
News: Jake Allen will be between the pipes Saturday against the Sharks, Jeremy Rutherford of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports.
Analysis: Things have started to turn ugly for Jake Allen here in December, despite the fact that he's won each of his last three starts. He's posted a horrid .884 save percentage in five outings this month, which has resulted in him yielding more work to Martin Brodeur than anticipated. Still, with a powerful offense and strong defense supporting him, the wins should keep coming rather steadily for the struggling netminder.

Antti Niemi
Sharks' Niemi To Take Aim At Seventh Straight Win
Antti Niemi, G, SJ
12/21/2014
News: Antti Niemi will be between the pipes Saturday night against the Blues, Kevin Kurz of CSN Bay Area reports.
Analysis: Antti Niemi will take aim at his seventh straight victory Saturday, though he hasn't been as consistently sharp as the winning streak would suggest. During that stretch, he's surrendered three goals or more on three occasions, but did manage to capture his second shutout of the season. He'll have his work cut out for him against the Blues, who rank sixth in the NHL in goals and fifth in shot attempts per game.

Jason Garrison
Lightning's Garrison Suffers Injury
Jason Garrison, D, TB
6:18 PM
News: Jason Garrison left Saturday's game against the Islanders with an undisclosed injury and will not return, the Tampa Tribune's Erik Erlendsson reports.
Analysis: The Lightning provided no details about the injury, so everybody is completely in the dark on this one until the team decides to release more information. The good news for Jason Garrison is that the schedule affords him some time to recover: Tampa Bay plays just one game between now and next Saturday.

Zac Rinaldo
Flyers' Rinaldo Suffers Upper-Body Injury
Zac Rinaldo, C, PHI
5:41 PM
News: Zac Rinaldo left Saturday's game against the Maple Leafs with an upper-body injury and will not return, the Courier-Post's Dave Isaac reports.
Analysis: Brayden Schenn jumped into Zac Rinaldo's spot in the second period and will finish this game out. Rinaldo should be considered day-to-day until we know more, but the Flyers have a quick turnaround before hitting the ice again Sunday against the Jets.

Mikael Granlund
Wild's Granlund Out With Illness
Mikael Granlund, C, MIN
5:09 PM
News: Mikael Granlund is ill and will not play Saturday against the Predators, Chad Graff of the St. Paul Pioneer Press reports.
Analysis: Although the immediate reaction might be: "Mumps!" - that's not the case here. Mikael Granlund fell victim to the stomach ailment that has claimed four other victims in the Minnesota locker room. He'll have a few days to recover before the Wild's next game Tuesday against the Flyers. Justin Fontaine will replace Granlund in the lineup.

 
 
 
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