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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
Joakim Andersson
Wings' Andersson Grabs Game Winner Saturday
Joakim Andersson, C, DET
12:57 AM
News: Joakim Andersson tallied the game-winning goal in Saturday's 4-0 triumph over the Lightning.
Analysis: It's just the second goal and seventh point of the season for Joakim Andersson, who doesn't see many scoring chances as a bottom-six forward. Andersson's fantasy value is further limited by the lack of PIM and hits he provides relative to many of his peers on the third and fourth line.

Ryan Murphy
Canes' Murphy Gets Assist, Goes Plus-2 Saturday
Ryan Murphy, D, CAR
12:54 AM
News: Ryan Murphy picked up an assist and went plus-2 in Saturday's win over the Devils.
Analysis: Ryan Murphy has begun to carve out some utility in very deep formats lately, providing two goals, an assist, and six shots on goal over his last four games. He'll need to keep that run of scoring going to enjoy broader fantasy appeal, but if nothing else, he's making a strong case for a top-four spot on defense with the Hurricanes in 2015-16-.

Jaroslav Halak
Islanders Turn To Halak On Sunday
Jaroslav Halak, G, NYI
12:30 AM
News: Jaroslav Halak will start Sunday's game against the Red Wings.
Analysis: Jaroslav Halak, who gave way to Michal Neuvirth in Saturday's 3-2 loss to the Ducks, will return to the Isles' net on Sunday, with the team looking to snap a three-game slide at home.

Cam Ward
Ward Guide 'Canes To Win Column
Cam Ward, G, CAR
12:25 AM
News: Cam Ward turned away 21 of 22 shots in Saturday's win over the Devils.
Analysis: In a game between two the league's weakest scoring attacks, there predictably wasn't much offense to be found as the teams combined for four goals and 54 shot attempts. Cam Ward was just a bit sharper than opposing netminder Keith Kinkaid, earning the Carolina goalie his second win in two starts since returning from a bout with the flu. Coach Bill Peters is set to go with Anton Khudobin as the starter Sunday versus the Bruins, but Ward's solid showings his last two times out might put him on the inside track to finish the year as the Hurricanes' No. 1 netminder.

Alexander Semin
Semin Back In Carolina Lineup Sunday
Alexander Semin, RW, CAR
12:19 AM
News: Alexander Semin (hamstring) is slated to play Sunday against the Bruins, Michael Smith of the Hurricanes' official site reports.
Analysis: With Alexander Semin, who missed Saturday's game, back in the lineup, Brad Malone looks like the odd man out for Carolina up front on Sunday.

Roberto Luongo
Cats' Luongo Takes OT Loss Saturday
Roberto Luongo, G, FLA
12:17 AM
News: Roberto Luongo stopped 22 shots but let in three goals in the Panthers' overtime loss to the Canadiens on Saturday.
Analysis: The defeat was a pretty big setback to the Panthers' playoff odds, but with the team still in the thick of the race, Roberto Luongo figures to draw the starting assignment again Sunday versus the Senators. Luongo is 3-1-1 in his five games since returning from a shoulder injury March 19.

Brian Elliott
Blues Turn To Elliott On Monday
Brian Elliott, G, STL
12:12 AM
News: Brian Elliott is slated to start Monday's game against the Canucks, NHL.com's Lou Korac reports.
Analysis: Brian Elliott stopped only 13 of 16 shots Saturday against the Blue Jackets to take his third straight loss. He'll look to turn things around Monday against a Vancouver squad that has dropped two straight games by a combined tally of 8-4.

Mark Stone
Sens' Stone Says Hot Saturday
Mark Stone, RW, OTT
12:10 AM
News: Mark Stone netted his 19th goal of the season in Saturday's loss to the Maple Leafs.
Analysis: Mark Stone's goal gave the Sens an early 1-0 lead and the forward his 13th point in as many contests. The 22-year-old will finish the season with somewhere in the neighborhood of 60 points, and there's a good chance that may only represent the low end of his production in future years.

Cory Schneider
Devils' Schneider Loses Fourth Straight
Cory Schneider, G, NJ
3/29/2015
News: Cory Schneider lost for the fourth straight game Sunday, giving up two goals on 25 shots against the Ducks.
Analysis: Cory Schneider falls to 26-28-8 on the season with a .928 save percentage and 2.19 GAA. His rate stats are among the best in the NHL, but the Devils have been mathematically eliminated from playoff contention and Schneider has just two wins in his last nine outings. If you can deal with some losses, the 29-year-old is a good fantasy option for these final few games.

Logan Couture
Sharks' Couture Nets PP Marker In Loss
Logan Couture, C, SJ
3/29/2015
News: Logan Couture potted a power-play goal and fired a game-high seven shots on goal in Sunday's shootout loss to the Penguins.
Analysis: While his miss in the shootout gave the Penguins the win, Logan Couture has been rolling of late, riding a three-game point streak in which he's produced two goals and four points. The 26-year-old is up to 62 points in 76 games and could potentially hit the 70-point barrier for the first time in his career. With the Sharks needing every point they can get, expect Couture to be a great fantasy play for these final few games.

 
 
 
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