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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
Cody Eakin
Goals In Two Straight For Stars' Eakin
Cody Eakin, C, DAL
12:58 PM
News: Cody Eakin scored a goal for the second consecutive game in Thursday's win over the Coyotes.
Analysis: After a nine-game scoring skid, Cody Eakin's found his offensive game again, but that's come along with mighty struggles in faceoffs -- he's won just 15 of 44 over the last two games. Still, most fantasy formats are more concerned with the points, and Eakin should put up enough of those to be viable in deep formats.

Ales Hemsky
Stars' Hemsky Assists Twice In Win
Ales Hemsky, RW, DAL
12:56 PM
News: Ales Hemsky handed out a pair of assists in Thursday's win over Arizona.
Analysis: While it's nice to see that the veteran winger now has three helpers in his last three games, he only owns four assists for the season and has yet to score a goal. Fantasy owners in most leagues can probably do better than the injury-prone Ales Hemsky.

Mike Smith
Coyotes' Smith Drops Fifth Straight
Mike Smith, G, ARI
12:54 PM
News: Mike Smith took his fifth consecutive loss Thursday, giving up three goals on 27 shots against the Stars.
Analysis: Two days after posting a respectable performance in an overtime loss to Washington, Mike Smith got back to putting up unpleasant stat lines. At this point, Devan Dubnyk -- who's easily outplayed Smith, especially lately -- has to be getting serious consideration for some extended run in goal.

Kari Lehtonen
Stars' Lehtonen Sharp In Win
Kari Lehtonen, G, DAL
12:51 PM
News: Kari Lehtonen tightened up his game Thursday, stopping 26 of 27 in a 3-1 win over the Coyotes.
Analysis: Coming on the heels of two consecutive miserable starts in which he gave up 10 goals in less than five periods of play, this is a huge bounce-back effort for Kari Lehtonen. He's been well below his usual standards this year, but it doesn't help that he's been facing a ton of rubber -- more than 30 shots per game.

Alex Tanguay
Avs' Tanguay Leaves Thursday's Contest
Alex Tanguay, LW, COL
12:14 PM
News: Alex Tanguay suffered a jaw injury during Thursday's loss to Washington and had to leave the contest, the Canadian Press reports.
Analysis: The veteran was hit in the face with an Alex Ovechkin shot, which doesn't sound like fun in the least. Coach Patrick Roy later said the team will know more about Alex Tanguay's injury Friday. As for Thursday's game, Tanguay only saw 7:15 of action and logged a minus-1 rating with no points.

Phillip Danault
Blackhawks Recall Danault
Phillip Danault, C, CHI
8:06 AM
News: Phillip Danault was recalled from AHL Rockford on Friday.
Analysis: The Blackhawks cleared up an opening for Phillip Danault by placing Patrick Sharp (knee) on long-term injured reserve. Danault, who had 10 points in 14 games for Rockford, will give the Blackhawks some additional depth at center while Andrew Shaw (upper body) remains day-to-day.

Patrick Sharp
Hawks' Sharp Placed On LTIR
Patrick Sharp, LW, CHI
8:04 AM
News: Patrick Sharp (leg) was moved to long-term injured reserve Friday.
Analysis: The move doesn't signal a change in Patrick Sharp's recovery timetable, as he's believed to be close to resuming skating and on track for a return in early December. The Blackhawks simply wanted to open up an extra roster spot, which will be reserved for Phillip Danault, who was recalled from AHL Rockford in a corresponding move.

Sergei Bobrovsky
Jackets' Bobrovsky To Start Friday
Sergei Bobrovsky, G, CLB
7:48 AM
News: Sergei Bobrovsky will be in the starter in goal Friday against the Bruins.
Analysis: Coach Todd Richards hasn't decided if Sergei Bobrovsky will start both ends of the Jackets' weekend back-to-back, but given the vast struggles of backup Curtis McElhinney this season, there's good odds Bobrovsky would get another turn Saturday in Philadelphia if he performs well Friday night. Bobrovsky was ghastly his last time out Tuesday against the Red Wings, surrendering five goals on 40 shot attempts.

Dion Phaneuf
Leafs' Phaneuf Picks Up Assist Thursday
Dion Phaneuf, D, TOR
7:36 AM
News: Dion Phaneuf collected a power-play assist in Thursday's win over the Lightning.
Analysis: Dion Phaneuf has tallied assists in back-to-back games, bringing his point total up to 10 through 20 games. While not an elite fantasy defenseman, Phaneuf's combination of above-average scoring, huge PIM (4) and hit (58) totals, and a strong plus/minus (plus-7) have made him a good roster piece.

Pascal Dupuis
Penguins Move Dupuis To IR
Pascal Dupuis, LW, PIT
7:31 AM
News: Pascal Dupuis (blood clot) was placed on injured reserve Friday, Seth Rorabaugh of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports.
Analysis: Doctors diagnosed Pascal Dupuis with the blood clot in his lung earlier this week, ruling him out for at least six months while he recovers from treatment. The move to IR will give the Penguins an additional roster spot with which to try to cover for Dupuis' absence.

 
 
 
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