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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
Kimmo Timonen
Flyers' Timonen Unlikely To Play This Season
Kimmo Timonen, D, PHI
9/19/2014
News: Kimmo Timonen (blood clots) in leg confirmed Thursday that the chances of him playing this season are "really slim," Sam Carchidi of the Philadelphia Inquirer reports.
Analysis: Though he didn't announce his retirement as some expected Thursday, Kimmo Timonen acknowledged that the blood clots in his lungs and right leg will keep him out multiple months, putting his career in jeopardy. Timonen will have to wait until January to see if his medical tests reveal any dissipation from the blood clots, but it sounds entirely possible that we've seen the last of the respected defenseman in the NHL. Even in the deepest of leagues, it's tough to justify stashing him on the bench until he returns to health, since it's certainly far from a given that that will happen by the end of the season.

Darcy Kuemper
Wild And Kuemper Negotiations Stalled
Darcy Kuemper, G, MIN
9/19/2014
News: Other than a couple of text messages, the Wild and Darcy Kuemper have not had substantial negotiations over a new contract and he may not report to training camp, the Minneapolis Star Tribune reports.
Analysis: With Josh Harding out several months with a broken foot, the Wild would appear to be highly motivated to sign Darcy Kuemper. However, the two sides are having a dispute about his guaranteed status on the NHL roster and Kuemper's agent has said he's exploring playing overseas. The Wild are offering a two-way deal while Kuemper wants a one-way deal. With Kuemper's status in doubt, the Wild have reached out to Ilya Bryzgalov about coming to training camp. It's still possible Kuemper could sign at the last second, but his status for the NHL season remains uncertain.

Rich Peverley
Stars' Peverley Cleared To Work Out
Rich Peverley, C, DAL
11:59 AM
News: Stars GM Jim Nill said that Rich Peverley has been cleared to work out, but not to go on the ice, according to Mark Stepneski of NHL.com.
Analysis: Earlier this summer Rich Peverley was told he should be able to play this season, which had previously been in question after he suffered a cardiac incident during a March 10 game against the Blue Jackets. There is not yet a timetable for his return.

Dustin Byfuglien
Jets Confirm Byfuglien To Open Season As Forward
Dustin Byfuglien, RW, WPG
11:40 AM
News: Jets coach Paul Maurice reiterated Thursday that Dustin Byfuglien would "start and finish" training camp as a forward, Ken Wiebe of the Winnipeg Sun reports.
Analysis: This was to be expected after Dustin Byfuglien played exclusively at forward when Maurice replaced Claude Noel as coach in January, and it should only help Big Buff's fantasy value in leagues where he retains eligibility as a defenseman. Byfuglien racked up 10 goals and 12 assists over 32 games on the wing last season, scoring at a rate actually lower than what he provided at the blue line. However, with a full offseason to prepare for a role at forward, Byfuglien stands a good chance at boosting his per-game point totals, but perhaps only if he's able to land a spot on the first or second line.

Josh Harding
Wild's Harding (Foot) Out 2-3 Months
Josh Harding, G, MIN
11:24 AM
News: Josh Harding broke his right foot while kicking a wall after an off-ice altercation with a teammate and is expected to miss at least two or three months, the Minneapolis Star Tribune reports.
Analysis: The Star Tribune also suggests it's possible the Wild could suspend Josh Harding for his accident. The Wild suspended forward James Sheppard for an off-ice ATV accident in 2012 that resulted in a season-ending knee injury. Even without the injury, Harding's battles with multiple sclerosis have limited him to just 34 regular season games the past two years, and now combined with the ankle injury, mean he can't be counted on to play many games in the 2014-15 season.

Gregory Campbell
Bruins' Campbell Limited
Gregory Campbell, C, BOS
11:14 AM
News: Gregory Campbell (core) will be limited at the start of training camp, the Boston Herald reports.
Analysis: As the Bruins' fourth-line center, Gregory Campbell is generally off the fantasy radar, but so far there is nothing to suggest that his minor mid-core issue will hold him back long.

Milan Lucic
Bruins' Lucic Limited In Camp
Milan Lucic, LW, BOS
11:10 AM
News: Milan Lucic (wrist) will be limited at the start of training camp, the Boston Herald reports.
Analysis: Milan Lucic is recovering from wrist surgery, so this is not unexpected, though at this stage, there hasn't been anything to suggest that the rugged winger's status for the start of the regular season is in any danger.

Patrick Kaleta
Sabres' Kaleta Cleared For Camp
Patrick Kaleta, RW, BUF
10:59 AM
News: Patrick Kaleta (knee) has been cleared for full activities during training camp, John Vogl of the Buffalo News reports.
Analysis: Patrick Kaleta missed nearly all of the 2013-14 campaign after tearing his ACL while playing with AHL Rochester last November. Now fully recovered, Kaleta will compete for a spot on the Sabres' checking line, where he'll offer fantasy players plenty of penalty minutes, but little else.

J.T. Miller
Rangers' Miller Slots As Center
J.T. Miller, C, NYR
10:23 AM
News: J.T. Miller will be used at the center position during the team's training camp this month, reports Andrew Gross of The Record.
Analysis: With the summer amnesty buyout of Brad Richards and an already glaring depth issue at the position, it's no surprise that head coach Alain Vigneault will look to plug a hole with depth from the wing. The still just 21-year-old J.T. Miller has solid potential, but just five goals and 10 points through 56 career games in the NHL. Nonetheless, being tabbed as a center gives him an inside track to make the team on opening night.

Dion Phaneuf
Leafs' Phaneuf Moving To Left Side This Season
Dion Phaneuf, D, TOR
10:21 AM
News: Dion Phaneuf will move to the left side of the ice for the upcoming season, Mark Masters of TSN reports.
Analysis: Given Dion Phaneuf's standing as a left-handed puck handler, the move across the ice should actually prove beneficial for the veteran blueliner, whose defensive prowess has slipped as he's aged. In addition to transitioning to the left side, Phaneuf also figures to see more relief with the offseason additions of Roman Polak and Stephane Robidas, who should help preserve the 29-year-old for the rigors of an 82-game season. Even if Phaneuf notices a reduction in minutes, he should still offer 30-to-40 point potential to go along with a bevy of hits, blocks and penalty minutes.

 
 
 
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