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Neutral Zone Wrap: Exceeding our expectations

by | Rotowire.com
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Looking at the current state of NHL clubs, it clearly appears as though the Eastern Conference is the weaker of the two. One could argue the four worst overall teams reside on the right side of the continent, unless you want to include perennial underperformer Edmonton somewhere in the mix.

But you probably don't care about that. You want the fantasy info and you want it without filler.

While we've previously discussed trying not to dwell on early stats and standings, trying to separate the reality from the illusion can be a difficult task. A bunch of players have already matched or exceeded expectations. So how can you tell which ones will stay on course and which ones will crash and burn?

Others have already warned about Tomas Hertl, Marc-Edouard Vlasic, and other hotshots not on San Jose reaching ripe trade values, so here are a few different examples who have started on fire but history -- and fate -- say they will continue on a more molasses-like pace. Take note of the following:

Ben Bishop, G, Lightning: Pretty sweet early line from the ex-Senator/Blue (nine wins in 11, 2.15 GAA, .925 SV%), especially considering the Lightning defensive effort has sucked since, well, the 2004-05 lockout. And that last part is why you shouldn't expect to see this progression from the 6-foot-7 netminder for an entire season. Tampa has improved on the back end of late but not enough to claim Bishop as a yearlong top-5 (or even top-10) Fantasy goalie.

Mikhail Grabovski, F, Capitals: The career of Grabovski has been highlighted by the frequent alternation of hot and cold streaks. Just when you think he's holding it all together, the Belarusian flakes out and suddenly stops contributing. While these types of episodes happened at times during his Montreal and Toronto days, that by no means guarantees a repeat with the Caps. But at the same time, we've already just witnessed a minor lull (stretch of one point in six games, declining minutes) bookended by outstanding performances (hat-trick/four points opening night and three assists Friday evening). Tread lightly.

David Legwand, F, Predators: Perhaps you remember Legwand as the #2 pick of the 1998 draft. Or the guy who is now in his 14th full season with Nashville and leads the team in scoring (12 in 14). While he's not young (33), neither is his competition at center (Mike Fisher is also 33, while Matt Cullen is four years older). Not too many injuries over his career, although he never matched his junior offensive numbers (peaked at 63 in 2006-07). Even with the Preds' improved offense, hoping Legwand to top 60 points again is asking for too much.

Frans Nielsen, F, Islanders: While Kyle Okposo has also shot out of the gates (17 in 14), let's focus on the Islander forward who is more likely to take a dip. In his six full campaigns, the Danish center has excelled as a shorthanded skater (seven SHGs in 2010-11) and has firmly stuck his foot in on the power-play (no worse than eight PPPs per season). His hard work is finally paying off (eight goals, eight assists) and the Islanders may finally be experiencing a resurge. But I'm sorry, there is no way a healthy Nielsen will reach 80 points over an 82-game schedule. Don't even think about it.

Matt Niskanen, D, Penguins: The return of Kris Letang has rearranged the Pens' blueline ladder. Even though the two share time as a regular-strength pair, Niskanen will no longer see the big man-advantage minutes. Since Letang's first game back, the Minnesotan's production has slipped (one in five) as a result of losing his prime scoring role (lost almost two minutes of PP action a night). Any total over 30 points should be a bonus.

(Honorable mention: Mark Arcobello, F, Edmonton; Kari Lehtonen, G, Dallas; Mathieu Perreault, F, Anaheim; Chris Tanev, D, Vancouver; Antoine Vermette, F, Phoenix)

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Player News
Martin Hanzal
Coyotes' Hanzal Could Resume Skating Friday
Martin Hanzal, C, ARI
10/24/2014
News: Coach Dave Tippett said Martin Hanzal (lower body) could resume skating Friday, Sarah McLellan of the Arizona Republic reports.
Analysis: Martin Hanzal didn't make the trip with the Coyotes to Minnesota for Thursday's game, but the team seems to believe the forward is only in line for a short-term absence. While Hanzal's injury might not clear up in time for him to play Saturday against the Panthers, there's a good possibility he'll be back in action at some point next week.

Alex Killorn
Bolts' Killorn Likely Out Friday
Alex Killorn, C, TB
10/24/2014
News: Alex Killorn (shoulder) isn't expected to play Friday against the Jets, Erik Erlendsson of the Tampa Tribune reports.
Analysis: Alex Killorn acknowledged that his previously undisclosed injury occurred when he banged his shoulder and head on the boards Monday. While he wasn't diagnosed with any concussion symptoms and was able to get in a light skate Thursday, the Bolts seem inclined to give him a few more days off to aid his recovery.

Sergei Bobrovsky
Jackets Going With Bobrovsky On Thursday
Sergei Bobrovsky, G, CLB
10/24/2014
News: Sergei Bobrovsky will draw the start Thursday against the Sharks.
Analysis: Sergei Bobrovsky was set to receive the night off in the Jackets' last game against the Senators over the weekend, but he ended up being pressed into action after Curtis McElhinney was removed in the second period with a concussion. Thanks to a four-day break in the Jackets' schedule, Bobrovsky looks to be well-rested in advance of Thursday's tilt. He'll be opposed in the net by the Sharks' Antti Niemi.

Marian Gaborik
Kings' Gaborik Won't Skate Until Next Week
Marian Gaborik, RW, LA
10/24/2014
News: Marian Gaborik (undisclosed) isn't expected to resume skating until early next week, Jon Rosen of LAKingsInsider.com reports.
Analysis: Marian Gaborik hasn't played since Oct. 12 while dealing with the mystery injury, and it sounds like at the very least, the forward could miss an additional handful of games. While getting on the ice would mark a positive step for Gaborik, coach Darryl Sutter wasn't willing to speculate if the forward would be available for the Kings' five-game road trip that runs from Oct. 28 to Nov. 4. Fantasy owners likely drafted Gaborik with the knowledge that his shaky health would make him a huge risk, but it wasn't believed that he'd miss this much action so early in the campaign.

Thomas Greiss
Pens' Greiss Expected To Play Thursday
Thomas Greiss, G, PIT
11:51 AM
News: Thomas Greiss is expected to make the start in goal Thursday against the Red Wings, Dave Molinari of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports.
Analysis: With Mike Johnston pledging last week that he'd give Thomas Greiss a start at some point during the Penguins' road swing, Thursday would sound like an ideal opportunity for the backup to see action, with the team playing the second game of a back-to-back set. If Greiss indeed plays Thursday, it would mark the Penguins debut for the netminder, who was inked to a one-year contract in the offseason after posting a 10-8-5 record, 2.29 GAA and .920 save percentage with the Coyotes in 2013-14.

Radko Gudas
Bolts' Gudas Expected To Play Friday
Radko Gudas, D, TB
11:47 AM
News: Radko Gudas (lower body) could be on track to return to the Bolts' lineup Friday against the Jets, Erik Erlendsson of the Tampa Tribune reports.
Analysis: Radko Gudas was skating as part of a regular pair with Jason Garrison at Thursday's practice, a strong sign that coach Jon Cooper believes he'll be available for the team's next game. Tampa Bay placed Gudas on injured reserve Tuesday, but because his retroactive date of Oct. 13 is more than seven days ago, he'll be eligible to play immediately upon his activation.

John-Michael Liles
Carolina's Liles Set To Play Thursday
John-Michael Liles, D, CAR
11:43 AM
News: John-Michael Liles (upper-body soreness) is slated for a return to action Thursday against the Flames.
Analysis: Coach Bill Peters acknowledged after the Hurricanes' morning session that Brett Bellemore and Jay Harrison would be scratched on defense Thursday night, paving the way for John-Michael Liles' return to the lineup. Liles has one point and four shot attempts through three games, during which he's averaged 18:40 of ice time.

John Scott
Scott To Be A Scratch For San Jose
John Scott, LW, SJ
11:40 AM
News: The Sharks will scratch John Scott in Thursday's game against Columbus, according to Curtis Pashelka of the Mercury News.
Analysis: John Scott has barely seen any ice time this season even when he is playing, with a season high of 6:36. Scott's ability to contribute to your fantasy team is minimal, so this shouldn't effect too many rosters. There are better options out there in most categories than Scott.

Jonas Hiller
Flames Expected To Roll With Hiller On Thursday
Jonas Hiller, G, CGY
11:40 AM
News: Jonas Hiller was the first goalie off the ice at morning skate and is expected to start in goal Thursday versus the Hurricanes.
Analysis: After taking losses in his first two outings of the season, Jonas Hiller has stopped 83 of 85 shot attempts over his last two turns, recording the win on each occasion. Unfortunately for him, teammate Karri Ramo has enjoyed similar success in his four outings, preventing Hiller from gaining much separation in their battle for netminding duties. Regardless, Hiller makes for an excellent play Thursday against a Carolina squad that ranks 28th in goals per game and 29th in shots per game.

Chris Tierney
Sharks Will Scratch Tierney Again
Chris Tierney, C, SJ
11:38 AM
News: Chris Tierney will be a scratch for the second straight game Thursday, according to Curtis Pashelka of the Mercury News.
Analysis: Chris Tierney played some good hockey so far, but he's young and the return of James Sheppard may crowd him out of the lineup and see him returning to the AHL to get more ice time.

 
 
 
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