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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
David Perron
Penguins' Perron A Game-Time Decision
David Perron, LW, PIT
9:07 AM
News: David Perron (illness) is a game-time decision for Tuesday's game against the Jets.
Analysis: Per the report, as of Tuesday morning, David Perron was still feeling "a bit under the weather," which clouds the forward's status for Pittsburgh's evening tilt.

Patric Hornqvist
Penguins' Hornqvist A Game-Time Decision
Patric Hornqvist, RW, PIT
9:05 AM
News: Patric Hornqvist (lower body) is a game-time decision for Tuesday's game against the Jets.
Analysis: While Patric Hornqvist is clearly progressing, Josh Yohe of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review suggests that the forward remains iffy for Tuesday's contest.

Kris Letang
Penguins' Letang A Game-Time Decision
Kris Letang, D, PIT
9:00 AM
News: Kris Letang (head) is a game-time decision for Tuesday's game against the Jets.
Analysis: We'll continue to track Kris Letang's status as Tuesday's game approaches, but for his part, Josh Yohe of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review suggests that it "sounds quite likely" that Letang will play Tuesday.

Daniel Cleary
Wings' Cleary Likely Back In Lineup
Daniel Cleary, RW, DET
8:57 AM
News: With Tomas Jurco still out, Daniel Cleary should be back in the lineup Tuesday, Ansar Khan of MLive reports.
Analysis: Daniel Cleary has two points in 11 contests this season, as he has not been in the lineup unless injuries have occurred. Jurco should be back later in the week, so Cleary's time in the lineup may be short-lived.

Marc-Andre Fleury
Penguins' Fleury To Start Wednesday
Marc-Andre Fleury, G, PIT
8:56 AM
News: Marc-Andre Fleury is in line to start Wednesday's game against Washington, Josh Yohe of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reports.
Analysis: With the Penguins playing two nights in a row following the NHL All-Star break, backup Thomas Greiss is slated to get the start in net for Pittsburgh on Tuesday against the Jets.

Thomas Greiss
Penguins Go With Greiss On Tuesday
Thomas Greiss, G, PIT
8:52 AM
News: Thomas Greiss is slated to start Tuesday's game against the Jets, Josh Yohe of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reports.
Analysis: With Thomas Greiss slated to start Tuesday's game, Marc-Andre Fleury is line line to get the nod for the Penguins on Wednesday against the Caps.

Anton Khudobin
Hurricanes Start Khudobin On Tuesday
Anton Khudobin, G, CAR
8:47 AM
News: Anton Khudobin will start Tuesday's game against the Lightning.
Analysis: Anton Khudobin, who started the season 0-8-2, has really turned things around and will now be looking to win his sixth straight decision Tuesday night.

Michael Raffl
Flyers' Raffl Sidelined Tuesday
Michael Raffl, LW, PHI
8:42 AM
News: Michael Raffl (illness) is not slated to play Tuesday against the Coyotes, Sam Carchidi of the Philadelphia Inquirer reports.
Analysis: As a result, the Flyers recalled Petr Straka from Lehigh Valley to replace Michael Raffl in Tuesday's lineup.

Steve Mason
Flyers' Mason Slated To Work As Backup On Tuesday
Steve Mason, G, PHI
8:38 AM
News: Steve Mason (lower body) is slated to back up Ray Emery on Tuesday against the Coyotes, Sam Carchidi of the Philadelphia Inquirer reports.
Analysis: Steve Mason, who has missed the last six games with a knee injury, is thus presumably a candidate to draw the start in net for the Flyers on Thursday against the Jets, barring any setbacks.

Mikhail Grabovski
Grabovski Returns To Isles' Lineup
Mikhail Grabovski, C, NYI
8:32 AM
News: Mikhail Grabovski (lower body) will play Tuesday against the Rangers.
Analysis: The return of Mikhail Grabovski, who last suited up on Jan. 9, will be a welcome one, with fellow forward Kyle Okposo slated to miss 6-8 weeks. Grabovski skated with Josh Bailey and John Tavares at Monday's practice, a top line assignment that carries some fantasy upside for Grabovski as long as the combo sticks.

 
 
 
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