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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 Havlat
Devils' Havlat Tests Negative For Mumps
Martin Havlat, RW, NJ
12/27/2014
News: Martin Havlat's test results for the mumps have come back negative, but he will be unavailable for Saturday's game against the Rangers, Tom Gulitti of The Record reports.
Analysis: Martin Havlat is still dealing with a virus that will keep him out of Saturday's game at a minimum, making his next eligible return date Monday against the Penguins. The Devils will go into Saturday with a maximum of 12 healthy forwards, though it's possible the team will add someone before the game.

Corey Potter
Flames Recall Potter
Corey Potter, D, CGY
2:19 PM
News: Corey Potter was recalled from AHL Adirondack on Friday, Pat Steinberg of Sportsnet 960 The FAN reports.
Analysis: Corey Potter was sent back to the AHL Tuesday, but was recalled again Thursday, likely indicating Ladislav Smid isn't ready to return. It also could could signify that one of the six blueliners on the active roster are dealing with an injury or illness. Regardless, Potter will take his spot back with the Flames, though it probably won't be for an extended period of time.

Alex Biega
Canucks Reassign Biega
Alex Biega, D, VAN
1:24 PM
News: Alex Biega was reassigned to AHL Utica on Tuesday.
Analysis: Alex Biega was recalled Dec. 16 but hasn't played a game with the Canucks since being recalled. he will head back to AHL Utica, where he has 10 points (two goals, eight assists) in 25 games this season.

Patrik Elias
Devils' Elias Dealing With The Mumps
Patrik Elias, LW, NJ
11:25 AM
News: Patrik Elias is confirmed to have a case of the mumps, Tom Gulitti of The Record reports.
Analysis: Patrik Elias is the latest in a long list of players dealing with the virus, but it's unclear how long it will cause him to miss. He will not be available for Saturday's game against the Rangers, meaning his next opportunity to return will be Monday against the Penguins.

Brandon Sutter
Penguins' Sutter Tests Negative For Mumps
Brandon Sutter, C, PIT
9:03 AM
News: Brandon Sutter has tested negative for the mumps virus, Josh Yohe of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reports.
Analysis: Brandon Sutter missed two games earlier this week with an illness, but it turns out he is not dealing with the mumps virus that is bothering a couple of his teammates. Sutter will likely be available for Pittsburgh's next game Saturday, but an official call on his status may not come until after the team's morning skate.

Thomas Greiss
Penguins' Greiss Dealing With Mumps
Thomas Greiss, G, PIT
8:46 AM
News: Thomas Greiss has been diagnosed with the mumps, Josh Yohe of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reports.
Analysis: A mumps test performed on Thomas Greiss last week came back negative, but it turns out he is actually dealing with the same setback that has affected numerous NHL players over the last several weeks. Jeff Zatkoff figures to serve as the backup goaltender behind Marc-Andre Fleury until Greiss is able to resume playing sometime in the next week or two.

Steve Downie
Penguins' Downie Diagnosed With Mumps
Steve Downie, RW, PIT
8:42 AM
News: Steve Downie has been diagnosed with the mumps, Josh Yohe of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reports.
Analysis: Steve Downie first started showing mumps symptoms earlier this week, and it turns out he is the latest to come down with the disease that is sweeping through the NHL. He will remain isolated from his teammates until he has recovered, but figures to resume playing sometime in the next week or two.

Matt Moulson
Sabres' Moulson Expected Back Saturday
Matt Moulson, LW, BUF
8:36 AM
News: Matt Moulson (illness) is expected to return to the lineup Saturday against the Islanders, Mike Harrington of the Buffalo News reports.
Analysis: The illness has knocked Matt Moulson out of the Sabres' past three games, but the three-day holiday break appears to have been exactly what the wingers needed to regain health. The Sabres have already reassigned three of their forwards back to AHL Rochester, a sign that Moulson is fully expected to be available for the match against his former team.

David Desharnais
Habs' Desharnais Loving Third Line
David Desharnais, C, MON
4:34 AM
News: David Desharnais scored a goal in Tuesday's win over the Islanders and now has three goals and two assists in his last five games.
Analysis: The surge in production coincides with his move to the third line with Lars Eller and P.A. Parenteau. David Desharnais continues to get work on the man advantage as well.

Jiri Sekac
Habs' Sekac Dropped Mid-Game
Jiri Sekac, LW, MON
4:27 AM
News: Jiri Sekac was replaced on the second line by Dale Weise after one period in Tuesday night's 3-1 win over the Islanders, the Montreal Gazette reports. He had a turnover and a penalty in the opening period, prompting head coach Michel Therrien to make the move. "Sekac wasn't playing well and I went with [Brandon] Prust and Weise," Therrien said.
Analysis: Jiri Sekac, who averages nearly 14 minutes a night, ended up with just 8:21 of ice time in the win. It's likely a one-game thing -- how long can the Habs thrive with Weise and Prust in top-six roles? It's just a reminder that Sekac is young and new to the NHL, and this sort of thing can happen.

 
 
 
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