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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
Clayton Stoner
Ducks' Stoner Scores Game Winner Sunday
Clayton Stoner, D, ANA
12:29 PM
News: Clayton Stoner scored the game winner in the third period of Sunday night's clash in Dallas.
Analysis: Not normally known for his goal-scoring prowess, the defenseman was able to score his first goal in nearly a full calendar year. Seeing as how his career total is now at five goals and 33 assists, don't expect the 30-year old to suddenly become fantasy viable.

Corey Perry
Ducks' Perry Hits Scoresheet Twice In Win Sunday
Corey Perry, RW, ANA
12:22 PM
News: Corey Perry tallied a goal and an assist in Sunday's win over the Stars.
Analysis: The points give Corey Perry 45 points on the season. Despite missing 15 of his team's 64 games this season, Perry is only second to linemate Ryan Getzlaf in team scoring.

Ryan Getzlaf
Ducks' Getzlaf Records Milestone Marker
Ryan Getzlaf, C, ANA
12:16 PM
News: Ryan Getzlaf tied Paul Kariya for second on the Ducks' all-time scoring list with a goal and an assist Sunday in Dallas.
Analysis: This gives Ryan Getzlaf 669 points in 693 career games for the Ducks. He now has 61 points in 61 games this season, good enough for eighth place in NHL scoring.

John Gibson
Gibson Shines For Ducks In Win Over Stars
John Gibson, G, ANA
12:05 PM
News: John Gibson stopped 39-of-40 shots faced Sunday night in Dallas.
Analysis: This was John Gibson's fifth win in his last six starts, as it appears that both him and his team have worked their way out of a slump. However, it appears that Gibson will be relegated to backup duties very soon with regular starter Frederik Andersen fully recovered from a head/neck injury. Keep a close eye on Gibson's status for upcoming games.

Radim Vrbata
Canucks' Vrbata Contributes Two Assists
Radim Vrbata, RW, VAN
3:09 AM
News: Radim Vrbata collected a pair of assists and scored in the shootout in Sunday's win over the Blues.
Analysis: Radim Vrbata now has 22 goals and 44 points in 59 games on the season. While he's skating on the second line and has just one goal in his last eight games, he's still playing on the top power-play unit and is skating with Nick Bonino at even strength. The 33-year-old talented sniper will find ways to produce points no matter what, and as long as he keeps shooting, the goals will soon follow.

Yannick Weber
Canucks' Weber Contributes Offensively In Win
Yannick Weber, D, VAN
3:03 AM
News: Yannick Weber scored his sixth goal of the season, had an assist and recorded a plus-3 rating in a season-high 22:58 of ice time in Sunday's win over the Blues.
Analysis: Yannick Weber is logging some big minutes right now and has compiled two goals and 11 shots on goal in his last four games. With injuries to Kevin Bieksa and Alex Edler, Weber is taking on an expanded role with the team. Given his offensive potential and the fact he is playing on the top power-play unit, Weber could be worth adding in some deeper leagues right now.

Ronalds Kenins
Canucks' Kenins Bags Two Assists
Ronalds Kenins, LW, VAN
2:57 AM
News: Ronalds Kenins picked up a pair of assists and was a plus-2 in Sunday's win over the Blues.
Analysis: Ronalds Kenins continues to impress in his first NHL stint, recording three goals and 10 points in 14 games. While the 24-year-old is skating on the fourth line, he's playing with the talented Bo Horvat and can produce enough to warrant a look in some very deep leagues.

Ryan Reaves
Blues' Reaves Scores, Collects 12 PIM In Loss
Ryan Reaves, RW, STL
2:51 AM
News: Ryan Reaves scored his sixth goal of the season and picked up 12 PIM in Sunday's loss to Vancouver.
Analysis: Ryan Reaves now has 10 points and a whopping 100 PIM in 62 games this season. While the 28-year-old old doesn't produce much offense in a fourth-line role, his strong PIM totals make him worth owning in very deep specialty leagues.

T.J. Oshie
Blues' Oshie Collects Three Assists
T.J. Oshie, RW, STL
2:48 AM
News: T.J. Oshie picked up three assists in Sunday's loss to Vancouver.
Analysis: That's five points in four games for T.J. Oshie, who is up to 17 goals and 44 points in 55 games on the season. The 28-year-old continues to produce points steadily and can be trusted in most formats.

David Backes
Blues' Backes Tallies Two Points In Loss
David Backes, C, STL
2:28 AM
News: David Backes scored his 21st goal of the season, dished out an assist and recorded seven hits in Sunday's loss to the Canucks.
Analysis: A good all-around fantasy outing from David Backes, who now has 43 points and 88 PIM in 63 games. Centering the top line, the 30-year-old is a reliable goal-scorer who contributes in multiple fantasy categories.

 
 
 
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