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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
Tyler Kennedy
Sharks' Kennedy (Upper Body) Won't Return Saturday
Tyler Kennedy, C, SJ
10/26/2014
News: Tyler Kennedy (upper body) will not return from injured reserve for Saturday's game with the Sabres, David Pollak of the San Jose Mercury News reports.
Analysis: There was some optimism Tyler Kennedy might be back in action Saturday after he took part in line rushes during Friday's practice, but the team decided he could use a little more recovery time. The Sharks could choose to activate him for Sunday's game against the Ducks, or at some point later in the upcoming week.

Semyon Varlamov
Avs' Varlamov Prepared To Start Sunday
Semyon Varlamov, G, COL
10/26/2014
News: Semyon Varlamov will be in the net Sunday against the Jets, Mike Chambers of the Denver Post reports.
Analysis: Semyon Varlamov performed only so-so Friday in his first start since being sidelined with a groin injury, limiting the Jets to three goals on 29 shot attempts. Fortunately, the Avs' sputtering offense finally decided to show up Friday, busting out for seven scores in the runaway victory. It's probably a long shot for Varlamov to replicate last season's total of 41 wins, but if his mates play up to their talent level with any consistency, Varlamov should finish with a record well above .500.

Ryan Callahan
Bolts Move Callahan To IR
Ryan Callahan, RW, TB
10/26/2014
News: Ryan Callahan (lower body) was moved to injured reserve Saturday, Erik Erlendsson of the Tampa Tribune reports.
Analysis: The placement on IR will be retroactive to Ryan Callahan's most-recent game on Oct. 20, allowing the forward to return to action as soon as the team's medical staff deems him fit to play. Callahan was able to get in a skate Friday, but because the Bolts are labeling his injury as week-to-week, there's no guarantee that he'll be back in action within a few games.

Alex Killorn
Bolts Place Killorn On IR
Alex Killorn, C, TB
10/26/2014
News: Alex Killorn (upper body) was placed on injured reserve Saturday but is considered close to a return, Erik Erlendsson of the Tampa Tribune reports.
Analysis: With Alex Killorn already ruled out Saturday for the Bolts' fourth straight game, he'll be placed on injured reserve retroactively and will be able to play as soon as the team determines he's healthy. Killorn suffered the injury during Monday's morning skate, when he collided hard into the end boards with his shoulder and head, resulting in some soreness and tightness but no concussion-like symptoms. If he's able to get in a practice in the next two days, he could be cleared to return to action Tuesday against the Coyotes.

Brett Connolly
Bolts' Connolly Week-To-Week With Injury
Brett Connolly, RW, TB
10/26/2014
News: Brett Connolly suffered a lower-body injury in Friday's game against the Jets and is considered week-to-week, Erik Erlendsson of the Tampa Tribune reports.
Analysis: The 22-year-old Brett Connolly seemed to be on the cusp of a breakthrough in his first eight games of the season, notching two goals while seeing time on the team's second line. However, it looks like the injury will present an unfortunate roadblock for him to build on those early successes, as Connolly figures to miss the next several games. Michael Blunden and Jonathan Marchessault were recalled from AHL Syracuse on Saturday to provide the Bolts with some extra forward options while Connolly remains unavailable.

J.T. Brown
Bolts' Brown Ruled Out Saturday
J.T. Brown, RW, TB
10/26/2014
News: J.T. Brown is day-to-day with an upper-body injury and will not play Saturday against the Wild, Erik Erlendsson of the Tampa Tribune reports.
Analysis: It's assumed that J.T. Brown suffered the injury at some point in Friday's loss to the Wild. Fellow winger Brett Connolly also fell victim to injury and will not be available Saturday, prompting the team to promote Jonathan Marchessault and Michael Blunden to the NHL squad to replenish some depth at forward.

Jonathan Quick
Kings Expected To Stick With Quick On Sunday
Jonathan Quick, G, LA
10/26/2014
News: Jonathan Quick is expected to draw the start in goal Sunday against the Blue Jackets, Jon Rosen of LAKingsInsider.com reports.
Analysis: Jonathan Quick was the first goalie off the ice at Saturday's practice, a likely sign that he'll be receiving the nod for Sunday's tilt. The 28-year-old has certainly justified his big-money contract through six appearances in 2014-15, going 4-1-1 with a 1.54 GAA and .958 save percentage.

Martin Hanzal
Coyotes' Hanzal Expected To Return Tuesday
Martin Hanzal, C, ARI
10/26/2014
News: Coach Dave Tippett said he expects Martin Hanzal (lower body) to return to action Tuesday against the Lightning, Sarah McLellan of the Arizona Republic reports.
Analysis: Martin Hanzal was able to get in a skate Saturday morning, and while he won't be cleared to return for the game later that evening against the Panthers, the forward noted that he was feeling better than anticipated during the session. If Hanzal is able to get in a practice on either Sunday or Monday, the team's trianing staff figures to sign off on his return to game action.

David Moss
Long-Term Absence Could Be In Play For Yotes' Moss
David Moss, RW, ARI
10/26/2014
News: David Moss (upper body) appears to be dealing with a long-term injury, Sarah McLellan of the Arizona Republic reports.
Analysis: David Moss hasn't resumed skating since leaving Thursday's game with the upper-body injury and will face more tests Saturday to receive a clearer diagnosis of his condition. If the tests confirm that Moss' injury is more than a day-to-day concern as expected, look for the Coyotes to place him on injured reserve at some point next week.

Cory Schneider
Devils' Schneider Will Start Saturday
Cory Schneider, G, NJ
2:08 PM
News: Cory Schneider will start between the pipes Saturday night against the Senators, Tom Gulitti of the Bergen Record reports.
Analysis: Cory Schneider has dropped his last four decisions, but will look to get back on track Saturday against the Sens. The netminder is now 3-2-2 on the season with a .907 save percentage and a GAA of 2.93.

 
 
 
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