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Neutral Zone Wrap: Managing the disappointments

by | Rotowire.com
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When life brings you down, convention dictates one of two responses: lie down and get run over or fight back and reclaim your dignity. If the first path is your preference, then inertia is your friend. Don't bother getting up, as it'll only make you tired again. However, should redemption be your goal, there are several ways to achieve this. C'mon, fight back. Your ego may be bruised repeatedly but that shouldn't stop your spirit from rising above the negativity.

NHLers with above-average skill sets who underperform pose a problem for Fantasy owners. Should you dump them immediately or wait a bit and trust in their abilities to recover based on stats and history? Banking on a name will work up to the point where frustration sets in because the numbers clearly don't match.

A few readers have asked me the same question over the last week, so I will provide the following answer: Have faith in Claude Giroux. Or any of the higher profile Flyers (but not the team itself) who have returned far less on investment than expected. And that means the likes of Jakub Voracek, Scott Hartnell, Wayne Simmonds, and yes, even Kimmo Timonen can be trusted upon for at least a minor upsurge. Try trading for one or more of them, but only as long as the asking price is within reason.

Let's move on and talk about the other skaters who have angered us with their slow starts. But these ones are poised to start increasing their production, either due to pedigree, some sort of change, or the Law of Averages kicking in:

(Stats as of Monday November 11)

Dustin Brown, F, Kings: The summer of 2012 was a special time for Brown. Not only did the Kings win the Stanley Cup but he also became the second American captain to hoist the Holy Grail. And while his current haul (seven points in 17 contests) may not be atrocious, there is room for improvement. Consider the last six full seasons, where 46 was his lowest point total (way back in 2006-07). You'll also notice how Brown seems to step up his effort during the stretch drive (including 23 in 21 to finish the 2011-12 campaign). Remember he missed most of training camp with an injury, so perhaps all the inactivity hasn't fully been shaken off.

Michael Del Zotto, D, Rangers: For someone with a history of questionable defensive skills, it's tough to see Del Zotto struggle offensively (one goal, three assists). While labeling him a power-play specialist may be misleading, this turns out to be the strongest area of his game (eight of 21 points last year). The York Region native may never earn big even-strength minutes (sitting at 16) but he is adept at moving the puck and finding open teammates in the opponent's end. Be patient with DZ; the opportunities will come.

Jonathan Huberdeau, F, Panthers: Blink and you may forget Huberdeau serves as the reigning Rookie of the Year. While his freshman tour consisted of highlight goals and nifty moves, there also existed maturity – one from probably having stayed an extra year in junior. With the QMJHL standout facing his first full professional schedule and the pressure of avoiding a sophomore slump, it is entirely understandable if he felt discouraged during a recent five-game point drought (on the same homestand, no less). The good news is that Huberdeau has regained a bit (three in five), while retaining his top forward status (first with 17:51 a night) on a relatively weak Panthers attack.

Ryan Miller, G, Sabres: It is inevitable. The prognosticators have said it will take place soon. Based on the way the Sabres are sliding and for his long-standing service to the organization, it is only deserving Miller should earn a first-class ticket to a more favorable situation. The 33-year old has been asked to stand on his head (3.40 GAA, .912 SV% facing an average of nearly 38 shots) behind a shoddy Buffalo D and, well, you see how awesome that has worked out in the standings. If a contender is ready to shell out the resources to acquire Miller, then that would surely boost his Fantasy value.

Alexander Semin, F, Hurricanes: Once regarded as one of the best snipers in the league, Semin has gone on to develop a better overall game. The occasional brain freeze or sudden lack of interest still happens but less frequently. Carolina haven't exactly endeared themselves as a scoring machine this season (third worst at 1.84 goals per game), thereby justifying why any of their top players could have been listed in this column. But let's concentrate on the speedy Russian, what he hasn't been doing lately (one in five), and why he is bound to rediscover his touch (first PP duty, second among Canes forwards averaging over 20 minutes).

(Honorable mention: Craig Anderson, G, Senators; Sergei Gonchar, D, Stars; Dany Heatley, F, Wild; Brad Marchand, F, Bruins; Nail Yakupov, F, Oilers)

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Player News
Marc Methot
No Timetable For Sens' Methot
Marc Methot, D, OTT
10:16 AM
News: Coach Dave Cameron said Friday that Marc Methot re-aggravated his back injury and is without a timetable for a return, Ian Mendes of TSN 1200 reports.
Analysis: This wasn't unexpected news after the Senators returned Marc Methot to injured reserve Monday, just over a week after he made his season debut. Methot missed over two months with the back injury the first time around, so it wouldn't be a major surprise if an absence of a similar length of time is in store for the blueliner again.

Matt Cooke
Wild's Cooke Hopeful For Saturday
Matt Cooke, LW, MIN
10:13 AM
News: Matt Cooke (hip) practiced again Friday and appears optimistic about his chances of returning to the lineup Saturday against the Predators, John Shipley of the St. Paul Pioneer Press reports.
Analysis: Matt Cooke will test out his hip injury for what he hopes will be a final time Saturday morning, and if all goes well, he'll likely be activated from IR. The bottom-six agitator has missed the past 22 games with the injury, putting a blemish on what had been a productive season to that point. He had an impressive six points through his first eight games, though that level of offense is probably not sustainable given that his career-best for points in a season is just 42.

Ryan Carter
Wild's Carter Practices Friday
Ryan Carter, C, MIN
10:09 AM
News: Ryan Carter (upper body) was present for Friday's practice, John Shipley of the St. Paul Pioneer Press reports.
Analysis: Ryan Carter looks like he's just about ready to return from the upper-body injury that has kept him out of action for the last three games. Because he's missed beyond the seven-day minimum required for his IR stint, Carter could be activated in advance of Saturday's game against the Predators if coach Mike Yeo believes his health is sufficient. If that's the case, Carter would likely be plugged in on the fourth line.

Darcy Kuemper
Wild's Kuemper Takes To The Ice
Darcy Kuemper, G, MIN
10:06 AM
News: Darcy Kuemper (stomach illness) was back on the ice for practice Friday, John Shipley of the St. Paul Pioneer Press reports.
Analysis: The illness kept Darcy Kuemper unavailable for both of the Wild's last two games, but the demotion of goalie call-up John Curry back to AHL Iowa on Thursday suggests that Kuemper is now healthy. Assuming that coach Mike Yeo came away satisfied with Kuemper's performance during Friday's practice, he'll likely be tapped for the start Saturday against Nashville in light of the heavier workload Niklas Backstrom has been forced to assume of late.

Cory Schneider
Devils' Schneider To Make Next Start Saturday
Cory Schneider, G, NJ
10:02 AM
News: Cory Schneider will make his next start Saturday against the Capitals, Rich Chere of the Newark Star-Ledger reports.
Analysis: Cory Schneider will be rested Friday against the Lightning in favor of backup Keith Kinkaid, who coach Pete DeBoer said was deserving of another start after turning in dependable play in his first five appearances of the season. With the Devils' schedule heavy with games of late, DeBoer has been forced to pump the brakes on using Schneider as extensively as he had been through October and November, but an extra rest here and there should only help the goalie. He's lost three games in a row and has a 2.55 GAA and .916 save percentage over 30 outings, ratios that pale in comparison to what he provided a season earlier.

Jacob Josefson
Devils' Josefson Not Being Ruled Out
Jacob Josefson, C, NJ
9:58 AM
News: Though he didn't take part in the Devils' morning skate, Jacob Josefson (groin) hasn't been ruled out for Friday's game against the Lightning, Rich Chere of the Newark Star-Ledger reports.
Analysis: Devils general manager Lou Lamoriello said that Jacob Josefson is still a possibility Friday night, since the center took the option of sitting out the morning skate in attempt to aid his recovery. He'll officially be a coach's decision for the match, leaving Pete DeBoer to make the choice between Josefson or Tim Sestito as his fourth-line center.

Travis Hamonic
Isles' Hamonic Removed From IR
Travis Hamonic, D, NYI
9:50 AM
News: Travis Hamonic (upper body) was activated from injured reserve Friday.
Analysis: After he was able to practice over the last several days, Travis Hamonic will be cleared to rejoin the lineup following a six-game absence. He doesn't offer many contributions in the scoring categories, but his steady play on his own end will be welcomed by an Islanders squad that suffered from uneven play defensively in recent back-to-back losses to the Blues.

Johnny Boychuk
Isles Activate Boychuk
Johnny Boychuk, D, NYI
9:47 AM
News: Johnny Boychuk (upper body) was activated from injured reserve Friday.
Analysis: Johnny Boychuk will return to the lineup for Friday's game against the Red Wings for the first time since Nov. 26, an absence that spanned nine games. The Islanders will also get Travis Hamonic (upper body) back Friday, putting the team's top two defensive pairings back in tact.

Jaroslav Halak
Isles Sticking With Halak On Friday
Jaroslav Halak, G, NYI
9:43 AM
News: Jaroslav Halak will be between the pipes Friday against the Red Wings.
Analysis: While his recent 11-game winning streak is now kaput, Jaroslav Halak has rebounded from back-to-back dreadful outings against the Blues with strong efforts in wins over the Blackhawks and Devils, respectively. His play has the Isles looking like one of the Eastern Conference's better teams this season, as he enters Friday's tilt with an outstanding 16-6-0 record to accompany his 2.35 GAA and .917 save percentage.

Steve Mason
Flyers' Mason May Have Suffered Significant Injury
Steve Mason, G, PHI
9:37 AM
News: Steve Mason left Friday's practice with what could be a significant injury, Frank Seravalli of the Philadelphia Daily News reports. The goalie was unable to leave the ice under his own power and required assistance to the locker room.
Analysis: Details remain scarce regarding his condition, but it looked to be a non-contact injury, as Steve Mason fell to the ice after his body seemed to inexplicably lock up. The Flyers' training staff will likely examine him extensively to see what kind of injury he's dealing with, so it might not be until Saturday that the nature of the ailment is revealed. Even if Mason's issue proves to be more minor than anticipated, Ray Emery still looks like the favorite to start Saturday's game against the Maple Leafs, and quite possibly, many more contests to come.

 
 
 
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