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Neutral Zone Wrap: Injuries are piling up

by | Rotowire.com
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One quarter of the way through and all is well in the NHL. The action is quick, the competition is intense and the excitement is indescribable. And the fans are eating it up, right down to the final second of every game.

But then there are the injuries. Oh boy, how they've multiplied lately. Don't think a recent list of casualties needs to be mentioned, so let's just say their absence affects many fantasy teams – enough to make the average owner contemplate undertaking a new hobby.

If you lost a player to a serious injury, then there's nothing you can do. Move on. But if he is carrying some form of non-threatening physical issue, then evaluation is required. Based on the injury, can he return within a week? A month? Longer? Has this problem been lingering and/or possibly hindering performance?

Only when these questions have been answered can you properly assess the status of your lineup. Then you can decide how to fix the holes and reach a point where injuries don't matter. (Except if more than, say, three or four are out. Then you may want to consult a fantasy expert for further consultation.)

After a couple weeks of fooling around with projections, we're back to the five-team format. Let's check the latest talk:

(Stats as of Monday November 18)

The Lightning may have blown a fuse but that won't discourage the current Eastern Conference leaders. Yes, Steven Stamkos (broken tibia) is All-World and will be missed. But his absence only allows others their chance to shine. Valtteri Filppula becomes the obvious beneficiary as he moves up on the power-play (where he has already amassed seven points). Alex Killorn (seven in eight) had already been promoted to the top line but now he moves to center, which allows hotshot Brett Connolly (one goal in nine) to slot in at wing. Tyler Johnson began with a bang last season (six in his first five) and has the chance to build upon this. At 39, maybe we shouldn't expect a lot from Sami Salo (scoreless in 11). And if you haven't heard of Radko Gudas by now (six points, 61 PIM, 74 hits), then you've surely missed the boat.

If you're looking for bargain replacements, then Phoenix is your place to shop. Beyond the obvious leaders, Lauri Korpikoski (five in four) remains your first cheaper option. Give David Moss (five in nine) a chance as long as he continues to skate with the first unit. Rob Klinkhammer (three in 11 after four goals in the opening half) has slowed enough to avoid recommendation. Michael Stone (six points -- all goals) serves as the newest blueline flavor of the week, but keep an eye on repeated letdown David Rundblad (he of the one PPP and 14 healthy scratches) to see if he can string a few decent efforts together.

Defense wins championships, but you probably won't go far if you can't score enough. Minnesota may own the best statistical goalie and uplifting story in Josh Harding (12-2-2, 1.25 GAA, .946 SV%), but they're a few markers short of becoming elite (19th in the league with a 2.47 average). Any one of Charlie Coyle, Mikael Granlund, or Nino Niederreiter (combined seven goals) could find the net a little more. Oh, and that former 50-goal man Dany Heatley (four points matching his fourth-line service) must surely be able to recall what he used to do regularly. Jared Spurgeon (seven, including three PPPs) looks to be maintaining his position but one would like to see more from Jonas Brodin (nothing in nine) based on the massive minutes (25:03 a night).

Perhaps we need to see more from Columbus before we can judge their overall worthiness. Management gave up quite a bit to acquire Marian Gaborik (11 in 17, out at least a month), yet Brandon Dubinsky (15, 40 PIM, 53 hits) continues to assert himself as the more consistent arrival from NYC. Don't discount R.J. Umberger, whose hard work has usually translated to the stat sheet (four goals in seven). Both Ryan Johansen (13) and Cam Atkinson (eight) appear to be able to hold their own. No need to highlight James Wisniewski (leads club with 16 points) but here's a thumbs-up for both veteran Fedor Tyutin (four PPPs) and rookie Ryan Murray (only four but up to almost a 19-minute average). As for Jack Johnson (five, minus-7), well, he better improve or else we'll begin to associate that full name with some sappy songwriter/surfer.

Nashville sure picked the wrong division to be in, as they sit last in the Central even though they own a non-losing record. Ain't no slowing down David Legwand (12 in 10) and no need to rush two-time wounded Mike Fisher (eight in 13). Much more is required from both Gabriel Bourque (five) and Colin Wilson (four-point game in between 11 zeroes). Seth Jones started off his pro career with promise (four in first eight) but now he's truly learning the ropes (one in six, demoted to third defensive pairing). That means Roman Josi (two PPAs Saturday) has been reunited with Shea Weber. Even with Pekka Rinne (hip infection) out indefinitely, stay away from either Carter Hutton (3.39 GAA, .891 SV% in 10) or Marek Mazanec (3.16 GAA, .911 SV% in four).

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Player News
Nikita Kucherov
Bolts' Kucherov Scores Twice In Game 6 Loss
Nikita Kucherov, RW, TB
8:37 PM
News: Nikita Kucherov potted a pair of garbage-time goals in Tuesday's Game 6 loss to the Rangers.
Analysis: His eighth and ninth goals of the playoffs came with the Lightning trailing 5-1 and then 6-2, so they were mainly good for padding his playoff stat line. It's a fine line indeed, as he's sitting on an outstanding 19 points in 19 contests -- good for a tie with Anaheim's Ryan Getzlaf for second in postseason scoring behind Nikita Kucherov's linemate Tyler Johnson.

Ryan Callahan
Bolts' Callahan Finally Tallies Against Rangers
Ryan Callahan, RW, TB
8:35 PM
News: Ryan Callahan potted his first playoff goal -- and first point since April 29 -- on a power play in Tuesday's Game 6 loss to the Rangers. He finished minus-2 with five shots.
Analysis: Ryan Callahan got left all alone by the Rangers' defensemen as he floated by the blue line, got fed a long lead pass, and broke in on Henrik Lundqvist with a quick deke to beat him for a stick-side goal. His last point came in Game 7 against Detroit, and Cally had only tallied three helpers over his first 17 playoff games. The appendix surgery that kept him out of the series-clinching Game 6 against Montreal only excuses part of that. Nonetheless, he looks like he's back to full health already, and you can be sure that he'll put forth a strong effort in Game 7 back at his old haunt, Madison Square Garden.

James Sheppard
Rangers' Sheppard Scores First Playoff Goal
James Sheppard, LW, NYR
8:28 PM
News: James Sheppard scored his first goal of the playoffs in Tuesday's Game 6 against the Lightning, tallying the eventual game-winning tally in the third period.
Analysis: James Sheppard played a game-low (among Rangers) 8:35 in fourth-line duty, but scored a hard-working goal to put the Rangers up 4-1. It was the second tally of what ended up being a five-goal period for the Rangers, with Tampa chipping in a pair of goals to turn Sheppard's into the game-winner. It was his first point since May 10 against Washington.

Keith Yandle
Yandle Helps Rangers Force Game 7 Against Tampa
Keith Yandle, D, NYR
8:25 PM
News: Keith Yandle scored his second goal of the playoffs and added a power-play assist Tuesday in a Game 6 victory against Tampa Bay.
Analysis: He's played his best hockey since joining the Rangers -- by far -- in the Eastern Conference Final against the Lightning. Over the first six games, Keith Yandle's racked up seven points and a plus-6 rating, as this series' fast-paced play has been right up his alley. The Rangers will be counting on Yandle to help drive their offense from the blue line in Game 7 on Friday.

Rick Nash
Rangers' Nash Racks Up Four Points In Game 6
Rick Nash, LW, NYR
8:08 PM
News: Rick Nash scored a power-play goal and handed out there assists in Tuesday's Game 6 victory over the Lightning.
Analysis: After getting shut out in Game 5 at home, the Rangers needed Rick Nash to step up and drive their offense in Game 6, and he did just that. It was his gorgeous pass to Derick Brassard that led to J.T. Miller's first goal of the playoffs, pushing the Rangers' lead to 3-1 early in the third period. Nash has had a quiet playoffs overall, but now has seven points in the last three games. If he can stay hot in Game 7 on Friday, it'll be trouble for Tampa.

J.T. Miller
Rangers' Miller Explodes For Four Points
J.T. Miller, C, NYR
8:05 PM
News: J.T. Miller scored his first goal of the playoffs, dished out three assists and went plus-4 in Tuesday's Game 6 victory over the Lightning.
Analysis: J.T. Miller's seen extensive playing time alongside Derick Brassard and Rick Nash in these playoffs, but although he's been able to generate offensive chances, he's been snakebitten as far as finding the net. That was certainly not the case Tuesday for any member of his trio, as they combined for 13 points to send the series on to Game 7 in New York.

Henrik Lundqvist
Lundqvist Stops 36, Rangers Stay Alive For Game 7
Henrik Lundqvist, G, NYR
8:00 PM
News: Henrik Lundqvist turned away 36 of 39 shots in Tuesday's Game 6 win over the Lightning.
Analysis: Henrik Lundqvist's huge saves in the first two periods helped the Rangers hold a small lead 'til the third, when their offense exploded for five goals. He only gave up Tampa's second and third tallies when the Rangers had 5-1 and 6-2 leads. Now Henrik and the Blueshirts will head back to Madison Square Garden, where they'll host the Lightning in Friday's Game 7.

Derick Brassard
Brassard's Hat Trick Leads Rangers To Game 6 Win
Derick Brassard, C, NYR
7:57 PM
News: Derick Brassard scored three goals on 10 shots, added two assists and went plus-5 in Tuesday's Game 6 victory over the Lightning.
Analysis: The hat-trick-completing goal came into an empty net, but it was a well-deserved one, as Derick Brassard played an excellent game. With nine goals and seven assists in these playoffs, he's been the Rangers' most reliable offensive performer.

Ben Bishop
Bolts' Bishop Chased In Game 6
Ben Bishop, G, TB
7:54 PM
News: Ben Bishop gave up five goals on 26 shots before being pulled from Tuesday's Game 6 loss at the hands of the Rangers.
Analysis: He and the Lightning came in with a chance to close the Rangers out and trailed 2-1 after two periods, but were unable to keep it close in the third, giving up three goals in a span of 4:12. Andrei Vasilevskiy delivered competent work in relief, but the Lightning will almost certainly turn back to Ben Bishop for Game 7 at Madison Square Garden on Friday.

Braydon Coburn
Bolts' Coburn To Play In Game 6
Braydon Coburn, D, TB
4:45 PM
News: Braydon Coburn (illness) is on the ice for pregame warmups and looks poised to play in Tuesday's Game 6 against the Rangers, Matt Baker of the Tampa Bay Times reports.
Analysis: The Lightning are skating seven defensemen in their warmups, but it's likely the case where coach Jon Cooper is leaning toward going with only 11 forwards rather than 12, a lineup choice he's made previously in the playoffs. Braydon Coburn seems to be fine after participating in both morning skate and warmups, and should be in the lineup for minutes in the mid- to upper-teens.

 
 
 
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