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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
Josh Harding
Wild GM On Harding's Injury: "Not Short Term"
Josh Harding, G, MIN
9:45 AM
News: Wild GM Chuck Fletcher categorized the foot and ankle injury that Josh Harding sustained earlier this week as "not short term," Chad Graff of the St. Paul Pioneer Press reports.
Analysis: The Wild are only ruling Josh Harding out for the start of the team's training camp for now, but it seems a likely bet that he won't be available for the team's Oct. 9 regular-season opener against the Avalanche. The injury puts the Wild in a bit of a bind, as Niklas Backstrom will enter camp as the team's only NHL-ready goalie, with Darcy Kuemper continuing to negotiate a new contract with the Wild. Once healthy, Harding figures to factor into the mix for No. 1 duties, but the missed action during training camp may prove damaging to his chances.

Ryan Johansen
Jackets' Johansen Seems Headed For A Holdout
Ryan Johansen, C, CLB
9:06 AM
News: Blue Jackets GM Jarmo Kekalainen dropped strong hints that the club would stop negotiating with Ryan Johansen's agent once training camp begins on Thursday, the Columbus Dispatch reports.
Analysis: Meanwhile, club president John Davidson described agent Kurt Overhardt's contract proposals as "embarrassing" and "absurd", and said that while the Jackets are using Matt Duchesne's bridge deal as a reasonable point of comparison, Overhardt has been tossing around names like Stamkos and Toews. Public statements like these are clearly a negotiating tactic, but the Jackets do have enough depth at center that they could try to survive the loss of Ryan Johansen, last season's top scorer, by shifting Boone Jenner into the middle or possibly giving a prospect like Alexander Wennberg a long look.

Kris Letang
Pens' Letang At 100 Percent In Advance Of Camp
Kris Letang, D, PIT
9/16/2014
News: Kris Letang, who suffered a stroke nearly eight months ago, has been working out without any complications this summer and should be a full participant for the start of training camp, Josh Yohe of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reports.
Analysis: In addition to the stroke, Kris Letang was limited to 37 games last season due to a knee injury and an elbow infection. Though he's the ultimate health risk after missing 99 games over the last three seasons, but few blueliners possess as much skill offensively as Letang, who still accumulated 11 goals and 11 assists in limited action in 2013-14. Letang compiled 50 points in his last full season in 2010-11, and that peak could be in reach again if he can avoid any long-term health complications.

Derrick Pouliot
Pens' Pouliot Not Expected To Be Ready For Camp
Derrick Pouliot, D, PIT
9/16/2014
News: Penguins coach Mike Johnston said Tuesday that Derrick Pouliot (shoulder) likely won't be ready for training camp, Josh Yohe of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reports.
Analysis: Johnston said that Derrick Pouliot, one of the team's top prospects, would likely be able to take part in some skating at the start of camp, but he'll be held out of contact drills until further notice. The former No. 8 overall draft pick accumulated 17 goals and 53 assists over 58 games last season with the WHL's Portland Winterhawks.

Olli Maatta
Pens' Maatta To Receive Update Later In Week
Olli Maatta, D, PIT
9/16/2014
News: Olli Maatta could be cleared for physical contact Wednesday or Thursday, Josh Yohe of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reports.
Analysis: Olli Maatta was ruled out for four-to-six months after undergoing shoulder surgery in May, but there seems to be legitimate optimism that he might beat that timetable and be ready to go for the start of training camp. Even if that materializes, expect the Penguins to limit Maatta's involvement in the early going, with the hope of preparing him for a full slate of minutes for the regular-season opener. The 20-year-old flashed a ton of potential as a rookie last season, accruing nine goals and 20 assists over 78 games.

Anthony Mantha
Wings' Mantha Suffers Injury At Prospects Tourney
Anthony Mantha, RW, DET
9/16/2014
News: Anthony Mantha suffered an undisclosed injury during the NHL's tournament for prospects and will not be available for the Red Wings' finale against the Hurricanes, MLive.com's Brendan Savage reports.
Analysis: Red Wings GM Ken Holland didn't offer any specifics on the nature of the injury other than saying Anthony Mantha was "banged up," but it appears he'll still be ready to return to the ice when training camp commences Friday. The 20-year-old was having an outstanding tournament with five points in three games and should be given a chance to win a spot on the Red Wings' 23-man roster in camp, though it's more likely he opens 2014-15 at the AHL level.

Ryane Clowe
Clowe Looks Ready For Devils Camp
Ryane Clowe, LW, NJ
9/16/2014
News: Ryane Clower (concussion) underwent tests for post-concussion syndrome on Tuesday and should be ready for training camp.
Analysis: Devils GM Lou Lamoriello said the exams were "very positive" and expects that "everything is on track for him to be at camp." Ryane Clowe sustained several concussions last season while scattering, rather unevenly, 26 points over 43 games and expects to be in the lineup on Opening Day. Clowe will see some top-six minutes while in the lineup, but his inconsistency and propensity for injury do not make him the safest pick.

Eric Gelinas
Gelinas Signs Before Devils Camp
Eric Gelinas, D, NJ
9/16/2014
News: Eric Gelinas signed a one-year, one-way contract worth $900,000 on Monday and will report to training camp.
Analysis: Getting Eric Gelinas, a restricted free agent, back under contract avoids a holdout by the 23-year old blue liner who snagged 29 points in a scattered 60-game campaign as a rookie one year earlier. The majority of Gelinas's points came before the All-Star break but he also saw himself shuttled between the NHL bench and Albany (AHL) in addition to having his ice time cut severely in some games. He played several games as a 13th forward and some as a seventh defensemen, seeing only power-play time. While Gelinas is under contract, he is, by no means, guaranteed a regular role on the team despite his considerable offensive upside. The team's coaching staff regularly made it known they want Gelinas to improve defensively before giving him a larger role on the team. Monitor his ice time in preseaon games but it's too early to go all-in on Gelinas considering the Devils, despite having an opening, had a tendency to play with his ice time, appearing noncommittal as to whether he would have a regular role on the team last season. Tread carefully.

Daniel Alfredsson
Daniel Alfredsson: Seeing Back Specialists
Daniel Alfredsson, RW, DET
9/16/2014
News: Daniel Alfredsson is visiting with back specialists and is not going to training camp with the Red Wings, Helene St. James of The Detroit Free Press reports.
Analysis: With Daniel Alfredsson's back ailing, it's looking more and more likely last year may have been his final season. Alfie has said he won't come back unless he's 100 percent, and although he wants to return to Detroit, it remains to be seen whether his body will let him.

Kevin Westgarth
Westgarth To Try Out With Oilers
Kevin Westgarth, RW, CGY
9/16/2014
News: Kevin Westgarth signed a professional tryout with the Oilers and will join the team for training camp, NHL.com's Aaron Vickers reports.
Analysis: Kevin Westgarth is nothing more than a checking-line pugilist, giving him value primarily in leagues that count penalty minutes. He'll first have to impress the Oilers in training camp before he gets the opportunity to reprise his enforcer role.

 
 
 
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