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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
John Mitchell
Avs' Mitchell (Face) Out Second Straight Game
John Mitchell, C, COL
11/26/2014
News: John Mitchell (leg) will not play Tuesday against the Coyotes, Mike Chambers of the Denver Post reports.
Analysis: John Mitchell didn't even make the trip to Arizona for the game, as he continues to recover from the injury he's believed to have sustained last Thursday against the Capitals. Since it doesn't sound like he's resumed skating yet, it appears doubtful that Mitchell will be able to play in Wednesday's home date with the Blackhawks.

Alex Tanguay
Avs Reverse Course, Rule Tanguay Out Tuesday
Alex Tanguay, LW, COL
11/26/2014
News: Alex Tanguay (fractured jaw), who was expected to return to the lineup Tuesday against the Coyotes, will instead miss his second consecutive game, Mike Chambers of the Denver Post reports.
Analysis: After it was indicated a day earlier that Alex Tanguay wouldn't have to miss further time due to the jaw injury, coach Patrick Roy said the forward was still experiencing blurred vision and pain on the side of his head following Tuesday's morning skate. Fortunately, it doesn't sound like the setback is significant for Tanguay at the moment, so with an extra day off, the possibility exists that he could be ready to go when the Avs return home for a game Wednesday versus the Blackhawks.

Clayton Stoner
Ducks' Stoner Skates Tuesday Morning
Clayton Stoner, D, ANA
11/26/2014
News: Clayton Stoner (illness) took part in Tuesday's morning skate but doesn't think he'll be cleared to return until the weekend, Eric Stephens of the Orange County Register reports.
Analysis: Merely being on the ice amounts to a good sign for Clayton Stoner, as it was feared that he had been the latest Ducks player to succumb to the debilitating mumps virus. Stoner's symptoms were believed to be similar to the virus, but team doctors determined his particular illness wasn't contagious after he never experienced a fever. He's still need to skate for a few days to get his conditioning back up to par before coach Bruce Boudreau decides whether or not to use him Friday versus the Blackhawks.

Donald Brashear
Ex-NHLer Brashear Signs With Swedish Team
Donald Brashear, LW, ATL
11/26/2014
News: Donald Brashear signed a contract with MODO of the Swedish Hockey League on Tuesday.
Analysis: The move seemingly comes out of nowhere, as Donald Brashear hasn't played professional hockey since the 2009-10. It appears Brashear's relationship with former Flyers teammate Peter Forsberg, who serves as MODO's assistant GM, might have influenced the club's decision to bring him aboard. The long-time tough guy will be tasked with protecting MODO's stars, which most notably includes Maple Leafs prospect William Nylander, a top-10 pick in last June's NHL Entry Draft.

Sergei Bobrovsky
Jackets To Start Bobrovsky On Tuesday
Sergei Bobrovsky, G, CLB
11/26/2014
News: Sergei Bobrovsky will be in the net Tuesday against the Jets.
Analysis: Since holding the Sharks to one goal on 37 shots in his return from injured reserve Nov. 15, Sergei Bobrovsky has dropped his last three turns, yielding at least three goals in all of them. Fortunately, he'll have a good chance to turn the tide versus a struggling Jets attack that rank 29th in the NHL in scoring with 1.95 goals per game.

Bo Horvat
Horvat To Stick With Canucks
Bo Horvat, C, VAN
11/26/2014
News: Bo Horvat will remain with the Canucks rather than return to his junior team after his nine-game trial ends.
Analysis: Recalled by the Canucks earlier in November after missing the season's first month while recovering from a shoulder injury, Bo Horvat needed to impress out of the gate to warrant staying in Vancouver, and he was able to do just that. He's been especially superb over the Canucks' last two games, potting his first NHL goal on Nov. 20 and gathering three assists in Sunday's victory Sunday night. The 19-year-old could notice increased ice time after the three-assist performance, so it's certainly worthwhile to track him the next few games and possibly pick him up if he continues to thrive.

Milan Michalek
Sens Scratch Michalek On Tuesday
Milan Michalek, LW, OTT
4:39 PM
News: Milan Michalek wasn't on the ice for pregame warmups and appears to be a healthy scratch for Tuesday's game against the Blues, Bruce Garrioch of the Ottawa Sun reports.
Analysis: The Senators have dropped six of their last eight games, and though Milan Michalek hasn't been a total void during that stretch (four points), coach Paul MacLean seems inclined to shake up his lineup with the hope of more positive results. Mika Zibanejad will also spend Tuesday's game with Michalek in the press box, as both Colin Greening and Erik Condra step in to replace them.

Mika Zibanejad
Sens Scratch Zibanejad On Tuesday
Mika Zibanejad, C, OTT
4:37 PM
News: Mika Zibanejad wasn't on the ice for pregame warmups and will be a healthy scratch for Tuesday's game against the Blues, Bruce Garrioch of the Ottawa Sun reports.
Analysis: The Senators have dropped six of their last eight games, and coach Paul MacLean seems inclined to shake up his lineup with the hope of generating more positive results. The timing of Mika Zibanejad's assignment to the press box is a bit odd, as such a lineup decision probably should have happened early in the season, when the forward failed to score a point and attempted just nine shots on goal over his first eight games. Milan Michalek will also serve as a healthy scratch Tuesday, with both Colin Greening and Erik Condra entering the lineup.

Calvin de Haan
Isles' De Haan Returns To Practice Tuesday
Calvin de Haan, D, NYI
4:37 PM
News: De Haan (illness) returned to practice Tuesday, according to Newsday's Arthur Staple.
Analysis: De Haan had missed the game Monday but is expected to play Wednesday against the Capitals. De Haan doesn't get much power play time with the addition of Johnny Boychuk and Nick Leddy so his offensive upside is limited.

Martin Jones
Kings' Jones Gets Rare Start
Martin Jones, G, LA
4:35 PM
News: Martin Jones led the Kings on to the ice for pregame warmups and will make Tuesday's start against the Predators, Helene Elliott of the Los Angeles Times reports.
Analysis: Martin Jones draws into the crease for Game 1 of a back-to-back set for the Kings, who are expected to roll with regular netminder Jonathan Quick on Wednesday in Minnesota. The backup goalie is 1-2 with a 1.83 GAA over four appearances this season.

 
 
 
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