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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 Klingberg
Stars' Klingberg Sinks Canucks In OT
John Klingberg, D, DAL
12:52 PM
News: John Klingberg scored the overtime-winning goal Saturday against Vancouver.
Analysis: It was a perfect shot from the 22-year-old, who now has 11 goals and 38 points in 59 games. While his goal Saturday was his first in 22 games, the youngster has been logging heavy minutes for the Stars and has been steadily dishing out the assists. Playing on the top power-play unit with Tyler Seguin, John Klingberg has emerged as a lethal offensive defenseman who is playing a key role for a Stars team that has won five of their last six games.

Cody Eakin
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Cody Eakin, C, DAL
12:48 PM
News: Cody Eakin collected a pair of assist in Saturday's win over Vancouver.
Analysis: Skating on the second line, Cody Eakin has been producing steadily of late, racking up five goals and 11 points in his last 14 games. The 23-year-old has a career-high 17 goals this season and is a solid scorer for a Dallas team that has won five of their last six games.

Trevor Daley
Stars' Daley Assists Twice In Return
Trevor Daley, D, DAL
12:44 PM
News: Trevor Daley returned to the lineup Saturday, collecting two assists in 24:19 of ice time in Saturday's win over Vancouver.
Analysis: Trevor Daley had been out since March 3 with a knee injury, but returned in a big way Saturday, helping the Stars pick up their fifth win in six games. Daley now has 35 points in 62 games and appears back to full health. With 16 goals on the season, including six power-play tallies, Daley is worth adding if he's available.

Tyler Seguin
Stars' Seguin Pots 34th Goal
Tyler Seguin, C, DAL
12:38 PM
News: Tyler Seguin scored his 34th goal of the season and had an assist in Saturday's win over vancouver.
Analysis: Tyler Seguin is now up to 69 points in 66 games, with early-November marking the last time he went more than two games without recording a point. With 11 power-play tallies and 258 shots on goal, the 23-year-old fantasy stud is a must-start every game.

Eddie Lack
Canucks' Lack Gives Up Four Goals In OT Loss
Eddie Lack, G, VAN
12:14 PM
News: Eddie Lack gave up four goals on 40 shots in Saturday's overtime loss to the Stars.
Analysis: A decent outing for Eddie Lack, who has now lost two straight games, surrendering seven goals in that span. The 27-year-old falls to 14-11-4 on the season, but still owns an impressive .919 save percentage and 2.48 GAA. Ryan Miller (knee) appears to be out for the remainder of the regular season, so the Canucks playoff hopes will be riding on Lack. Keep him rolling, as everything is on the line and he should be at his best.

Kari Lehtonen
Stars' Lehtonen Makes 33 Saves In Win
Kari Lehtonen, G, DAL
12:07 PM
News: Kari Lehtonen stopped 33 of 36 shots in Saturday's win over the Canucks.
Analysis: While Kari Lehtonen has won eight of his last 10 games, he's allowed at least three goals in four straight outings. While his .907 save percentage and 2.84 GAA needs work, Lehtonen's 34-15-10 record makes him a reliable fantasy option. He starts almost every game and hasn't suffered back-to-back regulation losses since late-January.

Chris Higgins
Canucks' Higgins Pots 11th Goal
Chris Higgins, LW, VAN
1:56 AM
News: Chris Higgins scored a power-play goal in Saturday's loss to Dallas.
Analysis: A rare power-play goal for Chris Higgins, who has just two tallies with the man advantage all season. While he often goes through dry spells, the 31-year-old has two goals and three points in his last three games and is playing alongside the red-hot Radim Vrbata. He's stuck at 11 goals on the season, but his recent play indicates he could be starting a hot streak to finish the regular season. If he can build off these last few performances, he could be worth scooping up in some very deep leagues.

Nick Bonino
Canucks' Bonino Nets Two Points In Loss
Nick Bonino, C, VAN
1:52 AM
News: Nick Bonino scored his 14th goal of the season and had an assist in Saturday's loss to the Stars.
Analysis: Nick Bonino has been producing steadily of late, notching three goals and nine points in his last 15 games. Skating on a line with Radim Vrbata and seeing second-unit power-play time, Bonino now has 34 points in 68 games on the season. He's isn't tearing it up, but his consistent production makes him worth a nab in deeper leagues, as these final games for the Canucks are must-wins.

Chris Tanev
Canucks' Tanev Logs Two Assists
Chris Tanev, D, VAN
1:42 AM
News: Chris Tanev registered a pair of assists in Saturday's loss to Dallas.
Analysis: While it was a good offensive night for Chris Tanev, he was a mess defensively, finishing a minus-2. The 25-year-old now has a career-high 18 points in 63 games, while averaging 20:59 of ice time. He shows flashes of offensive brilliance and his plus-9 rating is solid, but with just 48 shots on goal and two power-play points, Tanev's fantasy value is mostly restricted to deeper formats.

Radim Vrbata
Canucks' Vrbata Scores 30th Goal
Radim Vrbata, RW, VAN
1:38 AM
News: Radim Vrbata hit the 30-goal mark Saturday, scoring a power-play goal and adding an assist in a loss to the Stars.
Analysis: Another strong outing for Radim Vrbata, who has been firing on all cylinders of late. He now sits 10th in the NHL goal-scoring race and has racked up four goals and nine points in his last five games. He's fired 18 shots on goal in his last three games and is up to 58 points in 72 games on the season. You know what to do.

 
 
 
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