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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
Brandon DeFazio
DeFazio Signs With Bruins
Brandon DeFazio, LW, VAN
7/7/2015
News: Brandon DeFazio signed a one-year, two-way contract with the Bruins on Monday.
Analysis: Brandon DeFazio, who played two games for the Canucks last season, gives the B's organization some added depth up front and the 26-year-old could compete for a fourth-line role with the big club in training camp.

Marc-Andre Gragnani
Devils Sign Gragnani To Two-Way Deal
Marc-Andre Gragnani, D, NJ
1:13 PM
News: Marc-Andre Gragnani signed a one-year, two-way contract with the Devils on Friday, Tom Gulitti of The Record reports.
Analysis: Marc-Andre Gragnani returns to North America after spending the last two seasons in Europe, most recently with Bern of the Swiss Elite League. He led all defensemen in the league with 37 points in 49 games, which was good enough to earn him another look from an NHL club. The 28-year-old previously appeared in 74 NHL contests with the Sabres, Canucks, and Hurricanes, but will likely have to bide his time at AHL Albany before a role with the Devils comes to fruition.

Brett Connolly
Connolly Inks One-Year Deal With Bruins
Brett Connolly, RW, BOS
11:52 AM
News: Brett Connolly signed a one-year, $1.025 million contract with the Bruins on Monday.
Analysis: In the wake of the departures of fellow forwards Carl Soderberg and Milan Lucic this offseason, Brett Connolly -- who the Bruins obtained from Tampa Bay this past March -- has a real shot at sliding into the team's top-six forward mix in 2015-16. The 6-2, 181-pound winger tallied 12 goals and 17 points in 55 NHL games overall last season, and at age 23, the 2010 first-rounder could be poised for a break-out in his first full campaign with the B's.

Jimmy Hayes
Hayes Inks Three-Year Deal With Bruins
Jimmy Hayes, RW, BOS
11:33 AM
News: Jimmy Hayes signed a three-year, $6.9 million contract with the Bruins on Monday.
Analysis: The Boston native could potentially slot into the top-six role that was previously handled by the under-performing Reilly Smith, who was traded to the Panthers in exchange for Jimmy Hayes last week. Hayes proved that he can be a valuable offensive contributor last season with Florida, registering 19 goals and 35 points in 72 games. He's a big-bodied forward (6-foot-6, 221 pounds) who could become a valuable net-front presence for the B'son one of their power play units next season.

Andre Benoit
Benoit Inks One-Year Deal With Blues
Andre Benoit, D, BUF
9:24 AM
News: Andre Benoit signed a one-year, two-way contract with the Blues on Monday.
Analysis: Andre Benoit experienced a large dip in offensive production in 2014-15, tallying a mere nine points after registering 28 points in 2013-14. However, that dip in production can largely be attributed to the fact that the 31-year-old defender played 20 fewer games in 2014-15, and was a member of the league's worst team in the Sabres. A fresh start with a new team may be just what the doctor ordered for Benoit, but don't expect him to surpass the numbers he posted in the 2013-14 campaign.

Shawn Matthias
Leafs Sign Matthias
Shawn Matthias, C, VAN
9:21 AM
News: Shawn Matthias signed a one-year deal with the Leafs on Monday, the Province reports.
Analysis: The deal is reportedly worth $2.3 million. Shawn Matthias notched 18 goals and nine assists in 78 games with the Canucks this past season, playing mostly on the team's third line. His fantasy upside with the Leafs thus hinges on where he'll slot in with his new team line-wise, as well as whether or not sees more power play action that he did with Vancouver. With the Canucks, Matthias was used sparingly with the man advantage.

Evgeny Kuznetsov
Caps' Kuznetsov Seeking Short-Term Extension
Evgeny Kuznetsov, C, WAS
12:48 AM
News: Evgeny Kuznetsov's agent said that his client and the Capitals are exploring a two to three year contract extension, Alex Prewitt of The Washington Post reports.
Analysis: Evgeny Kuznetsov remains a restricted free agent and his re-signing is a top priority for general manager Brian MacLellan and the Capitals. After a slow start to his sophomore campaign, Kuznetsov was a mainstay as the team's second-line center by season's end, finishing with 37 points in 80 regular season games, as well as five goals and seven points in 14 playoff games. With outstanding offensive skills, Kuznetsov figures to be a fixture on the Capitals for many years to come, but appears willing to accept a bridge deal rather than sign a long-term extension at this time. Keep an eye on the situation as it unfolds, but all signs point to Kuznetsov staying in DC for now.

Marcus Johansson
Caps' RFA Johansson Files For Salary Arbitration
Marcus Johansson, C, WAS
7/5/2015
News: Marcus Johansson filed for salary arbitration on Sunday, and will have his hearing heard during the arbitration period from July 20th to August 4th, Alex Prewitt of The Washington Post reports.
Analysis: If the case goes before the arbiter, Marcus Johansson will take a contract extension with a maximum of two years. While the filing is indicative of disagreement between Johansson's camp and the Capitals about a new contract, there is still a very good chance the two sides will get a deal done before the case is heard. A fixture in the Capitals top-six last season, Johansson has a career-high of 20 goals and 47 points in 82 games. The arrival of T.J. Oshie and Justin Williams may complicate Johansson's deployment in next season's lineup, but general manager Brian MacLellan has made it clear he wants to keep Johansson with the team beyond next season. Keep an eye on the situation as it unfolds.

Braden Holtby
Caps' RFA Holtby Files For Salary Arbitration
Braden Holtby, G, WAS
7/5/2015
News: Braden Holtby filed for salary arbitration on Sunday, and will have his hearing heard during the arbitration period from July 20th to August 4th, Alex Prewitt of The Washington Post reports.
Analysis: If he goes through arbitration, Braden Holtby will receive a contract with a maximum term of two years, the Capitals choice given that Holtby's camp chose to file for arbitration. An arbitration period certainly imposes a specific timeframe for the Capitals to work out a long-term extension for Holtby, who is coming off a career year in which he posted a 2.22 GAA and .923 save percentage en route to a 41-20-10 record over 73 games during the regular season. Rounding out a season worthy of Vezina consideration (although he was not a finalist for the award), Holtby turned in an outstanding post-season effort cut short by the New York Rangers in the Eastern Conference semi-finals, but not before winning six games with a 1.71 GAA and .944 save percentage. All signs point to a big pay day for Holtby who has emerged as one of the league's top goaltenders, and while the Capitals are unlikely to let him slip away, there does appear to be some roadblocks in getting a deal done at the moment.

Landon Ferraro
Red Wings Ink Ferraro To One-Year Deal
Landon Ferraro, C, DET
7/5/2015
News: Landon Ferraro signed a one-year, two-way contract with the Red Wings on Sunday, MLive.com's Ansar Khan reports.
Analysis: Landon Ferraro has appeared in seven games over the last two seasons for the Red Wings as an injury replacement, but has otherwise yet to earn a full-time role at the NHL level. Expect him to again see most of his action this season at AHL Grand Rapids, where he compiled 27 goals and 42 points in 70 games in 2014-15.

 
 
 
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