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Neutral Zone Wrap: No time to quit

by | Rotowire.com
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Don't ever give up. Even if you believe there isn't any chance for you to win or even make the playoffs in your league, there's still an incentive to keep up the fight. Rolling over was made for odometers and discount retailers, not Fantasy sports.

And what entails making an effort? Well, doing something is a great start. To be more specific, anything involving following trends and news and applying them to transactions counts as work. Got some dead weight to drop? Junk overboard! See the hottest player on the waiver wire? Yup, he's now yours. Hey, they may never end up helping but it probably makes you feel better to prevent others from owning then. So go out there and spoil it for the other guys (and gals).

Check the following flier material to see what's in stock and what isn't even fit for clearance:

(Stats as of Monday January 13)

Instead of leading with the main attraction, let's change it up and start from the bottom. And what better place to begin than Buffalo. It's amazing to see how competitive the Sabres have been of late, seeing how terrible they are at scoring (league-worst 1.58 goals per game). This column has already tabbed Tyler Ennis (17 points in 44 games with a minus-12) for an upswing and you expect Matt Moulson (one in six, minus-six) will turn it around. Once known as a better producer, Steve Ott isn't even posting enough penalty minutes (43 in 44) to justify a pickup. Much promise was bestowed on Marcus Foligno (scoreless in eight) but his dreams of becoming a top power forward have faded away. And if you're hoping for Ville Leino (one in 12) to break out, then the fates predict disappointment.

Philadelphia freedom. Gives peace of mind. Maybe not to the Flyers but it sure sounds like a good idea. No Matt Read (concussion, imminent return) means the likes of Michael Raffl (12 points on the first line) and Tye McGinn (three goals in eight and a temp job on the second power-play) see their chances to shine. It also allows Sean Couturier (20, over 19 minutes) greater opportunities to grow. Try to recall Steve Downie (zero in eight and a scratch) as a promising overall fantasy option and then quickly forget about it. Don't be fooled by the recent play of Andrej Meszaros (like those three assists last Wednesday), as his better fantasy days are long gone. Be confident in Steve Mason (despite allowing five goals in 40 minutes Saturday), since the alternative -- Ray Emery -- isn't exactly taking advantage of his chances (two wins in seven starts).

The specter of doom surrounds Minnesota but that hasn't stopped them. Without their top two forwards (Zach Parise and Mikko Koivu) and their breakout goaltender (the all-world Josh Harding), the Wild have introduced an almost never-ending forward supply. All their accumulated young talent is paying off, with Charlie Coyle (four in two), Justin Fontaine (four in three, including a hat-trick), and Jason Zucker (three in six) the newest examples. The Islanders have to be kicking themselves for giving up on Nino Niederreiter (eight in eight). Welcome back, Dany Heatley (five in five). Temper your expectations on Jonathon Blum (17 in 31 while in the AHL), since he's only in there due to injuries.

Like the previous paragraph, the Sharks have lost a lot of personnel of late. And while San Jose doesn't own as many experienced pieces to fill in, that hasn't prevented them from maintaining their strength. Logan Couture (broken hand, out a few weeks) will sorely be missed and Tomas Hertl (knee surgery, maybe a few months away) can still be a fine secondary performer, but the remaining offense still functions properly. Kudos to anyone not in a keeper league or from the Bay Area who heard of Matthew Nieto (four in seven skating on the second line) and Bracken Kearns (four in nine following 18 in 27 with Worcester) before this season. A knock (of the upper-body variety) to Matt Irwin has provided Jason Demers (nine in 11, including four PPPs) with a prime position.

A club's fate should never be dependent on one player. While Alexander Steen (concussion, give him a few more days) does not yet fit in the elite category, his absence hurts the team. But anyone who has followed St. Louis in recent years realizes their superb depth. Vladimir Tarasenko (12 in nine), come on down. Patrik Berglund (five in four with a plus-five) looks natural in an expanded role. Look out for Vladimir Sobotka (11 in nine). Chris Stewart (two goals in eight) may not be the most active skater (between 13-14 minutes) but he should do better. And yes, there's more on the Blues blueline (try saying those two words 10 times fast) as Jordan Leopold (three in four) has shown.

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Player News
Steve Downie
Flyers' Downie Day-To-Day
Steve Downie, RW, PHI
12:56 AM
News: Steve Downie is day-to-day with an upper-body injury, Sam Carchidi of the Philadelphia Inquirer reports.
Analysis: After not taking the ice Tuesday, Steve Downie is decidedly iffy for Thursday's playoff opener against the Rangers.

Brandon Prust
Habs' Prust A Game-Time Decision For Wednesday
Brandon Prust, RW, MON
12:55 AM
News: Brandon Prust (upper body) will be a game-time decision for Game 1 of the Habs' playoff series with the Lightning beginning Wednesday, Stu Cowan of the Montreal Gazette reports.
Analysis: Brandon Prust was able to take part in Tuesday's practice and skated on a regular line, but it's unclear if he's fully recovered from injury quite yet after missing the final 12 games of the regular season. The team could make a decision on Prust's status for Game 1 at the conclusion of Wednesday's morning skate.

Matt Duchene
Avs' Duchene Still Sidelined
Matt Duchene, C, COL
12:51 AM
News: Matt Duchene (knee) did not skate Tuesday, the Denver Post reports.
Analysis: The report notes that Matt Duchene is not expected to play in the first two games of the Avs' upcoming series against the Wild (which opens Thursday), at a minimum.

Travis Moen
Habs' Moen Takes Part In No-Contact Practice
Travis Moen, LW, MON
12:49 AM
News: Travis Moen (concussion) joined the Canadiens for a non-contact practice Tuesday, Stu Cowan of the Montreal Gazette reports.
Analysis: Though Travis Moen will travel to Tampa for the team's first-round playoff series, he's seemingly unavailable for at least Game 1 after skating on the Habs' fifth line at Tuesday's session. He'll need to get some full-contact work before coach Michel Therrien considers using him in his postseason lineup.

Kris Letang
Pens' Letang On Top Power Play
Kris Letang, D, PIT
12:48 AM
News: Kris Letang practiced at the left point of Pittsburgh's top power-play unit Tuesday, the Penguins' website reports.
Analysis: Kris Letang will serve as the lone defender on the No. 1 uit, with the right point being manned by Evgeni Malkin. Paul Martin has played well on the team's top unit, so placing Letang there over Martin means the team has confidence the stroke survivor is operating at 100 percent capacity.

Tyson Strachan
Caps Reassign Strachan
Tyson Strachan, D, WAS
12:46 AM
News: Tyson Strachan was reassigned to AHL Hershey on Tuesday.
Analysis: With the Capitals' season now completed, Tyson Strachan will head back to the minors to get some action before the AHL schedule comes to a close. Strachan supplied two assists and 28 penalty minutes over his 18 games with the Capitals this season.

Matt Niskanen
Pens' Niskanen Out Of Top Four Tuesday
Matt Niskanen, D, PIT
12:41 AM
News: Matt Niskanen skated on Pittsburgh's third-group pairing with Olli Maatta on Tuesday and manned the left point of the team's second power-play unit, the Penguins' website reports.
Analysis: The return of Kris Letang and Paul Martin to the lineup don't do much to help Matt Niskanen and could, in fact, reduce his playing time and fantasy production. The right-handed shooting defender set a number of career marks in 2013-14, but he might have to wait for injuries to strike before taking a more prominent spot on the blue line.

Jan Hejda
Ducks' Hejda Day-To-Day
Jan Hejda, D, COL
12:36 AM
News: Jan Hejda (upper body) is day-to-day, Adrian Dater of the Denver Post reports.
Analysis: More on Jan Hejda's status Wednesday, but coach Patrick Roy noted Tuesday that he expects the blueliner to be ready for the team's series against the Wild, which opens on Thursday.

Jeff Zatkoff
Zatkoff Set To Serve As Pens' Postseason Backup
Jeff Zatkoff, G, PIT
12:34 AM
News: Jeff Zatkoff will serve as Pittsburgh's backup goalie in the playoffs, the Penguins' website reports.
Analysis: Pens coach Dan Bylsma said that, while Tomas Vokoun will work with the team, Marc-Andre Fleury and Jeff Zatkoff would get the bulk of practice time.

Tomas Vokoun
Bylsma Declares Jeff Zatkoff Pens' Backup Goalie
Tomas Vokoun, G, PIT
12:30 AM
News: Jeff Zatkoff is expected to serve as Marc-Andre Fleury's backup in the playoffs, according to the Penguins' website.
Analysis: Tomas Vokoun will continue to work with the team in practices and optional skates, but the bulk of practice work in the postseason will go to Fleury and Zatkoff. Of course, things have a way of playing out and it wouldn't be surprising to see Vokoun back in the mix at some point.

 
 
 
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