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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
Dan Hamhuis
Two Helpers For Vancouver's Hamhuis
Dan Hamhuis, D, VAN
12:03 PM
News: Dan Hamhuis collected two assists and went plus-3 in Tuesday's shootout win against Nashville.
Analysis: Dan Hamhuis has now played 55 games this season, and he still has no goals, with his 21 assists not going an especially long way toward making up for that. At least the fine evening pushed his season rating back to the positive end of things (plus-2).

Alex Burrows
Canucks' Burrows Stuffs Stat Sheet In Win
Alex Burrows, LW, VAN
12:01 PM
News: Alex Burrows racked up a shorthanded goal, a power-play assist and 15 PIM in Tuesday's shootout win over Nashville.
Analysis: The veteran's five-minute major for interference (and game misconduct) at the end of the third period set the Predators up with a great chance to win it, but fortunately for Alex Burrows, Nashville whiffed on the extended man-advantage opportunity. The gritty winger certainly isn't the offensive force he once was, but he's got a decent skill-and-grit combo, with 31 points and 64 PIM in 65 games. He's also scored goals in consecutive games.

Alexander Steen
Blues' Steen Looking Doubtful For Thursday
Alexander Steen, LW, STL
10:14 AM
News: Alexander Steen (lower body) appears doubtful to play Thursday against the Flames, NHL.com's Lou Korac reports.
Analysis: Though coach Ken Hitchcock reiterated Wednesday that Alexander Steen was day-to-day, the forward's absence from practice suggests that he's in danger of missing a second straight game. With Vladimir Tarasenko also expected to sit out Thursday, Patrik Berglund and Dmitrij Jaskin are in line to fill top-six roles for the Blues.

Brett Connolly
Bruins' Connolly Nears Return
Brett Connolly, RW, BOS
10:11 AM
News: Brett Connolly (finger) -- who absorbed contact at practice Wednesday -- hasn't been ruled out for Thursday's game against Detroit.
Analysis: Per csnne.com, Brett Connolly saw some work with the B's fourth line during Wednesday's practice and even if the winger doesn't play Thursday, his return to action doesn't seem far off at this stage. Prior to injuring his finger back on March 4, Connolly recorded 12 goals and 15 points in 50 games for the Lighting.

Vladimir Tarasenko
Blues' Tarasenko Labeled Day-To-Day
Vladimir Tarasenko, RW, STL
10:07 AM
News: Coach Ken Hitchcock said that while Vladimir Tarasenko (lower body) wouldn't be able to play Thursday against the Flames, the winger is being viewed as day-to-day.
Analysis: Earlier reports seemed to suggest Vladimir Tarasenko was being labeled as out indefinitely, but Hitchcock's update would seem to paint a rosier picture of the situation. While having their top goal scorer unavailable Thursday and for possibly a few more games to come isn't ideal, so long as Tarasenko returns before the playoffs, the Blues should be content to take it slow with him. Tarasenko will probably need to get back on the ice for a skate over the next day or two to have a shot and playing in either of the Blues' two weekend games, scheduled for Friday and Sunday.

Kris Letang
No Activity Yet For Pens' Letang
Kris Letang, D, PIT
9:57 AM
News: Kris Letang hasn't resumed skating or exercising since sustaining a concussion in last Saturday's win over the Coyotes, Jenn Menendez of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports.
Analysis: Kris Letang, who has a history of head injuries, remains under evaluation and should probably be considered out indefinitely until he's cleared to start skating again. The oft-injured blueliner has been relatively healthy this season, missing only seven games, but it looks like his availability could be in jeopardy with the playoffs rapidly approaching.

Christian Ehrhoff
Pens' Ehrhoff Resumes Skating Wednesday
Christian Ehrhoff, D, PIT
9:53 AM
News: Christian Ehrhoff (upper body) resumed skating on his own prior to Wednesday's optional team session, Jenn Menendez of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports.
Analysis: Coach Mike Johnston said that the team would check back in on Christian Ehrhoff's status Thursday morning before deciding if he'll be able to participate in practice with the rest of the team. It's still up in the air if he'll be able to get back in the lineup before the regular season ends, but given that Ehrhoff is already skating, a return during the first round of the playoffs seems plausible.

Antti Niemi
Sharks' Niemi Not Likely To Play Wednesday
Antti Niemi, G, SJ
9:50 AM
News: Antti Niemi (illness) isn't likely to receive the start in goal Wednesday against the Avalanche.
Analysis: Antti Niemi is still feeling the effects of the illness he acquired over the weekend, and with the Sharks seemingly out of contention for a playoff spot, the team won't benefit by running him out there in the net at less than 100 percent. Look for Alex Stalock to pick up a third consecutive start.

Dustin Byfuglien
Jets' Byfuglien Facing Possible Suspension
Dustin Byfuglien, D, WPG
9:46 AM
News: Dustin Byfuglien will have a phone hearing Thursday morning with the NHL Department of Player Safety for his illegal cross-check on the Rangers' J.T. Miller during Tuesday's game, John Shannon of Sportsnet reports.
Analysis: The fact that the hearing will be conducted over the phone instead of in-person suggests Dustin Byfuglien won't be at risk of a lengthy suspension, but he could still be docked a game or two for the transgression. Miller didn't appear to be injured as a result of the incident, which could work in Byfuglien's favor when he pleads his case.

Drew Miller
Wings' Miller (Face) Back At Practice Wednesday
Drew Miller, LW, DET
9:38 AM
News: Drew Miller (facial lacerations) was practicing Wednesday after getting cut by a skate in Tuesday's game, Ansar Khan of MLive reports.
Analysis: It's amazing Drew Miller wasn't hurt worse Tuesday and even more surprising that he is back at practice already. It doesn't appear the tough-as-nails winger will miss any time with the injury, and his 13 points (over 76 contests) will stay in the lineup.

 
 
 
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