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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
Kevin Connauton
Jackets' Connauton Likely Won't Play For A Week
Kevin Connauton, D, CLB
12:55 AM
News: Coach Todd Richards said after Saturday's morning skate that Kevin Connauton (foot) likely wouldn't play for another week, Shawn Mitchell of the Columbus Dispatch reports.
Analysis: Assuming that timetable holds through the start of next week, Kevin Connauton will miss at least the next three games while he recovers from the foot injury. The Blue Jackets will lean on some combination of Cody Goloubef, Dalton Prout, and Jordan Leopold to cover for Connauton's absence.

Blake Wheeler
Jets' Wheeler Could Return Sunday
Blake Wheeler, RW, WPG
12:50 AM
News: Blake Wheeler (knee) was a full participant in Saturday's practice and looks like he could be ready to play Sunday against the Kings, Ken Wiebe of the Winnipeg Sun reports. "If Blake comes to the rink [Sunday] feeling the way he did [Saturday], he'll be in the lineup," coach Paul Maurice said after the practice.
Analysis: Blake Wheeler didn't skate with Andrew Ladd and Bryan Little during the practice like he has for much of the season, but did see regular work with the third line and on the Jets' top power-play unit. As Maurice alluded to, the Jets will check in on Wheeler's condition following Sunday's morning skate, after which he would likely be activated from IR if all goes well.

Craig Anderson
Sens' Anderson Still Not Ready To Play
Craig Anderson, G, OTT
12:44 AM
News: Craig Anderson (hand) will not be available for Saturday's game against the Sharks, Don Brennan of the Ottawa Sun reports.
Analysis: Craig Anderson seemed to be trending toward a return by facing a number of shots during practices the last few days, but there's still no clear timetable for when he might be able to play. While the lack of clarity regarding Anderson's return date is undoubtedly an annoyance for fantasy owners, the Senators have done just fine without him. In the absence of Anderson and No. 2 goalie Robin Lehner (concussion), the Senators have stumbled into a hot goalie in Andrew Hammond, who has won four straight starts while posting a 0.75 GAA.

Curtis Lazar
Sens' Lazar To Sit Out With Illness Saturday
Curtis Lazar, RW, OTT
12:41 AM
News: Curtis Lazar will miss Saturday's game against the Sharks due to an illness, Don Brennan of the Ottawa Sun reports.
Analysis: Curtis Lazar wasn't on the ice for the Senators' morning skate after apparently acquiring the illness overnight. Matt Puempel is set to assume Lazar's spot in the lineup Saturday.

Andrew Hammond
Sens Riding Hammond On Saturday
Andrew Hammond, G, OTT
12:39 AM
News: Andrew Hammond will make his fifth consecutive start Saturday against the Sharks, Don Brennan of the Ottawa Sun reports.
Analysis: Andrew Hammond has been the story of the NHL since taking over as the Senators' No. 1 goalie just over a week ago. After posting middling numbers at AHL Binghamton, Hammond has won his first four NHL starts, posting a 0.75 GAA and .976 save percentage. The matches haven't come against the dregs of the league either; he's posted shutouts his last two times out on the road against the Ducks and Kings. He'll try to continue his California dominance against the struggling Sharks, who will counter with Antti Niemi in goal.

Nathan MacKinnon
Demotion In Store For Avs' MacKinnon
Nathan MacKinnon, C, COL
12:28 AM
News: MacKinnnon, who was benched during the third period in Friday's game against the Stars, will be dropped to the third line for Saturday's game against the Wild, Mike Chambers of the Denver Post reports.
Analysis: Nathan MacKinnon entered Friday's game with four goals in his previous two games, but his play against the Stars clearly irked coach Patrick Roy. The young forward would finish without a single shot on goal in his 12:35 of ice time, and was bumped from the second line in favor of Cody McLeod by the tail end of the game. The Avalanche ultimately prevailed in a shootout without any participation from MacKinnon, prompting Roy to say after the game that McLeod would stick on the second line for Saturday's game. Don't expect MacKinnon's demotion to last long.

Stephane Veilleux
Veilleux Clears Waivers, But Remains With Wild
Stephane Veilleux, C, MIN
12:19 AM
News: Stephane Veilleux cleared waivers Saturday, but will remain with the Wild, Chad Graff of the St. Paul Pioneer Press reports.
Analysis: Rather than sending Stephane Veilleux to AHL Iowa after he went unclaimed, the Wild will likely keep the forward around as a healthy scratch for Saturday's game against the Avalanche. Despite being waived, Veilleux remains eligible to play in games with the Wild and can be assigned back to Iowa at any time.

Lubomir Visnovsky
Visnovsky Won't Play Saturday For Islanders
Lubomir Visnovsky, D, NYI
12:16 AM
News: Lubomir Visnovsky will be a healthy scratch Saturday for the Islanders, according to Newsday's Arthur Staple.
Analysis: The Islanders and Lubomir Visnovsky played Friday, so this may be a case where coach Jack Capuano doesn't want the veteran defenseman to play back-to-back days. Brian Strait will enter the lineup in place of Visnovsky.

Brandon McMillan
Canucks Waive McMillan
Brandon McMillan, LW, VAN
12:16 AM
News: Brandon McMillan was placed on waivers Saturday, Elliotte Friedman of Sportsnet.ca reports.
Analysis: Brandon McMillan continued to practice with the Canucks after the transaction was announced, so there's a chance he could remain with the club even after he clears waivers Sunday. The team was likely motivated to make the move in an attempt to free up salary cap space ahead of Monday's trade deadline.

Cam Ward
Carolina's Ward To Get Nod Saturday
Cam Ward, G, CAR
12:12 AM
News: Cam Ward will be in the net for Saturday's game against the Islanders, Brian Compton of NHL.com reports.
Analysis: The Hurricanes elected to rest Cam Ward on Friday against the Capitals so he could be honored in a pregame ceremony for his 500th career appearance in the NHL, which he made in Tuesday's win over the Flyers. Though Anton Khudobin spun his first shutout of the season in Friday's win, Ward won't be bypassed for a start, as he's been quite excellent in his own right of late. Ward has won his last three starts while conceding a total of five goals, though none of the teams he faced during that stretch were as strong as the squad he'll match up with Saturday.

 
 
 
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