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Neutral Zone Wrap: The underachievers

by | Rotowire.com
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Olympic break, Shmolympic break. There is no rest for the contending Fantasy player the next two weeks, especially when just over a quarter of the season remains.

If you are looking for bargains, then this is the time to strike. Most owners seem to stop caring about their teams only because the actual NHLers have temporarily closed up shop.

On the flip side, your squad may contain one or two with a fast-approaching "use by" date. Or there are available players with great stats whose history, reputation and/or current situation suggest a decline in production.

This week, let's look at the latter example. If you got 'em, then you can either choose to trade them, bench them or hope they continue to shine. But if a decline appears imminent, then what value could you draw out of depreciating commodities when better ones exist?

Get your garbage bags ready and don't forget to leave them on the curb early so others can begin fighting over the contents:

Olli Jokinen, F, Jets: Off to represent Finland for his third consecutive Olympics, most likely in a similar second or third-line role. And while the month of December proved to be fruitful for Jokinen (11 points in 14 games), the latest stretch (one in 11) has been frustrating. At 35, he may not be asked anymore to serve as the focal point of the attack. But his age and the wear and tear from participating/traveling to and from Sochi will end up taking their toll. Looking at his last two seasons, the latter portion of each could be best described as disappointing (seven in 23, followed by three in 13). Best to cut your losses with the Finn before they get out of hand.

Nazem Kadri, F, Maple Leafs: The Leafs' 24/7 media darling has endured his share of flak for both on and off-ice activities but there's no denying the kid's talent. Kadri leapt into the forefront with a solid 2012-13 (44 in 48, plus-15), but struggled in the final regular season contests (five in 12, minus-5). Many have praised his improvement this year by supplementing his scoring with a nice physical game (116 hits, 59 PIM) and the ability to annoy opponents. Whether or not Kadri can interact positively with head coach Randy Carlyle will determine his ice time. And if you believe what you see on TV, then there's a reasonable chance the feisty forward will lose opportunities to more consistent teammates.

Clarke MacArthur, F, Senators: Little was known about MacArthur before 2010 but that changed when Toronto signed him that summer and he paid immediate dividends (career-best 62 points). After two more decent campaigns, Ottawa snapped him up this past offseason. And wouldn't you know it but the ex-Thrasher has earned a prime role and is on pace to break his pro points record (42 in 58, including 12 on the top power-play). A recent mini-slump mixed in with a foot injury may slow down MacArthur but at least he'll have a couple weeks to rest. His continued success may involve whether or not the Sens can stay in the playoff hunt. If they fall too far back, then expect youngsters like Mika Zibanejad and Cory Conacher to take away minutes from the older crowd.

Kris Russell, D, Flames: For years after being taken in the third round (2005), Russell lived with the stigma of being a slightly-undersized blueliner with shaky defensive skills. It wasn't until his move to St. Louis where the former WJHC standout rounded his overall game and was therefore treated more like an equal to his potential linemates. The Red Deer native has performed so well in his return to his home province (20 in 44, which includes seven PPPs and an average of almost 23.5 minutes) that management offered him a two-year extension over the weekend. Competing for offense with three other above-average defenders (Mark Giordano, Dennis Wideman, and T.J. Brodie) and recent injuries will push Russell to the limit, a situation he has never faced in his pro career. Consequently, expect Russell's numbers to take a dip.

Ben Scrivens, G, Oilers: Like Russell, Scrivens grew up in Alberta and only recently came back to stake his claim. And boy, did he ever do this -- in his fourth appearance for Edmonton, no less -- when he set an NHL record by stopping 59 shots in shutting out the Sharks. Combine this effort with a sparkling stat line (combined 1.98 GAA, .937 SV%, and four shutouts in 25) and you have the makings of a promising career. For now, at least, the reality is he suits up for the dreadful Oilers and that hasn't worked out too well for any goalie since their Stanley Cup days. And even though Scrivens has excelled these last few months, getting traded twice since June may be a warning about his chances of becoming an everyday No. 1 keeper.

(Dis)Honorable mention: Brendan Gallagher, F, Canadiens; Anton Khudobin, G, Hurricanes; Andrew MacDonald, D, Islanders; Mike Ribeiro, F, Coyotes; Carl Soderberg, F, Bruins

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Player News
Chris Brown
Capitals Reassign Brown
Chris Brown, C, WAS
8:36 AM
News: Chris Brown was reassigned to AHL Hershey on Saturday, Alex Prewitt of the Washington Post reports.
Analysis: Chris Brown was set to serve as a healthy scratch for Saturday's game against the Sabres, so rather than letting him rot in the press box, the team elected to send him to the minors to pick up some playing time. There's a chance the team could bring him back to the NHL squad after the weekend, but likely only if Liam O'Brien (lower body) and Brooks Laich (shoulder) are deemed unavailable for the Capitals' next game Wednesday.

Jaroslav Halak
Isles Hand Net To Halak On Saturday
Jaroslav Halak, G, NYI
8:30 AM
News: Jaroslav Halak will be in line to start Saturday against the Penguins.
Analysis: Jaroslav Halak will replace Chad Johnson in the crease, but the Isles' lineup will otherwise remain unchanged from the unit that beat the Penguins in a shootout Friday night. Johnson no longer appears much of a threat to Halak's standing as the No. 1 goalie based on the latter's improved performance of late. Halak is 5-1 with a .941 save percentage over six outings in November.

Braden Holtby
Caps' Holtby Receives Nod Saturday
Braden Holtby, G, WAS
8:25 AM
News: Braden Holtby will be in the crease Saturday against the Sabres.
Analysis: It's the third consecutive start for Braden Holtby, who has been impressive his last two times out en route to victories over the Coyotes and Avalanche. His solid numbers for the season (7-4-2, 2.26 GAA, .914 save percentage) place him safely in the middle class of fantasy goalies.

Brad Marchand
Bruins' Marchand Day-To-Day
Brad Marchand, LW, BOS
8:21 AM
News: Brad Marchand, who missed his second straight game Friday against Columbus, remains listed as day-to-day with an undisclosed injury, the Bruins' official site reports.
Analysis: Though Brad Marchand was on the ice for Thursday's practice, he didn't travel to Columbus for Friday's game, with his status for Saturday's tilt against Montreal uncertain.

Lee Stempniak
Rangers' Stempniak Appears Good To Go For Sunday
Lee Stempniak, RW, NYR
8:19 AM
News: Lee Stempniak (back) practiced Saturday morning.
Analysis: Lee Stempniak likely would have been available to play Friday had the Rangers' game in Buffalo not been postponed, so his presence at practice would only seem to further reiterate that the winger is now healthy. He'll likely displace Jesper Fast from the lineup when the Rangers take on the Canadiens on Sunday.

Kevan Miller
Bruins' Miller Returns
Kevan Miller, D, BOS
8:17 AM
News: Kevan Miller (upper body) saw 20:32 worth of ice time in Friday's shootout win over Columbus.
Analysis: It was Kevan Miller's first game back since dislocating his shoulder on Oct. 18, and with Adam McQuaid the latest Boston blueliner to be sidelined, the rugged blueliner -- who has yet to has yet to record a point in seven games this season -- figures to be a fixture in the Bruins' lineup in the coming weeks.

Liam O'Brien
Caps' O'Brien Skates As Extra Saturday
Liam O'Brien, LW, WAS
8:09 AM
News: Liam O'Brien (lower body) skated as an extra Saturday morning, Alex Prewitt of the Washington Post reports.
Analysis: It doesn't look as though Liam O'Brien will play Saturday night against the Sabres, put his participation with his mates in the morning can be inferred as a positive step in his recovery. He could be ready to go in time for Wednesday's game versus the Islanders.

Alexander Khokhlachev
Khokhlachev Joins Bruins' Lineup
Alexander Khokhlachev, C, BOS
8:08 AM
News: Alexander Khokhlachev saw 9:33 worth of ice time in Friday's shootout win over Columbus.
Analysis: Alexander Khokhlachev, who suited up Friday with David Krejci scratched, ended up making a mark in his first NHL game of the season, scoring in Round 7 of the shootout to cement the Bruins' win. With Krejci's status for Saturday's game against Montreal unclear, Khokhlachev -- who has 16 points in 15 AHL games with Providence to his credit -- has a chance to remain in the Boston lineup for the second straight contest.

David Krejci
Bruins' Krejci Dealing With Injury
David Krejci, C, BOS
7:54 AM
News: David Krejci missed Friday's game against Columbus due to an unspecified injury issue that is suspected to involve his hip, according to the Boston Herald.
Analysis: While coach Claude Julien didn't go into specifics about David Krejci's injury, he noted Friday that "it's one of those things where one day he's feeling 100 percent — the next day not so much." While Julien suggests that the Bruins don't expect Krejci's injury to linger on down the road, he acknowledged that at this stage, "it's just an issue where right now, as we speak, it's a little bit dicey." The center's status for Saturday's game against Montreal is thus cloudy.

Jonathan Bernier
Leafs' Bernier Starts Saturday Versus Detroit
Jonathan Bernier, G, TOR
7:54 AM
News: Jonathan Bernier will be in the crease Saturday against the Red Wings, Jonas Siegel of TSN Radio reports.
Analysis: After coming out on the losing end of an embarrassing 9-2 defeat to the Predators earlier in the week, Jonathan Bernier was able to save face by stymieing an excellent Lightning squad Thursday, holding the opposition to two goals on 28 shots. He'll look to keep the momentum going against Detroit, who will counter in the net with Jimmy Howard, who has been one of the league's best goalies in the early part of the season.

 
 
 
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