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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
Mika Zibanejad
Zibanejad Helps Sens Past Ducks
Mika Zibanejad, C, OTT
12:59 PM
News: Mika Zibanejad scored his ninth goal of the season, had an assist, was credited with four shots on goal, and was a plus-3 in Friday's win over the Ducks.
Analysis: An all-around great fantasy night for Mika Zibanejad, who now has 17 points in 30 games on the season. After a slow start, Zibanejad has heated up, recording six goals and 11 points in his last nine games. Skating on the second line with Bobby Ryan, the 21-year-old could hit the 25-goal mark in 2014-15, making him worthy of a look right now.

Erik Karlsson
Sens' Karlsson Collects Two Assists In Win
Erik Karlsson, D, OTT
12:27 PM
News: Erik Karlsson collected a pair of helpers in Friday's win over Anaheim.
Analysis: Erik Karlsson now has points in two straight games after being held off the scoresheet in his previous three game. The 24-year-old has seven goals and 23 points in 32 games on the season, to go with a minus-12 rating. He sits second in the NHL with 124 shots on goal and is one of the best offensive defenseman in the game. Keep him rolling.

Kyle Turris
Sens' Turris Remains Hot Friday
Kyle Turris, C, OTT
12:09 PM
News: Kyle Turris remained red-hot on Friday, scoring a highlight-reel shorthanded goal and adding an assist in a win over the Ducks.
Analysis: Kyle Turris has been lighting it up lately, riding a five-game point streak in which he has recorded three goals and seven points. With 23 points (seven goals) in 32 games, the 25-year-old is proving to be a reliable fantasy option this season. He has scored the game-winning goal in back-to-back games and has never gone more than three games without appearing on the scoresheet. His consistency and top-line role makes him worth a look right now.

Mark Giordano
Flames' Giordano Lights Lamp
Mark Giordano, D, CGY
9:51 AM
News: Mark Giordano scored the lone Calgary goal in a 2-1 loss to Dallas on Friday.
Analysis: Mark Giordano has been one of the few constants remaining for Calgary during its seven-game losing streak. He has seven points in nine December games and continues to easily lead the NHL in defenseman scoring.

Brad Boyes
Panthers' Boyes Returns Saturday
Brad Boyes, RW, FLA
9:49 AM
News: Brad Boyes (upper body) will return to the lineup Saturday against the Penguins, Harvey Fialkov of the South Florida Sun Sentinel reports.
Analysis: Brad Boyes was a surprise scratch Thursday against the Flyers due to the injury, but since he was able to practice Friday, the Panthers never considered the ailment to be serious. Brandon Pirri will head back to the press box Saturday in order for Boyes to reclaim his spot in the lineup.

Jimmy Hayes
Panthers' Hayes to Sit Out Saturday
Jimmy Hayes, RW, FLA
9:48 AM
News: Jimmy Hayes will be a healthy scratch Saturday against the Penguins, Harvey Fialkov of the South Florida Sun Sentinel reports.
Analysis: Coach Gerard Gallant wants to get youngster Vincent Trocheck in the lineup in his hometown of Pittsburgh, so Jimmy Hayes will head to the press box in order to facilitate the change. Hayes has mustered one goal and no assists in the seven games since his two-point showing Dec. 2 against the Red Wings.

Roberto Luongo
Panthers' Luongo In Line For Saturday Start
Roberto Luongo, G, FLA
9:44 AM
News: Roberto Luongo was the first goalie off the ice at the Panthers' morning skate and is thus in line to start Saturday against the Penguins, Seth Rorabaugh of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports.
Analysis: Roberto Luongo has put together a three-game winning streak, highlighted by back-to-back victories in long shootouts against the Capitals and Flyers. While the high-scoring Penguins don't make for a particularly favorable matchup, they've been bitten hard by the injury bug and the mumps virus over the last several weeks. Even in a packed Saturday slate, Luongo still looks like a serviceable fantasy option.

Torey Krug
Krug Notches Bruins' Lone Goal
Torey Krug, D, BOS
9:40 AM
News: Torey Krug notched the Bruins' only goal in Friday's 2-1 loss to the Jets.
Analysis: With 12 points in 29 games overall, Torey Krug is off last season's pace (40 points in 79 games), but things have picked up a bit for the mobile blueliner of late, as he now has points in five of his last seven contests.

Alexander Semin
'Canes Rule Out Semin For Saturday
Alexander Semin, RW, CAR
9:36 AM
News: Alexander Semin (lower body) has been ruled out for a return to action Saturday against the Rangers, Chip Alexander of the Raleigh News & Observer reports.
Analysis: Alexander Semin participated in Saturday's morning session and looks to be close to playing, but coach Bill Peters opted to hold him out for an additional day. It's possible the Hurricanes wanted to avoid returning him to action amid a back-to-back scenario, so it wouldn't be especially surprising if he was activated in time for Sunday's rematch with the Rangers in New York. Though Semin's return is near, he's not worthy of a speculative add, as he amassed just one goal and six points in 21 games before landing on IR.

Cam Ward
Canes' Ward Confirmed As Saturday Starter
Cam Ward, G, CAR
9:32 AM
News: Coach Bill Peters confirmed that Cam Ward would make the start in goal Saturday against the Rangers, Chip Alexander of the Raleigh News & Observer reports.
Analysis: Though Cam Ward will get the call Saturday, don't be surprised if he's rested when the Hurricanes and Rangers get together in New York on Sunday. That start will likely go to backup Anton Khudobin, who has yet to record a win in his nine starts this season.

 
 
 
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