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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
Dennis Rasmussen
Chicago Recalls Rasmussen
Dennis Rasmussen, LW, CHI
2:58 PM
News: The Blackhawks have recalled Dennis Rasmussen from AHL Rockford, the team's official site reports.
Analysis: Dennis Rasmussen, who has recorded 16 points in 44 games AHL games to date, gives the Blackhawks some extra forward depth for the team's upcoming six-game road trip.

Patrick Kane
Hawks' Kane Wins Most Accurate Shooter Contest
Patrick Kane, RW, CHI
1/24/2015
News: Patrick Kane won the Shooting Accuracy competition at the NHL All-Star Skills Competition in Columbus on Saturday night.
Analysis: He needed just five shots to get through all four targets in the fastest time (13.529 seconds).

Shea Weber
Preds' Weber Wins Hardest Shot Competition
Shea Weber, D, NSH
1/24/2015
News: Shea Weber won the Hardest Shot competition at the NHL All-Star Skills Competition in Columbus on Saturday.
Analysis: He fired the puck at 108.5 mph, just 0.3 mph off Zdeno Chara's record (2012). There were plenty of nods and murmurs among the other all stars, so perhaps this win will buy Shea Weber a few more lanes to the net for that shot. No-one will want to stand in front of one of those.

Steven Stamkos
Bolts' Stamkos Hopes To Sign Extension Next Summer
Steven Stamkos, C, TB
1/24/2015
News: Steven Stamkos is eyeing a summer contract extension with the Lightning, reports the Tampa Bay Times. He can't sign an extension until July 1.
Analysis: Stammer is in line for a deal like the ones that Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews signed in Chicago. Those are eight-year, $84 million contracts and they both inked the deals a year before they could become unrestricted free agents. It looks like he'll be a fixture in Tampa for a long time and that's great news for fans and fantasy owners alike.

Tyler Johnson
Tampa Bay's Johnson Out For All-Star Game
Tyler Johnson, C, TB
1/24/2015
News: Tyler Johnson (lower body) will not play in Sunday's All-Star Game, but he will be eligible to play in Tuesday's game against the Hurricanes if healthy, ESPN reports. He is at the All-Star festivities even though he isn't going to play.
Analysis: Tyler Johnson appears to be sitting out as a precaution more than anything. He played in the last three games leading up to the All-Star break, so there's little reason to think he won't be ready to go for Tuesday's game.

Jonathan Drouin
Bolts' Drouin Fastest Skater In NHL
Jonathan Drouin, LW, TB
1/24/2015
News: Jonathan Drouin won the Fastest Skater competition at the NHL All-Star Skills Competition in Columbus on Saturday night. His time was 13.103.
Analysis: He's been in and out of the lineup, but he is an elite talent. He also scored a beauty goal in another part of the competition. Short term, his value may be limited, but long term, he will be among the league's elite.

Clayton Stoner
Ducks' Stoner Expected To Play Next Week
Clayton Stoner, D, ANA
1/24/2015
News: Coach Bruce Boudreau said that he expects Clayton Stoner (lower body) to be available when the Ducks resume play the Canucks on Tuesday, Eric Stephens of the Orange County Register reports.
Analysis: Clayton Stoner was a late scratch for the Ducks' final game before the All-Star break this past Wednesday due to the lower-body ailment, which he sustained the previous weekend against the Kings. It appears to be just a minor concern for Stoner, whose availability for the game against the Canucks should be confirmed when he returns to practice Monday.

Stephen Johns
Hawks' Prospect Johns Suffers Knee Injury
Stephen Johns, D, CHI
1/24/2015
News: Stephen Johns, who is considered one of the top Blackhawks' top prospects at AHL Rockford, suffered a knee injury on Monday and is expected to miss two-to-three weeks, ESPN Chicago reports.
Analysis: The 22-year-old defenseman suffered a head injury Nov. 26 that forced him to miss nearly two months. After his return last week, he skated in only three games before being dealt yet another setback on the health front. He has six assists and is plus-13 in 23 games with Rockford, his first season as a pro after finishing four years at the University of Notre Dame.

David Rundblad
Hawks' Rundblad Making His Mark In First Half
David Rundblad, D, CHI
1/24/2015
News: David Rundblad has been showing some good stuff in the first half as one of the last pair of defensemen on the Blackhawks, Hawks general manager Stan Bowman told ESPN Chicago.
Analysis: David Rundblad scored goals in back-to-back games earlier this week and has collected three goals and six assists in 27 games this season. The games skated is the most in his six seasons in the NHL, including stints with Ottawa and Arizona. Bowman gave Rundblad raves so far this season, but it will be interesting once rookie defenseman Trevor Van Riemsdyk returns from a leg injury which could be as early as mid-February. "I think David has probably grabbed the reins the most of all those guys," Bowman said. "He's (Rundblad) really shown he's kind of emerged as a guy that's getting more comfortable. He's always had the talent. I think as a young defenseman it's trying to gain the game-to-game confidence. He's moved from the left side to the right side. Having not only not played the left side much, that was an adjustment for him, but I thought he got pretty good at it."

J.T. Miller
Rangers' Miller Continues Roller Coaster Ride
J.T. Miller, C, NYR
1/24/2015
News: J.T. Miller will begin the second half of the NHL season on a five game point-scoring drought.
Analysis: After logging four points in three games after the new year, J.T. Miller has found himself in a rut. With the 23-year-old Ohio native most likely focused more on play without the puck and occasional centering duties, he's a safe bet to continue the roller coaster ride in traditional production. Although the highly regarded first-round pick (2011) has a decent five goals and 10 points in 23 games this season, standard format owners should only have him on their radar, not their roster.

 
 
 
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