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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
Matt Beleskey
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News: Matt Beleskey is day-to-day with a lower-body injury, Eric Stephens of the Orange County Register reports.
Analysis: We'll revisit Matt Beleskey's status Friday, but at the moment his status for Game 2 against the Stars is cloudy.

Trevor Daley
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News: Trevor Daley had an assist, a plus-1 rating, two shots, and two blocked shots in the series opener against Anaheim on Wednesday.
Analysis: Trevor Daley has three goals and seven assists over the last ten games. He's poised to have the best postseason of his career as he entered game one with two goals and no assists over 29 career postseason games.

Travis Moen
Habs' Moen Still Sidelined
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News: Travis Moen (concussion) will not play Friday against the Lightning, the Canadiens' official site reports.
Analysis: According to coach Michel Therrien, Travis Moen -- who was on the ice with his teammates Thursday -- is progressing well, but we won't see the forward before Sunday's Game 3 against the Lightning, in any case.

Tyler Seguin
Stars' Seguin Scores In Game 1
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News: Tyler Seguin scored on one of five shots and played 20:41 in the Stars game one loss on Wednesday.
Analysis: Tyler Seguin's hot streak continues and with him on a line with Jamie Benn it's hard to imagine him slowing down at all. He's a great play in almost any format.

Nicklas Backstrom
Caps' Backstrom Unavailable For World Championship
Nicklas Backstrom, C, WAS
12:19 AM
News: Nicklas Backstrom will not play for Team Sweden at the 2014 IIHF World Championships in Belarus, according to a report in Svenska Dagbladet.
Analysis: Team Sweden benchboss Par Marts said Nicklas Backstrom declined the invitation due to family reasons. Backstrom has had an impressive but emotional season of hockey this year. He led the NHL with 44 power-play points, and tied with Alexander Ovechkin for the team lead with 79 points in all 82 games for the Capitals this year. Those accomplishments bookended an Olympic campaign that ended when Backstrom was held out of the Gold Medal game against Canada for failing a drug test due to allergy medication, and would have to wait weeks to ultimately be awarded the Silver Medal. After such an emotional roller coaster ride ended with the Capitals missing the playoffs, one could hardly blame the Gavle native for wanting to spend a little time away from the game. Although the Capitals likely face a turbulent offseason, Backstrom remains one of the safest options at his position in all of fantasy hockey. His minus-20 performance should be viewed as an anomaly, and as long as he is getting consistent playing time with the likes of Alex Ovechkin, there's no reason to believe he won't produce solid totals next season. Look for Backstrom to be one of the first centers taken in all formats during next season's fantasy drafts.

Dmitry Orlov
Caps' Orlov To Play At World Championship
Dmitry Orlov, D, WAS
12:07 AM
News: Dmitry Orlov will play for Team Russia in the 2014 IIHF World Championship in Belarus, Dmitry Chesnokov of Yahoo Sports reports.
Analysis: Dmitry Orlov will suit up for Team Russia after taking a significant step with the Capitals during the 2013-2014 season. After requesting a trade early in the season due to displeasure with lack of playing time and constant movement to and from the NHL and AHL ranks, the Capitals started playing Orlov more consistently, and the promising young Russian took great strides. Though he finished with only three goals and eight assists in 54 games, the 22-year-old Novokuznetsk native has emerged as a top-4 defenseman for the Capitals, logging a career-high 19:36 per game this season. Orlov will get a chance to hone is offensive skills in Belarus after posting point-per-game totals with Russia's Under-20 World Junior Championship teams. With Mike Green's future in Washington uncertain, there may be an opportunity for Orlov to claim an even larger role heading into next season as the team looks for another blue liner to share the load with workhorse John Carlson. Orlov will be worth keeping an eye on in the later rounds of next season's fantasy drafts.

Ben Bishop
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12:05 AM
News: Coach Jon Cooper indicated Thursday that he does not to expect to see Ben Bishop (elbow) play "any time soon," Damian Cristodero of the Tampa Bay Times reports.
Analysis: Cooper suggested that Ben Bishop could return to action if the Lightning's current playoff series is extended, but it looks like Anders Lindback will remain in net Friday against the Canadiens, at a minimum.

Ondrej Palat
Lightning's Palat A Game-Time Decision For Friday
Ondrej Palat, LW, TB
12:00 AM
News: Ondrej Palat (upper body) is considered a game-time decision for Friday's game against the Canadiens, Damian Cristodero of the Tampa Bay Times reports.
Analysis: Cristodero adds that Ondrej Palat missed practice Thursday, with the report classifying the injury that the forward is dealing with as an upper body issue.

Tomas Hertl
Sharks' Hertl Notches Two Points In Playoff Debut
Tomas Hertl, C, SJ
4/17/2014
News: Tomas Hertl scored a goal and added an assist Thursday against the Kings in his first-ever NHL playoff game. He went minus-1 and put five shots on goal.
Analysis: A heck of a debut for Tomas Hertl, who skated just 12:15 in the contest. If he keeps going like this, he's going to have to be bumped up into the top six, and soon.

Martin Jones
Kings' Jones Makes Playoff Debut
Martin Jones, G, LA
4/17/2014
News: Martin Jones relieved Jonathan Quick for the third period of Thursday's Game 1 loss to the Sharks, stopping four of four shots.
Analysis: It's interesting to see Quick -- who was ineffective, allowing five goals in two periods -- get yanked in this one, but the move seemed to invigorate the Kings, as they stormed back from a 5-0 deficit to make it a game at 5-3 before Brent Burns' empty-netter sealed it. Quick is likely to be back out there for Game 2, but if he struggles again, well, there's not much room for error in the playoffs, and that means Martin Jones could get his shot.

 
 
 
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