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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
Steve Mason
Flyers' Mason Set To Start Thursday
Steve Mason, G, PHI
12:58 AM
News: Steve Mason is in line to start Thursday's game against the Blues, Sam Carchidi of the Philadelphia Inquirer reports.
Analysis: Steve Mason -- who has given up five goals over his last two outings -- is thus on track to make his third straight start for the Flyers since returning from a knee injury.

Mark Fraser
Fraser Credited With Assist In Devils Win
Mark Fraser, D, NJ
12:51 AM
News: Mark Fraser was credited with an assist, four hits, and four blocked shots in Tuesday's win over the Predators.
Analysis: The improved play of Eric Gelinas has cost Mark Fraser a regular lineup spot in recent weeks, but he's at least been able to draw back in for the last three games. He's not been totally useless during that time with nine PIM and eight hits in addition to the assist, but the general lack of offensive production throughout his career puts a definite ceiling on his fantasy value.

Andrej Sustr
Bolts' Sustr Gathers Assist In Win
Andrej Sustr, D, TB
12:48 AM
News: Andrej Sustr pocketed an assist in Tuesday's win over the Sabres.
Analysis: Following the acquisition of Braydon Coburn at the trade deadline, the Bolts shuffled around their defensive pairings, with Andrej Sustr slotting in next to Mark Barberio. Both players profile as stay-at-home types, which should prevent either from accumulating much meaningful offensive numbers. Sustr hasn't exactly shined regardless of who his defensive mate as been this season, as his total of nine points over 61 games would attest.

David Booth
Leafs' Booth Shoots Five Times, Gets Assist In Win
David Booth, LW, TOR
12:45 AM
News: David Booth was active in Tuesday's 3-2 win over the Panthers, notching an assist and attempting five shots on goal.
Analysis: The five shots were the second-highest total of the season for David Booth, who typically doesn't see many favorable scoring opportunities in his bottom-six role. Unsurprisingly, his point totals (one goal, five assists in 41 games) remain rather depressed, a trend that should continue while he barely averages over 10 minutes of ice time per night, with none coming on the power play.

Jyrki Jokipakka
Stars' Jokipakka Records Assist, Three SOG In Win
Jyrki Jokipakka, D, DAL
12:42 AM
News: Jyrki Jokipakka picked up an assist and put three shots on net in Tuesday's win over the Islanders.
Analysis: Jyrki Jokipakka's offensive production has been light this season (zero goals, nine assists in 34 games), but the 23-year-old has generally acquitted himself well in his first taste of NHL action. However, with Patrik Nemeth (arm) returning from a long-term injury Tuesday, Jokipakka could soon be at risk at losing his regular spot on the Stars' second pairing, which would essentially sink his already minimal fantasy utility.

Karri Ramo
Flames Turn To Ramo On Thursday
Karri Ramo, G, CGY
12:39 AM
News: Karri Ramo is slated to start Thursday's game against the Bruins, Roger Millions of Sportsnet reports.
Analysis: Though he's 2-2 over his last four games, Karri Ramo has given up just five goals in that span, so he's in line for his fifth straight start on Thursday after last giving way to Jonas Hiller on Feb. 20.

T.J. Brodie
Flames' Brodie Helps Out In Win
T.J. Brodie, D, CGY
12:38 AM
News: T.J. Brodie recorded an assist and blocked seven shots on the defensive end in Tuesday's win over the Islanders.
Analysis: With Mark Giordano set to miss the rest of the season with a torn biceps tendon, T.J. Brodie is slated to serve as the Flames' top defenseman from here on out. He's already seen a significant spike in his TOI since Giordano exited the lineup, logging 29:06 and 26:59 in ice time in the last two games. The increased minutes should only help Brodie raise his production in the counting stats categories.

John Klingberg
Stars' Klingberg Active In Win
John Klingberg, D, DAL
12:33 AM
News: John Klingberg dished out an assist and claimed four PIM in Tuesday's win over the Islanders.
Analysis: John Klingberg typically doesn't offer many contributions in the PIM category, but the points have been flying in rapidly since his promotion to the big club in November. The rookie has already established himself as one of the best fantasy defenseman out there, producing an impressive 10 goals and 24 assists in 52 games. Though he hasn't found the net since Feb. 5, Klingberg has maintained value by claiming nine of his helpers since that time. He's quickly making up ground on the Preds' Filip Forsberg for the Calder Trophy.

Carey Price
Habs Roll With Price
Carey Price, G, MON
12:33 AM
News: Carey Price was the first goalie off the ice at the Habs' pregame skate, indicating that he is in line to start Wednesday's game against the Ducks, TSN's John Lu reports.
Analysis: Carey Price -- who sports a 1.92 GAA and .935 save percentage in 51 games to date -- is thus in line to have an opportunity Wednesday to bounce back from Monday's 4-0 loss to the Sharks.

Brett Connolly
Bruins' Connolly Suffers Broken Finger
Brett Connolly, RW, BOS
12:32 AM
News: Brett Connolly broke his finger in practice Wednesday and will be out six weeks, Fluto Shinzawa of the Boston Globe reports.
Analysis: Brett Connolly took a puck to the hand during practice and will have to wait to make his Bruins debut after being acquired by the club on Monday's trade deadline. The six-week timetable takes him past the team's last regular season game, so Connolly's season could be over even if the Bruins do make the playoffs. The 22-year-old has 15 points through 50 games to date.

 
 
 
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