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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
Alexander Wennberg
Jackets' Wennberg Shifts To Center
Alexander Wennberg, C, CLB
5:22 AM
News: Alexander Wennberg will center the Blue Jackets' second line on Thursday, skating between Matt Calvert and Cam Atkinson, the Columbus Dispatch reports.
Analysis: To date the rookie, who has just one assist and a minus-6 rating through five games, had been working on the wing, but Jackets coach Todd Richards is using the club's west coast swing as an opportunity to shake up his forward lines. Hopefully, playing his natural position will light a spark under Alexander Wennberg.

R.J. Umberger
Flyers' Umberger: Two Points In Win
R.J. Umberger, LW, PHI
5:06 AM
News: R.J. Umberger collected a goal, an assist, and five PIM in Wednesday's 5-3 win over the Penguins.
Analysis: It's the 32-year-old's first goal with his original team, and he seems to have settled in nicely. He's averaging just over 15 minutes of ice time, which fantasy owners hope will lead to a return to an 80-plus points season.

Pierre-Edouard Bellemare
Flyers' Bellemare Scores First NHL Goal
Pierre-Edouard Bellemare, RW, PHI
5:00 AM
News: Pierre-Edouard Bellemare scored his first NHL goal in Wednesday's 5-3 win over Pittsburgh.
Analysis: Pierre-Edouard Bellemare took a pretty feed from Sean Couturier and redirected it past Penguins' keeper Marc-Andre Fleury. It's his first point of the season, though his ice time could be limited once center Vincent Lecavalier (foot) returns.

Mark Streit
Flyers' Streit Nets Goal In Win
Mark Streit, D, PHI
4:54 AM
News: Mark Streit scored his second goal of the season in Wednesday's 5-3 win over Pittsburgh.
Analysis: Mark Streit has seven points through seven games, so he's on pace to match his points total from last season. Even better news for owners: two of those seven have come from goals -- Streit hasn't scored over 10 goals since the 2009-2010 campaign.

Corey Perry
Ducks' Perry Gets Tricky Again Wednesday
Corey Perry, RW, ANA
4:37 AM
News: Corey Perry lit up the Buffalo Sabres on Wednesday for three goals and his second hat trick of the season in a 4-1 win. He also fired six shots on net and skated to a plus-3.
Analysis: Is this guy money or what? Corey Perry now has eight goals and 10 points in seven games and even though he only has six PIM and two assists, we really don't mind. The guy is a perennial fantasy stud who fills the net and looks well on his way to again being a cornerstone of fantasy rosters this season.

Teddy Purcell
Oilers' Purcell Adds Two Helpers
Teddy Purcell, RW, EDM
4:34 AM
News: Teddy Purcell grabbed two assists in Wednesday's 3-2 victory over the Capitals.
Analysis: His two points came with relatively limited ice time (13:23) and brings the former Lightning's point total to five in seven games this year. If he can find just the right chemistry with one of the Oilers' young stars like Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle or Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Teddy Purcell could be a sneaky fantasy commodity this season. Just don't count of much by way of plus/minus, if your league counts it.

Braden Holtby
Caps' Holtby Mediocre In Loss Wednesday
Braden Holtby, G, WAS
4:30 AM
News: Braden Holtby managed to stop just 17 of 20 shots in a loss to the Oilers on Wednesday.
Analysis: Braden Holtby was underwhelming against an Oilers team that had just one win heading into the game. He now owns a 2-1-1 record to go with a 2.13 GAA and .917 save percentage and should continue continue to get the bulk of the starts ahead of backup Justin Peters for head coach Barry Trotz.

Ben Scrivens
Oilers' Scrivens Wins Second In A Row
Ben Scrivens, G, EDM
4:25 AM
News: Ben Scrivens thwarted 32 of 34 shots Wednesday in 3-2 win over the visiting Capitals.
Analysis: After failing to record a victory in his first four appearances, Ben Scrivens has turned things around against two very good teams in the Capitals and Lightning, who the Oilers beat Monday. If this isn't just an aberration, Scrivens could provide some much needed stability between the pipes for an inconsistent Oilers squad. We wouldn't jump the gun just yet, but go ahead and keep an eye on Scrivens to see if he and the rest of the boys from Oil Country can parlay their short-term success into something more.

Jarred Tinordi
Canadiens' Tinordi Settling In
Jarred Tinordi, D, MON
4:24 AM
News: Jarred Tinordi has moved ahead of Nathan Beaulieu for the sixth spot on defense, the Montreal Gazette reports. Beaulieu had opened the season in that spot, but Tinordi has played the last five games.
Analysis: His spot as a top-six blue-liner was confirmed Wednesday when the Canadiens sent Beaulieu down to Hamilton of the American Hockey League for some ice time. Jarred Tinordi had a wild and unbridled preseason, something head coach Michel Therrien does not want in young defensemen looking for a roster spot, but he's played with composure and maturity in his most recent stretch.

Frederik Andersen
Ducks' Andersen Wins Again
Frederik Andersen, G, ANA
4:19 AM
News: Frederik Andersen won again Wednesday, stopping 22 of 23 shots in a win over the visiting Sabres.
Analysis: Frederik Andersen has been marvelous this season, posting an impeccable 6-0 record while recording a GAA of 1.32 to go with an equally impressive .951 save percentage. He's been the most valuable fantasy goaltender thus far in the young season and has made discussions of he and John Gibson battling for the Ducks' starting gig a thing of the past. Roll him until he falters.

 
 
 
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