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Neutral Zone Wrap: Start the stretch run right!

by | Rotowire.com
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Fact: Your players' performance does NOT improve if you are watching them on TV. Same goes for checking the boxscores or perusing the blogs every five minutes. I know these statements may seem absurdly obvious, but you'd be surprised how many times you'll return to whatever media in the hopes Player X will earn that point to put your team over the top -- even if it's only the second day of the week. You will even avoid social contact or hard labor to find out who scored, when it happened, and what that means in terms of your overall fantasy existence.

Like many other areas in life, the key to Roto is moderation. To borrow from a famous sage and chicken vendor, you have to know when to pursue these endeavors, when to cut back, and when to cease operations entirely. These decisions, like any other choice, are important and should be handled delicately. Thankfully, the All-Star break is upon us, thereby giving us an excuse to forget about statistics and related material for a few days. But remember come Monday, it's back to the grind whether you like it or not.

While the top NHLers are set to congregate in Raleigh, how about we meet right here and talk some hockey? OK? OK.

Boston now tops the Northeast and one can claim their success comes as a result of their collective contributions. Patrice Bergeron has led the way both on the stat sheet (15 points in 13 contests) and in the leadership department, especially with Marc Savard (concussion) out again. Brad Marchand (11 in 11, plus-13) has pushed his way into the conversation for top rookie. After a blistering beginning, Nathan Horton (two in 10) ain't what he used to be. Back on the blueline, Dennis Seidenberg (seven in 10) is continuing to be a force while University of Michigan product Steve Kampfer (nothing in four, but four in the previous three) is making a name with his speed and skill.

The Lightning are also leaders of their pack, thanks to the steady goaltending of Dwayne Roloson. The 41-year old has been magnificent since escaping from the Island, with three shutouts in 10 starts and other noteworthy numbers (2.25 GAA, .922 SV%). It took a while, but Simon Gagne (six in eight) is back on track. Some expected Teddy Purcell (five in the last two) to tail off as the season progressed, but the undrafted winger keeps proving 'em wrong. Victor Hedman may never be an elite point producer (although five in eight is ahead of pace), but his total package effort validates his pre-draft hype.

Yet another surprise division frontrunner is Dallas, who continue to defy the odds at both ends. Anyone who believed before the season Kari Lehtonen (22-11) could carry a club and hold the momentum for this long should go directly to Vegas and find the nearest gaming table (double down if you shared positive thoughts about Andrew Raycroft). With most of the pieces in place, the Stars re-acquired Jamie Langenbrunner (four in five, including two on the power-play) to add another veteran body and savvy skater. With most of the attention on #1 center Brad Richards (no slouch at 15 points this month), Mike Ribeiro (17 in 14, including six PPPs) has quietly lit up the opposition of late. Jamie Benn (nine in seven) banged his shoulder earlier this week, but word is the second-year pro will be back by early February.

St Louis are slowly regaining their injured contingent, but clearly need everyone on board if they are to jump back into the playoff race. While awaiting David Perron and Andy McDonald (both sidelined for weeks with concussions), T.J. Oshie (broken ankle kept him out eight weeks) has returned but hasn't matched his minutes (around 19 a night) with any significant scoring (only one goal in five). It's about time Patrik Berglund (seven in seven, including two PPGs) counted on a consistent basis. If there's anything we've learned about Brad Boyes, it's that the man can pass the puck effectively (11 assists in 11). Erik Johnson (zero in four following four straight markers) has continued his reign as fantasy tease, which along with some questionable defensive zone coverage, has opened the door for Alex Pietrangelo (five in eight) to surpass him.

How low can the Senators go? With the Devils surging and the Islanders on the upswing, Ottawa don't have much room to fall back. Even when Jason Spezza (banged-up shoulder) recovers, he'll join a squad with a pathetic offense (second-worst with 2.14 a game) and an even worse attitude. Expect the garage sale to begin soon, maybe with Mike Fisher (five in seven) earning the chance to finally treat Carrie Underwood to that better location she always wanted. Sergei Gonchar (two in nine) would dearly love to join a contender. Chris Neil (only one point in January, but 46 PIM) can be a valuable commodity elsewhere. With all their goalies either injured (hello again, Pascal Leclaire) or grossly underachieving (not much of an encore for Brian Elliott), maybe it's time Ottawa allowed Swedish WJHC sensation Robin Lehner the chance to start on a regular basis.

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Because it's that time of month, we'll have some sort of list next week. Don't know exactly what the topic will be, but I'm willing to take reader suggestions. Yes, I'm talking to all nine of you out there. Maybe 2011 will be the year this column hits double digits.

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I'd like to end by congratulating RotoWire's own Janet Eagleson in taking the 2010 FSWA Fantasy Hockey Writer of the Year Award for a third time. As far as writers go, she is definitely one of the best and deserves every bit of praise that comes her way. I was honored just to be mentioned in the final three. Kudos to fellow finalist Jan Levine for rounding out the RotoWire category sweep.

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Evan Berofsky enjoys writing. Seriously. When he's not trying to shove hockey miscellany down your throat, he gets his kicks playing tournament Scrabble. If you have anything to say about Evan's work (or need any hot word tips), feel free to contact him at eberofsky@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter (@evanberofsky).

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Player News
Alex Tanguay
Avs' Tanguay Will Return On Tuesday
Alex Tanguay, LW, COL
11/25/2014
News: Alex Tanguay (face) has been cleared by doctors and will play against the Coyotes on Tuesday, Adrian Dater of the Denver Post reports.
Analysis: Alex Tanguay was hit in the face with a puck in Thursday's game against the Capitals and was forced to miss Colorado's game on Saturday. It was originally feared that he would be out indefinitely, but after further evaluation it was determined that the injury was not long-term. In 20 appearances this season, the 35-year-old winger has seven goals and four assists.

Colby Robak
Panthers' Robak Will Be In Lineup Monday
Colby Robak, D, FLA
4:33 PM
News: Colby Robak will be in the lineup Monday against the Wild, Steve Goldstein of FOX Sports reports.
Analysis: Colby Robak has made just six appearances for Florida this season, and so it seems that he'll likely have a minor role in Monday's game against the Wild as he comes off the bench with the fourth line.

David Krejci
Bruins' Krejci (Undisclosed) Out Monday
David Krejci, C, BOS
4:16 PM
News: David Krejci (undisclosed) will not play Monday against the Penguins, Amalie Benjamin of the Boston Globe reports.
Analysis: David Krejci is dealing with an undisclosed injury and should be considered day-to-day moving forward. Luckily for Krejci, the Bruins don't take the ice until Friday against the Jets.

Chris Kelly
Bruins' Kelly (Undisclosed) Will Not Play Monday
Chris Kelly, C, BOS
4:13 PM
News: Chris Kelly (undisclosed) will not play Monday against the Penguins, Amalie Benjamin of the Boston Globe reports.
Analysis: Chris Kelly also missed the morning skate so Monday night's absence was expected. His next opportunity to get on the ice will be against the Jets on Friday, although coach Claude Julien says that he doesn't know when Kelly will be able to make a comeback.

Calvin de Haan
Islanders' De Haan (Illness) Out Monday
Calvin de Haan, D, NYI
3:49 PM
News: De Haan is dealing with an undisclosed illness and will not play Monday against the Flyers.
Analysis: The 23-year-old has three assists on the season but seems to be stymied by an illness that leaves him day-to-day. His next opportunity to get on the ice will be against the Capitals on Wednesday.

Thomas Hickey
Islanders' Hickey (Illness) Out Monday
Thomas Hickey, D, NYI
3:44 PM
News: Thomas Hickey is dealing with an undisclosed illness and will not play Monday against the Flyers.
Analysis: Thomas Hickey has registered one goal and five assists on the season but won't have an opportunity to add onto those totals Monday. He should be considered day-to-day with his next opportunity to take the ice coming against the Capitals on Wednesday.

Tuukka Rask
Bruins' Rask Starting Monday
Tuukka Rask, G, BOS
3:41 PM
News: Tuukka Rask is confirmed as the starting goalie for Monday's game against the Penguins.
Analysis: As expected, Tuukka Rask will make another start after allowing a pair of goals in Saturday's 2-0 loss to the Canadiens. In his previous start Tuesday agains the Blues, he stopped all 33 shot attempts.

Tomas Fleischmann
Panthers' Fleischmann A Healthy Scratch Monday
Tomas Fleischmann, LW, FLA
3:39 PM
News: Tomas Fleischmann will serve as a healthy scratch for Monday's game against the Wild, George Richards of the Miami Herald reports.
Analysis: This should come as no surprise considering how Tomas Fleischmann has only put up two points in 17 games this season. He has been moved up and down the lineup to try and spark some offence but nothing has seemed to work this season. Last season was his worst output since becoming a Panther in 2011, only scoring 28 points (8G,20A) in 80 games. Fleischmann is set to become an unrestricted free agent this summer, but his $4.5 million cap hit won't make things easy for Florida in terms of the team's salary cap if they keep scratching him. Look for him to get back into the lineup sooner rather than later.

Marc-Andre Fleury
Pens' Fleury Starting In Goal Versus Bruins
Marc-Andre Fleury, G, PIT
3:39 PM
News: Marc-Andre Fleury will start Monday's game against the Bruins.
Analysis: The veteran gave way to Thomas Greiss in Saturday's 4-1 loss to the Islanders, but he'll be back in the crease Monday to face the Bruins for the first time this season. In his last start Friday against the Islanders - the teams played a home-in-home - Marc-Andre Fleury allowed four goals on 35 shots.

Vincent Trocheck
Panthers' Trochek Scratched Versus Wild
Vincent Trocheck, C, FLA
3:25 PM
News: Trochek will serve as a healthy scratch for Monday's contest against Minnesota, George Richards of the Miami Herald reports.
Analysis: Florida has finally got some of their regular bodies back so they decided to scratch Trochek Monday. He had scored six points (1G,5A) in 10 games this season, so it was not for a lack of production. He is only 21 years of age and on a 2-way contract which means he could likely see himself sent down to the minors because of the amount of one way contracts Florida has healthy. Monitor his status throughout the week.

 
 
 
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