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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
Tom Wilson
Caps Reassign Wilson
Tom Wilson, RW, WAS
10/21/2014
News: The Capitals reassigned Tom Wilson (ankle) to AHL Hershey on Monday.
Analysis: Tom Wilson has been on IR with an ankle injury, and will likely use the stint in Hershey to get back up to speed. Expect him to be called back up to the big club when he's healthy.

Seth Griffith
Bruins' Griffith Skates With Lucic, Krejci
Seth Griffith, C, BOS
10/21/2014
News: Seth Griffith, whom the Bruins recalled from AHL Providence on Monday, skated with Milan Lucic and David Krejci during Monday's practice, the team's official site reports.
Analysis: The Bruins return to action Tuesday against the Sharks, and if Seth Griffith rejoins the team's lineup for that contest, it's plausible that he and Simon Gagne could both end up seeing ice time with Lucic and Krejci.

Jason LaBarbera
Ducks Reassign LaBarbera
Jason LaBarbera, G, ANA
10/21/2014
News: The Ducks reassigned Jason LaBarbera to AHL Norfolk on Monday, Eric Stephens of the Orange County Register reports.
Analysis: Labarbera filled in for John Gibson as Frederik Andersen's backup for a while, but will return to the minors, where he's expected to spend most of the season.

John Gibson
Ducks Recall Gibson
John Gibson, G, ANA
10/21/2014
News: The Ducks recalled John Gibson from AHL Norfolk on Monday, Eric Stephens of the Orange County Register reports.
Analysis: John Gibson earned the first start of the season for the Ducks, but gave up six goals on 39 shots in a loss to the Penguins. He'll return from the AHL and try to prove himself once again when he gets the opportunity. Gibson went 1-1, allowing two goals on 61 shots for a .902 save mark, in his two games with Norfolk.

Kevan Miller
Bruins' Miller Out Indefinitely
Kevan Miller, D, BOS
10/21/2014
News: Kevan Miller is out indefinitely with a dislocated shoulder, Amalie Benjamin of the Boston Globe reports.
Analysis: Kevan Miller injured his shoulder during a fight with the Sabres' Nicolas Deslauriers on Saturday, and will be sidelined indefinitely until he recovers. Miller has yet to record a point, but had a plus-4 rating and five PIM in six games before getting hurt. In his absence, look for Matt Bartkowski to return to the Bruins' blue-line mix, beginning Tuesday against the Sharks.

Scott Harrington
Pens Reassign Harrington
Scott Harrington, D, PIT
10/21/2014
News: The Penguins reassigned Scott Harrington to AHL Wilkes-Barre/Scranton on Monday, Seth Rorabaugh of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports.
Analysis: Scott Harrington didn't see any NHL action while he was up with the big club, but will try to play well enough in the AHL to earn another shot.

Kris Versteeg
Hawks' Versteeg Expected In Lineup Tuesday
Kris Versteeg, RW, CHI
2:05 PM
News: Kris Versteeg (lower body) said that he expects to be in the lineup Tuesday at home against the Flyers, the Chicago Tribune reports.
Analysis: Kris Versteeg has not played in the Blackhawks' first four games, but is actually ahead of schedule. He skated with the second line on Monday, alongside Patrick Kane and center Andrew Shaw.

Braydon Coburn
Flyers' Coburn Expected To Play Tuesday
Braydon Coburn, D, PHI
1:25 PM
News: Braydon Coburn (lower body) is expected to play Tuesday against the Blackhawks, Tim Panaccio of CSN Philadelphia reports.
Analysis: Braydon Coburn sat out Saturday's game against the Stars, but felt much better Monday, and should be back in the lineup for Tuesday's contest. Coburn was plus-1 in the first game of the season, but hasn't been healthy since, and has yet to crack the score sheet.

Andrew Ebbett
Pens Reassign Ebbett
Andrew Ebbett, C, PIT
11:51 AM
News: The Penguins reassigned Andrew Ebbett to AHL Wilkes-Barre/Scranton on Monday, Seth Rorabaugh of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports.
Analysis: Andrew Ebbett didn't play in any games during his brief stint with the Penguins, but could get called back up if the injury bug bites Pittsburgh.

Semyon Varlamov
Avs' Varlamov Will Play Friday
Semyon Varlamov, G, COL
11:45 AM
News: Semyon Varlamov (groin) will suit up for Friday's game against the Canucks.
Analysis: Semyon Varlamov won't play Tuesday against the Panthers, but is expected to get the start Friday after the team has a couple days off. The netminder was on a cold streak before getting injured, going 0-2-1 and giving up a total of 10 goals in three games on the season.

 
 
 
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