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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
Frederik Andersen
Ducks' Andersen Draws Start Tuesday
Frederik Andersen, G, ANA
1/28/2015
News: Frederik Andersen will be in the crease for Tuesday's game against the Canucks, Eric Stephens of the Orange County Register reports.
Analysis: Frederik Andersen closed the first half on a high note, winning six straight games to boost his season record to an outstanding 26-6-5 record. He's set to face a similarly hot goalie Tuesday in Ryan Miller, who has won three of his last four while surrendering a combined total of four goals in that span.

Brett Ritchie
Stars' Ritchie Remains Out Tuesday
Brett Ritchie, RW, DAL
1/28/2015
News: Brett Ritchie (undisclosed) will not return to the lineup Tuesday against the Canadiens.
Analysis: Brett Ritchie looked like he would slot back into the lineup after practicing fully Monday, but he didn't take part in regular line work during Tuesday's morning skate to suggest that he'll remain out. The Stars continue to list Ritchie on injured reserve, so the team will have to make a roster move in order to facilitate his return to active duty, which could come ahead of Thursday's game against the Senators.

Patrick Eaves
Stars Activate Eaves (Lower Body) From IR
Patrick Eaves, RW, DAL
1/28/2015
News: Patrick Eaves (lower body) has been activated from injured reserve and will return to the lineup Tuesday against the Canadiens.
Analysis: Patrick Eaves missed the Stars' previous 21 games with an ankle injury. It sounded like he was ready to play as early as last week, but since the All-Star break was set to take place, the Stars elected to give the winger some further time to rest. Based on how line rushes were conducted at morning skate, it appears Eaves will skate on the top trio with Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin to start Tuesday's game.

Trevor Daley
Stars' Daley (Groin) Will Play Tuesday
Trevor Daley, D, DAL
1/28/2015
News: Trevor Daley (groin) was on the ice for morning skate and looks poised to return to the lineup Tuesday against the Canadiens.
Analysis: Trevor Daley returned to practice Monday after missing the Stars' final three games prior to the All-Star break. The extra time off during the break was likely all Daley needed to get fully healthy, and he'll now be ready to rejoin Jason Demers on the Stars' second pairing Tuesday. The blueliner leads all Dallas blueliners with 11 goals on the season.

Nikita Zadorov
Sabres' Zadorov To Join Team In Calgary
Nikita Zadorov, D, BUF
1/28/2015
News: Nikita Zadorov will join the Sabres in Calgary for Tuesday's game and will have his team-imposed suspension lifted once he arrives, Bob McKenzie of TSN reports.
Analysis: While it looks like all his forgiven after Nikita Zadorov didn't report back to the Sabres back in time following the All-Star break, it still seems likely that he'll sit out Tuesday's game as a healthy scratch. It sounds like Zadorov simply had a issue with his flight rather than neglecting to return on time, but because he's previously irked the Sabres with his lack of maturity, the team was less understanding about his absence. Look for him to rejoin the lineup before the Sabres' road trip draws to a conclusion.

Jhonas Enroth
Sabres Turn To Enroth On Tuesday
Jhonas Enroth, G, BUF
1/28/2015
News: Jhonas Enroth is slated to start Tuesday's game against the Flames, Mike Harrington of the Buffalo News reports.
Analysis: With Michal Neuvirth dealing with a lower-body injury, Jhonas Enroth and Matt Hackett are in line to handle the Sabres' goaltending duties for the time being. Of course, with the team on an 11-game slide, there's not much fantasy upside to be had with either of the two keepers.

Zbynek Michalek
Coyotes' Michalek (Upper Body) Set To Play Tuesday
Zbynek Michalek, D, ARI
1/28/2015
News: Zbynek Michalek (upper body) is expected to return to the lineup Tuesday against the Flyers, Sarah McLellan of the Arizona Republic reports.
Analysis: Zbynek Michalek hasn't played since Jan. 17 due to the upper-body injury, but looks to be good to go after returning to practice Monday. The blueliner, who has seven points and a minus-4 rating in 42 games this season, will form a pairing with the more offensive-minded Oliver Ekman-Larsson on Tuesday.

Devan Dubnyk
Wild's Dubnyk Draws Tuesday Start
Devan Dubnyk, G, MIN
1/28/2015
News: Devan Dubnyk has been confirmed as the starter in net for Tuesday's game against the Oilers.
Analysis: With fellow goaltender Darcy Kuemper currently with AHL Iowa on a conditioning assignment, Devan Dubnyk is slated to make his fifth straight start in net for the Wild on Tuesday.

Nick Schultz
Flyers' Schultz (Upper Body) Set To Play Tuesday
Nick Schultz, D, PHI
1/28/2015
News: Nick Schultz (upper body) appears set to play Tuesday against the Coyotes, Sarah McLellan of the Arizona Republic reports.
Analysis: Nick Schultz was sidelined for the Flyers' final game prior to the All-Star break due to the injury, but a full week off to recover appears to have done the trick for the blueliner. He's expected to pair up with Michael Del Zotto in the Flyers' first game of the second half.

Jaromir Jagr
Devils' Jagr (Illness) Set To Play Wednesday
Jaromir Jagr, RW, NJ
3:17 PM
News: Jaromir Jagr (illness) practiced fully Tuesday and expects to play Wednesday against the Maple Leafs, Rich Chere of the Newark Star-Ledger reports.
Analysis: Jaromir Jagr is feeling no ill effects of the flu bug that sidelined him prior to the All-Star break. Look for the aging winger to reunite with Adam Henrique and Scott Gomez on a line during Wednesday's match.

 
 
 
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