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Neutral Zone Wrap: Dealing with stretch-run stress

by | Rotowire.com
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The trials and tribulations of a Fantasy owner during the stretch drive are many. Make sure the lineup has been set. Keep tabs on the wire. Watch out for any late changes. And for heaven's sake, try not to look at the game updates every minute.

Bet you thought March Madness was confined to college basketball.

As we enter the final few weeks, the tension mounts. You may have been leading for a while, but the pack seems to be closing quicker than a garbage compactor on the Death Star. Or you could have built a promising run of late, but it means nothing if first place doesn't come as the end result.

The key to success is preparation. And not having players go out with injuries. As you can't control the latter, it's the simple things that matter. If you think you may be unable to complete fantasy tasks by a certain time, then finish them in advance. But don't sweat the minor details, as there's a bigger goal in mind. With your roster as is, can you envision yourself winning now?

That same question could be asked of the following NHL organizations, yet a couple of them have been unable to offer any legitimate answers:

The problem in Vancouver has less to do with goaltending and more to do with being focused at one end of the ice. How can you blame either Roberto Luongo (one win in six starts, 18 goals allowed) or Cory Schneider (only six appearances in last two months) when their defense prefers to stay on offense? Nice numbers from Chris Higgins (eight points in eight games) and a surging David Booth (four in five) have helped. Alex Burrows (five in six) may not be the current Sedin caddy, but that may not matter. Mason Raymond (nothing in seven) temporarily has been given this honor, but nothing has clicked. Kevin Bieksa (six in six) is riding another scoring wave, while Marc-Andre Gragnani (zero in six since his Canuck debut) looks as useless as he did in Buffalo.

Just when you thought the outlook couldn't become worse in Toronto, another set of lackluster losses pushes the Buds further down the hole. New head coach Randy Carlyle has pretty much ridden Jonas Gustavsson (five straight starts only letting in 11 goals) since his arrival, leaving James Reimer (one victory since February 6th) wanting. Tough break to lose Joffrey Lupul (separated shoulder, probably gone for the regular season), which should open the door for the underperforming Tim Connolly (one in eight, minus-8). Nikolai Kulemin (fractured finger) has also waived goodbye, so why not let Clarke MacArthur (six in seven) recover his form? Try as he might, Tyler Bozak (three in 10, but 15 goals on the season is adequate) just wants to hit that next level. The pedigree and situation pointed to John-Michael Liles (two in 11) doing more, but it hasn't quite worked as planned.

Remember when many believed Boston were invincible? That was late January when they were tied for the conference lead. But this is the present and the Bs have endured some truly ugly outings. You don't know how much you miss Tuukka Rask until you fill his role with a rusty Marty Turco (six goals in just 81 minutes). Brad Marchand (two in nine, only four PIM) has fallen off the fantasy wagon. And don't expect Brian Rolston (one in nine) to supply some scoring. But the stats aren't all negative, as Jordan Caron (eight in six, plus-eight) is starting to fulfill his first-round selection. You can knock down Johnny Boychuk (three in four), but don't expect him to miss any time. Where in the world has Dennis Seidenberg (hasn't pointed in 10) gone?

If there's one club who could ride an individual to glory, then it would be Tampa Bay. But that isn't to say Steven Stamkos (and his sparkling 50 goals) counts as their lone producer - or like the Bolts have a solid shot of reaching the postseason. Look out for Ryan Malone (in case you haven't noticed his seven-game point streak, which includes three PPPs and 21 PIM). Brett Connolly (four in six) is slowly coming around, but wait another year for the real windfall. Don't be fooled by Nate Thompson and back-to-back goal outputs (focus on the minus-22 and general lack of playing time). More man-advantage minutes for Brett Clark, but not enough (one in eight) for a glowing recommendation. With Mathieu Garon (torn groin) sidelined and Dwayne Roloson (at a pathetic 3.82 goals-against average and .878 save percentage) finally acting his age, Dustin Tokarski (27-11 in the AHL) has been anointed as the current chosen one in net.

Calgary has surged at the right time (points in six of seven this month), but face a logjam for one of the final Western playoff spots. Thanks to a couple timely casualties (Michael Cammalleri leading the list), Matt Stajan (five in four) has made fans forget about his yearlong drought. Another beneficiary has been WHL scoring machine Sven Baertschi (179 points in 113 contests with Portland), who hasn't disappointed to date (two goals in three). The lights are off and Roman Horak (finally notched a point after 13 without one) isn't home. Many missed Mark Giordano for a sizable chunk (he blocked a shot and the puck won - for nearly two months), but he's clearly noticeable in March (six in seven). Things were progressing positively for T.J. Brodie in his first full campaign (only 14 in 54, but added special-team duties), but his latest problem (the infamous upper-body deal) will hurt his prospects of climbing the Flames' blueline ranks.

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Player News
Garrett Mitchell
Capitals' Mitchell Inks Two-Year Deal
Garrett Mitchell, RW, WAS
6/3/2015
News: Garrett Mitchell signed a two-year, two-way contract with the Capitals on Tuesday, Alex Prewitt of the Washington Post reports.
Analysis: Garrett Mitchell has yet to suit up in the NHL, but has logged 224 career games with AHL Hershey. Last season, Mitchell scored four goals and tallied four assists while racking up 121 PIM for the Bears. He'll compete for a spot with the Caps during training camp, but he's mostly likely bound for the AHL again.

R.J. Umberger
Flyers' Umberger Coming Along
R.J. Umberger, LW, PHI
3:38 PM
News: R.J. Umberger indicated Monday that he's recovering well from March 19 surgery to repair his right hip and bilateral abdominal areas. "It's coming up on 11 weeks since my surgery and I couldn't be happier with the progress I'm making and the strength I'm getting back," Umberger said. "I basically totally rebuilt my core system. I'm strengthening my hip, my back, and it's been a good process."
Analysis: The procedure kept R.J. Umberger out for the Flyers' remaining 13 games, spelling a premature end to a 2014-15 season that saw the 33-year-old finish with a career-worst 15 points across 67 contests. Umberger qualified as a massive disappointment after he was acquired in exchange for one of the team's most popular stars in Scott Hartnell, but playing through the injury likely had much to do with his awful numbers. With Umberger feeling fresh heading into 2015-16, he should make for a respectable bounce-back target.

Jeff Petry
Habs' Petry Inks Six-Year Deal
Jeff Petry, D, MON
3:15 PM
News: Jeff Petry signed a six-year, $33 million contract with the Canadiens on Tuesday.
Analysis: Canadiens GM Marc Bergevin stated that re-signing Jeff Petry would be an offseason priority back in mid-May. Today's news has proven Bergevin is a man of his word, as the Canadiens now have Petry locked up through the 2020-21 season. The 27-year-old defenseman tallied 22 points this season, seven of which came in the 19 regular-season games he played in a Canadiens uniform after being dealt by the Oilers in early March. Petry also registered three points in his 12 playoff appearances with Montreal this season, averaging 22:17 of ice time per contest. He'll likely continue to play with Alexei Emelin as part of the Habs' second pairing next season.

Nate Thompson
Ducks' Thompson To Undergo MRI
Nate Thompson, C, ANA
2:51 PM
News: Nate Thompson played with a shoulder injury throughout the Ducks' playoff run, and will now undergo an MRI as a result.
Analysis: The same shoulder injury prevented Nate Thompson from suiting up for any of the four games of the Ducks' first-round sweep of the Jets. Thompson was, however, able to play with the ailment the rest of the way, starting with Game 1 of Anaheim's second round series against Calgary. The Ducks should provide an update on Thompson's status once they receive the results of his MRI.

Mackenzie Skapski
Rangers' Skapski (Hip) Out 4-5 Months
Mackenzie Skapski, G, NYR
9:14 AM
News: Mackenzie Skapski (hip) underwent arthroscopic surgery Tuesday to repair a labral tear in his right hip. He's expected to be sidelined 4-to-5 months.
Analysis: The 20-year-old will likely spend the entire offseason rehabbing in hopes of returning around the start of the 2015 season. Mackenzie Skapski made two appearances for the Rangers in 2014-15 but spent the bulk of the season at AHL Hartford, where he started 28 games and posted a 2.40 GAA with a .914 save percentage.

Philippe Desrosiers
Stars' Prospect Desrosiers Earns Top CHL Honor
Philippe Desrosiers, G, DAL
5:20 AM
News: The CHL has named Stars' prospect Philippe Desrosiers the CHL's Goaltender of the Year.
Analysis: Philippe Desrosiers finished the QMJHL season with a 2.50 goals against average and a .901 save percentage. It seems low, but in the high-scoring QMJHL that's an impressive mark from the Stars' 2013 second round pick. At just 19, he's not quite ready to be the solution to the Stars goaltending woes, but it's a bit of light out on the horizon for the franchise.

Maxime Fortunus
Stars Will Not Re-Sign Fortunus
Maxime Fortunus, D, DAL
5:13 AM
News: Maxime Fortunus revealed on Monday that the Stars organization has informed him that he will not be re-signed this summer, according to Sean Shapiro.
Analysis: Maxime Fortunus captained AHL Texas to their 2014 Calder Cup victory in one of three seasons he's spent as team captain. He was also a captain of the AHL All-Star team this season. The veteran defenseman posted nine goals and 25 assists in 65 AHL games, but has totaled just nine career NHL games. He'll certainly get signed, he doesn't figure to make an impact in fantasy hockey.

Pascal Dupuis
Pens' Dupuis Is Blood Clot Free
Pascal Dupuis, LW, PIT
12:54 AM
News: Pascal Dupuis is no longer dealing with the blood clots that ended his season prematurely, Jason Mackey of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reports.
Analysis: While the fact that Pascal Dupuis is "clot-free" is certainly encouraging, general manager Jim Rutherford stated that "there are other things from a medical point of view that have to be looked at." It seems as though Dupuis' future with the Penguins, and perhaps the NHL in general, remains uncertain.

Ryan McDonagh
Rangers' McDonagh In Walking Boot And On Crutches
Ryan McDonagh, D, NYR
12:43 AM
News: Ryan McDonagh is currently donning a walking boot and using crutches due to the broken foot he suffered in the Eastern Conference Final against Tampa Bay, Andrew Gross of The Record reports.
Analysis: He'll remain in a walking boot and on crutches for four weeks, at which point his broken foot will be re-evaluated. While a broken foot is certainly nothing to scoff at, if all goes well with the healing process, Ryan McDonagh should be ready for the Rangers' training camp in September.

Michael Dal Colle
Isles' Dal Colle Wins Memorial Cup
Michael Dal Colle, LW, NYI
6/1/2015
News: Dal Michael Dal Colle finished tied for the team lead in points as his junior team won the Memorial Cup, according to the Islanders website.
Analysis: Dal Michael Dal Colle has been everything the Islanders hoped for when they selected him with the 5th overall pick in the 2014 draft. He finished the season with 42 goals and 93 points and then added another eight goals and 23 assists in the playoffs. He is a player to watch in dynasty drafts.

 
 
 
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