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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
Jakob Silfverberg
Silfverberg Leads Ducks To Win Over Coyotes
Jakob Silfverberg, RW, ANA
12:08 PM
News: Jakob Silfverberg collected a goal, two assists and a plus-3 rating in Tuesday's win over the Coyotes.
Analysis: The points give him 30 on the year (10 goals, 20 assists), already well above his previous best of 23 from last season. The Ducks' forward corps is a fairly crowded bunch at the moment, so the 24-year-old will probably continue to have a hard time consistently hitting the scoresheet. However, he has fired 144 shots on goal this season, making him an intriguing option in leagues that count the stat.

Jordan Leopold
Leopold Gets 17 Minutes In Minnesota Debut
Jordan Leopold, D, MIN
10:58 AM
News: Jordan Leopold had two shots on goals and four blocks in 17:19 of ice time in Tuesday's win over Ottawa.
Analysis: Jordan Leopold was a minus-1, but spent much of his time on the ice in a defensive pairing with Matt Dumba, who scored two goals. Leopold didn't get any power play time in his first game with the Wild, however.

Nate Prosser
Wild's Prosser Leaves Early Tuesday With Illness
Nate Prosser, D, MIN
10:55 AM
News: Nate Prosser was removed from Tuesday's win over the Senators in the first period due to an illness, Michael Russo of the Minneapolis Star Tribune reports.
Analysis: Nate Prosser was reportedly feeling sick heading into the game, but still suited up since the Wild had only five healthy blueliners on the roster. However, he couldn't summon enough energy to make it through the game and was removed after logging 4:54 of ice time. He should be viewed as questionable to play Thursday against the Capitals.

Tim Jackman
Ducks' Jackman Out 4-6 Weeks
Tim Jackman, RW, ANA
10:52 AM
News: Tim Jackman is slated to miss 4-6 weeks due to a lower-body injury, Curtis Zupke of NHL.com reports.
Analysis: With just seven points in 53 games to date, Tim Jackman's fantasy utility is restricted to leagues where his PIM (he has recorded 84 this season) are of assistance.

John Gibson
Ducks Turn To Gibson On Wednesday
John Gibson, G, ANA
10:48 AM
News: John Gibson is slated to start Wednesday's game against Montreal, Curtis Zupke of NHL.com reports.
Analysis: With Frederik Andersen having returned to the Ducks' net Tuesday against the Coyotes, John Gibson is in line Wednesday to make his first career start against the Habs, who were blanked (by a 4-0 score) by the Sharks on Monday.

Brian Elliott
Blues' Elliott To Start Thursday
Brian Elliott, G, STL
10:34 AM
News: Brian Elliott will start Thursday's game against the Flyers, reports Jeremy Rutherford of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
Analysis: Brian Elliott was backing up Jake Allen on Sunday, but was pressed into service when Allen struggled and gave up one goal on six shots to Vancouver. He has had a strong season for the Blues, backstopping 20 wins with a 2.20 goals against and .921 save percentage.

Klas Dahlbeck
Coyotes' Dahlbeck Makes Debut Tuesday
Klas Dahlbeck, D, ARI
10:26 AM
News: Klas Dahlbeck saw a season-high 16:18 of ice time in his Coyotes debut Tuesday; a 4-1 loss to the Ducks. He was minus-1 and took one shot while adding two hits.
Analysis: As expected, Klas Dahlbeck went straight into the Coyotes' lineup, which was down two defensemen following the team's recent trades. He should play regular minutes down the stretch as the Coyotes evaluate how he fits into their plans for next season and beyond. He is viewed as a steady, defensive defenseman, which may limit his fantasy stock, but at just 23-years-old he is still developing and could evolve his game in the coming years.

Jared Cowen
Sens' Cowen Iffy For Wednesay
Jared Cowen, D, OTT
10:22 AM
News: Jared Cowen (illness) is a game-time decision for Wednesday's game against the Jets, Wayne Scanlan of the Ottawa Citizen reports.
Analysis: Jared Cowen did not play Tuesday against the Wild and it's not a lock that he'll feel well enough to return to action on Wednesday either. In any case, with nine points and a minus-13 rating over 49 games, he's only a fantasy option in deeper formats.

John Moore
Coyotes' Moore Debuts In Loss
John Moore, D, ARI
10:21 AM
News: John Moore skated 20:55 in his Coyotes debut Tuesday; a 4-1 loss to Anaheim. He was minus-2 and took one shot while adding a hit in the game.
Analysis: As expected, John Moore stepped right into the lineup and saw his highest ice time since November, including 2:27 on the power play. He doesn't have the skill to replace Keith Yandle, but he will soak up a lot of the minutes of the former Coyote through the rest of the season. The 24-year-old has a chance to secure a top-four position next season with strong play down the stretch.

Sam Gagner
Coyotes' Gagner Has Assist In Loss
Sam Gagner, C, ARI
10:16 AM
News: Sam Gagner picked up his 19th assist of the season Tuesday in a 4-1 loss to Anaheim. He was minus-2 and took one shot in the contest.
Analysis: Sam Gagner is one of the Coyotes' key veterans now that the team is committed to rebuilding. He has turned his season around after a really slow start to reach 31 points in 63 games. He will threaten the 40-point mark this year and should be in the plans going forward when top prospects like Max Domi, and newly acquired Anthony Duclair, arrive and need mentoring.

 
 
 
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