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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
Lars Eller
Habs' Eller Done With Lower-Body Injury
Lars Eller, C, MON
2/2/2015
News: Lars Eller suffered a lower-body injury in Sunday's game against the Coyotes and will not return, Dave Stubbs of the Montreal Gazette reports.
Analysis: Lars Eller returned to the bench after suffering the injury, but it must have been worse than he first thought, as he will now sit for the remainder of Sunday's tilt. His next chance to return will come Tuesday against the Sabres, and he should receive an updated status at some point prior to the opening faceoff.

Scott Hannan
Sharks' Hannan Misses Practice Sunday
Scott Hannan, D, SJ
2/2/2015
News: Scott Hannan did not skate in practice Sunday, Kevin Kurz of CSN Bay Area reports.
Analysis: It's unclear when exactly Scott Hannan's injury occurred, assuming that is the case, but he reportedly still could play tomorrow. Over 38 games this season, the blueliner has recorded just one point.

Devan Dubnyk
Wild's Dubnyk Gets The Start Sunday
Devan Dubnyk, G, MIN
2/2/2015
News: Devan Dubnyk will start in net against the Canucks on Sunday according to the Wild's telecast.
Analysis: Devan Dubnyk is coming off a great outing in which he stopped all of the 30 shots he faced en route to a 1-0 win over the Flames. He will look to find that magic again Sunday as the Wild wrap up a three-game road trip.

Derek Dorsett
Canucks' Dorsett (Neck) Playing Sunday
Derek Dorsett, RW, VAN
2/2/2015
News: Derek Dorsett (neck) is in the lineup Sunday against the Wild.
Analysis: Derek Dorsett took part in Saturday's practice, making it a decent bet he would return to the lineup. That is indeed the case, as he will look to add to his 14-point total he carries into the contest.

Johnny Boychuk
Isles' Trying To Sign Boychuk
Johnny Boychuk, D, NYI
2:39 PM
News: The Islanders and Johnny Boychuk have begun negotiations on a new contract, according to the Islanders Point Blank.
Analysis: These negotiations aren't expected to end anytime soon but where once it looked unlikely that Johnny Boychuk would end up re-signing with the Islanders, now it may be unlikely that he leaves. The Isles have also received inquiries if they would be interested in trading Boychuk should these negotiations break down, but that seems highly improbable at this time.

Tye McGinn
Sharks' McGinn (Undisclosed) Misses Practice
Tye McGinn, LW, SJ
1:08 PM
News: Tye McGinn (undisclosed) did not skate in Sunday's practice, Kevin Kurz of CSN Bay Area reports.
Analysis: Tye McGinn exited Saturday's contest against the Blackhawks in the first period and did not return due to the injury. His status for Monday's game against the Oilers appears to be in doubt, which could leave the door open for Daniil Tarasov to make his NHL debut.

Dustin Byfuglien
Jets' Byfuglien Collects 14 PIM In Loss
Dustin Byfuglien, D, WPG
12:54 PM
News: Dustin Byfuglien picked up 14 PIM in Saturday's loss to the Stars.
Analysis: Dustin Byfuglien is contributing in almost every fantasy category, racking up 12 goals, 33 points, 97 PIM, 152 shots on goal, and a plus-8 rating in 51 games this season. Averaging a whopping 23:05 of ice time, Big Buff is a great fantasy play in almost all formats. Keep him rolling.

Tyler Seguin
Stars' Seguin Cashes In On Power Play
Tyler Seguin, C, DAL
12:42 PM
News: Tyler Seguin dished out three power-play assists and had a game-high nine shots on goal in Saturday's win over Winnipeg.
Analysis: Tyler Seguin's superior season continues, as his 56 points are second-most in the league, while his 204 shots on goal are next to only Alexander Ovechkin. On pace for 90 points, Seguin is an automatic roll whenever he's in action.

John Klingberg
Stars' Klingberg Records Three PP Points In Win
John Klingberg, D, DAL
12:33 PM
News: John Klingberg recorded a goal and two assists on the power play and added an even-strength tally in Saturday's win over Winnipeg.
Analysis: What a monster night for the 22-year-old, who logged 22:23 of ice time, including a whopping 7:17 of man advantage time. He's got five goals and 11 points in his last eight games, giving him 24 points in 35 games on the season. This rising stud has had seven multi-point outings this season and is playing on the top power-play unit with Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn. Do you really need any more reasons to grab him off the waiver wire? Snag him while you can, as he's the real deal.

Curtis McElhinney
Blue Jackets' McElhinney Takes Loss
Curtis McElhinney, G, CLB
12:24 PM
News: Curtis McElhinney was beaten by the Lightning on Saturday, giving up three goals on 34 shots in a 3-1 loss.
Analysis: Curtis McElhinney has now surrendered three goals in each of his last three starts, managing a single win against Washington. Columbus has had a rotten go of it this season, with a plethora of injuries to key players like Brandon Dubinsky, Nathan Horton and -- on multiple occasions -- workhorse netminder Sergei Bobrovsky, who is currently sidelined for another three-to-five weeks with a groin ailment. McElhinney has never appeared in more than 28 games in a season during his seven-year NHL career, so it'll be interesting to see how he holds up if coach Todd Richards keeps turning to him in Bobrovsky's absence. As of now, he's carrying a 5-8-1 record, a 3.00 GAA and a .907 save percentage through 18 appearances.

 
 
 
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