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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
Marek Mazanec
Predators Recall Mazanec
Marek Mazanec, G, NSH
1/27/2015
News: The Predators have recalled Marek Mazanec from AHL Milwaukee, the team's official site reports.
Analysis: Marek Mazanec, who got some AHL work in during the NHL All-Star break, returns to the big club to combo with Carter Hutton, with fellow goalie Pekka Rinne still sidelined.

Andrew Ebbett
Pens Recall Ebbett
Andrew Ebbett, C, PIT
1/27/2015
News: Andrew Ebbett was recalled from AHL Wilkes-Barre/Scranton on Monday.
Analysis: Andrew Ebbett was reassigned just before the All-Star break to get some extra work in, and has now been recalled along with two other forwards to provide depth with both Evgeni Malkin and Sidney Crosby expected to miss the first game of the second half. In his last game with the club Jan. 21, Ebbett managed to add another point to his total, giving him six on the season in 18 games.

Dion Phaneuf
Leafs' Phaneuf Week-To-Week
Dion Phaneuf, D, TOR
1/27/2015
News: Dion Phaneuf is week-to-week with an upper-body injury.
Analysis: Per the report, Dion Phaneuf sustained his injury prior to the NHL All-Star break, with the week-to-week tag suggesting that the blueliner will miss multiple games, starting with Wednesday's tilt against New Jersey. Another report indicates the injury may be an aggravation of a prior hand issue that was again bothered in last Wednesday's game against the Senators.

Matt Ellis
Ellis Recalled By Sabres
Matt Ellis, LW, BUF
1/27/2015
News: The Sabres have recalled Matt Ellis from AHL Rochester, the team's official site reports.
Analysis: Matt Ellis, who has recorded 13 points in 38 games AHL games to date, adds experience and depth up front, but he's off the fantasy radar in his depth role with the Sabres.

Matt Hackett
Sabres Recall Hackett
Matt Hackett, G, BUF
1/27/2015
News: The Sabres have recalled Matt Hackett from AHL Rochester, the team's official site reports.
Analysis: Matt Hackett will combo with Jhonas Enroth for the Sabres in the coming days, with fellow goaltender Michal Neuvirth currently sidelined by a lower-body injury.

Michal Neuvirth
Sabres' Neuvirth Sidelined
Michal Neuvirth, G, BUF
1/27/2015
News: Michal Neuvirth is dealing with a lower-body injury, the Sabres' official site reports.
Analysis: Michal Neuvirth suffered his injury "while working out during the All-Star break and will miss some time," GM Tim Murray relayed Monday. "He will not join the team for our trip out west this week," Murray added. With Neuvirth ailing, the Sabres have recalled fellow goalie Matt Hackett.

Kyle Okposo
Isles' Okposo Out 6-8 Weeks
Kyle Okposo, RW, NYI
1/27/2015
News: Kyle Okposo will miss 6-8 weeks with an upper-body injury.
Analysis: Coach Jack Capuano delivered the news Monday, and Kyle Okposo's loss represents a major hit to the Isles' offense. The winger has recorded 14 goals and 44 points through 46 games to date, while working on the team's top line.

Nikita Jevpalovs
Sharks Sign Free Agent Jevpalovs
Nikita Jevpalovs, RW, PHI
1/27/2015
News: The Sharks signed Nikita Jevpalovs to an entry-level deal on Monday.
Analysis: Nikita Jevpalovs is having a great year in junior, playing for Blainville-Boisbriand Armada in the QMJHL. He has 38 goals and 71 points in 45 games for the Armada.

Nikita Zadorov
Zadorov Suspended By Sabres
Nikita Zadorov, D, BUF
1/27/2015
News: The Sabres have suspended Nikita Zadorov for failing to report to the team on time following the NHL All-Star break, the team's official site reports.
Analysis: Nikita Zadorov, who has eight points in 34 games to date, shouldn't be out of commission too long, though. GM Tim Murray indicated that he expects the blueliner (who missed Monday's practice) to rejoin the team "at some point during this week's western road trip."

Blake Comeau
Pens' Comeau (Wrist) Likely Out Another Week
Blake Comeau, LW, PIT
5:31 PM
News: Blake Comeau (wrist) skated prior to Monday's session but remains 5-to-7 days away from returning to practice.
Analysis: Blake Comeau has missed the last 13 games with a wrist injury. It appears as though he'll miss at least another week of practice, and he's without a timetable to return to game action.

 
 
 
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