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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
Zac Dalpe
Sabres Sign Dalpe
Zac Dalpe, C, VAN
12:50 AM
News: The Sabres signed Zac Dalpe to a one-year contract Sunday.
Analysis: Zac Dalpe suited up for 55 games with the Canucks last year, recording four goals, three assists, and a minus-7 rating over that span. He'll mostly provide depth down the middle for the Sabres next season as the franchise looks to rebuild after a dismal 2013-14 campaign.

Patrick Holland
Habs' Holland Working On Strength, Foot Speed
Patrick Holland, RW, MON
7/13/2014
News: Patrick Holland, who took part in Montreal's recently completed development camp, has been working to add strength and foot speed, the Montreal Gazette reports.
Analysis: Patrick Holland scored a couple of goals in the development camp's scrimmage as he looks to alter perceptions following a disappointing season with Hamilton of the American Hockey League. The Canadiens are thin at the right wing position, so Holland, who played five games with the Canadiens early last season, could get a close look in training camp.

Ryan O'Reilly
Avs, O'Reilly: No Contract In Sight
Ryan O'Reilly, C, COL
7/12/2014
News: Ryan O'Reilly and the Avalanche appear destined for arbitration, reports the Denver Post.
Analysis: The two sides haven't had a substantive discussion on a new deal since the Avs filed for arbitration last month. The team made the move to try to save itself some cash, but Ryan O'Reilly and his agent aren't happy. Then again, this same scenario happened the last time they tried to ink a deal. This probably means a short-term deal for the center and then he'll walk away in two years when he is eligible to be a UFA. This could be ugly ... again.

Chad LaRose
LaRose Wants To Return To NHL: Carolina Possible?
Chad LaRose, RW, CAR
7/12/2014
News: Chad LaRose is interested in returning to the NHL after sitting out last season, reports the Raleigh News Observer, and may be signed to a professional tryout by Carolina.
Analysis: "I'd like to talk to him," said general manager Ron Francis. "He took a year off and obviously he'd need to earn his way back. There are some options. We could get him to camp on a tryout. He could start the season in Charlotte (AHL), show that he could still do it." Chad LaRose is a high-energy player whose petulant end to the 2012-13 saw him fail to get a contract from any team for last season. But he seems to have perhaps figured out what he needs to do to continue his career. Unfortunately, his fantasy value will be limited.

Alexander Semin
Canes' Semin (Wrist) "Progressing As Expected"
Alexander Semin, RW, CAR
7/12/2014
News: Alexander Semin is "progressing as expected" following wrist surgery, according to Hurricanes' general manager Ron Francis, and is on schedule for the start of training camp.
Analysis: He had 20 goals and 42 points in 65 games last season, but that was a far cry from his best production. And he has never played more than 77 games in any regular season. He'll need better luck to return to the point-per-game plateau, but a healthy wrist to start the season is better than we expected.

Cameron Gaunce
Stars Re-Sign Gaunce
Cameron Gaunce, D, DAL
7/12/2014
News: The Stars signed Cameron Gaunce to a one-year, two-way contract on Friday.
Analysis: The 24-year-old defenseman appeared in nine NHL games last season, totaling nine shots, seven penalty minutes, and a plus-1 rating. He spent most of the season with the AHL Stars where he led the team with a plus-15 rating to go along with three goals and 15 assists through 65 games.

Richard Panik
Lightning Sign Panik To One-Year, Two-Way Contract
Richard Panik, RW, TB
7/12/2014
News: Richard Panik inked a one-year, two-way deal with the Lightning on Friday, Erik Erlendsson of The Tampa Tribune reports.
Analysis: Richard Panik will rejoin the team that he tallied three goals and 10 assists for last season over 50 games. His level of production dipped from the previous season where he tallied nine points in half the games, but the Lightning likely believe they can get more out of the 23-year-old winger.

David Moss
Coyotes Sign Moss To One-Year Deal
David Moss, RW, PHO
7/12/2014
News: David Moss signed a one-year deal with the Coyotes on Friday, Sarah McLellan of The Arizona Republic reports.
Analysis: David Moss had a week to sign with a NHL team after signing with a Swiss team on July 10, and it didn't take long to find one. The 32-year-old winger re-signed with the team he tallied 22 points (eight goals and 14 assists) over 79 games last season.

Jamie Devane
Leafs Ink Devane To Two-Year Contract
Jamie Devane, LW, TOR
7/12/2014
News: Jamie Devane signed a two-year contract with the Maple Leafs on Friday.
Analysis: Jamie Devane played in two games for the Maple Leafs, failing to record a point in either game. The 23-year-old spent a majority of the season with AHL Toronto and tallied four goals and four assists over 55 games while racking up a team-high 146 penalty minutes.

Brian Boyle
Bolts' Boyle Admits Leafs Offered More Money
Brian Boyle, C, TB
7/11/2014
News: Brian Boyle acknowledged he passed up more money from the Maple Leafs to sign his three-year, $6 million deal with the Lightning, reports the Tampa Bay Times.
Analysis: Part of the decision was the raving former -- and now current -- teammate Ryan Callahan had done about the Bolts, and part was the fact that his brand-new wife is from Orlando. But clearly, the Leafs have had yet another snub from an NHLer -- money isn't enough to draw them to the so-called center of the hockey universe. Wow.

 
 
 
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