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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
Mike Green
Red Wings, Green Reach Three-Year Deal
Mike Green, D, WAS
12:57 AM
News: Mike Green signed a three-year, $18 million contract with the Red Wings on Thursday, ESPN.com's Pierre LeBrun reports.
Analysis: In need of some more offensive ability from the right side of their defense, the Red Wings decided to make a run at Mike Green, who is perhaps the most accomplished scorer of all the free-agent blueliners. Though injuries have slowed his production in recent years, Green stayed relatively healthy with the Capitals in 2014-15, playing 72 games and tallying 10 goals and 45 points. He saw his ice time decline in Washington as a result of last summer's signing of Matt Niskanen, but the Red Wings should have no trouble clearing out a regular role for Green on their second pairing. He's also a candidate to see time on the second-unit power play, which should help aid him to another 40-point season.

Richard Bachman
Canucks Sign Bachman
Richard Bachman, G, EDM
12:56 AM
News: The Canucks signed Richard Bachman to a two-year deal on Wednesday, NHL.com reports.
Analysis: Richard Bachman, who went 3-2-0 with a 2.84 GAA and .911 save percentage in seven games with the Oilers last season, gives the Canucks some added netminding depth (to go along with Jacob Markstrom ) behind starter Ryan Miller.

Alex Burmistrov
Former First-Rounder Burmistrov Returning To Jets
Alex Burmistrov, C, WPG
12:46 AM
News: Alex Burmistrov signed a two-year, $3.1 million contract with the Jets on Wednesday, Chris Johnston of Sportsnet reports.
Analysis: Alex Burmistrov, the former No. 8 overall pick by the Jets in 2010 when the franchise was still located in Atlanta, will make his return to North America after spending the past two seasons with Kazan Ak-Bars of the KHL. The 23-year-old bolted for Russia in the summer of 2013 due in part to his lack of harmony with coach Claude Noel, but with Paul Maurice since taking over the helm for the Jets, it appears any discord has dissipated. Burmistrov never turned in outstanding production during his previous time in the minors or in the NHL, but now that's a little older, he could be a potential second- or third-line asset for the Jets.

Viktor Tikhonov
Tikhonov Leaves KHL For Blackhawks
Viktor Tikhonov, LW, ARI
12:38 AM
News: Viktor Tikhonov signed a one-year, $1.04 million contract with the Blackhawks on Wednesday, The Hockey News reports.
Analysis: After suiting up for St. Petersburg in the KHL for the last four seasons, Viktor Tikhonov was apparently quite eager to test himself in North America, as he reportedly took a $2 million pay cut to leave Russia. With the Blackhawks desperate to create cap room for the start of the coming season, the low-cost signing Tikhonov could be exactly what they need to create salary relief. Despite his minimal price, Tikhonov isn't completely bereft of value, as he was a former first-round selection by the Coyotes in 2008 and showed some scoring ability with St. Petersburg last season, supplying eight goals and 16 assists in 49 games. The Blackhawks will take a long look at him during training camp and see where he fits in best.

Matt Lindblad
Rangers Sign Lindblad
Matt Lindblad, C, BOS
12:27 AM
News: The Rangers signed Matt Lindblad on Wednesday, the Boston Herald reports.
Analysis: The 25-year-old Matt Lindblad, who notched 22 points in 47 games for AHL Providence last season, gives the Rangers' organization added forward depth, but he remains a break or two from the fantasy radar in his new playing context.

David Warsofsky
Warsofsky Signs With Pittsburgh
David Warsofsky, D, BOS
12:22 AM
News: David Warsofsky signed a one-year, two-way deal with the Penguins on Wednesday, the Boston Herald reports.
Analysis: The smallish David Warsofsky, who recorded 15 points in 40 games for AHL Providence this past season, brings good mobility to the table, though ultimately his fantasy utility hinges on whether or not he sees power play duty if/when he sees action with the Penguins. If so, he carries some sleeper value in deeper formats.

John Moore
Devils Give Moore Three-Year Deal
John Moore, D, ARI
12:17 AM
News: John Moore signed a three-year, $5 million contract with the Devils on Wednesday, Rich Chere of the Newark Star-Ledger reports.
Analysis: After he was surprisingly non-tendered by the Coyotes on Monday, John Moore didn't take long to latch on with a new team in unrestricted free agency. The 24-year-old Moore offers a left-handed shot and ideal size (6-foot-3, 202 pounds) for a Devils defense that already has a good young core in place. The blueliner tallied two goals and 11 points across 57 games with the Rangers and Coyotes last season.

Greg Pateryn
Habs Extend Pateryn
Greg Pateryn, D, MON
12:16 AM
News: Greg Pateryn signed a two-year contract extension with the Canadiens on Wednesday, CTV Montreal reports.
Analysis: "Greg is a young defenceman who has developed very well. He enjoys the physical play and brings more depth to our defensive group," GM Marc Bergevin noted of the blueliner. In 17 regular season games with the Canadiens this past season, Greg Pateryn did not record a point, though the 25-year-old defender did manage three helpers in seven playoff games.

Barret Jackman
Preds Sign Jackman To Two-Year Deal
Barret Jackman, D, STL
12:13 AM
News: Barret Jackman signed a two-year, $4 million contract with the Predators on Wednesday, Adam Vingan of The Tennessean reports.
Analysis: After 12 years in St. Louis, Barret Jackman will join another franchise for the first time in his career. As was the case during his final few seasons with the Blues, Jackman will be suiting up for one of the league's deeper defensemen ranks, as he'll join a Predators roster that includes All-Stars Shea Weber and Roman Josi and promising youngsters Ryan Ellis and Seth Jones. Those four players figure to shoulder most of the offensive burden from the blue line, leaving Jackman to do what he does best -- agitating opposing forwards and providing sound decision-making in front of his own net.

P.A. Parenteau
Parenteau Signs With Leafs
P.A. Parenteau, RW, MON
12:08 AM
News: The Maple Leafs signed P.A. Parenteau to a one-year deal on Wednesday, TSN.ca reports.
Analysis: P.A. Parenteau, whose contract was bought out by the Habs, notched 22 points in 56 games for Montreal last season. He'll look to bounce back with the Leafs and if he secures a more prominent role with his new team -- a plausible outcome -- the 32-year-old forward is capable of a rebound in 2015-16.

 
 
 
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