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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
Tom Wilson
Caps Reassign Wilson
Tom Wilson, RW, WAS
10/21/2014
News: The Capitals reassigned Tom Wilson (ankle) to AHL Hershey on Monday.
Analysis: Tom Wilson has been on IR with an ankle injury, and will likely use the stint in Hershey to get back up to speed. Expect him to be called back up to the big club when he's healthy.

Seth Griffith
Bruins' Griffith Skates With Lucic, Krejci
Seth Griffith, C, BOS
10/21/2014
News: Seth Griffith, whom the Bruins recalled from AHL Providence on Monday, skated with Milan Lucic and David Krejci during Monday's practice, the team's official site reports.
Analysis: The Bruins return to action Tuesday against the Sharks, and if Seth Griffith rejoins the team's lineup for that contest, it's plausible that he and Simon Gagne could both end up seeing ice time with Lucic and Krejci.

Jason LaBarbera
Ducks Reassign LaBarbera
Jason LaBarbera, G, ANA
10/21/2014
News: The Ducks reassigned Jason LaBarbera to AHL Norfolk on Monday, Eric Stephens of the Orange County Register reports.
Analysis: Labarbera filled in for John Gibson as Frederik Andersen's backup for a while, but will return to the minors, where he's expected to spend most of the season.

John Gibson
Ducks Recall Gibson
John Gibson, G, ANA
10/21/2014
News: The Ducks recalled John Gibson from AHL Norfolk on Monday, Eric Stephens of the Orange County Register reports.
Analysis: John Gibson earned the first start of the season for the Ducks, but gave up six goals on 39 shots in a loss to the Penguins. He'll return from the AHL and try to prove himself once again when he gets the opportunity. Gibson went 1-1, allowing two goals on 61 shots for a .902 save mark, in his two games with Norfolk.

Kevan Miller
Bruins' Miller Out Indefinitely
Kevan Miller, D, BOS
10/21/2014
News: Kevan Miller is out indefinitely with a dislocated shoulder, Amalie Benjamin of the Boston Globe reports.
Analysis: Kevan Miller injured his shoulder during a fight with the Sabres' Nicolas Deslauriers on Saturday, and will be sidelined indefinitely until he recovers. Miller has yet to record a point, but had a plus-4 rating and five PIM in six games before getting hurt. In his absence, look for Matt Bartkowski to return to the Bruins' blue-line mix, beginning Tuesday against the Sharks.

Scott Harrington
Pens Reassign Harrington
Scott Harrington, D, PIT
10/21/2014
News: The Penguins reassigned Scott Harrington to AHL Wilkes-Barre/Scranton on Monday, Seth Rorabaugh of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports.
Analysis: Scott Harrington didn't see any NHL action while he was up with the big club, but will try to play well enough in the AHL to earn another shot.

Kris Versteeg
Hawks' Versteeg Expected In Lineup Tuesday
Kris Versteeg, RW, CHI
2:05 PM
News: Kris Versteeg (lower body) said that he expects to be in the lineup Tuesday at home against the Flyers, the Chicago Tribune reports.
Analysis: Kris Versteeg has not played in the Blackhawks' first four games, but is actually ahead of schedule. He skated with the second line on Monday, alongside Patrick Kane and center Andrew Shaw.

Braydon Coburn
Flyers' Coburn Expected To Play Tuesday
Braydon Coburn, D, PHI
1:25 PM
News: Braydon Coburn (lower body) is expected to play Tuesday against the Blackhawks, Tim Panaccio of CSN Philadelphia reports.
Analysis: Braydon Coburn sat out Saturday's game against the Stars, but felt much better Monday, and should be back in the lineup for Tuesday's contest. Coburn was plus-1 in the first game of the season, but hasn't been healthy since, and has yet to crack the score sheet.

Andrew Ebbett
Pens Reassign Ebbett
Andrew Ebbett, C, PIT
11:51 AM
News: The Penguins reassigned Andrew Ebbett to AHL Wilkes-Barre/Scranton on Monday, Seth Rorabaugh of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports.
Analysis: Andrew Ebbett didn't play in any games during his brief stint with the Penguins, but could get called back up if the injury bug bites Pittsburgh.

Semyon Varlamov
Avs' Varlamov Will Play Friday
Semyon Varlamov, G, COL
11:45 AM
News: Semyon Varlamov (groin) will suit up for Friday's game against the Canucks.
Analysis: Semyon Varlamov won't play Tuesday against the Panthers, but is expected to get the start Friday after the team has a couple days off. The netminder was on a cold streak before getting injured, going 0-2-1 and giving up a total of 10 goals in three games on the season.

 
 
 
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