Neutral Zone Wrap
by Evan Berofsky
Your league's trade deadline has probably passed but there's no reason you should sit on your hands and wait for fate to dictate your season. Get up, get ready, and get active. Take arms from those who don't have any means or at least the ability to care at this time of year. Be prepared to get dirty; after all, nobody has ever left a war victorious while wearing clean clothing.
The days are becoming few, but the number of potential fantasy options should still be plenty. Both NHL contenders and castoffs can offer Roto participants a variety of supplies for the final run. Here's what we have in mind:
Despite their latest hiccup through Florida, all signs point to Chicago making another deep playoff run. Everyone knows how hot The Big Three have been (four if you include Marian Hossa), but there surely has to be production from other sources to explain the Hawks' sizzling run. It really isn't coming from either Tomas Kopecky (five points in 14) or Troy Brouwer (one in 11). And it sure as heck isn't a result of recent acquisition Michael Frolik (four in 14, minus-3), who supposedly was brought aboard to provide supplementary scoring. That leaves the second-line complement of Dave Bolland (12 in 13, including five power-play assists and a suspected concussion) and Bryan Bickell (seven in 10), who largely go unnoticed but maintain high levels in both zones.
The Wild are showing the signs of missing a few regulars. It hurts to be minus captain Mikko Koivu (broken finger, has been out three weeks and probably one more), but skating without jock-of-all-trades Cal Clutterbuck (undisclosed upper-body pain) leaves a bigger hole in the lineup. 58 games proved to be long enough for Guillaume Latendresse to sit out. Speaking of players with a history of long-term absence, Pierre-Marc Bouchard (10 in 11, with five PPAs) appears to be back on track. Kyle Brodziak (13 in 14) has surprised by already surpassing his career high in points. And while most of the blueline attention falls on Marek Zidlicky or Brent Burns, 21-year old Jared Spurgeon is enjoying the pros (seven in 14) and his stint on the power-play (four with the extra attacker).
Nashville could be falling apart at the seams, but it may be hard to tell. Injuries to Matthew Lombardi (concussion, return unknown), Marcel Goc (separated shoulder, done for season), and Cal O'Reilly (broken leg, might be back in a month) have left David Legwand as the #1 center - and the second overall pick from the 1998 draft is finally making the most of his opportunities (14 in 14 and a plus-9). Martin Erat (16 in 14) has chipped in nicely, while Nick Spaling (two goals Thursday) may turn into a pleasant surprise. Patric Hornqvist may or may not be suffering from some minor malady, since his performance has also been in the dumps (one in nine). The same excuse cannot be provided for J.P. Dumont (nothing in 15, a regular healthy scratch), whose contribution can basically be characterized as non-existent. Grab hold of Jonathon Blum in keeper leagues (only two in nine during his debut, but slowly building the credentials), continuing in the Predators' ongoing succession of mobile defensemen.
Although they will once again miss out on an extended springtime run, the Panthers are content to play the role of spoiler. Michal Repik has done enough in the AHL (98 points and 95 PIM in 113) to earn the jump to the big club (currently on a three-game point streak). A change of scenery became necessary for Niclas Bergfors and Sergei Samsonov (both with three in six wearing the new uniform), who are keen to receive more responsibility. Maybe the production will catch up to the ice time, but Keaton Ellerby (only nine in 38) is making the most of his rookie season. Minor league journeyman Clay Wilson (goals in two straight) could be one to watch, although it would be wise to wait for Florida to give the D-man an extended run before acquiring his services.
Life is good when your team can regularly score. Times are less enjoyable when you fall flat against winnable opposition. The Rangers unfortunately fall into this category, after posting a 7-0 versus Philly and a 6-0 at Washington but also laying home duds to Buffalo, Minnesota, not to mention a 5-2 beatdown at the hands of Anaheim Wednesday. Oops, looks like we mistakenly foretold Ryan Callahan's downfall (15 in 12, highlighted by four goals last Sunday). Vaclav Prospal may be 36 and prone to lapses in health, but there's no one questioning his skill (12 points, seven of them on the PP). Brian Boyle may share the team lead with 20 goals but hasn't shown much of late (zero in five), while Ruslan Fedotenko (two in 11, floating between the bench and a hard place) is nearing a state of total disappearance. With Bryan McCabe in the fold, there are less man-advantage chances and scoring opportunities for a once-solid supporter such as Dan Girardi (two in eight).
Evan Berofsky enjoys writing. Seriously. When he's not trying to shove hockey miscellany down your throat, he gets his kicks playing tournament Scrabble. If you have anything to say about Evan's work (or need any hot word tips), feel free to contact him at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter (@evanberofsky).