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Neutral Zone Wrap: The Lonely Islanders

Evan Berofsky

Evan Berofsky

Evan Berofsky enjoys writing. Seriously. When hes not trying to shove hockey miscellany down your throat, he gets his kicks playing tournament Scrabble(TM). If you have anything to say about Evans work (or need any hot word tips), feel free to contact him at eberofsky@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter (@evanberofsky).

Fantasy advice is a lot like a treasure hunt. Some users expect to find riches and believe experts will lead them directly to the prize. The reality is that we only provide a set of directions based on facts and history; you ultimately decide where to go.

That's not to say we can't be of service. After all, that's what fantasy sites were created for. But when the tide turns and the going gets tougher, don't put all the blame on the messenger. And don't go looking for a sure thing or you'll end up exhausted and disappointed. But without the multitude of great readers and followers, these online resources would never be able to survive. So on behalf of all the writers, managers, advertisers, developers, and everyone else involved with the fantasy sports industry, we thank you. You complete us.

We now return to whatever usually appears in this column:

(Stats as of Monday November 25)

Washington has stayed in the playoff hunt despite a minor downturn. The calls for Braden Holtby (2.59 GAA, .925 SV% in 19 appearances) to relinquish the #1 position have considerably died down. What can we say about Mikhail Grabovski that hasn't already been covered (19 points, including six on the power-play) and isn't worth the hoopla (attitude and often resulting slumps)? For all the effort they give, you'd expect either Troy Brouwer (seven, with six on the PP) or Brooks Laich (five, minus-10) to add more to the scoresheet. After all, hard work has proved successful for Joel Ward (14) and – to a lesser extent – Jason Chimera (although three points in the last 11 contests isn't a selling point). The only thing to fear about Eric Fehr is, well, nothing at all (healthy scratch in nine games before Saturday).

While Ottawa isn't by any means the worst team in the league, one would assume a certain level of defensive stability according to recent tradition. Craig Anderson (3.31 GAA, .900 SV% in 15) has looked shaky at the wrong moments while Robin Lehner (2.40 GAA, .938 SV% in 11) is itching for that opportunity to be an everyday starter. Nothing amiss on offense (eighth in the league averaging 2.8 goals), with key assistance from Clarke MacArthur (five in four, with four PPPs) and the growing influence of Mika Zibanejad (three in three, seeing time with Jason Spezza). A little more reliability would be appreciated from Milan Michalek (three in nine). Ditto for Cory Conacher (two in 13). And don't discount Chris Phillips (yes, Chris Phillips), who just may be your next short-term replacement (second man-advantage unit with five PPAs).

Perhaps the reports of Tomas Hertl's demise were greatly exaggerated (seven in nine). Karma has caught up to Tommy Wingels (career-high 16) and boosted his fantasy fate. Temper those expectations for Martin Havlat (three in 10), as this isn't 2003 (and he's 32 and fragile). With most of the other forwards keeping up appearances, the interesting topic in San Jose involves the blueline. Kudos to Justin Braun (seven points, plus-16, averaging two PP minutes) for becoming a semi-regular contributor. There's been a slight slowdown for Jason Demers (three in 10) but nothing to worry about yet. And remember when Marc-Edouard Vlasic (scoreless in eight) and Matt Irwin (scratched the last nine of 10) were synonymous with success?

The Habs have impressed the last week but many in their contingent aren't exactly wowing anyone. Alex Galchenyuk (two in six, dwindling minutes) has been erratic, while Lars Eller (four in 12, with three in one night) is almost off the radar. Don't look now, but David Desharnais (three in three, major PP minutes) is back on the prowl. So is Daniel Briere (four in six, slowly recovering from concussion), thanks to a vacancy left by Rene Bourque (out three with a lower-body injury). And if your name isn't P.K. Subban or Andrei Markov and you occupy a Montreal D spot, then you're probably having a tough go. Just ask Raphael Diaz (two in 11), who needs to pick up the pace. Maybe returnee Alexei Emelin (two in four since offseason knee surgery) can show the way for secondary scorers.

If you've been waiting patiently for years to see the Islanders reach the second round of the playoffs (not since 1993), then we salute you. But the long-awaited turnaround is coming soon, right? Gotta hand it to Frans Nielsen and Kyle Okposo (matching 22-point totals), yet something seems amiss of late (Okposo's three in nine stands out). Such high hopes for Josh Bailey but he has slipped since the first 10 games (two in 14). Michael Grabner (zero in 14) is officially an afterthought. Due to these forward issues, could Casey Cizikas (five-game point streak) be offered additional minutes? Although the Rick DiPietro days have long since past, the goaltending situation remains questionable. Evgeni Nabokov (groin, gone at least three more weeks) wasn't necessarily cementing his top position when healthy (3.30 GAA, .892 SV% in 14) and Kevin Poulin (3.10 GAA, .891 SV% in 11) looks no better than average in his extended duty.