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Neutral Zone Wrap: Fantasy Can Be Frustrating

Evan Berofsky

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Fantasy can be frustrating. You've probably heard this phrase a million times and seen it placed into action on at least a million and one occasions. And it's not always your fault. Yeah, you've probably heard that sentiment too. But consider situations where your lineup seems to perform their best only to have the effort go for naught.

I mean, don't you hate it in head-to-head when your team has an awesome week but you just happened to face one of two opponents who could've beaten you? Or consider the free-agent bidding process and imagine coming up a dollar short for almost every player. Not just one or two bids; try eight different offers.

Of course, I wouldn't have mentioned either of these situations had they not happened to me in the last week. Did I get angry and pout over these setbacks? Sure, maybe for the first few minutes. But after the bad taste went away, I learned the lesson every poolie eventually realizes. If you put in the effort and follow the path you've planned, then positive stuff will happen. Maybe not immediately, but the results should pay off in the long run. And who knows, maybe you'll probably luck into a cheaper value pick (hello, Corey Potter!). This realization, however, may not come into effect should half your roster go down with injury/suspension/acts of stupidity.

This week's session covers another quintet of quietly quixotic quantifiers whose quest it is to quell any quandaries concerning their quality. Or, in other words, look at the following:

Everyone knows things are bigger in Texas, but not many were aware how important the Dallas Stars are becoming in the local sports scene. Led by third-year man Jamie Benn (eight points in nine games) and a host of veterans, the Stars have fought their way to victory (all seven wins by two goals or less). Even the dastardly duo of Steve Ott and Adam Burish has augmented their fantasy portfolio (combining for 11, 39 PIM). Dallas could still improve on the offensive end (only 20 goals in nine), namely summer addition Michael Ryder (three). But there are no complaints about Sheldon Souray (six, 23 PIM) and his attempt to once again reach the top D level. And Kari Lehtonen: superstar goalie? If the early figures mean anything (7-0, 1.54 GAA, .955 SV%), then this Finn might be on the cusp of earning a spot in the upper tier.

If only Buffalo didn't have to play Tampa Bay, then they'd be just fine. Consecutive defeats to the Bolts have hurt the Sabres, but not as much as their inability to score when it matters most. Sophomore Luke Adam has cooled off from a blazing start (one in the last four after six in the first four), but has stuck with the top line. Nathan Gerbe (five) has finally secured a permanent place out of the minors and additional looks on the power-play. Brad Boyes looks to be semi-relevant again (thanks to two points on Tuesday), while Tyler Ennis's ankle injury masks his massive point deficiency (like, say, zero). Tyler Myers would like to achieve better numbers (two) but will gladly cover for other blueliners who may have trouble on the defensive end (ahem, Christian Ehrhoff).

Winnipeg may currently occupy the bottom spot in the Eastern Conference, but it's not for a lack of effort. The second line of Alex Burmistrov, Nikolai Antropov, and Evander Kane (at 15, although Kane is new in this group) has outshined the top trio of Andrew Ladd, Blake Wheeler, and Bryan Little (at only five and a minus-9). Even Kyle Wellwood (five, including two PPPs) is once again fit for print. Zach Bogosian (two, 22 hits) continues to be the Jets' best two-way defender. Now if only the coaches could decide whether Ondrej Pavelec (six starts, 3.52 GAA, .870 SV%) can really serve as their workhorse or if Chris Mason (two starts, 2.46 GAA, .900 SV%) will continue to swipe some appearances.

The Blue Jackets have also found a home in the lower level, but their problems run deeper than who isn't on the ice. Derick Brassard has replaced Jeff Carter (broken foot, out a few more weeks) alongside Rick Nash - and the early results have been promising (three since the promotion). Past the struggling Antoine Vermette and R.J. Umberger (each with three), Columbus don't really dispatch a lot of skill up front. Although the same can't be said for the D-unit. James Wisniewski (eight-game suspension) has returned and joins a solid core, currently consisting of 2010-11 surprise Grant Clitsome (five, including three assists on Tuesday), former junior scoring machine Aaron Johnson (four in five), and hard working Kris Russell (three in four).

Many experts tabbed Ottawa to falter early and often this season, but it's not all bad news for the Kanata Krew. Three straight wins, the league's best power-play (at an unbelievable 10 of 32), and the stars are shining - including once-forgotten forward Milan Michalek (10, including six goals - with four on the man advantage) and oft-snakebitten blueliner Sergei Gonchar (six assists). Mix in some youth with Colin Greening (five teaming with Jason Spezza and Daniel Alfredsson) and AHL sniper Kaspars Daugavins (just called up after 60 in his last 80 with Binghamton). Keep the attack going from the back end with Filip Kuba (two, both PPGs), but please be patient with rookie David Rundblad (one in seven). And between the pipes, Craig Anderson (3.74 GAA, .880 SV% in eight) should be the #1, but don't be ashamed to insert Alex Auld (4.88 GAA, .830 SV% in three) every now and then.