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Neutral Zone Wrap: Swing For D-Fence

Evan Berofsky

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

The time will come at least once in your life when you must make an important judgment. A choice that will mold you into a different person. Turn your future towards another path. So do you keep the current fantasy lifestyle or make the leap to real life?

OK, maybe it won't be that drastic of a decision. But, in reality, many often overlook the big picture by only focusing on certain details. The same works in fantasy and could cause an owner to forget their priorities and maybe even slip out of the running. If you begin to dwell on one or two players from your roster or on the waiver wire or from someone else's lineup, then you can easily lose sight of how these actions have the potential to worsen your squad.

Here's an example: Let's imagine you own two injured players, both whose returns are unknown but neither are long-term. You check the daily reports and newswire but there's still no definite timetable as to when they'll be on the ice again. But you're itching to push them back into the lineup, as your bench could not be described as even an adequate collection of reinforcements. By only worrying about these two individuals, you're bound to miss out on the latest free-agents who could immediately improve your roster. And then, guess what, you're left to bid on the few remaining scraps for often-inflated prices.

Take one thing at a time. You may have heard this phrase uttered like gospel throughout your life. It works for any major project, like building a house or say, for moving to another country to get married. But the key to following this guideline is that while covering each step, you make all the other steps flow in a way that doesn't alter the end goal. But enough about personal events and back to the puck:

Defense wins championships. That's been the formula in Hockeytown for over two decades. But now without a certain seven-time Norris Trophy winner, the blueline has been in disarray. Ian White (only two points in 15 games) will have to significantly improve to reclaim his top-4 spot. After countless seasons toiling in Grand Repids, Jakub Kindl (seven, plus-9) is operating the perfect two-way game. Unfortunately, all the able bodies chipping in could spell doom for Brendan Smith (only one), whose name was pegged as a sleeper pick by many before the season. Flashy shootout moves and slick hands aside, Damien Brunner (19, including a team-leading 10 goals) can still play a mean stickball. In case you haven't noticed, young gun Gustav Nyquist (one in three after 60 in 55 in the AHL) is getting more material to handle.

Injuries have piled up on the Blues' front end, leaving the talent a little thin. That hasn't stopped 2011-12 disappointment Chris Stewart (13 goals, 13 assists) from leading the team in scoring. Or Patrik Berglund (co-leader with 13 goals, although all alone on top with 4 PPGs) from raising his effort to something befitting a second-tier forward. A nice contribution from Vladimir Sobotka (seven in eight) and bonus minutes for Jaden Schwartz (averaging 15-plus in March). Looking past their top two blueliners, St. Louis can't boast a lot in terms of fantasy value, unless you think Wade Redden (two in 14) and Kris Russell (three in 23) will break out of their ruts anytime soon.

All that strength down the middle and Colorado still doesn't look to be ready for primetime. The instant injection of Ryan O'Reilly (five in seven) from RFA hell hasn't quite produced the anticipated team results (2-4-1). And with the 22-year old hotshot center back in the fold, some have overlooked Paul Stastny (seven in eight) and his continued importance to the organization. Jamie McGinn serves a nice combination of attack (13 points) and smack (20 PIM, 48 hits). So much early promise from David Jones (nothing in seven, team worst minus-11) but that looks to have floated away. Erik Johnson (back after missing 11 with a concussion) will once again log the heavy load, while Tyson Barrie (six in 15 in the bigs after 27 in 37 down one level) could act as that Vitamin D supplement you've been craving.

There's been word of Hurricanes blowing down the competition in the Southeast Division and there's no available evidence to the contrary. Where have you been hiding, Jiri Tlusty (10 in eight, although only four PPPs overall)? Can you trust either Riley Nash (six in 12 with CAR/35 in 50 with Charlotte) or Drayson Bowman (four in 25/22 in 37) for any consistent numbers? Looks like third time back's the charm for Joe Corvo (four in five, back on the first unit), as he currently carries the Carolina blueline. No Joni Pitkanen (13 straight out, projected back soon) means Jay Harrison (two in three) is receiving additional minutes. Dan Ellis (2.67 GAA, .917 SV% in nine) appears to be the logical choice to take over for Cam Ward (knee sprain, potentially ready for playoffs), but recent results may favor Justin Peters (only three starts, but last one was a shutout) stealing more starts than normal.

Like Carolina, Tampa Bay are reaping the rewards of their high draft pick collection and sound development system. With Benoit Pouliot (upper-body problems) on the shelf and Cory Conacher (two in eight with a sharp decline in ice time) slightly slipping, Alex Killorn (five in seven, second-line role) has stepped seamlessly into the top-six. A new mystery injury to Vincent Lecavalier could be the impetus to let Ondrej Palat (two in six with the Bolts following a 44 for 49 tear in the AHL) loose - or even free Brett Connolly (the 6th overall pick in 2010 racking up 52 in 59) from the depths of Syracuse. If you're searching for offense on defense, then stay away from Marc-Andre Bergeron and his power-play specialty (two of his five in total have come on the man-advantage). And if you're feeling masochistic, how about rotating between Anders Lindback (2.93 GAA, .902 SV% in 19) and Mathieu Garon (2.85 GAA, .912 SV% in 10) between the pipes?

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