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Neutral Zone Wrap: Broken Down in Detroit

Evan Berofsky

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Look how far we've come as a fantasy society. From our inception, where painstakingly long drafts were carried out by hand and often in-person, to the current state of affairs where quick online, click-as-you-go formats have become the norm. If you wanted the league standings and latest news 20 years ago, you stood by the mailbox waiting for it to arrive. These days, all stats and updates are readily available in seconds and ready to use for further research and manipulation.

Like the fake version, the actual NHL has evolved during the same time period. The no-helmet days may be a distant memory, but the current game holds just as many risks. Players may be bigger, stronger and better maintained, but the incidence of serious injury remains a popular talking point. We could go on and discuss related topics such as safety, insurance, and viewer interest but frankly, all that would be better covered in other forums.

So let's return to the fantasy world, where improvement is always the goal - adjusting rosters, working all transaction areas, ensuring your own well-being. Survival of the fittest exists everywhere; one must work hard since hoping something will happen usually doesn't fly. If your squad looks poised to compete for the championship, then don't sit around and wait. See what the other owners have, check the numbers, and make a move. In other words, be proactive.

To help you in your cause, here are five new teams from which to pick the flash and avoid the trash:

(Stats as of Monday December 16)

Despite aches, pains, and other disturbances, the Bruins have still found their way to the top of the Atlantic Division. With Loui Eriksson (concussion, unknown return) and Dougie Hamilton (lower-body injury, one to two more weeks) among the multitude of casualties, a couple vacancies have opened up. No need to remind either Reilly Smith (23 points, with four goals in his last five) or Carl Soderberg (15 in 27), who have seamlessly moved their way up the ladder. Dennis Seidenberg probably isn't your best option, but he picks up enough across the board (10 points, plus-10, 54 blocked shots, second power-play time) to earn your attention.

December springs luck for the Canucks, who haven't lost in seven. Jannik Hansen (two goals in three) has once again punched his ticket alongside the Sedins but he's not getting comfortable. Without Alexandre Burrows (jaw surgery, see you in January), Mike Santorelli (10 in nine) has made the most of his opportunities. So is Chris Higgins (eight in seven), who provides poolies with a hint of why he was drafted in the first round 11 years ago. Alexander Edler (minor knee tweaking) didn't inspire much confidence when healthy (three in 14, minus-9), while Kevin Bieksa (finally notched a point Saturday after 12 zeros) has also disappointed. Maybe workhorse Dan Hamhuis (only nine, but averaging ~25 minutes the last month) can increase his production to supplement Jason Garrison's potential career season (already with 22, including 10 PPPs).

Long live the Kings; the Kings aren't dead. With Jonathan Quick (groin strain, give him another two weeks) slowly working his way back, Ben Scrivens (1.66 GAA, .941 SV% in 16) has picked up most of the load but darkhorse Martin Jones (5-0 with a 0.99 GAA and .967 SV%) has managed to one-up the former Leaf. After once again dominating the AHL (12 in 10), Tyler Toffoli is wreaking havoc with the big boys (15 in 20). Two consecutive inspired playoff performances have landed Dwight King (three points on the weekend) the LW gig on the first line. His best days and legs are most likely behind him, but don't tell Jarret Stoll (six in seven). The buzz on Jake Muzzin (14) has not fizzed out but maybe Alec Martinez (four in five) would get some love if he could string together a few more decent outings.

A broken down Detroit still put on a better show than most other clubs, even if it's only on cable. Their captain has missed the last seven and the #1 goalie suffered a mishap in practice but the Magic Man just returned and is raring to knock the Wings out of their five-game slump. Gustav Nyquist (eight in 13) has grabbed the mantle of the missing with a bit of assistance from Tomas Tatar (13). Don't tie your waiver wire on Todd Bertuzzi (a goal in six). Give up on Brendan Smith (five in 25, minus-4) and move on to Jakub Kindl (accumulating the man-advantage minutes but scoreless in seven) before it's too late.

No matter how hard one tries to avoid it, everyone ends up in Jersey. Contrary to the passage of time, 41-year old Jaromir Jagr (28 in 34) has not slowed down. Dainius Zubrus (five in four) may never have served as the main attraction but, wow, he's sure been playing a while. All the hype that followed Damien Brunner has almost evaporated (although three goals in three looks to be a good sign). If Adam Henrique (four in 13) wants to be the Devils' anointed one at center, then he ain't doing it right. Andy Greene (eight in 12) keeps plugging away while Eric Gelinas (13 in his rookie campaign) has excelled during his blueline apprenticeship.