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Neutral Zone Wrap: Trouble Bruin

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 eberofsky@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter (@evanberofsky).

Itís easy to get down on yourself in fantasy. You build up your lineup, make a couple strategic moves, and go on a nice run. Then, without warning, your success stops. Maybe a couple choices didnít work out or itís only a temporary slump. Your players are solid; theyíll recover quickly.

But then thereís the part you canít cover. Guys start dropping like flies. Itís almost as if the other owners hired someone to take them down. The injuries pile up, but thereís no need to worry. You can still replenish via the usual methods. And after all, thereís no way to predict when players will get hurt or Ė at even more opportune times Ė do something stupid like, say, blindside an opponent or cross-check a ref.

As long as you remain vigilant and monitor whatís happening around the league, thatís your best strategy. So go out there and turn that discouragement into encouragement. Now, donít you feel better already?

And now, back to our regular fare. Here are the final five teams on our second tour through the NHL. The next couple installments will look at such topics as mock award winners and trade deadline fallout. Set your calendars accordingly.

The Bruins can score, but theyíll require more than luck keeping the puck out. If Brad Marchand (goals in 12 of his last 13 games) is the driver, then David Krejci (two goals, nine assists in 10) is the fuel supplier. Heís only 19, but David Pastrnak (nine in 12) exudes the qualities of a more experienced skater. Matt Beleskey (four in 13) is not doing enough to earn the contract he signed last summer. Heís long gone from being the focus, but Zdeno Chara (six in nine, 23 shots, 17 hits, 13 blocks) offers plenty for an old man. Itís tough to select one of Joe Morrow (no points in six) or Colin Miller (one in nine) if theyíre regularly rotated in and out of the lineup.

Out in the Pacific Division, the Kings continue to ride high, but need to watch out for their oncoming California rivals. Milan Lucic (13 in 14, 24 PIM, 48 hits) has reverted to the role of multi-dimensional aggressor. A hot streak and a vacancy (thanks to the ever-so-healthy Marian Gaborik) have elevated Dustin Brown (eight in nine, plus-5) to the top line. Vincent Lecavalier elicited excitement when he arrived from Philly (including a three-game goal streak), but that feeling has dissipated (one in five). Former Cup hero Alec Martinez (five in six, including three on the power play) works fine as a secondary scorer. And that power-play goal last week from Luke Schenn (four in 23, but 41 PIM)? Pretend like it didnít happen.

Chicago canít continue to coast, although the regular season has never really been the Hawksí focus in recent years. Andrew Shaw (seven in nine, including three Monday) remains a fixture alongside Jonathan Toews and a nuisance in front of the net. Without Marian Hossa (leg injury, could be out a while), Richard Panik (one goal in 10) receives an invitation to join the aforementioned duo. If thereís any category in which Teuvo Teravainen (finally found the scoresheet after 10 straight misses) shows consistency, itís disappointing fantasy owners. Michal Rozsival (three in 12) is having trouble staying on the active roster, which is probably why the ĎHawks recalled giant blueliner Viktor Svedberg (10 in 30 with Rockford, four in 18 with Chicago).

Itís amazing how some believed all the Oilersí woes could magically be solved by one personís comeback. Just donít tell that to either Jordan Eberle or Benoit Pouliot (both at 10 in seven), who love having their young center pad their stats. If youíre confused as to why Mark Letestu (three in 14, minus-4) occupies a spot on the prime power-play unit, youíre not alone. Lauri Korpikoski (four in 16) has been struggling and is being bounced around the lines. Zack Kassian only does two things well: fight (45 PIM) and hit (42). The production isnít necessarily terrible from Andrej Sekera (four in 15, all on the man advantage), but a little more would help. Speaking of stopping short of stability, Justin Schultz (five in 20, minus-10) should be its spokesperson.

The bottom may have fallen out in Columbus, yet thereís still more room to dig. Brandon Dubinsky has been revitalized under familiar boss John Tortorella (31 in 43 since the hiring). With all heís accomplishing, Cam Atkinson (10 in eight, 31 shots) would get more attention in other locales. No encore for Nick Foligno (three in nine, 28 in 48 overall, goodbye stardom), but that wouldíve been unfair to expect. A new home means monster minutes and responsibility for Seth Jones (10 assists in 16 while averaging 24:20 on the ice). Big minutes have also come Ryan Murrayís way (24:26 over the last 22 games), albeit with less success (just four points in that span). The goaltending mess has left Joonas Korpisalo (2.19 GAA, .934 save mark in 13) as the headliner, but he should get some relief soon with Curtis McElhinney (3.33, .888 in 15) back in the fold.

Key Matchups

Some colorful clashes highlight this weekís schedule:

Wednesday: Montreal at Colorado. This is the Patrick Roy Bowl, minus the hype or hope from either side. Tread carefully.

Thursday: Los Angeles at St. Louis. The Kings head east for a tough three-game set, the middle one in River City. The watchability level depends entirely on whoís starting in net.

Saturday: New Jersey at Washington. Donít try to figure out how the Devils are still hanging around the playoff race. Just let it happen. And then watch the Caps demolish them this weekend.

Sunday: Chicago at Minnesota. Kudos to the league for putting an outdoor game in Minnesota mid-February. Get your popsicles ready because itís gonna get really cold outside, dontícha know.