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Neutral Zone Wrap: Long-Term Use Not Advised

Evan Berofsky

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You make your mark in the league. Maybe youíre able to stretch out the success over a few seasons. Grab some headlines, win an award or two. But the reality is that most players canít continue this high for long due to injuries, age and changing situations.

With every offer of hope comes a warning of disappointment. So while the previous column highlighted those projected to improve in 2016-17, this one looks at guys destined to hit some sort of roadblock in the coming months.

NOTE: As with every other recent list, there can be no duplicate examples. And do I really have to remind you about the goalie disappearance?

Shane Doan, RW, Arizona

For someone who dipped to his lowest full schedule point total since 1998-99, preseason projections for Doan remained modest (we quoted 15 goals and 21 assists). But here he is leading the ĎYotes in goals (26) and all remaining forwards in power-play points (17). Assuming the 39-year-old returns for another run, heíll have to fend off the next wave of hotshots (headed by Dylan Strome and Brendan Perlini) for offensive opportunities and playing time.

Alex Goligoski, D, Dallas

The Starsí attack encourages everyone to get involved, especially the defense. Goligoski has never been one to shy away from jumping into the rush, so unsurprisingly, heís thrived in this setup (five goals, 29 assists, plus-13). Heís scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent, but Dallas will need to fill a few blue-line holes this offseason and probably wonít be able to meet Goligoskiís asking price if it wants to remain cap-friendly. That means a more restricted system, where his skills will most likely be stifled.

P.A. Parenteau, RW, Toronto

I couldíve easily included teammate Leo Komarov (36 points), but Parenteau (37, with five in his last eight) has at least kept up the pace. He should probably thank all the injured and departed players for his success. As is the case for Doan, Parenteau plays on a team loaded with burgeoning young forward talent, so itís only a question of how soon he and others get pushed down the depth chart.

Andrei Markov, D, Montreal

As noted last week, Markov (at 37) is not the youngest blueliner on the block. One canít blame the Russian for the Habsí rapid decline, although his stats have recently taken a hit (one in nine). Even while Markov is faltering, he still can be expected to produce at an adequate rate (40 is 76 isnít terrible, although itís a step down for him). But his place on the front row is in jeopardy with Nathan Beaulieu and others in the pipeline aiming to push him out.

Kris Versteeg, RW, Los Angeles

Versteeg caught the eyes of fantasy owners in November and December while excelling in Carolina (a stretch of 11 in 12). Even though the vet subsequently slumped and was dealt to LA (three in his last 15), heís still being counted on to contribute to another prolonged playoff tour. Versteeg is set to hit the market this summer, so good luck predicting where heíll land or how many points heíll net. Just donít assume another early hot streak this fall.

(Dis)honorable mentions: Francois Beauchemin, D, Colorado; Trevor Daley, D, Pittsburgh; Frans Nielsen, C, NY Islanders; Dale Weise, RW, Chicago; Justin Williams, RW, Washington

Key Matchups

The playoff seeds are filling up fast. Whoís moving up? Whoís crashing out?

Tuesday/Sunday: Colorado vs. St. Louis x2. If the Avs even want to consider playing past mid-April, theyíll have to hope for at least a split versus the defensive fortress between known as the Blues.

Wednesday: Washington at Philadelphia. Even though the Flyers squandered a chance on Saturday, they host a Caps squad thatís clinched the East and accordingly taken its foot off the pedal.

Friday: Minnesota at Detroit. The Wild have won five straight and look to have pulled away in the wild-card race. Meanwhile, the Wings are on the outside looking in and hoping to avoid another home embarrassment.

Sunday: Boston at Chicago. Entering March, the Bruins and Blackhawks appeared to be sitting pretty in their respective conferences. Fast forward to the present and both clubs are looking over their shoulders at oncoming divisional rivals.

Thatís all for the regular season from the Wrap. Now we wait for the games that really matter. And remember, RotoWireís got you covered for the postseason. Because we care.