Most of the harder-core poolies are well aware of the fact Pittsburgh coach Michel Therrien changes his line combinations more frequently than he changes his socks. They are aware of it, and they hate it. But he has settled on one line combo that has really clicked and is one of the primary reasons the Pens are still winning hockey games with Sidney Crosby out of the lineup.
Ryan Malone, Petr Sykora and Evgeni Malkin – let’s call them the RPM line – have been on a tear. Malone is the hard-hitting policeman of the line, but has chipped in 28 points in the past 27 games to go along with his 26 penalty minutes.
Petr Sykora, who started off slowly with his new team, but is now clearly quite used to the way his teammates play, has 31 points in 27 games. The RPM line is Sykora’s second “superline,” having been a key member of New Jersey’s famed ‘A-line’ along with Patrik Elias and Jason Arnott a few years ago.
The main ingredient to one of the hottest lines in the league is Evgeni Malkin. The 21-year-old phenom has an astonishing 46 points in that 27-game span. He has a shot at winning the NHL scoring title as a result of this newfound chemistry.
Sykora is signed for another year, but Malone is set to become an unrestricted free agent in the summer. If the Penguins don’t hang onto him, I don’t believe it will impact Sykora. I still think he will remain on the Malkin line and the chemistry, while it may come and go at times, will, for the most part, remain.
Many poolies figured Sykora would notch 70-plus points this year, but due to early struggles he won’t quite reach that point. However, now that he has had time to get used to his linemate – learning where Malkin will be and what he will do in any given situation – he is flourishing.
With an eye to next season, keeper league owners would be wise to make a pitch for Sykora. With Malone, you’d be rolling the dice on him re-signing with the team. With Evgeni Malkin, well, you know my feelings on him (get him at all costs and never trade him)…
Pascal Dupuis has nine points in 10 games as a Penguin and seven in his past four. He may finish with a strong run and even have a decent playoff, but he is not a strong candidate to be a 45-point player next season, regardless of where he signs in the summer. It’s a blip…
Injuries, from a fantasy league perspective: Sidney Crosby will not be in the lineup Saturday as he continues to recover from his high-ankle sprain. If he also misses Monday’s game against the Islanders I don’t see him playing Tuesday, either. Pencil him in for Thursday. Malkin has played extraordinarily well with Sid out of the lineup, so expect his supernatural production to continue for another week. When Sid does return, though, poolies are dying to see how he and Marian Hossa will do together…
Farm Report: Pittsburgh prospect Luca Caputi finished off the Ontario League season with 64 points in his last 31 regular season games for Niagara, good enough to vault him into fourth in OHL scoring. The fourth-round draft pick from the 2007 NHL Entry draft (111th overall) plays left wing. The thing about Pittsburgh prospects is most of the good ones are pivots or defensemen and we all know how set the team is up the middle. So a skilled power winger like Caputi (he finished with 107 PIMs in 66 contests) could make the jump sooner rather than later. Watch him in the next couple of training camps. Owning him could be like winning the lottery.
Fantasy Pool Look will return Friday, March 28.
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