The Coyotes coach unleashed a verbal blast last week at slumping forward Ladislav Nagy, who was benched after apparently dogging it against Minnesota. Said the Great One: “I didn’t think I was going to miss his three goals this year in the third period.” Ouch.
To underline his displeasure, Gretzky scratched Nagy Saturday night, employing the time-honoured tactic of embarrassing a player to smarten him up. Sometimes it’s of no use – the Flyers’ Kyle Calder was scratched after 17 games without a goal but returned and remained scoreless through four games last week – but occasionally the message gets through.
Wojtek Wolski is a case in point, a player who last weekend gave hope to those in fantasy hockey pools who have an underachiever stinking up their roster.
Wolski bounced back from a benching just the way coaches and poolies envision, scoring a goal and adding three assists Saturday after being a healthy scratch the previous game.
He’ll be playing on the second Avalanche line with Milan Hejduk and roaring rookie Paul Stastny, and so is worth grabbing is he’s available in your pool.
Nagy owners would like their man to respond the same way. Patience is a virtue, even in hockey pools, but in this case we fear Nagy might take up long-term residency in the Gretzky dog house.
It was a tough week for two stellar goaltenders and their unfortunate pool owners.
First the Predators’ Tomas Vokoun went on the disabled list for two-to-six weeks with a torn ligament in his left thumb, and then J.S. Giguere went out with the always mysterious lower body injury.
It’s tough to replace either of these top-rated targets, of course, but intriguing options do abound.
Nashville’s own Chris Mason might be the best backup in hockey and, with a 4-1-1 record, 2.47 GAA and .928 save percentage, is now a must-start in all hockey pools.
Poolies might also consider the temporary services of Niklas Backstrom of the Wild or Johan Hedberg of the Thrashers. Both backups are playing well and getting starts right now while they’re hot.
Giguere’s injury doesn’t appear serious but if necessary the Ducks will once again start rookie Michael Wall, who won his NHL debut Sunday. Ilya Bryzgalov is normally the backup and a most capable No. 2 goalie (3-1-1, 2.14., 902). However, he is day-to-day with a groin injury.
Speaking of the nagging and annoying impairment, a groin injury has superstar Sidney Crosby on the shelf for who-knows how long. Poolies have no choice but to start him and hope day-to-day means tomorrow and not next month.
Everyone who owns a Penguin also hopes he gets well soon.
A groin injury took Stars captain Brenden Morrow out of games twice last week, which is never a good sign. He returned Friday after missing a game but didn’t play after the first period. Reserve Morrow until he’s back for good.
With seven straight starts, goaltender Ray Emery has a stranglehold on the starting job in Ottawa. Martin Gerber owners should be seriously concerned.
Those who own Marty Turco have no reason to fret, even though backup Mike Smith started three straight games in goal. Turco is still No. 1 in Dallas and one of the best in fantasy hockey.
For scoring help, poolies will want to see if Anson Carter stays on Blue Jackets’ top line with Sergei Fedorov and Nikolai Zherdev. After only four points in his first 21 games after signing US$2.5-million, one-year contract with Columbus, Carter had three on Saturday alone.
Another free agent forward worth monitoring is Andrew Ladd in Carolina. He’s now skating with Eric Staal and Justin Williams.
Greg Dennis can be reached at cp.pool(at)hotmail.com.
Some suggestions on players to add or avoid in your hockey pool this week:
1. LW Peter Schaefer, Senators. Nine points in five games makes up for slow start.
2. LW Darcy Tucker, Leafs. First in feistiness and second in goals this season.
3. D Sean Hill, Islanders. Veteran goes plus-6 with points in four straight games.
4. C Todd Marchant, Ducks. One of the many offensive contributors in Anaheim.
5. RW Jamal Mayers, Blues. Tough guy keeps the gloves on to register four points.
1. LW Dainius Zubrus, Capitals. Scoreless and minus-8 in last four games.
2. C Jozef Stumpel, Panthers. Five games with no points and a minus-7.
3. LW Ruslan Fedotenko, Lightning. The Tank has definitely blown a tread.
4. C Petr Prucha, Rangers. Obviously there is such a thing as a sophomore jinx.
5. D Brian Rafalski, Devils. Pointless streak in sub-par season reaches five games.