Scott Niedermayer, one of the top offensive defencemen in the NHL, is back.
Without doubt, the Anaheim Ducks welcome his return to the flock with elation, as do his owners in fantasy hockey leagues everywhere.
For poolies who drafted him before the season began, their patience will be rewarded with 35 or 40 points, a production that only a couple dozen blue-liners will finish with over a full season.
On the off-chance he is a free agent in your pool, jump immediately on this rare, mid-season opportunity to grab a player with such talent.
Still, it would’ve been better for all poolies if Niedermayer didn’t decide to take his long vacation. It’s like Roger Clemens in baseball choosing to play an abbreviated season and getting away with it, simply because of his status and abilities.
Fantasy leaguers everywhere will hope this doesn’t become the norm.
Who the heck is Dustin Byfuglien and what is he doing lighting up the league these days?
Well, if you want to know, Byfuglien is a 22-year-old American defenceman, selected by Chicago with the 245th overall pick in the 2003 draft.
And if you didn’t know, he recently tied a team record for defencemen with three goals in one game, and has 10 points in only 16 games this season.
What you might need to know is he is big, has a wicked shot and on the weekend played on the Blackhawks’ top line with Robert Lang and Martin Havlat.
Guess you might now know that, if you need defence help, we recommend grabbing this Byfuglien guy off the waiver wire and in a hurry.
Another defenceman hot of late is Dennis Wideman of the Bruins. Traded from St. Louis for Brad Boyes in what always appeared to be a lopsided deal, Wideman is earning respect now with a six-game point scoring streak. We still think it was a bad trade, but go ahead and take a chance on Wideman.
Another Bruin worth looking at, and also once involved in a dubious deal, is goaltender Alex Auld. You might remember Auld went from Vancouver with Todd Bertuzzi to Florida in exchange for a certain goalie named Roberto Luongo.
The young Auld bombed there and has basically been bouncing around until landing last week in Boston. Double-A beat the Maple Leafs on Saturday and will get a real shot at a few more until either Tim Thomas or Manny Fernandez return from injuries.
Elsewhere in goal, those maddening platoon situations that all poolies hate seem to have disappeared in Ottawa and Edmonton.
Of course, that’s only good news if you own Ray Emery and Dwayne Roloson, who have reclaimed the top jobs with the Senators and Oilers respectively.
There’s no satisfaction in seeing your Martin Gerber and Mathieu Garon watching games from the bench.
Those troublesome groin injuries continue to knock poolies for a loop.
Joe Sakic of the Avalanche missed five games nursing his injury and Jason Williams will now be away from the Blackhawks until January. Jonathan Cheechoo of the Sharks is listed as day-to-day.
Goaltenders Cristobal Huet of the Canadiens and the Bruins’ Thomas are both sidelined with groin injuries and will miss a couple more weeks.
David Vyborny (hip) didn’t play last week and was placed on the injury reserve by the Blue Jackets on Sunday. There’s no telling when he’ll return.
The Capitals aren’t telling anyone what’s the deal with Michael Nylander. The playmaker has missed two games with an undisclosed injury, so stay tuned to see how bad this is. In the meantime, Viktor Kozlov has assumed the coveted position as Alex Ovechkin’s centre.
Greg Dennis can be reached at theCanadianpress.pool(at)hotmail.com.
Some players to watch or watch out for in your hockey pool this week:
1. C Nik Antropov, Maple Leafs. Back on the top line with Mats Sundin, the big guy scored five goals last week.
2. D Dustin Byfuglien, Blackhawks. Four goals, including a hat trick, and seven points in five games.
3. C Nicklas Backstrom, Capitals. Rookie showing he’s got game with four points on weekend.
4. C Anze Kopitar, Kings. Last year’s rookie surprise is a sophomore sensation this season.
5. LW Ryan Smyth, Avalanche. An uneven season improves with nine points in a five-game streak.
1. RW Michael Ryder, Canadiens. Nine games without a point since picking up two assists Nov. 17.
2. C Jason Arnott, Predators. Veteran slumps with one assist and minus-four rating this month.
3. LW Martin Straka, Rangers. Missed 15 games with injury but six points in 14 games also hurts.
4. D Jay Bouwmeester, Panthers. Nasty November slump gets worse with zero points in last five games.
5. RW Owen Nolan, Flames. Seven games without a point puts an exclamation point on this: Dude, you’re done!