The news is bound to send a stir through fantasy hockey leagues: Scott Niedermayer is back on skates and might soon be lacing them up again with the Anaheim Ducks.
Niedermayer is in California working himself into shape and the word is he’ll be ready to return by Christmas.
You’ll remember Niedermayer announcing after the Ducks won the Stanley Cup that he might retire. Since he never made a commitment one way or the other, perhaps he now feels bad that his former team is floundering as the season near the one-quarter mark and wants to help.
Regardless, his team would obviously love to have his offensive skills back in the lineup. And so would poolies, especially those who own struggling Ducks like Francois Beauchemin, Chris Kunitz and Andy McDonald.
With only nine points after weekend play, McDonald particularly looks lost without Niedermayer or his old winger Teemu Selanne, also pseudo-retired since last summer.
Will Selanne be tempted to return to the Ducks if Niedermayer does so first? It’s not nearly as likely.
Selanne is in California too, but apparently has done little if any skating since hoisting the Cup. Only if you have room on your reserve would Selanne be a good option. With Niedermayer, though, give yourself an early Christmas present and claim him if you can right now, or very soon.
There’s another gifted free agent out there who has also been rumoured to be returning to hockey. Sadly, poolies can probably give up entirely on Peter Forsberg.
The annual Karjala Cup in Finland was going to a litmus test for Forsberg, the chance to show himself and NHL general managers that he was good to go. But even before his Swedish national team played a single game, he hurt his ever-wonky ankle in practice and pulled out of the tournament.
Telling reporters afterwards he “made a fool” of himself and that “I just can’t do it,” this certainly sounds like end of the line for Peter the Great.
Putting aside the watching and waiting, poolies starting the season lame like the Ducks will need to find immediate solution to their woes.
A line shuffle in Tampa Bay might unearth a nugget or two. Jan Hlavac is now skating with the reunited Martin St. Louis and Brad Richards on what has the potential to be an explosive line.
Even more promising is the addition of Michel Ouellet to Vincent Lecavalier’s No. 1 line with the red-hot Vaclav Prospal on the other wing. With two goals and six points in his last five games, Ouellet is looking like a pretty good pickup.
Poolies looking for help in goal should consider the services of Ondrej Pavelec of the Thrashers. The rookie has taken over as interim starter while Kari Lehtonen recovers from injury and has looked impressive while winning three of his last four starts.
Ride him while you can because Lehtonen will be out at least another two weeks.
It’s not going to last long but with three assists in two games defenceman Petteri Nummelin has fared quite well playing forward with the Wild. He’s playing up for the time being because so many Wild forwards are hurt.
Not surprisingly, that includes Marian Gaborik and Pavol Demitra, both hobbled with groin injuries. Could these guys ever go a year without an injury?
Unfortunately, their absence not only affects poolies who took a chance of them but also the ones holding other Wild players.
Defenceman Luc Bourdon has been called up by the Canucks and might be worth watching if he shines on a revamped blue-line brigade missing Sami Salo (broken nose) and Kevin Bieksa (calf muscle surgery) for at least four weeks.
All-star defenceman Dan Boyle of the Lightning is out again after a second tendon replacement surgery on his left wrist. He’ll be gone until the new year, for sure.
Tough guy Shane O’Brien had his second two-goal game of the season for the Lightning last Thursday, but it’ll be defenceman Paul Ranger who will see the increased time and responsibility on the blue-line.
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. D Ed Jovanovski, Coyotes. Given up for dead, Jovocop has six points in four games.
2. LW Sean Avery, Rangers. Two goals and three assists last week plus the usual PIM.
3. LW Ray Whitney, Hurricanes. Old vet on a roar with points in nine straight games.
4. D Andrei Markov, Canadiens. Erasing memory of Souray with five points in five games.
5. G Jose Theodore, Avalanche. Wins and .920 save percentage earn him rotation with Budaj.
1. D Christian Ehrhoff, Sharks. An assist Saturday but was scratched three games prior.
2. C Daymond Langkow, Flames. No points in four games and now has a concussion.
3. LW Patrik Elias, Devils. Scored his only goals Oct. 13 and has no points in November.
4. D Brent Sopel, Blackhawks. A sleeper on draft day, he’s still sawing logs today.
5. W Raffi Torres, Oilers. Played 202 consecutive games, the last seven without points.