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Fantasy Pool Look: Czech…and mates

There was a time when Jaromir Jagr of the New York Rangers was like gold in hockey pools.

Few players consistently put up the monster points he did when he was at his best. Jagr never reached the levels Mario Lemieux or Wayne Gretzky did in their prime, but his numbers were out of reach for most NHL players.

But after trio of sub-par seasons, Jagr is clearly back - be it a result of the “new NHL” or from the fact that he's now in a comfortable environment surrounded by many fellow Czech players.

Now, to a lesser extent, the same can be said about Petr Sykora. A solid 70-point player at the turn of the century, the 29-year-old is another Czech player who has fallen on hard times offensively.

And while fantasy owners were pulling their hair out over Jagr's “measly” 70-point seasons, other owners (or in some unlucky cases, the same owners) were going nuts over Sykora's seasons in the low 50s.

Well, good news folks: with Sykora's trade from the Mighty Ducks to the Rangers, he has been thrown into the same comfy situation that led to Jagr's revival.

So expect a return of the old Sykora.

There is only enough time left for Sykora to salvage 55 to 60 points this season, but beginning next year he'll be back as a 35-goal, 75-point player. He's picked up four points in two games with the Blueshirts already. This is good news for Rangers fans - and for poolies.

San Jose left winger Nils Ekman has 12 points in his last five games, and 15 of his 22 points have come in his last eight contests. Ekman got his confidence back when he was put on a line with Joe Thornton and Jonathan Cheechoo. When Thornton was thrown out of the Boston game earlier in the week, Ekman's new-found confidence carried the Swede through to a three-point night without his star linemate.

One downside for fantasy owners who have New Jersey Devils: now that Patrik Elias is back from injury, Sergei Brylin's offensive output has plummeted. After starting the season with 19 points in 37 games, Brylin has been held off the scoresheet for the last six contests, four of which saw Elias in the lineup. With Elias' return, Brylin is no longer be relied upon for offense.

Injuries, from a fantasy pool perspective: Philadelphia goaltender Robert Esche should return from his groin injury by the end of next weekÂ…Columbus blue-chipper Gilbert Brule, who broke his leg in early December, is back skating and has been cleared to play. The Blue Jackets sent him back to the Vancouver Giants of the Western League.

Farm Report: San Jose prospect Devin Setoguchi has 59 points in 41 games for Saskatoon of the WHL. The 18-year-old was the eighth overall draft pick last summer and projects as a second-line winger who has decent size and a cannon for a shot. He likely won't compete for an NHL roster spot for at least three years.

Fantasy Hockey Pool Look is an in-depth presentation of player trends, injuries and much more as it pertains to rotisserie pool leagues. Get the edge in your league - check out the latest scoop every Wednesday and Friday afternoon. Also find the top 250 roto-player rankings at the first of every month (email me for the rankings).

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