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Fool's gold or real thing? Unlikely names among NHL leaders after three weeks

The Hockey News

The Hockey News

Order is steadily being restored to the NHL scoring list, with the names that should be up top replacing those that shouldn't as the new season's sample size continues to grow.

Still, there are some players with bigger numbers than you might expect heading into the fourth week of the campaign and for poolies they can either represent waiver-wire gold or a wasted transaction.

Brandon Dubinsky (4 goals, 7 assists, all stats before Monday's play), Filip Kuba (0-11), Mikko Koivu (1-9), Aaron Voros (5-4), Antti Miettinen (5-2), Ales Kotalik (4-3) and Bryan Little (4-3) all fit into that category and trying to decide if they're legit can be tricky.

If you're picking them up as an injury stop-gap or to milk a hot streak before moving on, there's little risk involved. But if you're looking at them as long-term solutions and plan to drop someone off to a slow start, than you had better be more careful.

Voros, for instance, has all kinds of warning signs.

The 27-year-old New York Rangers centre has never put up big numbers anywhere in his career and was last a point-per game player when he played junior in the BCHL. If he wasn't a big points producer in college or the AHL, things aren't likely to suddenly click at the NHL.

As well, he's gone pointless in his last three games and his ice-time has decreased into the very low teens. All signs that his bubble's bursting fast.

Reading the other players isn't as straightforward.

Dubinsky had decent numbers in the WHL and AHL and last year put up 40 points for the Rangers. At just 22, it's reasonable to expect that there's more there, although it's hard to imagine him maintaining a point-per game pace. Somewhere between 40-60 points is a reasonable projection.

Kuba, the 31-year-old Senators defenceman, has generally been a 30-point defenceman in his career but accomplished most of that with the offensively restricted Minnesota Wild before playing second-fiddle to Dan Boyle the past two seasons in Tampa. He's running the Ottawa power play and may continue shine with the added responsibility.

Koivu, a 25-year-old Wild centre, may be experiencing a similar progression. With star winger Marian Gaborik injured and Pavol Demitra gone, the 2001 first-round pick is seizing a bigger role and considering he posted 42 points in 57 games last season, another jump isn't unreasonable.

Miettinen, a 28-year-old Wild winger, had 31, 25 and 34 points the past three seasons in Dallas before joining Minnesota as a free agent. Handed some more ice time, he's produced more and his solid numbers in Finland and during a pair of AHL stints suggests he might be able to keep it up. But the guess here is he fades rather than blooms and goes up to 10-15 points better than his NHL track record.

Kotalik, the 29-year-old Sabres winger, recorded 62 points in 2005-06 but hasn't challenged his career-high since. Given Buffalo's hot start, he may be just riding the wave rather than experiencing a breakout.

Little, Atlanta's first-round pick in 2006, was a big-time scorer in the OHL and had a nice pro debut last season, collecting 25 points in 34 AHL games and 16 more in 48 NHL contests. The 20-year-old has been skating on the top line with Ilya Kovalchuk and that should give him a chance to rack up some numbers, but it might be too early in his career to safely predict a breakout.

INJURY UPDATE: Lots of nasty stuff on this front in the last few days.

Red Wings sniper Johan Franzen and Hurricanes defenceman Joni Pitkanen both learned Sunday they'll need knee surgery and will miss about a month.

Columbus Blue Jackets goalie Pascal Leclaire is day-to-day with a sprained ankle, although the emergency recall of Dan LaCosta from the AHL doesn't bode well.

Owners of Rick DiPietro can only guess what's up with the New York Islanders goalie, who left Saturday's game versus Carolina with an undisclosed injury. He was slated to see a doctor Monday.

Also guessing are poolies with Gaborik, who is on injured reserve with an unspecified lower body injury.

No guessing with Danny Briere, who will miss up to a month with a torn abdominal muscle. And the Vancouver Canucks will have to live without Demitra for a month because of a rib injury.

PLUS/MINUS: Plus - Jarome Iginla (5 goals-2 assists last week); Marian Hossa (3-3); Scott Hartnell (3-3); Mike Richards (1-5); Brenden Morrow (2-4). Minus - Daymond Langkow (0-0); Milan Michalek (0-0); Vincent Lecavalier (1-0); Alexander Ovechkin (0-2); Mathieu Garon (5.00 GAA, .818 save percentage in two games).



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