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Hockey poolies feel the pain of Chris Pronger's suspension too

Perhaps there are now two groups of people who can't stand Chris Pronger.

One certainly is the fine folks of Edmonton who watched the big defencemen turn his back on their city and leave the Oilers in 2006. The other might be those frustrated folks who own him in fantasy hockey leagues and will be without his services for the next eight NHL games.

Pronger has been suspended by the league for his latest act of on-ice violence, a malicious stomp on Ryan Kesler's leg last Wednesday. He's gone for all but the last game of the regular season, meaning his poolies, whether they like him or not, will be without his valuable production down the stretch.

Pronger is one of those players, like Sean Avery of the Rangers, who poolies hate to love but love to have on their fantasy teams. Yes, he'll be tough to replace.

The first place to look might be right where Pronger stood on the Ducks blue-line. With his teammate banished, Mathieu Schneider moved up to the top power-play unit Saturday and had a goal and two assist in the Ducks' 5-2 win over the Blues.

Another quality defenceman to own right now is Joe Corvo of the Hurricanes. He's been on fire since the Senators dumped him at the trade deadline with 15 points in 14 games.

On Sunday, he rubbed it in his former team's face with a hat trick in a 5-1 victory over the Senators. His poolies liked that sweet revenge, too.

Injury Update

It's more than a little worrisome for Penguins and poolies to see Sidney Crosby limping off the ice again.

He banged up the same ankle that forced him to sit out 21 games earlier and the club now says he's going to miss a week or so. Don't be too surprised to see that time-off extended as his health for the playoffs will be more important than his production in these last few weeks.

With Sid the Kid looking on, Marian Hossa played on Sunday for the first time since injuring his knee in his Penguins debut seven games ago. He picked up a goal and assist in a 7-1 win, leaving all poolies to wonder just how explosive this team will be when Crosby and Hossa are playing together with Evgeni Malkin, Petr Sykora and Sergei Gonchar.

Fantasy leaguers were also happy this week to see the returns of scoring forwards Ryan Smyth of the Avalanche and Mike Richards of the Flyers. Both teams are gunning for the playoffs so these two players will push hard to produce.

The Maple Leafs, meanwhile, are destined for another early April round of golf. That might mean they won't need or want injured forwards Mats Sundin and Nik Antropov to hurry back. Poolies might want to tee up a couple of replacements just in case.

Waiver Watch

Good free agents are out there but often lay unnoticed on teams out of the hunt. Where better then under the Florida sun to give some young players the opportunity to shine.

The Lightning are going nowhere but winger Michel Ouellet has stepped forward with eight goals and 12 points in 11 games. He was traded from the Penguins at the deadline.

Brett McLean is doing the same thing for the Panthers, scoring on a consistent basis and producing at a point-per-game clip over the past 20 games. He had four straight two-point games last week.

The sun's not as warm in Washington but forward Brooks Laich has been scorching hot for the Capitals lately.

Laich has sniped 10 goals in the last 12 games for the Capitals. Considering he had a total of 15 goals in the previous two seasons, that's pretty impressive and a good enough reason to give him a go right now.

Some players to watch or watch out for in your hockey pool this week:

Who's Hot

1. G Martin Gerber, Senators. Top starter has three wins, 1.01 GAA and .967 save percentage in four games.

2. C Jeff Halpern, Lightning. An average player on an impressive tear with seven points in four games.

3. C Brett McLean, Panthers. Two points in four consecutive games ought to draw poolie attention.

4. C Johan Franzen, Red Wings. Scores goals in five straight games and totals nine points in six games.

5. W Daniel Paille, Sabres. Tireless talent tallies four goals while playing three games in four nights.

Who's Not

1. C Kyle Wellwood, Leafs. Ho-hum, another long and dreary pointless streak for the great under-achiever.

2. W Kyle Calder, Kings. Hopes he might rebound faded long ago and a current seven-game skid ices it.

3. W Martin Straka, Rangers. Just when it looked like he was coming around he goes back in the tank again.

4. D Matt Carle, Sharks. It's hard to believe that such great potential and promise never materialized.

5. G Manny Legace, Blues. Once hot, he's now winless in five games and giving up goals by the bucket load.


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