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Pool owners should ride Penguins and Ducks in the coming months

But totally pointless was the silly fuss and fret this caused. His fantasy hockey owners don't care a whit that he served up doughnuts at the NHL's annual lame game. And, for that matter, neither do poolies who own his red-hot teammates in Pittsburgh.

The Penguins returned from the break and picked up where they left off. So did Cool Kid and the Gang.

Crosby had a goal and five assists in wins over Dallas and Phoenix, while grey-beard Mark Recchi, sipping insatiably from the fountain of youth, had three goals and three helpers in those two games.

Poolies who stuck with Ryan Malone through lean times are slowly being rewarded. With a goal and an assist Saturday, Crosby's once-silent partner has collected six points during his team's six-game streak without a loss in regulation.

At the other end, Marc-Andre Fleury, undefeated in five games, has emerged as a must-start goalie in all pool formats. And right in front of him is one of the great surprises of this fantasy hockey season.

After his four-point performance on the weekend, young Ryan Whitney is 11th in defencemen scoring with 35 points. Almost half those points have come since Christmas.

The future couldn't look brighter for this team, even with squabbles over what city it will eventually call home.

Rookie Evgeni Malkin had 10 points in the first four games of this hot streak and the engraver should already have his name on the Calder Trophy.

And poolies, if you're in a keeper league and no one has done so at this point, grab Jordan Staal and his 16 goals, and tuck him away for large dividends in the years to follow.

Injury Update

A flock of injured Ducks has returned to the line-up in Anaheim, making that team a force again in the NHL and its top players must-starts in all fantasy leagues.

Goaltender Jean-Sebastien Giguere made 30 saves in his first game after missing 11 games with a groin injury. Look for him to get the majority of starts down the stretch.

The team also welcomed back two sorely-missed defencemen. Francois Beauchemin (spleen), who also missed 11 games, had an assist and a plus-two rating Sunday while Chris Pronger (broken foot) came back after nine games on the limp with a fighting major.

Those returning stars will increase the value of all scorers in the Anaheim lineup, with Teemu Selanne and Andy McDonald leading the way and Chris Kunitz padding his break-out numbers.

Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry are also poised for strong finishes, especially if centre Mark Hartigan, traded from Columbus, gets off to a good start on that second line.

It wasn't all good news in Anaheim. Sunday also marked the first game defenceman Scott Niedermayer missed this year. And, with a stress fracture of his right foot, he'll be out a good week or so.

Avalanche defenceman Patrice Brisebois (back surgery) is gone for the season but didn't have much fantasy value anyway. The same applies to Red Wings winger Mikael Samuelsson (broken foot). He's having an OK year but shouldn't be too terribly missed over the next two weeks.

A bigger concern might be the groin injury that has Columbus goalie Fredrik Norrena listed as day-to-day. Tough luck for him and his owners after three straight wins, 97 saves and only four goals against.

Pascal Leclaire (knee surgery) is still three weeks from returning so former Oiler Ty Conklin is the de facto No. 1 for the time being.

Waiver Watch

Still with the Blue Jackets, defenceman Bryan Berard (back surgery) is expected to play his first game of the year within the next week. If plus-minus is not a concern, he certainly is worth looking at for offensive contributions.

The same is true for Frantisek Kaberle (shoulder) of the Hurricanes, also making his season debut sometime this week.

Senators centre Jason Spezza (knee) played Saturday after missing 14 games but did not return to his position on the top line. That's a relief for owners of Chris Kelly, especially since the first-line centre hasn't a point in four games.

With Spezza's talents now on the second unit, pool values automatically increase for wingers Antoine Vermette and Patrick Eaves. At least for now.


Greg Dennis can be reached at cp.pool(at)


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

Who's Hot

1. D Ryan Whitney, Penguins. New year's resolution to be top-10 defenceman.

2. LW Martin Erat, Predators. Pads break-out stats with six points in three games.

3. G Sean Burke, Kings. Three games, 87 saves, 2.65 GAA. Good job, Gramps.

4. RW Justin Williams, Hurricanes. Proving all-star merit with hot second half.

5. RW Ales Hemsky, Oilers. Finally clicking on line with Smyth and Horcoff.

Who's Not

1. C Brad Boyes, Bruins. In 13 games, unlucky owners get zero points and


2. RW Petr Sykora, Oilers. Sucking up mud with two points in last nine games.

3. D Rob Blake, Kings. Dethroned D-man has awful plus-minus and three points in January.

4. C Robert Lang, Red Wings. Wheels go flat and come off completely in 2007.

5. C Matt Cooke, Canucks. Why is it some thought he might be good this season?


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