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Poolies wise to start Sedin twins down the stretch

It had never occurred before in seven seasons and NHL observers and fantasy hockey managers often wondered what would happen if it did.

Turns out the historic first, the separating of the Sedin twins from the same line on the Vancouver Canucks, was not such a bad thing at all.

Canucks coach Alain Vigneault made the change as the twins battled a slump with only three points apiece in 10 games. Poolies, too, needed Daniel and Henrik to snap out of it.

The divide-and-conquer tactic worked. They went their separate ways on March 17 after starting about 550 games on the same line.

The twins, drafted second and third overall in 1999, responded to the breakup with four points apiece in three games last week.

Poolies will be wise to start them every game down the stretch.

Injury Update

The no-touch icing debate has been rekindled after the bone-breaking check that knocked Wild defenceman Kurtis Foster out for the season.

Sharks forward Torrey Mitchell pushed Foster just as he was touching the puck, crumpling him into the boards and fracturing his leg. Poolies are advised to cut Foster right away.

Defencemen Jack Johnson (foot) of the Kings and Paul Ranger (shoulder) of the Lightning will also be on the mend until training camp opens. Neither will be terribly missed now in fantasy hockey but both have great pool potential in the future.

Goaltender Rick DiPietro of the Islanders is also out for the season after undergoing hip surgery last week.

Ray Whitney of the Hurricanes will also be missed. Whitney had a breakout year last season and would have been good for another 70 points this year if not for a season-ending ankle injury.

Injuries are an unfortunate part of the package with Sabres forward Tim Connolly. He sat out the entire 2003-04 season and missed all but two games last year with post-concussion syndrome.

This year Connolly came back to pick up 40 points in 48 games before abdominal and groin injuries sidelined him in mid-season. Hip surgery now shuts him down completely.

Poolies should drop him now and pass on the hard-luck winger in the next draft.

Waivers Watch

Good help is hard to find in fantasy hockey this time of year, but a few decent possibilities exist.

Is there any free agent hotter right now than Pascal Dupuis of the Penguins? Nope. He has eight assists and a goal in five games. Go get him.

Poolies looking for goals will want to pounce on Johan Franzen of the Red Wings. He has 10 goals in 10 games in March, making him desirable now and as a sleeper on draft day next season.

Another player to watch now and next year is Drew Stafford of the Sabres. He's currently skating with Derek Roy and Thomas Vanek, and six points in three games last week qualifies him as an excellent waiver pick.

A handful of decent blue-liners are making a case for a claim. Tom Gilbert of the Oilers has been one the league's best defencemen in the second half and so might not be available in many fantasy leagues.

Pavel Kubina of the Leafs probably is. Don't snicker. Four goals and seven points in two weeks has turned jeers into cheers.

Kings goalie Erik Ersberg won three of four games last week and should start the lion's share of their remaining games. Same goes for Wade Dubielewicz of the Islanders, though DiPietro's replacement is only an option for the most desperate of poolies.


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

Who's Hot

1. C Peter Mueller, Coyotes. Unheralded rookie tops the 50-point mark with five points in two games.

2. C Manny Malhotra, Blue Jackets. A four-game flash nets seven points, a full quarter of his season total.

3. D Pavel Kubina, Leafs. A six-game streak with four goals and seven points turns jeers to cheers in Toronto.

4. RW Ales Hemsky, Oilers. Two three-assist games last week underscore emerging status as a playmaker.

5. G Marc-Andre Fleury, Penguins. A spectacular 6-1-0 record since returning from injury to starting job.

Who's Not

1. C Matthew Lombardi, Flames. A goal Saturday was only his second in 27 games since mid-January.

2. RW Jamie Langenbrunner, Devils. Minus-6 with one goal in six games doesn't help slumping Devils.

3. D Marek Zidlicky, Predators. Quest for 50 points hits the skids with six-game pointless streak.

4. RW Niklas Hagman, Stars. Zero points since scoring a hat trick against Chicago on Feb. 28.

5. G Jose Theodore, Avalanche. With everyone applauding his comeback, he bombs in four straight.


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