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Some big-money players have been busts for fantasy hockey owners

You walked away from your fantasy hockey draft beaming, feeling so fortunate to have secured the high-scoring talents of players such as Jaromir Jagr, Patrick Marleau, Alex Tanguay and Jordan Staal.

Now you are cursing your luck.

Those studs have been duds to start the season, and the same black cloud hangs over the likes of Andy McDonald, Maxim Afinogenov, Jonathan Cheechoo, Patrik Elias and Miroslav Satan.

It's not pretty but what are you going to do?

Poolies with a pair or more of those serious underachievers are no doubt languishing in the standings. And just as frustrating is the feeling of being caught between hard ice and a slippery spot - stuck with players too good to dump but too dreadful now to have much market value.

Other poolies will circle round your team like vultures, looking to scoop up a comatose player and hope he springs to life with them. It's the classic sell-high, buy-low trade principle and you can't blame other poolies for trying.

In fact, this is encouraged - but the vultures must put a decent offer on the table if they are truly serious.

Trading is one of only two options when expectations are high and the results don't match. You'll have a tough time getting anyone interested in your struggling Darcy Tucker but names like Jagr and Marleau still have cache in trade talks.

The other option is patience. Already we've seen slow starters like Scott Gomez, Thomas Vanek and Marian Hossa bounce back to form. The reason these players were selected so high in your pool is simple - they are very good players.

Yes, in real life patience is a virtue. In fantasy hockey, it's a pain in the butt. But hang in there for a little while and in most cases your patience will be rewarded.

Waiver Watch

One poolie's predicament is another poolie's opportunity.

Goaltenders Marty Turco of the Stars and Dominik Hasek of the Red Wings have been less than stellar, much to the chagrin of their pool owners. But anyone with their backups is feeling fine.

Mike Smith in Dallas has given up only four goals in four straight wins since Nov. 16 while Detroit's Chris Osgood of the Red Wings won two games last week and lost another in a shootout.

Also keep an eye on Dany Sabourin, the Penguins' No. 2 goalie. Marc-Andre Fleury bounced back from a horrible start on Thursday with a shutout Saturday, but this top target has been extremely shaky of late and could be on thin ice in Pittsburgh.

Up front, Jamie Langenbrunner has always been an unheralded producer and he's at it again since returning from injury two weeks ago. With two goals and eight points in his first six games, the Devils have certainly welcomed him back. Poolies should too.

The flu kept him out of the lineup on the weekend but Patrick Sharp of the Blackhawks is once again firing on all cylinders. His sudden rise as a scorer has been remarkable. The fourth-year forward has 11 goals, a pace we don't think will continue but is worth riding now while he is hot.

Injury Update

It appears the surgery defencemen Mike Van Ryn had on both wrists last summer did not cure his ills. His right wrist is bothering him to the point where he needs few days rest. It might also explain his woeful offensive stats this season.

The surprising return of Jason Williams to fantasy favour is on hold while he nurses a sore groin. The Blackhawks winger has 18 points in 19 games, more than half his total point production of last year.

The ubiquitous groin strain also sidelined Alexander Frolov of the Kings and Daniel Alfredsson of the Senators on the weekend. Both teams say it's not serious but those pesky groin injuries can drive poolies crazy.

Jere Lehtinen is more seriously injured with a related abdominal muscle pull. He's now out indefinitely and may require surgery.

Leafs forward Jiri Tlusty has an undisclosed injury and did not dress Saturday. Poolies can insert their own jokes here.


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

Who's Hot

1. LW Markus Naslund, Canucks. Captain collects six goals and eight points in four-game streak.

2. RW Jamie Langenbrunner, Devils. Eight points in six games since returning from hernia surgery.

3. RW Glen Murray, Bruins. Shows a flash of former brilliance with a six-point burst last week.

4. RW Ales Hemsky, Oilers. Two goals and five points offers a promising peek at future stardom.

5. G Manny Legace, Blues. Averaged 25.6 saves and 1.80 goals against while winning four of five.

Who's Not

1. RW Jaromir Jagr, Rangers. Poolies can't sit him but aren't happy with five-game pointless streak.

2. LW Ryan Smyth, Avalanche. Off-season acquisition disappoints with minus-7 and one assist in five games.

3. G Dominik Hasek, Red Wings. Hardly dominating since injury return, allowing 11 goals in three losses.

4. LW Ladislav Nagy, Kings. Can someone explain why this talent is so consistently inconsistent?

5. RW Bill Guerin, Islanders. Zero points in nine games make excellent start a distant memory.


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