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The time is nearing for frustrated poolies to dump underachieving forwards

There are many excellent forward lines in the NHL, cohesive combinations of three productive players who all rack up big stats in fantasy hockey.

The on-again, off-again second line in Toronto is not one of them. Quite honestly, if the unit featuring wingers Darcy Tucker and Jason Blake between centre Kyle Wellwood is not one of the worst top-tier lines in the league, then it certainly takes the booby prize as the most underachieving.

Nearly midway through the season, Wellwood and Blake have five goals apiece while Tucker has but four.

That's 15 goals in total from three players who in most pools were drafted in the middle rounds and expected to finish the year with more than 20 goals - and more in the case of Blake who scored 40 with the Islanders last year.

How frustrating that must be for their hapless poolies, especially considering lower draft picks like Zack Parise, Joffrey Lupul and Shawn Horcoff each have 16 goals, one more than Toronto's terrible troika have totalled. In fact, more than 40 NHL players now have 15 goals or more apiece.

The time to dump these three stooges is rapidly approaching.

Injury Update

A serious knee injury and subsequent surgery will put Hurricanes sniper Justin Williams on the shelf for at least four months. It's a tough one but it's best now for his poolies to drop him and move on.

Gary Roberts of the Penguins hasn't near the same pool value as Williams but he's gone now too. A broken leg suffered Dec. 29 puts an end to this season and quite possibly to his 19-year career.

A handful of other scoring forwards picked up lesser injuries over the Christmas period that might nag them into the new year.

Martin Havlat of the Blackhawks is hobbled again with a groin injury and listed as day-to-day while Andy McDonald, settling in nicely with his new team in St. Louis, is out with a pulled chest muscle.

A concussion has claimed yet another victim in the NHL. Poolies should reserve Drew Stafford of the Sabres as he recovers from a nasty thump against the boards.

Good news coming the other way has Simon Gagne ready to lace them up again next week for the Flyers. However, the fact he is still suffering some post-concussion symptoms doesn't bode well for his long-term prospects.

Waiver Watch

Injuries that hurt one poolie can open opportunities for others.

Take Joe Sakic of the Avalanche, for example. Gone about 10 weeks following hernia surgery, this is obviously a devastating blow for his pool owners. But as sensational sophomore Paul Stastny moves to the top line in Colorado, the pivot position on the second unit now belongs to rookie Jaroslav Hlinka. He's picked up points in four of his last six games, so certainly looks worth chancing with a waiver pick.

Interesting, isn't it, how teams like Colorado and Detroit always seem to have talented young players ready to assume greater responsibility with the team. On the Red Wings now, it's second-year man Valtteri Filppula stepping up large in the absence of Henrik Zetterberg and Tomas Holmstrom.

In four games since injuries clipped those Wings stars, Filppula has responded with four goals and six points. He's definitely worth picking up now, as is another Wing, veteran Mikael Samuelsson, who also registered six points in those same four games.

Zetterberg (back inflammation) won't be back for at least a week while Holmstrom (bruised knee) will be gone three weeks.

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

Who's Hot

1. D Wade Redden, Senators. Returning to offensive form with six points and a plus-7 in past five games.

2. C Mike Ribeiro, Stars. Nine points in four games shows Modano there's a new sheriff in the Big D.

3. RW Richard Park, Islanders. Seven points in four games might be the hottest streak in his 11-year career.

4. G Jean-Sebastien Giguere, Ducks. Stopped 94 of 98 shots to go unbeaten in four games before Saturday's loss.

5. RW Jaromir Jagr, Rangers. Proving it's hard to keep a superstar down, he has 12 points during seven-game streak.

Who's Not

1. C Daymond Langkow, Flames. Eleven points in first eight December games, zero in last five of the month.

2. RW Jamie Langenbrunner, Devils. No points in five games as hot November cools dramatically in December.

3. G Manny Legace, Blues. Winless in three games but still a decent start as a No. 2 goalie in most pools.

4. C Shawn Horcoff, Oilers. Five games off the score sheet spoils his point-a-game average through mid-December.

5. C Nik Antropov and LW Alexei Ponikarovsky, Leafs. Toronto's twin towers have identical six-game pointless streaks.

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



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