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Ice Chips: Comeback Edition

January 26, 2008 | By Mike Chen | comment on this post

The biggest news to hit any mainstream media paying attention to the NHL is the fact that Sidney Crosby will be officially out 6-to-8 weeks. Not only will he give up the scoring title, he’ll also watch as his teammates hopefully step up to fill his void. So far, Evgeni Malkin’s done his best, but others have to step it up to make sure the Penguins stay in the playoff hunt. Jordan Staal’s seen his ice time increase from around 15 minutes a game to about 20 minutes a game. As the post-All Star push gets going, Staal’s increased responsibilities will force him to try and duplicate last season’s success.

Sergei Samsonov has 11 points this season — four in Chicago over 23 games and seven in Carolina in just eight games. The reason? Rod Brind’amour’s doing his job along the boards to make Samsonov look good, but Samsonov’s skill game has definitely helped the Canes with their puck possession. One key stat to note is that Samsonov’s points are coming mostly at even strength, meaning that if he ever starts helping out the special teams, he really will get a return to form.

The recent firing of Toronto GM John Ferguson Jr. has only increased speculation about Mats Sundin waiving his no-trade clause and leaving LeafLand. Interim GM Cliff Fletcher refused to commit to keeping Sundin, and since Fletcher’s talked with the media about change and building smartly for the future, a Sundin deal seems inevitable.

Peter Forsberg — yeah, remember him? — is skating in Sweden, and so far his bionic feet have held up to a few games. Does that make his NHL comeback inevitable? With Forsberg, it’s unpredictable, but if he proves to be healthy, he’ll draw more interest than a player that requires a trade such as Sundin. However, Forsberg has expressed interest mostly in rejoining one of his old teams (Colorado, Philadelphia, and Nashville), so his market might be limited.

It’s time to claim Teemu Selanne in your fantasy league. The Finnish Flash is skating and has told the media that he’s pretty sure he’s coming back as long as he gets a commitment from Anaheim GM Brian Burke. The fallout from this is that Burke may have to make a move depending on what Selanne ultimately signs for (and remember, Selanne’s cap hit will only be relative to half the season).

Pascal Leclaire’s been hot since the new year started; consequently, so have the Columbus Blue Jackets. Dropping just two decisions in January, Leclaire finished the pre-All Star schedule with a shutout against Chicago. Another factor in Columbus’ recent resurgence has been the play of Nikolai Zherdev. After a string of pointless games (with a combined -6), Zherdev has been clicking at better than a point per game while not being shy about shooting the puck. After all, Rick Nash can’t do it all himself.

It’s not getting that much press around the league, but the Phoenix Coyotes are playing their best since the heyday of Jeremy Roenick and Keith Tkachuk. Heading the resurgence is Shane Doan, who’s playing the best hockey of his career. While Doan’s owned in most fantasy leagues, right wing Radim Vrbata may be overlooked with 21 goals. Rookie Peter Mueller’s behind the pace of likely Calder winner Patrick Kane, but his 30 points (13 G, 17 A) are nothing to sneeze at. What’s important to note about Mueller is that the bulk of his points have come in December and January, a sure sign that Mueller’s adjusting well to the NHL game.

The Week Ahead

  • There’s this thing called the All-Star Game on Sunday. Anyone heard of it? Normal games resume on Tuesday.
  • How many goals will the Lightning give up each game? Eight seems to be the magic number this season, and the Sabres and Canucks will have a chance to try to get John Tortorella fired.
  • The Crosby-less Penguins have finish January with a trip to New Jersey and Atlanta. The game against Atlanta will mark Ilya Kovalchuk’s return from his suspension for trying to break Michal Rozsival’s face.

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