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Fantasy Spin: Impact of Crosby's return to action

by Eric Lipschutz

At long last Sidney Crosby is back. No. 87 will be in the Penguins' lineup Monday night when Pittsburgh hosts the New York Islanders. The 7 p.m. ET game will be televised nationally by Versus in the United States and CBC in Canada

To say the Penguins, their fans and fantasy owners have been eagerly awaiting Crosby's return to action may be the understatement of the hockey season. Sid has been sidelined since Jan. 6 when he was diagnosed with a concussion following a pair hard hits in successive games. Since that time, there has been constant speculation as to when Crosby would be cleared to play. All of that is now in the past, however, with Sunday's big news that Sid is ready to return.  
When he was abruptly forced from the lineup last season, Crosby was having an MVP-caliber campaign. In 41 games Crosby had 32 goals and 66 points. He compiled 19 points on the power play, totaled 161 shots and was a plus-20 for good measure.

If Crosby can come close to producing the type of numbers he had prior to getting injured, then fantasy owners who took the risk of drafting or dealing for Sid will be ecstatic. Once Crosby shakes off the rust, there is no reason to believe he can't return to his elite status as one of the best -- if not the best -- players in the League.

The only concern the Pens and Sid owners should have is keeping him healthy and on the ice. In addition to the fear of Crosby suffering another concussion. The 24 year-old superstar has also been dinged up a few times with other various ailments. Injuries have been the only thing capable of slowing Sid down during his short career.
Chris Kunitz
Left Wing - PIT
GOALS: 7 | ASST: 4 | PTS: 11
SOG: 60 | +/-: -2
The fantasy impact of Crosby's return goes far beyond his giddy owners jumping for joy. Upon his return, Crosby will be reunited with the linemates he had most of last season, Chris Kunitz and Pascal Dupuis. To date, Kunitz has been a steady fantasy contributor with 7 goals, 11 points, 60 shots on goal and an impressive 42 hits. Dupuis, not known to be as fantasy relevant as Kunitz, has opened some eyes this season with 4 goals, 14 points and 54 shots on goal with a plus-7 rating. But now back with Crosby, both players should see their production experience a big boost that should continue as long as they keep reaping the benefits of skating alongside one of the NHL's most dynamic playmakers. 
Between Kunitz and Dupuis, Kunitz is the better play at this point due to his track record as a perennial 20-goal scorer who can be counted on to be a consistent contributor to the shots on goal and PIMs categories. Since arriving in Pittsburgh in 2008-09, Kunitz has shown the ability to elevate his game when paired with Sid. Dupuis might not have quite as a high a ceiling as Kunitz, but the underrated veteran left winger is a reliable fantasy option who, if not spectacular, can contribute to fantasy categories across the board for teams in deeper leagues. 
With Crosby sidelined to this point, both Kunitz (owned in 38 percent of Yahoo! Leagues and Dupuis (owned in 19 percent of Yahoo! Leagues) are both undervalued. That won't last for long once Sid returns and inevitably boosts the play of both of these wingers. Go ahead and grab Kunitz off the waiver wire now in leagues where he is available and keep a close eye on Dupuis to see if Crosby's return allows him to keep performing over his head.
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