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Fantasy Spin: Key players return to the ice

by Sergei J. Feldman
The wait is over. After being sidelined the past 10 games with concussion-like symptoms, talented Dallas Stars playmaker Brad Richards is set to make his return Wednesday night against the Calgary Flames.

As the Stars get their long-awaited boost, so too can fantasy owners with their rosters. Inserted back into your lineup will be 24 goals, 39 assists, 63 points and 215 shots through just 56 games.  Although Richards has missed as much time as he has, he is still the 19th-ranked fantasy player, which only speaks to the center’s effectiveness throughout the 2010-11 campaign.

While recovery is hard to measure when it comes to concussions, durability hasn’t been an issue with the elite center. In his 10 years in the League, Richards has played in at least 80 games seven times. Moreover, during his absence, Richards’ ownership dipped from 99 to 94 percent among Yahoo! Fantasy owners.

Over in the Eastern Conference, gifted New York Rangers sniper Marian Gaborik has returned to the ice after also missing time with concussion-like symptoms. After leaving the ice against the Philadelphia Flyers on Feb. 20, Gaborik returned Sunday afternoon against the same team and looked ready for the final stretch of the season.

Injuries have affected the performance of the Rangers’ right wing, but even still, Gaborik is on pace for 20-plus goals and 200-plus shots. When healthy, Gaborik is one of the League’s most dangerous players.

Sticking with the Atlantic Division, Pittsburgh Penguins’ left wing Chris Kunitz was back in action Tuesday night against the Buffalo Sabres after missing a month with a lower-body injury. While not at the same level as the aforementioned players, fantasy owners know what they’ll get from the gritty winger.

Through 53 games, Kunitz has collected himself 18 goals and 18 assists, while posting 100-plus shots on net. He is having his most productive season since joining the Penguins in 2008-09 and now joins a newly-constructed roster which includes James Neal and Alex Kovalev.
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