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Semin, Jokinen quickly return to form

by Dave Lozo /
It usually takes the average player a while to find his game after sitting out a long period of time with an injury. Alexander Semin and Olli Jokinen are not average players.

Semin, who missed 12 games with an injured muscle in his side, made a surprising return to the Capitals' lineup Wednesday night and looked like he hadn't missed a beat.

Semin, along with Nicklas Backstrom and Alex Ovechkin, were all over the Bruins, combining for 2 goals and 3 assists in Washington's 3-1 victory. Semin's assist gave him 13 goals and 28 points in only 17 games. Activate him immediately. ...

Jokinen made an even bigger splash in his return, scoring twice in Phoenix's 5-3 win against Dallas. Jokinen missed two weeks with a shoulder injury, but looked good in his first game back. ...

The Coyotes' Martin Hanzal is looking more and more comfortable. The sophomore matched Jokinen with 2 goals of his own against Dallas. Hanzal now has 6 goals in his last five games after scoring twice in his first 23. Hanzal has tremendous upside and is worth grabbing if you can deal with the ups and downs of a young player. ...

Do you think Joe Sakic is regretting coming back for one more season? Obviously an accident involving a snow blower isn't a hockey-related injury, but would he have been worried about the snow on his property if not for the back injury that originally sidelined him? Would he have been working out instead? Impossible to say, but it's very possible for you to drop Sakic unless you have the ability to put him on injured reserve. He's not expected back until mid-March, which means in a best-case scenario he'll play 12 more games this season. Should there be any setback in his recovery, his career could be over. ...

You just knew it was too good to be true. Roberto Luongo, who reportedly was close to returning for the Canucks, cut his practice short after just 20 minutes Wednesday, causing many to speculate he aggravated his groin injury. Luongo had been giving post-practice updates about his injury all week, but did not make himself available to reporters on this day. Coach Alain Vigneault tried to quiet the rumors that something was wrong with his goaltender.

"Roberto has been on his own schedule since the injury," Vigneault told the Vancouver Sun. "He warms up, he practices, he takes what he can take and when he feels he's had enough, he comes off. It was no different today."

Asked directly whether Luongo tweaked the muscle, Vigneault replied: "No, not to my knowledge. I mean, he's been following a steady plan and the plan is for him to practice on Friday."

Still, if 20 minutes is all Luongo could take Wednesday, there could be something wrong. It's tough to get a read on injuries these days in the NHL, so you're going to have to wait and see what happens at practice Friday. ...

Brent Johnson is doing everything in his power to solidify himself as the Capitals' starting goaltender. He turned aside 33 shots to earn a 3-1 victory against the red-hot Bruins on Wednesday. Does this mean Jose Theodore has been relegated to back-up duty?

"Theo will get his chance to get in again (so) I don't have a controversy by any stretch," Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau told the Washington Post. "You want to ride the hot hand and Johnny's hot right now."

Johnson has won three straight and has better numbers than his counterpart. It's not quite time to part ways with Theodore, but Johnson clearly is the coach's favorite right now and is likely to get the bulk of the starts in the near future. ...

Canadiens winger Christopher Higgins is considered doubtful for Thursday's game against the Lightning due to an "upper-body injury." He's scheduled for an MRI, so there should be a better idea of how long Higgins will be out soon. ...

The Canadiens have shuffled their top line. Coach Guy Carbonneau has placed Robert Lang with Alexei Kovalev and Alex Tanguay. Perhaps this can get Kovalev out of his slump, which has seen him score as many goals as you or I in his past 17 games. ...

Ryan Clowe and Devin Setoguchi will be in the Sharks' lineup Thursday after both missed practice time this week. No reason to bench them. ...

Kings prospect Teddy Purcell was recalled from the minors, possibly to replace the injured Derek Armstrong. Purcell has the goods to put up some nice numbers, as evidenced by his 9 goals and 19 points in 23 games in the American Hockey League. If Purcell gets quality minutes, he would be a nice sleeper pickup off the waiver wire. ...

The Oilers' Sam Gagner was back at practice Wednesday after missing time with concussion-like symptoms. He worked with the team's fourth line, and it's possible he could be in the lineup Thursday. Even if he is, don't rush to activate the underperforming youngster. The combination of post-injury rust, the potential of being on the fourth line, and his disappointing play so far this season makes him a weak play for now. ...

For those of you who have been hanging on to Penguins defenseman Ryan Whitney, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette had some encouraging news. Whitney, who had been out since August with a foot injury, said he will be back in the lineup within two weeks. He should go right back to quarterbacking the Pens' power play, which means someone like Alex Goligoski could see his minutes trimmed in man-advantage situations. ...

The New York Post is reporting that Mats Sundin is scheduled to meet with the New York Rangers on Saturday. GM Glen Sather doesn't have a lot of money to throw at Sundin, but perhaps he has a craving for the bright lights of Manhattan. ...

Finally, if you're into numbers, Buffalo's Thomas Vanek scored his 21st and 22nd goals of the season Thursday night, putting him on pace for 64 goals and 15 assists. That would be the biggest goal-to-assist gap in NHL history, eclipsing Brett Hull's 1990-91 season with the Blues, when he had 86 goals and 45 assists with the St. Louis Blues.


Carolina Hurricanes at Philadelphia Flyers, 7 p.m. ET -- Do these teams play anyone else? This will be their fourth meeting since Nov. 26, with the Flyers winning two of the three meetings. Hurricanes coach Paul Maurice likely will go with Michael Leighton in goal.
Nashville Predators at Columbus Blue Jackets, 7 p.m. ET -- The Blue Jackets hadn't beaten Nashville in regulation in 16 consecutive meetings before Rick Nash scored twice in a 5-3 home win Oct. 17. The Predators are 16-1-1 in the last 18 matchups.
Tampa Bay Lightning at Montreal Canadiens, 7 p.m. ET, CBC, RDS -- The Lightning look to avoid losing 10 straight, while the Canadiens are 4-0-1 on their current seven-game homestand. All signs point to an easy win for Montreal, which means Tampa Bay is practically guaranteed to win.
New York Islanders at Pittsburgh Penguins, 7:30 p.m. ET -- This will be the sixth game in nine days for the Penguins, who are 1-3-1 during this stretch, including regulation losses in their last three contests. The Islanders have had an even worse time lately, losing four straight and six of seven.
Florida Panthers at Edmonton Oilers, 9 p.m. ET -- Panthers coach Peter DeBoer just gave goaltender Craig Anderson a vote of confidence, so expect him to be between the pipes. The Oilers will go for their fourth straight victory.
Minnesota Wild at Phoenix Coyotes, 9 p.m. ET -- The Wild have outscored the Coyotes 28-10 in winning their last nine meetings, including two this season by a combined 7-2. The Wild have been held to one goal in suffering back-to-back losses in their past two games.
St. Louis Blues at Los Angeles Kings, 10:30 p.m. ET -- Jason LaBarbera will get Thursday night off, with the Kings' Web site reporting Erik Ersberg will start. With Manny Legace injured, Chris Mason will get the start in goal for the Blues.
Anaheim Ducks at San Jose Sharks, 10:30 p.m. ET -- San Jose remains the NHL's only team to have avoided a regulation defeat at home. Anaheim enters having won six of its last eight, but both of those losses came on the road, where the Ducks are 7-4-1 overall.


David Booth, LW, Florida: Is day-to-day with a left shoulder injury.
Philippe Boucher, D, Pittsburgh: Is day-to-day with an undisclosed injury.
Matt Carle, D, Philadelphia: Is day-to-day with a rib injury.
Jonathan Cheechoo, RW, San Jose: Is day-to-day with an upper-body injury.
Derek Dorsett, RW, Columbus: Is out 3-5 weeks with a fractured finger.
Hal Gill, D, Pittsburgh: Is out 2-4 weeks with a shoulder injury.
Tim Gleason, D, Carolina: Is day-to-day with a lower-body injury.
Niklas Hagman, LW, Toronto: Is day-to-day with a minor concussion.
Patrick Kaleta, RW, Buffalo: Is out indefinitely with a neck injury.
Wayne Primeau, C, Calgary: Is day-to-day with a foot injury.
Mathieu Schneider, D, Atlanta: Is day-to-day with an upper-body injury.
Dennis Seidenberg, C, Carolina: Is day-to-day with a groin injury
Brian Sutherby, C, Anaheim: Is day-to-day with a groin injury.
Jordin Tootoo, LW, Nashville: Is day-to-day with a lower-body injury.
Sergei Zubov, D, Dallas: Is day-to-day with a lower-body injury.


(Unfortunately, Rocky is away on vacation this week and didn't leave anyone access to the fantasy mailbag vault. I wouldn't trust me with it, either. However, if you'd like to send me questions this week, e-mail me at

Dear Pretend Fantasy Forecaster,

In general, do you think it is a bad idea to have multiple players from a single team on your roster? For example I have Sheldon Souray, Lubomir Visnovsky and Ales Hemsky. Also, while Semin's return being unannounced was a nice surprise, do you think he is back for good (at least until another injury happens to appear)? Now that I have to take him off the IR, would you recommend dropping Visnovsky or Marek Zidlicky? Sorry for all the questions.

You should be sorry, Aaron. You're cutting into my very important Facebook time and fantasy-football strategizing. Just kidding; I never waste company time like that. Let me answer your questions in the order in which they were received:

1. To me, good players are good players. If you had Marian Hossa, Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg, you wouldn't worry about having so many Red Wings. Sure, there may be times when a particular team only plays once or twice in a week, but over the long haul you're better off.
2. Everything I read about Wednesday night's game said Semin looked great with Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom, so I'd have no worries. He's unlikely to keep up the pace he's on points-wise, but if he's on a line with AO and Backstrom, he'll be just fine.
3. Drop Zidlicky. It's a tough call, but I think Visnovsky is the better bet.


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