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The Hockey News
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Latest in a weekly series on NHL pools

The Canadian Press
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Of course, the previous two years weren't so hot, either. But instead of dwelling on the past, let's look forward. To about three weeks from now, when poolies can expect the power forward's long-awaited return. The word from Florida is Bertuzzi's rehabilitation is going extremely well and he should be practising with the team after the all-star break. If not owned in your pool, consider Big Bert a great second-half sleeper pick.

He's not the only player coming off the IR who can help poolies down the stretch.

Defencemen Frantisek Kaberle of the Hurricanes and Bryan Berard of the Blue Jackets have yet to play following off-season surgeries. But the two are now skating and aiming for a return in two or three weeks.

Both have great offensive abilities, and needy poolies should certainly consider their services.

Francois Beauchemin, probably dropped in many pools after lacerating his spleen late last year, is another rearguard set to return after the all-star break. Grab him now because Beauchemin will be the Ducks' power-play quarterback as soon as he's back.

Injury Update

Having free-agent defencemen on the radar is pretty key because they're dropping like flies right now in the NHL.

Sergei Zubov (wrist surgery) of the Stars and Duvie Westcott (concussion) of the Blue Jackets were placed on the IR Sunday. Zubov is expected back after the all-star break while Westcott is listed as day-to-day but should be reserved until he's skating again.

Avalanche defenceman John-Michael Liles (broken foot) is definitely out at least a month, a major blow for poolies in contention.

With Patrice Brisebois (back) and Jordan Leopold (groin) also sidelined, look for rookie Kyle Cumiskey to assume a greater role on the Colorado power play.

Meanwhile, Chris Pronger's broken foot and Beauchemin's injury have given Ducks defenceman Ric Jackman quality time on the point. He's responding well with four assists in three games last week.

Cuminsky and Jackman are only worth monitoring right now. A better free-agent option is Matt Carle, the Sharks defenceman just called up from the minors after a surprise demotion two weeks ago.

Hey, ever heard of Yutaka Fukufuji?

From a sports trivia perspective, the Kings goaltender is the first Japanese native to play in the NHL. And that information is probably more useful than he is in hockey pools, even though he might see some action in L.A.

Regular goalie Mathieu Garon (broken finger) was placed on injured reserve Friday, the same day that backup Dan Cloutier had season-ending hip surgery.

It's Barry Brust's starting job now but Fukufuji has already bailed him out from a five-goal shelling on the weekend.

We're not recommending either target at this time.

Waiver Watch

In our ongoing discussion of up-and-down wingers who line up with superstars, let's give a shout out this week to two players who are absolutely lighting it up with their high-flying linemates.

And, yes, grab these guys if available.

Red Wings fans love that the team has reunited Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg. Tomas Holmstrom loves it even more.

Playing with this dynamic duo, Holmstrom had seven points, including a hat trick, in his last four games before taking on Montreal on Monday night. They don't come much hotter than that.

Except for Chris Kelly, that is.

Kelly is Jason Spezza's replacement on the Senators' top unit with Daniel Alfredsson and Dany Heatley. When the Sens picked up Mike Comrie, some thought Kelly would be reassigned to a plumbing line.

Not much chance of that now.

With four points Saturday against Montreal, Kelly put an exclamation point on a wicked five-game tear that netted him three goals, 11 points and a remarkable plus-12 rating.

It might be too late to grab him off the wires now but poolies can keep a finger on the trigger for free agent Mikko Koivu of the Wild.

Koivu is centring Marian Gaborik and Pavol Demitra, another line combination with tremendous potential.

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Greg Dennis can be reached at cp.pool(at)hotmail.com.

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