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Fantasy Hockey: How to make your midseason comeback

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(Note: Our friends at Dobber Hockey are back for some fantasy fun. All stats are through Wednesday night's games; this feature will be found on Thursdays here on Puck Daddy.)

When the Buffalo Sabres signed Craig Rivet(notes) over the summer of 2008, they did so with an eye to their leadership vacuum. But fast-forward to December 2010. The 23rd captain of the Sabres has been a healthy scratch in 16 games so far.

While it's hard to measure the dressing room dynamic, when does someone ask if Rivet is captain in name only? I don't just bring this up to because I've got Buffalo on the brain due to the rapidly approaching World Junior Championship, but because it's a cautionary tale for us poolies.

Are you the proud owner of a player who's name, or reputation, is hiding the fact that he's dead weight on your roster?

I invite you to take a hard look at your squad. While Rivet isn't exactly fantasy material, there's likely somebody on your team who is also past their best-before date.

Here are a few folks who can fill in for your dead weight.

Goals

Drew Stafford(notes), Buffalo Sabres, RW

Stafford has been battling a shoulder injury that he suffered on November 5 and missed a total of 15 games before returning to the lineup December 15. He picked up a hat trick that night. Over the past seven days, Stafford has potted a total of four goals and 18 shots. After the hat trick, Sabres head coach Lindy Ruff remarked, "I said coming out of training camp I think he was our best player." Yet he's only owned in 12% of Yahoo leagues. It's unclear if this makes Lindy sad or not.

Olli Jokinen(notes), Calgary Flames, C

Typically, Jokenin makes it difficult to say nice things about him, and yet he's had a good week with three goals and a couple of helpers. Sadly, no one has told Jokinen that Movember is over. Currently, only 34% of Yahoo leagues are still loving the 'stache.

Assists

Scott Gomez(notes) , Montreal Canadiens, C

Like Stafford, Gomez is returning from injury and has racked up six assists in four games since recovering from his lower-body injury. Unlike Stafford, those points are running his team an average of 1.2 million per. Fortunately, you don't have to pick up the contract, so consider adding Gomez for the short term. With an ownership of 23%, it shouldn't be a problem.

Ryan Suter(notes), Nashville Predators, D

Suter seems to have kicked his injury problems that he's been suffering recently, and has been starting to consistently produce points again. With four assists in the past week and a tidy plus-seven over the past two, it's surprising that he's only owned in about a third of all leagues.

Plus/Minus

John Carlson(notes), Washington Capitals, D

With Washington getting its game back on track, some of the team's players have accrued some impressive plus/minus stats in the past week. Maybe it's just the approaching World Juniors, but Carlson (he of the overtime gold-medal winning goal of last year) has been more noticeable lately. With a plus-six and four points over the last week, he should be owned in more than 65 percent of leagues.

SOG

Rich Peverley(notes), Atlanta Thrashers, C

Peverley has accumulated 17 shots in the past seven days, plus he added a couple of points, and a five-minute major. Not exactly Gordie Howe material, but if you're looking for some shots and wouldn't mind a few extras, Peverley should be able to help you...as long as the Thrashers are flying.

Evander Kane(notes), Atlanta Thrashers, LW

After missing a couple of games due to a knee injury in the early part of December, Kane has returned strong and has just had one helluva week. Five points, a plus-four rating and 16 shots in the last seven days. The Vancouver native is only owned in half of all leagues. If Kane is unavailable, consider grabbing his linemate Anthony Stewart(notes) (RW), who has seven points in the last week, with nine shots on goal.

PIM

Tom Sestito(notes), Columbus Blue Jackets, LW

PIM are a funny category in fantasy hockey. In many ways they are more difficult to predict than points, and who would have thought that Sestito, a seemingly career minor-leaguer, would lead the NHL in penalty minutes over the last week. But there it is - 29 minutes in the past seven days. Even more startling? He picked up his first two NHL points. Still not intrigued? The word is that Blue Jackets head coach Scott Arniel might use him on the power play, hoping the big fellow from New York State can cause some havoc in front of opposing nets. Just don't wait too long if you want to make use of his wrecking-ball skills ... its hard to know how long he'll stick in the big league.

Steve Ott(notes), Dallas Stars, C

While Sestito is this week's poster boy for the unpredictability of PIM, Ott is a much better model of consistency. Ott has earned 17 minutes of sin bin time in the past week, and 28 minutes over the past 14 days. He's also added four assists and 11 shots on goal over those same two weeks. Just in case you were asleep for last week's recommendation of him - we haven't changed our mind.

Goalies

Nikolai Khabibulin(notes), Edmonton Oilers, G

The Oilers have been playing much better hockey these days and W's can now be found without necessitating the use of two hands and a compass. Despite that, Khabibulin is still only owned in 35% of Yahoo leagues. He's 4-2-1 in his last seven and has only allowed four goals in a game once in that span. While Dubnyk is neglected far too much for our liking, the fact of the matter is that he is neglected and ‘Bulin is racking up the starts.

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Middle-of-the-Pack Jack says: "I'll hang tight with six-time 30-game winner Marty Turco(notes). Backstopping the Stanley Cup Champs, he's bound to turn things around. The upstart Corey Crawford(notes) is just on a hot run."

Sadly, Jack's toque is on too tight. Mike Vernon is also a six-time 30-game winner (okay, 29-game winner), but that doesn't make him a great own in fantasy leagues. Turco's numbers over the last two plus seasons (0.904 SP, 2.81 GAA in the last 147 games) is nowhere near the stingy numbers he posted over the six seasons prior. Stick a fork in him, he's done. Meanwhile, Crawford is 10-2-1 in his last 13. An upstart? Perhaps, but he's the better alternative and he's the one the Hawks will ride going forward.

• • •

The Sabres-Rivet situation is an odd dance. With his contract up this summer, maybe they are just being respectful, or perhaps he's doing things for them that can't be measured on the scoresheet - it's hard to say. But what isn't difficult to figure is this: as fantasy GMs we don't benefit from intangibles and there is no room for emotional niceties if you want to win.

Ditch the dead weight.

Brent Lemon enjoys sharing his thoughts on hockey, good, bad, or outrageous. His work has appeared in several places, including USA Today publications, and his fantasy hockey column, Lemon Aid, appears every second Wednesday at DobberHockey.com

Dobber can be ridiculed on his website or over at thehockeynews.com. You can also follow him on Twitter (@DobberHockey)

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