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Wednesday, November 5, 2008
Reclamation projects revisited


In ESPN.com's Fantasy Hockey season preview package, I examined a number of reclamation projects around the NHL. Some of the risks have been rewarded, while the jury is still out on others, and even some new ones have emerged.

Fitting into new surroundings or different systems and getting a fresh start have revitalized a number of veteran players. Here's a look at some reclamation projects who were in action Tuesday night.

Kyle Wellwood, F, Canucks: Wellwood remained hot with two power-play goals in Vancouver's 4-0 victory over Nashville. That gives him six goals in eight games this season and four in his past four games.

His quick hands and smart positioning have drastically improved the team's power play, where he has been clicking with the Sedin twins on the No. 1 unit. Five of Wellwood's goals have been with the man advantage, and his lone goal at even strength came seconds after a penalty expired.

He's owned in just 1 percent of leagues, and that should change quickly. Every other NHL team passed on the chance to grab Wellwood off re-entry waivers, but most ESPN fantasy hockey owners still have a chance to boost two categories by claiming him. You might need a goon to balance him out, however, because Wellwood hasn't had a penalty since April 11, 2006 (a streak of 119 games and counting).

Tuomo Ruutu, F, Hurricanes: Ruutu had a goal and an assist and was plus-2, stretching his points streak to four games. During the streak, he has three goals, three assists and a plus-4 rating.

The Blackhawks gave up on Ruutu last season, trading the ninth overall selection in the 2001 draft to Carolina just before the trade deadline. The big winger has rewarded the Hurricanes with eight goals and 11 assists in 26 games since. He plays with an edge, so he'll also rack up some PIMs, but that's also affected his durability, as injuries have slowed his progress.

Ruutu and linemates Dwight Helminen and Chad LaRose burned the Leafs with five goals and five assists in back-to-back games, but we'll see whether they can keep scoring against NHL lineups. Next up for the Hurricanes are the Capitals (Thursday), Senators (Friday) and Thrashers (Sunday).

Markus Naslund
Markus Naslund is able to find more room to score in the Rangers' system.
Markus Naslund, F, Rangers: Naslund had the Blueshirts' lone goal in a 2-1 loss to the Islanders, but he has eight points (four goals, four assists) in his past seven games.

Naslund has adjusted nicely to the Rangers after escaping the defense-oriented system of the Canucks through free agency in the summer. His 12 points are tied for the team scoring lead with Brandon Dubinsky and Nikolai Zherdev, who is somewhat of a reclamation project in his own right.

Against the Isles, Chris Drury was the only Rangers forward with more ice time (4:36) on the power play than Naslund (4:16) and Naslund's four shots were tied with Scott Gomez and Marc Staal for the team lead versus the Isles.

Todd Bertuzzi, F, Flames: I'll admit I was wrong in predicting Bertuzzi wouldn't rediscover his scoring with Calgary. He's been a good addition with seven goals (five on the power play) and two assists through 13 games.

He went pointless in Calgary's 4-2 loss to Phoenix on Tuesday and was a conspicuous minus-3. With a team-worst minus-10, Bertuzzi still isn't back to his monster fantasy days before the Steve Moore incident.

Brendan Morrison, F, Ducks: The third member of one-time big line in Vancouver, along with Naslund and Bertuzzi, is faring far worse than his fellow former Canucks. Morrison has just one assist in 13 games and hasn't provided the second-line scoring help the Ducks had been hoping for when they signed him as a free agent last summer.

Now he's seeing his ice time drop to the 13- to 14-minute range, leaving him fewer opportunities to snap out of his funk. He did get three minutes on the power play in the Ducks' 1-0 overtime victory over the Kings but still had zero shots on goal all game.

Injuries have hit the once-durable center hard over the past two years, and he's still trying to work his way back from offseason surgery to repair the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee.

"We said we would show some patience, but obviously you can't show patience past a certain point," Ducks coach Randy Carlyle told the Orange County Register. "He knows that, and we'll work through it together."

Fantasy owners should be more ruthless, however, so the 3.7 percent of you who still have Morrison can surely find someone better in the free-agent pool.

Doug Weight, F, Islanders: Weight was held off the scoresheet and was a minus-1 against the Rangers on Tuesday night, but the 37-year-old has a respectable two goals and eight assists through 12 games.

He's also only a minus-1 on a bad team while averaging 19:33 in ice time. It's doubtful Weight can maintain his current scoring pace, but he has a much bigger role on Long Island than he did in either St. Louis or Anaheim last season, when he amassed just 10 goals and 15 assists in 67 games.

That memory of Weight's rough 2007-08 season is why he is owned in just 9.8 percent of ESPN leagues. But Weight led all Islanders in power-play time with 3:06 against the Rangers.

Alex Auld
Alex Auld is a popular pickup as he's among the NHL's top goalies early this season.
Alex Auld, G, Senators: Auld stopped 26 shots in his sixth consecutive start, leading Ottawa to a 2-1 overtime victory over Washington.

Auld has the third-best goals-against average (1.96) and the fourth-best save percentage (.935) in the NHL, but more importantly he's giving the Senators a chance to win. Auld is 3-0-1 in his past four games and has made coach Craig Hartsburg delay Martin Gerber's return to action even though his leg injury has healed.

Owned in 31 percent of ESPN leagues, Auld has been one of the most added players lately.

Krys Kolanos, F, Wild: The former first-round pick (19th overall by the Coyotes in 2000) had a goal in his Wild debut after being recalled from the minors. He had seven goals and an assist in seven games with the AHL Houston Aeros.

Kolanos, who hadn't played an NHL game since 2005-06, has a chance to right a career that has been sidetracked by a concussion and inconsistency. He's not worth a gamble fantasy-wise yet, but he could earn a bigger role if youngsters Colton Gillies and James Sheppard continue to struggle.

Ice Chips

Alex Ovechkin owners are relieved to have him back after he missed two games because of family issues in Russia. But the Capitals superstar was held off the scoresheet in Ottawa's 2-1 overtime victory over Washington and has now gone seven games without a goal. … Meanwhile, Senators forward Dany Heatley extended his goal-scoring streak to four games. … Heatley's teammate, center Mike Fisher, picked a perfect time for his first goal of the season, netting the overtime winner against Washington after a nifty pass from Daniel Alfredsson. Although it took 10 games to get his first point (he also had an assist on Heatley's goal), look for Fisher to start making up for lost time and get back to a 20-goal pace, especially if Alfredsson continues playing on his wing. Fisher's six shots on goal led all shooters in the game. … Maple Leafs forward Mikhail Grabovski had his second consecutive two-goal game and added an assist in Toronto's 5-4 overtime loss to Carolina. Don't buy yet unless you've got an overzealous Leafs fan in your league (you know there's plenty out there) whom you can con into a trade for someone more reliable. … Sharks forward Ryane Clowe had a Gordie Howe hat trick with a goal, an assist and a fight in San Jose's 3-1 victory over Minnesota. … San Jose's Jamie McGinn scored his second goal of the season, giving him three points in four games since he was called up from the minors. … Wild D Brent Burns didn't play because of an upper-body injury. … The Canucks had another forward make it through re-entry waivers as they recalled winger Michel Ouellet from Manitoba. Ouellet was a plus-1 and had 1:49 in power-play time among his 10:26 on the ice against the Predators. He was leading the AHL's Moose with 10 points in 10 games. … Despite Roberto Luongo's hot-and-cold start to the season, he now leads all goalies with three shutouts. … Goalie Joey MacDonald won for the second consecutive night in the Isles' victory over the Rangers. He has stopped 66 of 70 shots in that time.