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Tuesday, January 6, 2009
Sullivan all set to return

If everything goes as planned this weekend, we could witness the first chapter of the NHL comeback story of the season.

Having missed almost two calendar years of on-ice play, former star Steve Sullivan plans to suit up for the Predators in Saturday's matchup with the Blackhawks. Out with a bad back, the former star hasn't played a game since February 2007. Players usually pack it in after missing that much action -- especially if they're in their mid-30s and have already made decent money -- but Sullivan is going to give it another go. Good for him. And if he truly is fully recovered and ready to play, the fantasy ramifications could be massive.

Steve Sullivan
Steve Sullivan is expected back this weekend.
Before his back injury, Sullivan was the model of scoring consistency as a member of four different teams (New Jersey, Toronto, Chicago, Nashville). With 577 points in 723 career games, the right winger aged well, averaging nearly a point per game in the three seasons prior to his injury. And he tallies goals, not just assists. Sullivan has found the back of the net at least 20 times per season since 1997. The last time he didn't reach the 20-goal mark, Patrick Kane was nine years old. These numbers aren't accidental. Despite a smaller frame, Sullivan skates and moves the puck better than most. And his heart -- a potent combination of determination and enthusiasm -- is perhaps his greatest asset of all.

And boy oh boy, could Nashville ever use him. The Predators rank third from the bottom in the NHL in goals per game, with 2.40. Only three forwards -- J.P. Dumont, Jason Arnott and Martin Erat -- have more than 20 points. That simply won't cut it. If he's fit enough, Sullivan will get ample opportunities to score at even strength and with the man advantage almost immediately. And his teammates also stand to benefit from a fantasy perspective because Sullivan can offer them additional chances to get on the score sheet.

Other fantasy prognosticators will tell you to show caution when dealing with a player in Sullivan's position. Phooey to that. If your fantasy team is already tearing it up, you won't do much fiddling at this point anyway. But if not, if you're wallowing in the bottom third of your league, what is there to lose? Slough off some deadweight (for specifics on that topic, visit Tim Kavanagh's daily blog from Monday) and give Sullivan a chance. Sure, it's a big gamble: He might not last 20 minutes Saturday. But he could also earn close to 40 points in the next three months. Owned in just one percent of ESPN leagues at the moment, Sullivan is there as an option for you, anyway.

Ice Chips

What better cure for a goalie with the post-tummy-bug blues than facing a team in a full downward spiral? After missing Saturday's game because of the stomach flu, Henrik Lundqvist posted his first shutout of the season as the Rangers beat Pittsburgh 4-0 on Monday. … Defenseman Michal Rozsival earned two assists in the win, giving him six points in his past six games. … If you're looking for a bright spot on the worst team in the NHL, take a gander at Kyle Okposo. The 20-year-old Islander netted a goal in his team's 3-2 loss to Edmonton, bringing his recent scoring run to eight points in seven games. There's no reason to expect a drop-off in Okposo's production either; he has good chemistry with his usual linemates, Blake Comeau and Mike Comrie, and gets ample chances on the power play. … Some good news and bad news for the Buffalo Sabres: Craig Rivet is ready to return after missing a month because of a shoulder injury, but Maxim Afinogenov is out indefinitely because of a hurt groin. Expect to see Rivet in the lineup for Tuesday's game against Ottawa; don't expect to see Afinogenov again until February. … After being cross-checked in the face by David Backes on Saturday, Kristian Huselius won't be in action Tuesday when Columbus faces Detroit. This appears to be a head injury, so don't be too surprised if Huselius misses at least a week (or two). … Philadelphia's Joffrey Lupul will be out the next two to three weeks because of an abdominal strain.