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Thursday, January 29, 2009
Ducks face dilemma with Selanne's return

Normally, when a player returns from injury, there is little fantasy impact other than a boost to the owner who had said player on the bench or injured reserve. The return of Teemu Selanne to the Anaheim Ducks lineup is a little different.

Teemu Selanne
Teemu Selanne didn't score a point in his return to action, but he's already getting lots of ice time.
Selanne missed 17 games after getting injured on Dec. 19 when his own skate sliced his left leg open during a collision along the boards with Oilers defenseman Denis Grebeshkov. To replace Selanne, the Ducks recalled Bobby Ryan from the AHL and, boy, has he ever excelled. If not for Columbus' Steve Mason, Ryan might well be the consensus pick for rookie of the year as he has 33 points in 33 games. He trails rookie scoring leader Kris Versteeg by only three points despite playing in 11 fewer games.

But what happens now that we have two players fighting over a defined number of minutes? If Wednesday night's loss to Chicago is any indication, the two will be splitting time fairly evenly. Coach Randy Carlyle has some creative thinking to do now, especially since he also has Corey Perry eating up minutes on the right side. Ryan played 13:54, with 2:01 of that coming on the man advantage. It signifies a drop of about 2-3 minutes a night on average for the rookie, but regardless, he finished the night with a goal for a fifth straight game. The goal was also Ryan's 11th in the month of January, the most by a rookie in one month since Alex Ovechkin had 11 in March 2006. Selanne, on the other hand, skated for 17:41, 0:59 of that on the power play and finished the night without a point.

However, when the game was on the line, Selanne was on the ice with 1:19 remaining as the Ducks looked to tie it up with their goalie pulled for an extra attacker. It's no doubt that once the Finnish Flash is back up to speed, he'll take his rightful place atop the team's depth chart. But it may still take a couple more games, "I think I felt better as the game went on," Selanne told the Ducks official Web site after the game. "Missing 17 games, it's not normal just to come back. I knew that the next step was to start playing games and get into those situations."

But panic not if you plucked Anaheim's super rookie off waivers earlier this season. Ryan got most of his value due to his time on the man advantage as 8 of his 17 goals have come on the power play. It looks like Carlyle is willing to shuffle his lines to make sure Ryan continues to see the ice, at least in the short term. Most nights Selanne will have more than 59 seconds on the power play, but don't be surprised to see Ryan's minutes hold steady on the man advantage as well. He has been so productive for the inconsistent Ducks that the other forwards may see a slight drop to make room for the 18-year veteran.

Ice Chips

For one period, Pittsburgh looked like the team that made it to the Stanley Cup Finals last season. Sidney Crosby led the way with four points on the night as the Penguins scored five third-period goals to beat the New York Rangers 6-2. More important than the production from Crosby, the game marked a significant upturn in offense from the Pens supporting cast. This could be great news for the owners of players like Petr Sykora, who had two goals in the win. ... That same game also was a boon to Marc-Andre Fleury owners. Fleury's season has been marked with injuries and inconsistency for the most part, but there are some encouraging signs. Over his past four games, he has three wins with a .961 save percentage. He could finally be finding his form from last spring. ... As far as high scoring forwards go, none has flown under the radar this season as much as Michael Cammalleri. He scored another three goals Wednesday to push his season total to 25, sixth best in the NHL. ... Good news for Pavol Demitra owners. While he missed his second straight game with a groin injury, it looks as if he will return to action Saturday against Minnesota. ... Pekka Rinne took home first star honors in the Predators' win over Vancouver and continues to push himself into the realm of fantasy usefulness. He is owned in only 11.6 percent of ESPN leagues but that number should continue to grow if ever coach Barry Trotz realizes that Dan Ellis is no longer a viable option in net. & If you happen to own any Ottawa Senators, this isn't the news you were hoping for. No help is on the way. Team owner Eugene Melnyk sounded off on his critics and dismissed any notions that the club is in need of a major shakeup. He publicly defended his coaching and management staff, noting that all the franchise needs to be competitive again is another key player and a couple of lucky bounces. We can expect the slide in Ottawa to continue. & Wednesday saw Red Wings star Henrik Zetterberg ink a massive 12-year, $72 million extension. Talk about job security.