Training camp has opened; here are some early observations from a fantasy standpoint in the Western Conference. Note that not all teams are represented, only those with fantasy-worthy news:
In Calgary, Chuck Kobasew, on a line with Dustin Boyd and Kristian Huselius, has impressed coach Jim Playfair with his offense so far. Kobasew needs to give the Flames some secondary scoring this season and take some pressure off the top line. ... Jamie Lundmark, centering the third line, has also worked hard at creating scoring chances and taking more shots in early exhibition play.
In Chicago, coach Trent Yawney showed his hand early in pre-season playing what he plans to have as his power play lines together from the start. Tuomo Ruutu, Radim Vrbata, and Martin Havlat were up front on the first unit with Bryan Smolinski, Tony Salmelainen and Rene Bourque on the second. Michal Handzus is still recovering from off-season shoulder surgery, but it is expected he will bump Smolinski off the second unit when he returns.
In Columbus, Sergei Fedorov slammed into the boards Tuesday night and left the game with a shoulder injury that looked pretty serious. ... Jaroslav Balastik, fighting to prove he is a goal-scorer in the NHL, picked up a goal and two points in the game while playing on the third line.
In Colorado, coach Joel Quenneville stated Tyler Arnason was the best player on the ice in the annual Burgundy vs. White game. Arnason must prove himself in camp, as he pretty much played his way out of both Chicago and Ottawa with a perceived lack of effort.
In Detroit, Jiri Hudler made up for lost time with an impressive offensive performance in scrimmage. Coach Mike Babcock is still looking for him to improve on the defensive aspect of his game. Hudler was late for camp, as he had to sort out some visa problems.
In Edmonton, Sunday's exhibition game showed the burgeoning chemistry between countrymen Petr Sykora and Ales Hemsky as they dominated the opposition offensively. ... On the other hand, rookie hopefuls Rob Schremp and Marc-Antoine Pouliot were less than stellar, showing little offensive flair and making several mistakes defensively. Schremp was more of an offensive presence Tuesday night, scoring a goal on a two-man advantage against Phoenix.
In Minnesota, both Josh Harding and Niklas Backstrom are on two-way contracts - however, the backup goaltender's job is Harding's to lose.
In Nashville, the big names sat out the exhibition play on Sunday while the newcomers got the chance to shine. Alexander Radulov impressed with five shots on a goal and was buzzing around the Columbus net.
In Vancouver, the questions on right wing seemingly have been answered. Matt Cooke seems to have secured the role on the Markus Naslund-Brendan Morrison line and Jan Bulis will have to play his way off the Daniel-Henrik Sedin line. ... This puts the NHL hopes of Brandon Reid and Jesse Schultz in doubt for this year. Both are on two-way contracts.
Darryl Dobbs' Fantasy Pool Look appears every Monday and Wednesday only on The Hockey News.com. Want to speak with Darryl about fantasy hockey?
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