SUN Hockey Pool

Need a lesson in chemistry?

JORDAN HEATH-RAWLINGS -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 11:04 AM ET

The "chemistry" phrase gets tossed around frequently by NHL pundits: Will a new player mesh with his teammates? Can the coach of an overhauled roster make his new players listen? Would Darcy Tucker and Michael Peca fight to the death in the Maple Leafs locker room, unable to leave behind their old fued?

And as October stories of Tucker and Peca's new status as BFFs testified, it's all overrated.

Athletes are professionals first and emotional hotheads second. Tucker and Peca can put aside their differences quite easily for the sake of a playoff spot (what's a torn knee ligament between buds?) and if a new arrival scores a couple of goals, he'll fit in just fine.

There is only one kind of chemistry -- between linemates who actually play together on the ice -- that can never be underestimated in the NHL.

If you can spot a growing connection between a centre and a winger before anyone else, your hockey pool will thank you.

For instance, if you realized 30 seconds after the trade that sent Craig Conroy back to Calgary last week that he would be reunited with Jarome Iginla and dashed to your computer to pick up the former L.A. King, you saw immediate returns with two goals in the first game he played.

If you realized that Red Wings coach Mike Babcock's ill-fated decision to split up Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg in October could only last so long, you're now enjoying serious production from the league's hottest line.

And if you saw rookie Ryan Clowe clicking with Sharks megastar Joe Thornton on the powerplay back in late December, and remembered what Thornton did for Jonathan Cheechoo last season, you netted yourself the league's best rookie in January, with nine goals, seven assists and a +11 rating.

So next time you see a playmaker dishing out no-look, behind the back passes to a new linemate like the two are sharing the same brain waves, write down that new guy's name. Even if you never took chemistry notes in high school -- these ones are important.


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