Do homework for pool power

GREG DENNIS

, Last Updated: 3:07 PM ET

Sage advice for poolies getting ready for a playoff draft is to study the matchups, do your homework and know who's hot and who's not.

They might also study their tea leaves, pull out a lucky rabbit's foot and consult a ouija board.

The unpredictability and surprises always make playoff pools interesting. A little luck goes a long way in drafts, but this corner will maintain that preparation gives you a better chance of winning.

First, determine the top four finishers and then aim to fill half your roster from those squads. Our picks are Montreal, Pittsburgh, Anaheim and San Jose.

Players from the other four teams going two rounds should fill your lineup. We figure the eight survivors will also include New Jersey, Philadelphia, Detroit and Colorado. Stay away from players who will be dust after round one. Calgary could provide an upset, though loading up on a hunch would be a huge risk.

Goals are scarce in the playoffs. Target the big guns and especially the powerplay performers, blueline quarterbacks included. Each team should also have a sleeper pick or two lying in the weeds, someone hot down the stretch, a player recently moved up the depth chart.

Those late-round selections can be key. Remember, Fernando Pisani led the playoffs in goal scoring three years ago.

SLEEPERS

Sure, David Krejci of the Boston Bruins had nine points in a five-game burst. But the Bruins are going nowhere and that makes Krejci a stupid pick, not a sleeper pick. What you want is a hot player on a good team.

One example is Johan Franzen of the Detroit Red Wings, scorching hot with 15 goals in the last 15 games. Or maybe Pascal Dupuis of the Pittsburgh Penguins. He won't see powerplay time but has been playing well and could skate with Evgeni Malkin or Sidney Crosby.

It's hard to say how far the Avalanche will advance, but with nine points in four games, Peter Forsberg is playing well. His recent surge might be lost on some poolies.

Teemu Selanne of the Ducks will also be overlooked early, but seven of his 12 goals have come on the powerplay.

Jonathan Cheechoo had a sub-standard season but was playing well before missing six of his last seven. With the Sharks' potent powerplay and their chances looking good, Cheechoo is a solid top-tier choice.

Make sure Tomas Holmstrom of the Wings is on your radar. He has been out with a groin injury but could be reunited with Pavel Datsyuk and might see powerplay time.

DEFENCE

Detroit's Nicklas Lidstrom and Anaheim's Chris Pronger would be excellent blueline selections. Pronger is certainly well rested after just completing his eight-game suspension. Powerplay d-men are especially valuable in playoff pools, often more so than second-line forwards.

Mark Streit of the Canadiens and Brian Campbell of the Sharks are two defencemen who should go ahead of most of their teammates.

Campbell has been the key to the Sharks' rejuvenated powerplay, picking up 18 points in 19 games since being traded from Buffalo. Consider him the second Shark after Joe Thornton. Streit is also a powerplay dynamo and ended the season with 10 points over seven games.

INJURIES

No injury will have more impact on a playoff team, or on poolies, than the one that levelled Daniel Alfredsson. The Senators captain will likely miss at least the first round against the Penguins, a series that would've been tough to win even if he and Mike Fisher were healthy. As a result, Dany Heatley and Jason Spezza have become risky picks.

Montreal has also lost its captain, though Saku Koivu's broken foot shouldn't adversely affect the outcome of the Boston series. Poolies should avoid Koivu, just as they should pass on Marc Savard of the Bruins, who is listed as questionable.

David Legwand of the Predators is doubtful for round one against the Red Wings, but that should be a quick series anyway.


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