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Stars and up-and-comers light up the lamp in NHL

The "new" National Hockey League, meaning the post-lockout version, has become a lot more fun for fantasy owners.

Seven different scorers hit the century mark for the second consecutive season, marking the first time that many have done it in back-to-back campaigns since 1992-93 (21) and 1993-94 (eight).

The seasons 1998-99 through 2003-04 produced a total of seven individual 100-point scorers. Three of those seasons (1999-2000, 2001-02, 2003-04) saw no one hit for 100 points.

The last time there were as many 100-point scorers in one season was 1995-96, when a dozen did it. That group included Colorado's Joe Sakic (120 points), who tallied 36 goals and 64 assists this season for his first 100-point campaign since his 118-point effort in 2000-01. Sakic was also one of the 21 century club members in 1992-93, when he posted 105 with the Quebec Nordiques.

Pittsburgh's Sidney Crosby (120 points this season, 102 in 2005-06), San Jose's Joe Thornton (114, 125) and Ottawa's Dany Heatley (105, 103) all hit triple digits for the second straight campaign. And all of them were projected to do so in the 2006-07 edition of The Hockey News' Ultimate Pool Guide.

If you're looking for a pre-draft publication to hang your hat on for next season, this one had a pretty good showing in 2006-07.

It predicted Crosby to lead the league in scoring -- which he did -- with 116 points, just four fewer than he actually scored. It also predicted triple digits for Thornton (106) and Heatley (109).

But if you won your fantasy hockey league, it likely wasn't accomplished thanks solely to members of the century club. Several players enjoyed breakout years, confounding many of the "fantasy experts."

* Paul Stastny, the 21-year-old Avalanche rookie center who is the son of Hall of Famer Peter Stastny, tied for 29th in the league with 78 points, playing in every game and compiling 28 goals and 50 assists. Paul wasn't among 545 projected by the TSN Pool Guide to score 13 points or more. Stastny finished second among rookie scorers, seven points behind the more-publicized Evgeni Malkin of Pittsburgh. He didn't quite match the exploits of his pop, however. Peter Stastny put up 39 goals and 109 points as a first-year player with the 1980-81 Quebec Nordiques.

* Avalanche left wing Andrew Brunette had 27 goals and 83 points, posting his first point-a-game campaign since entering the NHL in 1995-96. His previous career best was 69 points in 2001-02 with the Minnesota Wild, one of the four other teams for which he's played.

* Calgary left wing Kristian Huselius had 34 goals and 77 points, which was 25 points more than the Ultimate Guide projected.

* The guide expected the Washington Capitals to be the Alexander Ovechkin show. The second-year man had a fine year with 92 points, though he was projected at 112 after posting 106 as a rookie. But another Alexander was great -- left wing Alexander Semin -- who had 73 points, defying a 55-point projection.

* Did anybody out there expect Atlanta Thrashers left wing Vyacheslav Kozlov (28-52-80) to outscore teammate Ilya Kovalchuk (42-34-76)? Kovalchuk, a 98-point man in 2005-06, was projected at 106, while Kozlov was projected at 60 after never having exceeded 73 in his 14 previous campaigns.

* St. Louis Blues right winger Lee Stempniak, who grew up a Buffalo Sabres fan in West Seneca, had 27 goals and 52 points. Not bad for a guy projected to tally 28 points.

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>This week in baseball

* The Red Sox and Yankees get together in the Bronx Friday through Sunday. New York second baseman Robinson Cano is a .357 career hitter against Boston and outfielder Melky Cabrera has 12 RBIs, most against any foe, in 70 at-bats against the Red Sox.

* Monday through Wednesday has Colorado at Shea Stadium to face the Mets. New York first baseman Carlos Delgado was 7 for 16 (.438) with two homers and a 1.063 slugging average against Colorado last season. Rockies third baseman Garrett Atkins was 12 for 23 (.522) with three homers and 10 RBIs vs. the Mets.

* Cincinnati can't get to St. Louis fast enough for its series Tuesday-Thursday, at least as far as Cards third baseman Scott Rolen and outfielder Jim Edmonds are concerned. Since 2004, Rolen (9) and Edmonds (15) have more homers against the Reds than any other opponent.

e-mail: tborrelli@buffnews.com

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