- Tim Kavanagh, Fantasy and Insider
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There almost was another superstar felled by injury this past week, as Ilya Kovalchuk was the victim of an arguably dirty hit at the hands -- errr, leg -- of Jarkko Ruutu. Kovalchuk decided to take the high road, sort of, when asked whether he thought it was a "dirty" hit, saying, "I don't know. That's a game situation -- hockey, it's a contact sport. [Ruutu]'s always looking for some dirty stuff." The last sentence clearly is a little dig at the reputation of Ruutu, who, to be fair, has played a fairly gritty style during his tenure in the NHL.
Kovalchuk was not the only man to enter the injury ward this week, however, so read on for the latest tidbits from around the league.
It's business time
Jere Lehtinen, RW, Stars: After a 33-game absence, roughly 40 percent of the season, Lehtinen returned to Dallas' top scoring line with Brenden Morrow and Mike Ribeiro on Friday night, scoring an assist. He then registered four shots on goal Saturday. The team has 26 games remaining, and he should be around the golden point-per-game pace from here on out, given the effectiveness of that top line and his own sniping ability. While his ownership numbers leaped 30.9 percentage points this past week, Lehtinen still is owned in only 42.9 percent of ESPN leagues. He is a great addition to any roster in need of a scoring right winger, so make your move accordingly.
David Legwand, C, Predators: The All-Star break proved to be a time of healing for the Predators' No. 1 pick from 1998, as he skated more than 20 minutes in both of the team's games last week, adding a goal against Phoenix on Saturday. Legwand is valuable for his steady if unspectacular production, so feel safe putting him back into your active squad.
'Tis but a scratch
Ilya Kovalchuk, LW, Thrashers: Initially thought to be much worse, Kovalchuk's knee injury is pretty minor, as an MRI came back negative. The franchise left winger tested the knee in a practice session Saturday, and it seems he will be back before too long. It's highly inadvisable to sit Kovalchuk this week because of his potential to score in bunches; moreover, the Thrashers will square off against Tampa Bay this Saturday, and for weekly leaguers, that game alone could give you three or four points. Daily leaguers have the benefit of playing wait-and-see, but it's not a bad idea to keep him active in fantasy in case he is activated very close to game time.
Mathieu Schneider, D, Ducks: Currently on a nine-game road trip (although the first game was at the Kings, just a short drive across town), the Ducks played the past two without Schneider, who ranks sixth on the team in scoring and trails just Chris Pronger among defensemen. The Orange County Register reported Schneider has a sprained left wrist, but the injury is not expected to affect him in the long term. Still, with the man Schneider was brought in to replace, Scott Niedermayer, active and productive, it can be assumed the team will be patient in bringing him back so as to not incur any lingering problems. Consider him questionable for the week, but be prepared to sub him back in if he recovers.
Jose Theodore, G, Avalanche: Theodore was pulled from Wednesday's game against Chicago due to back spasms, and he skipped the team's two-game road trip that closed out the week. During the time off, he underwent several tests to determine the root cause of the injury, and the determination was that the injury is muscular, a good harbinger for his recovery. Expect the well-coifed netminder's return this week, although picking up Peter Budaj as insurance is in your best interests if he is available.
Niklas Kronwall, D, Red Wings: A shoulder injury forced Kronwall out of Wednesday's game against Phoenix, and while the malady is considered minor, he will miss at least 10 days. It looks like Brett Lebda is getting a little more work on the power play due to Kronwall's injury, although he has yet to produce a point from the upgrade. The best move is to wait out the week, but if you must make a pickup, Philadelphia's Randy Jones is available in about 40 percent of ESPN leagues and can contribute to the points and plus-minus columns.
Fredrik Modin, LW, Blue Jackets: To say it has been a tough season for Modin would be quite the understatement. Early season back woes put him on the shelf for more than two months. Then, after a five-game return in January, he suffered a torn hamstring. If I tear a hamstring, I'm going to be lying on the couch for a month, yelling at my girlfriend to bring me ice cream. Apparently, 33-year-old Swedish hockey players have a faster recovery time, as he is expected to return in just a week to 10 days, which means he probably will miss five games. When healthy, Modin is a reasonably handy player, capable of producing points at even strength as well as on the power play and on the penalty kill. Moreover, earlier this season, Columbus coach Ken Hitchcock experimented with placing him on the Rick Nash line, which, from a fantasy perspective, is like getting one of Willy Wonka's golden tickets. Monitor the situation when Modin returns to see if this line combo is back in effect, and pick up accordingly.
Matt Cullen, C, Hurricanes: The sad yarn of Matt Cullen's 2007-08 season continues. After missing 2 ½ weeks in January because of a brutal hit from Colton Orr, it appears he will have to take a little more time off, since his concussion-like symptoms, including blurred vision, have returned. The team continues to insist he did not suffer a "concussion" per se, and according to the Raleigh News & Observer, team trainer Peter Friesen indicated Cullen's vision problem might in fact be due to trauma to the optic nerve or ocular muscles. Whether or not Cullen's injury is given the official "concussion" designation, it is best to look elsewhere, at least for the time being, since his prognosis does not seem promising.
Tim Kavanagh is a fantasy hockey analyst for ESPN.com.
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