Although it was a light week for big-time injuries, Corey Perry's aside, it's not every Monday that I get to celebrate the return of two first-round fantasy talents. Arguably the game's best center and definitely the game's best defenseman both returned from their time off during the past week, and both wasted no time getting back to what they do best: scoring in bunches.
It's business timeSidney Crosby, C, Penguins: Although the Penguins were led in his absence by a seemingly possessed Evgeni Malkin, who vaulted himself to second in the points race, I'm sure everyone is happy to have "The Franchise" back. In three games since returning, Crosby has four points, one of which was the famed "own goal" scored on Crosby's behalf by Washington Capitals center Nicklas Backstrom on Sunday. "I'm not where I want to be," Sid told The Associated Press after Sunday's game. "The first couple of games, conditioning-wise, I wasn't there." That may be, but as long as he keeps lighting up the scoreboard, we'll take an unconditioned superstar over an injured one, especially once his new teammate Marian Hossa takes over one of the wing slots on his line within the next week or two.
Nicklas Lidstrom, D, Red Wings: After a devastating February that ended on a 1-10 slump, the Red Wings are now on a three-game winning streak. Within the past week, they've welcomed back Brian Rafalski and, as of Sunday, Lidstrom. The unanimous No. 1 defenseman in fantasy, Lidstrom made an immediate impact in his first game back -- he assisted on both of Johan Franzen's power-play goals and skated 24:34, which was more than anyone else on the team besides Rafalski. Both men are obviously must-starts for the rest of the season.
'Tis but a scratch
Philippe Boucher, D, Stars: After missing 38 games because of a shoulder injury, Boucher was set to take on some of the scoring burden the Stars would miss with Sergei Zubov out of action. But just 14 seconds into his fourth game back, Boucher skated off the ice with what was later revealed to be a separated shoulder. He'll miss three weeks with the injury, and this will leave Matt Niskanen and Stephane Robidas in charge of the blue line on the power play until the elders return.
Corey Perry, RW, Ducks: A laceration above Perry's right knee will force him out of action for six weeks, which will end his regular season. Although his point-scoring output improved mildly from last season, he added a mean streak to his play, which resulted in 108 penalty minutes in 70 games played and made him one of the top right wings in fantasy. For you playoff pool owners, he will be available by the first or second round, so keep him in mind in spite of the injury.
Jason LaBarbera, G, Kings: It was announced last week that LaBarbera was to have sports hernia surgery, which ends the 28-year-old's season. Rookie Erik Ersberg has started five of the team's past seven games, splitting time with Dan Cloutier, and Kings coach Marc Crawford says that Ersberg likely will start the rest of the games this season. Ersberg is 1-2-1 in his starts with a 2.20 goals-against average and .932 save percentage, and he did manage to shut out the formerly mighty Ottawa Senators on Thursday. Still, given the Kings' relative lack of offense, and Ersberg's proclivity to give up goals in bunches, it would be unethical for me to recommend that even the most desperate owners pick him up at this point of the year.
Tim Kavanagh is a fantasy hockey analyst for ESPN.com.