When the weather dipped down into the 20s the other night in New York City, it marked what is likely the last time residents of the area will see those numbers for another eight months or so ... which in turn marks the realization that this NHL season is fast approaching its terminus. For some fantasy owners, it's crunch time, a period of furious spot-starting, when even Mathieu Darche is worth owning, depending on matchups. For the rest of us, better luck next time, and here's hoping the injury bug doesn't bite you too hard next season.
I have some quick season-ending awards to dole out before this week's updates. First, the Osteoporosis Award for Injury Proneness. Really, who else could it be but Martin Havlat? Hav skated just one game before injuring his shoulder and missing a month and a half. After returning from that, he was actually a pretty valuable commodity, scoring 27 points in 34 games. But on a fateful night in February, he re-aggravated his shoulder, ending his season. During his last three campaigns, he's averaging 36 games played and just under 15 goals and 19 assists per season. Depending on how well his shoulder recovers from this month's surgery, his stock might drop even further before next season's fantasy draft.
Next up is the "Did Someone Poison the Water Bottles?" Award for a team decimated by injuries all at once. Although a strong case can be made for the Oilers, who lost superstars Sheldon Souray and Shawn Horcoff midway through this season, our winner is the Detroit Red Wings. If not for that horrible February, in which they went 4-10, they'd likely be well over 120 points right now, with a fighting chance at approaching the record 132 points put up by the Canadiens in 1976-77. One reason for the slump could well have been their banged-up status, as they opened February with an ailing Henrik Zetterberg and Tomas Holmstrom, and closed it with Nicklas Lidstrom, Brian Rafalski and Niklas Kronwall on the shelf. I suppose things turned out okay, but this could've been a season for the ages.
Our final award is the Gordie Howe Award for a well-seasoned veteran who resisted injury, for the most part, all season. Appropriately enough, this honor goes to a Red Wing, a man who turned 46 in January, Chris Chelios. Although Chelios wasn't really a fantasy stud this season, he skated an average of 17 minutes per game in what should be 69 games by season's end. This is clearly a testament to the man's physical conditioning and willpower, and if it's his last season, here's hoping he gets to raise the Stanley Cup again. For a more in-depth look at Chelios, check out E.J. Hradek's fine ESPN Mag piece here.
Now on to our last injury roll call of the 2007-08 season.
It's business time
Mats Sundin, C, Maple Leafs: After missing five games because of a groin injury, Sundin returned Thursday to skate out the season. While the irrelevance of the Leafs' results from here on out will give Sundin some new faces to skate alongside, his production should be up to its usual level. As mentioned in this week's Vicky Files, Jiri Tlusty is the main beneficiary of Sundin's return, and he should get some looks this week in the final three games, including a showdown with the Ottawa Trainwrecks on Thursday.
Ryan Getzlaf, C, Ducks: A sore right shoulder is not enough to keep Getzlaf off the ice any longer. Sunday night, Getzlaf assisted on both Anaheim goals as they battled to a 3-2 shootout win over Dallas in a likely preview of the 4-5 matchup in the Western Conference playoffs. Getzlaf skated a full 21:36 in the contest, an indication he's ready to close out his campaign in strong fashion.
'Tis but a scratch
Marc Savard, C, Bruins: Back issues have forced Savard from the lineup since a March 22 shootout loss to Montreal, with just three games left before the end of the season. First the Bruins travel to Newark to face Martin Brodeur and the Devils, who, in spite of a poor March record, are still pretty stingy when it comes to giving up goals. Then, on Friday, the Bruins square off against the Senators before closing the season on Saturday at home against the Sabres in what could be a do-or-die game for Buffalo if the chips fall right. David Krejci, Savard's replacement as pivot on the top line, is on a four-game scoring streak and has eight points during that span, production that could help swing your final matchup if you're still in contention.
Mark Streit, D/F, Canadiens: He's one of two gentlemen to stretch the horizon of versatility this season, starting games as both a forward and a defenseman (the other guy to do that is Dustin Byfuglien), Streit took a puck off the ankle during Friday's game against the Sabres and was kept out of Saturday's game against the Maple Leafs. Official word on the extent of his injury will come down this week, but his availability for the remaining three games is doubtful at this point.
Saku Koivu, C, Canadiens: After taking a shot off his foot Friday night in Buffalo, Koivu was spotted with a foot brace and crutches getting onto the team charter back to Montreal, according to the Montreal Gazette. It was another consistently productive season, both in points and penalty minutes, for Koivu, but the Canadiens' captain will be out for up to four weeks with the injury and certainly will miss this week's contests.
At this point, I'll have to declare "lights out!" on this column for this season. It's been quite a task detailing the pain of others, and I hope that some of my suggested replacement players were successful for you. In closing I quote one of my personal heroes, Fozzie Bear, as he sings:
Somehow I know, we'll meet again
Not sure quite where and I don't know just when
You're in my heart, so until then
Wanna smile, wanna cry
Tim Kavanagh is a fantasy hockey analyst for ESPN.com.