Icing It Down: Havlat coming back
Much is made of the "injury bug" phenomenon within sports; that is, teams will encounter several injuries at one time. This is clearly in evidence this week in the NHL as we find three teams -- four if you count the Wild, who have a somewhat healthy Marian Gaborik, Pavol Demitra and Niklas Backstrom now -- now wildly decimated by injury. In Edmonton, the Oilers were already without Sheldon Souray and Joni Pitkanen, so this week's injury to Matt Greene comes with a sigh of beaten-down resolution from the Oilers' faithful. But you can now also add another western Canadian team, the Canucks, to the group which has been victimized by this nefarious "injury bug" -- see below for the details, straight out of "Saw IV." Last in the alphabetical-by-city listings but not last in our hearts, you have the Capitals, who are missing two of their top six forwards and whose continued development as a franchise has, as such, taken a hit.
Martin Havlat, RW, Blackhawks: A little birdie (aka a report in the vaunted Chicago Tribune) told me that Havlat may be back in the active lineup at some point during the current Chicago homestand this week. Say what you will of Havlat's fragility -- and much has been said, after all -- but he's shown he's capable of point-per-game pace when in the lineup, and there's no reason to believe he won't achieve that upon his return. The team he left is much different than the one he'll return to, and it will be interesting to see which line combinations jell the best -- whether he'll be with the rookie phenoms Jonathan Toews and NHL Rookie of the Month Patrick Kane or with fellow veteran Robert Lang, who is off to a hot start after seeing a decline in points each of his past three seasons. Either way, consider it an upgrade for any of the above who will get to make use of Havlat's abilities once he returns.
Alexander Semin, LW, Chris Clark, RW, and Tom Poti, D, Capitals: The Capitals will travel three men lighter on their road trip that begins on Monday night. If you own any of these three guys, and were licking your chops at their four-game schedule this week, you might get one game out of them on Saturday as the team returns to Washington to host the Lightning. Poti has skated in only eight games this season (none since Oct. 24) due to a lingering groin injury, although both of his points on the season came on the power play, meaning he has at least been somewhat effective in doing what he was brought to Washington to do. Clark has appeared in just nine games this season, and all of his scoring came in his past two (two goals and two assists) when he was playing with Alexander Ovechkin. Semin has been a pretty major disappointment due to his ankle this year, playing in just four games and notching only one assist.
Fredrik Modin, LW, Blue Jackets: Back spasms sent Drik off the ice on Thursday night after a quick four minutes of ice time, and he was held out of Sunday's game as well. This is pretty disappointing since he had been skating on a line with Rick Nash and Michael Peca, which had increased his fantasy value substantially. It is also cause for concern because it was back spasms that kept Modin out of training camp. Who gets the call up to the No. 1 line? 'Tis Nik Zherdev, one of the "unrealized potential" guys mentioned by Sean Allen on Thursday in the box score blog. We say "unrealized potential" because Zherdev was the No. 4 overall pick in the 2003 draft, yet he's mustered a maximum of only 54 points in any of his three seasons in the league. Give an upgrade to Zherdev here -- he's available in about 65 percent of ESPN leagues -- and he should be started in any depth of league while he's on that top line with Nash.
Jaroslav Spacek, D, Sabres: The word on Jaro is that he'll undergo continuous monitoring of his shoulder health, meaning you can expect weekends like this past one when he dressed for one game -- and skated 22:59 -- and sat for the other. Brian Campbell will be picking up a little of the power-play slack when Spacek doesn't suit up, but he's pretty valuable to begin with, so just a slight upgrade is warranted here.
Rick DiPietro, G, Islanders: The Islanders' victory over Pittsburgh on Saturday ended in scary fashion, as franchise goalie DiPietro was sent to the hospital after taking a stick to the face. Fortunately, the reports say no serious injury was sustained and this will not affect him going forward.
Jason Spezza, C, Senators: Spezza, who recently signed a seven-year contract extension, was, like the burger, in-and-out this week. The groin issue is not regarded as anything serious, but it has given Randy Robitaille and Mike Fisher the opportunity to cash in as the third cog of the Dany Heatley-Daniel Alfredsson scoring machine. Fisher had two goals on Saturday night and he is available in about half of ESPN leagues, although this availability will continue to diminish with any more injury time taken by Spezza.
Patrice Bergeron, C, Bruins: The official word from Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli is that Bergeron will be sidelined for as little as one month to as long as one year, after he was brutalized by the Flyers' Randy Jones a week ago. Bergeron was a major scoring threat for Boston and in his absence, others will be given the chance to strut their stuff. To that end, we've seen the continued emergence of Phil Kessel as a young leader on the team as well as the opportunistic play of Glen Metropolit (a goal and an assist on Thursday night) and Chuck Kobasew (two goals in the loss on Saturday night and one on Sunday night).
Kyle Calder, LW, Kings: In spite of a somewhat modest output of three goals and three assists in 13 games this season, Calder was on quite a hot streak with points in his past three games before he fractured his thumb on Wednesday. He will be out of the lineup for two to four weeks.
Kevin Bieksa and Sami Salo, D, Canucks: Bieksa will miss the next six to eight weeks after sustaining an incredibly gruesome calf injury on Thursday night. The report is that a skate blade actually sliced his calf muscle. In only slightly less gruesome fashion, Salo also left Thursday's game, his exit caused by a puck to the face which may have fractured an orbital bone. Obviously, these guys are not going to be an option in the short or medium term, and despite slow starts these were fantasy-relevant D-men. Their loss means increased roles for Aaron Miller and Alexander Edler, neither of whom has me salivating as a fantasy owner.
Tim Kavanagh is a fantasy hockey analyst for ESPN.com.
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