Icing It Down: Big names set to return
Thanksgiving Week gives us many gifts every year. Maybe it's an added pound or 10. Or severe contusions from an ill-advised pickup football game. Or an awkward conversation with the creepy uncle with the multicolored mole.
Well, here's my contribution: I'm adding a new section to "Icing it Down"! Starting this week, I'll spotlight players who have returned to the ice within the past week from long-term injuries. So if you haven't had the time to scan the box scores to see if a key player might be back, just be sure to hit up this space every Monday and I'll do the work for you.
Shea Weber, D, Predators: Weber, returning from a dislocated kneecap, skated almost 20 minutes in his return to the ice Saturday and picked up an assist. He's a must-start defenseman in all league setups now that he is back in action.
Bryan Berard, D, Islanders: After missing almost four weeks because of a groin injury, Berard returned to play both Thursday and Friday, skating about 19 minutes in each game. Thus, it would appear safe to insert him back in your lineup.
Alexander Semin, LW, Capitals: Semin is set to make his much-anticipated return Monday against Florida. His average draft position of 72.4 would indicate he has value, but he has been a major disappointment so far. Owners of the other top Washington forwards are also anticipating the scoring boon that should accompany Semin's return to the lineup.
Jason Spezza, C, Senators: Spezza returned to action Thursday and also was able to play Saturday, and although he was held off the score sheet, there was great rejoicing in the homes of his fantasy owners. Mike Fisher owners, on the other hand, probably wish Spezza had taken more time before returning.
Daymond Langkow, C, Flames: Last week's "Icing it Down" cover boy ended up missing only one game because of a concussion and contributed two assists during the week's three games, so it is safe to keep him active for fantasy purposes.
Mathieu Schneider, D, Ducks: Schneider missed games on Thursday and Saturday because of a strained hip flexor. However, the Ducks are off until Wednesday, giving him a little extra time to heal. After getting a late start to the season because of a broken ankle, Schneider was off to a great start, with two goals and six assists in only six games. The injury, though, is one that has bothered him for much of his career, according to the Orange County Register, and he intends to get back to a level where he can stay healthy for the long haul before returning. As ambiguous as that sounds, he did participate in the team's optional skate before Saturday's game, so he should be back in the lineup soon. Weekly-league owners should hold off on him this week, but daily-lineup owners should be prepared to sub him in if he recovers in time for Friday's or Sunday's game.
Tim Connolly, C, Sabres: Connolly was out of action again this past week because of an oblique injury but has targeted Wednesday against Ottawa to return. Although it has been a tough year for the Sabres and the fantasy owners who love them, Connolly is a pretty dangerous asset, with 12 points in 13 games so far, including a goal and six assists on the power play.
Erik Cole, RW, Hurricanes: As scary as it is to see anyone being carted off on a stretcher with his neck immobilized, it appears Cole's neck injury last week is not serious. That's good news for Erik, good news for his fantasy owners and good news for owners of Eric Staal and Cory Stillman. Without their linemate, the duo has been shut down since Cole's injury on Monday. Apparently Craig Adams just isn't cuttin' the mustard. Cole has resumed skating, and barring any setbacks should be back next week. By the way, Adams was born in the country of Brunei, whose capital city is Bandar Seri Begawan. Pop quiz next week.
Martin Havlat, RW, Blackhawks: OK, so we jumped the gun on the Havlat return a couple weeks ago, but this time we mean it. Circle Thursday's game against the Flames for his return, and tune in to find out if No. 24 is flying around the ice. Weekly leaguers can keep him out this week, but track those box scores (or the handy Box Score Blogs) to find out what his status is.
Paul Martin, D, Devils: Martin, he of the ever-popular "lower body injury," missed two games last week. The heir apparent in the Devils' never-ending quest to replace Scott Niedermayer, Martin has eight assists on the season, including three on the power play. With his status still up in the air, we advise you stay away from Martin for this week until we know more about this vague injury. Karel Rachunek gets a slight upgrade in Martin's absence, but let's not forget that the team's six-goal output on Saturday was the exception, not the rule, meaning that each of these gents is more of a bottom-end fantasy option.
Michael Peca, C, Blue Jackets: Peca had been a catalyst for Columbus' hot start, so it is not surprising that the Jackets have gone 1-4 since Peca has been out because of a groin injury. Despite skating with the team before Friday's game against St. Louis, Peca will miss at least two more games before returning. Plan your week accordingly.
Mikko Koivu, C, Wild: A cracked bone in Koivu's left knee is how the injury report reads, but the missing information in the report is the bad blood that the injury has engendered. The cracked bone was caused by a baseball-style swing by Mattias Ohlund during Friday's night game versus the Canucks, and Minnesota enforcer Derek Boogaard has taken all but a blood oath to exact revenge. Ohlund will be serving a four-game suspension for the slash, so he'll miss the rematch on Wednesday, which is probably good considering how angry Boogaard sounded after Friday's game. Koivu, younger brother of Montreal's Saku, had been lined up with Pierre-Marc Bouchard to shoulder much of the scoring load for the Wild this season, so his injury is certainly a detriment to Bouchard's owners as well.
Martin Straka, LW, Rangers: Straka has returned to the ice for practice purposes, and footage was shown during Thursday night's Rangers-Flyers telecast of Straka taking shots on goal in spite of the broken finger still being in a cast. Straka will reportedly get an MRI Monday to determine the status of the finger, but a return within the next two weeks is not out of the question.
Ian Laperriere, RW, Avalanche: Laperriere, whose 21-goal, 116-penalty minute numbers in 2005-06 made him the darling of many fantasy owners, suffered a sprained right knee a week ago, and he'll miss at least two to four weeks, depending on how his 33-year-old joint recovers. Although it appears he has forgotten how to score since 2005-06, his penalty-minute prowess continues unabated, so he does have value in deeper leagues.
Tim Kavanagh is a fantasy hockey analyst for ESPN.com.