Icing It Down: Lehtonen back in style
Point of view is always important. Take a commercial I caught the other day for a car GPS doohickey. In it, the wife/girlfriend says to the husband/boyfriend, "it'll make a great holiday gift to give ourselves!" I understand using the non-denominational "holiday" designation to keep in line with political correctness, but when you're speaking with a loved one, with whom you share whatever holiday it is that you celebrate, I think that the actual name of the holiday in question is what you would say in that conversation. From the point of view of the male in that commercial, it seems crazy that the female is using the impersonal "holiday" designation.
Point of view is just as important when approaching this column. This is not a generic NHL Injuries Column; rather, it is meant to examine the impact of fantasy-relevant injuries, so sometimes, there are some players who will not make it in. This week's best example of a borderline guy is "Super" Jay Pandolfo, whose surprisingly productive opening quarter belied his role as a member of the Devils' checking line, meant to shut down the opposing top scorers. While Pandolfo is on pace for a career-best 41 points, this is peanuts in comparison to what you should expect out of your left wings. Furthermore, he plays the game the right way and it's very seldom that he finds himself in the penalty box, which also makes him less attractive to fantasy owners. So while fans of the Devils are interested in any breaking news of his status -- and guys like Jaromir Jagr, who historically has been stifled by Pandolfo and Co., are equally concerned but for the opposite reason -- he won't get much digital ink around here.
Kari Lehtonen, G, Thrashers: Lehtonen was officially activated from the IR on November 26, and after a short rehab assignment in the AHL, he made his return to the big leagues Saturday against the Islanders. How'd it go? Let's just say it'd be like if you went to meet your new significant other's parents and they welcomed you to the family with keys to a Ferrari: 33 shots, 33 saves. Win No. 1 on the year (as you recall, Atlanta didn't win a game until the contest in which Lehtonen sustained the injury), and some return on investment for those who drafted the Finn. Lehtonen had been dropped by many an owner upon news of the injury, so if he is available, you should pick him up and see how the post-injury performance plays out. The Thrashers, while not the most consistent, can score with the best of 'em, so whoever is in goal always has a good chance for W's.
Martin Havlat, RW, Blackhawks: The long wait is over, and we've had our first Martin Havlat sightings since the first game of the season. Havlat wasted no time getting back into the swing of things, scoring two goals in his first game back on Wednesday, and added an assist on Friday (during the Dustin Byfuglien showcase). For those of you who study the line combos closely, Havlat was matched up with Jason Williams and Robert Lang. While Lang was already on pace to have his best production since the lockout, and Williams on pace for his best season ever, the added skill bonus of Havlat on the line will make each of them even more attractive to us, the fantasy owners.
Radim Vrbata, RW, Coyotes: Do a search for Vrbata's name, and you'll see that he's been pretty famous for the past week around these parts, even landing the coveted coverboy spot for "Open Ice". Why did Sean Allen call for his pickup? Well, six points in a three-game span will cause even the most cautious of owners to drop everything and run to the waiver wire. Vrbata's in the limelight again, as he missed Saturday's game with the ever-popular groin injury. The injury is of the day-to-day variety, and the Coyotes have a four-game schedule this week, so it's worth it to see if you can milk another productive week from Vrbata on your roster.
Pascal Leclaire, G, Blue Jackets: This season's first-quarter waiver-wire darling has had a career propensity for being injury-prone, so his current hamstring/groin malady is not regarded with much surprise within those in the know. One of the best parts about his season so far for us in fantasy has been the shutouts. Oh, the shutouts. Before the injury, he had six on the year, which gives him seven for his career. That should tell you something about the start he had relative to what you should be expecting long-term. Fredrik Norrena has been serviceable as his replacement, but he's not the outstanding option that Leclaire had been. The team will likely ease Leclaire back into full-time action, so hold off on starting him until he's back 100 percent.
Sergei Gonchar, D, Penguins: Gonchar is having a ridiculous year, hovering around the magical point-per-game pace that nary a defenseman dares approach. He has now missed the past two team games because of a groin pull, and although he practiced with the team Sunday and spent some extra time conditioning afterwards, there's a strong likelihood he'll take another game or two off to make sure the injury is healed 100 percent, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. So for you rotisserie-leaguers, chill out -- he'll be back before long, pacing your blueliners. For those in head-to-head leagues, take note that Gonchar's power-play time has been absorbed by youngster Kris Letang during the former's hiatus.
Michael Cammalleri, C, Kings: Cammalleri missed one game last week due to a groin injury, which is always liable to continue to nag a player throughout the season, but he did skate nearly 20 minutes in Saturday's game against the Avalanche, which is a good sign. The Kings have four games this week, so you'd have to have a great replacement option in order to not give Cammalleri the nod, given what he could accomplish even if he misses another game out of the four.
Mike Commodore, D, Hurricanes: Commodore has missed the past four games because of a broken finger. If you need to replace Commodore's contribution (an occasional point with lots of penalty minutes), there are a few good options available. Ole-Kristian Tollefson of the Blue Jackets is pretty much the epitome of back-end, bang-'em-up defenseman, with one goal and 54 penalty minutes thus far. Bonus on Tollefson: The Blue Jackets aren't a laughing stock this year, so your plus/minus will not take a nosedive if you roster him. Another option is Shane O'Brien of the Lightning. All of O'Brien's goals came in just two games, so don't expect much in that department, but he's proven last year and this year to be a consistent source of penalty minutes. Bonus on O'Brien: his hometown is Port Hope, which sounds like an interplanetary spaceship docking base in a sci-fi movie. A third option is Mike Komisarek, who mixes a steady diet of minor penalties in with the occasional scrap, and he spends a lot of time on the penalty kill, meaning you will get some help in the shorthanded points category every once in a while. Bonus on Komisarek: he was pick No. 7 overall in the 2001 entry draft, one pick ahead of Pascal Leclaire and 42 picks ahead of Cammalleri.
Marek Svatos, RW, Avalanche: Also drafted in 2001? Marek Svatos. Also injured right now? Marek Svatos. Worth your time when he returns? Ehhhh, not so sure. In Year 1 PL (post-lockout), Svatos had a nice rookie campaign, scoring 32 goals and adding 18 assists for an even 50 points. Then he elected to effectively take last season off, to the tune of 15 apiece of goals and assists, burning many fantasy owners in the process. He's seeing a lot of ice time with Paul Stastny, as Colorado coach Joel Quenneville plays line roulette, but he's somewhat of an "odd man out" when you consider that putting the top six forwards together would leave him on the outside looking in at Joe Sakic, Milan Hejduk, Ryan Smyth, Andrew Brunette, Wojtek Wolski and Stastny.
Derek Boogaard, LW, Wild: On pace for a respectable 164 penalty minutes this season, Boogaard missed the past two games with back spasms. It's not a great idea to sacrifice one of your forward slots in fantasy to a one-category guy like the Boogie Man, but he's one of the few goons left that's worth it if you choose to make the sacrifice. You may want to fill the spot with a scorer while you wait for your enforcer to return.
Sean Avery, LW, Rangers: From one tough guy who doesn't have any interest in scoring to one who is actually pretty well-rounded, Avery underwent arthroscopic wrist surgery Thursday and will miss about three weeks of action. In his truncated effort for the year, Avery has two goals (including a game-winner) and seven assists to go with 30 penalty minutes. The fact that he skates on a line with offensive stars Brendan Shanahan and Scott Gomez should tell you all you need to know of his potential to keep up the scoring when he gets back.
Anton Volchenkov, D, Senators: Out with a broken finger, Volchenkov will miss up to four weeks, so plan on getting your beloved plus/minus boon from somewhere else, bub. Bryce Salvador and Karel Rachunek are both available in many leagues and can fill that void quite ably.
Tim Kavanagh is a fantasy hockey analyst for ESPN.com.