As we approach the new year -- and all the hopes and dreams that come with this renewal -- we find a "murderer's row" on the injured list. Although it's just a minor, day-to-day injury for most of these folks, the effects have been crippling to fantasy owners -- just ask any Henrik Zetterberg owners how their week has been.
Injuries can be much more frustrating for weekly-lineup owners, who have to guess whether their players will suit up in the next seven days. And the injury reports you can find online can be a little vague, to put it mildly. This dynamic brings an additional layer of strategy into the mix. For instance, is Daniel Alfredsson's potential to play and score in two out of four games better than a healthy Alexander Steen's in all four? I'll concede that it makes you think a bit more when you're setting your lineups on Monday, but it also adds an extra level of angst, especially when you bench Alfredsson and he scores six points in those two games and Steen gives you goose eggs for the entire week. I'll address that as I go.
It's Business Time
Jonathan Cheechoo, RW, Sharks: After missing seven games because of a groin injury, Cheechoo returned to action Dec. 26. With Cheechoo's return, along with a dramatic cold streak of just one goal in 15 games, Devin Setoguchi was sent down to AHL affiliate Worcester. That provides an opening for Cheechoo alongside Joe Thornton and Milan Michalek on the top scoring line. It was on Thornton's line that Cheechoo had his breakout, so look for him to make his mark in the next couple of weeks.
'Tis But a Scratch
Henrik Zetterberg, LW, and Tomas Holmstrom, RW, Red Wings: With two-thirds of Detroit's top scoring line missing the recent road trip -- Zetterberg has back spasms, and Holmstrom has a trick knee -- Pavel Datsyuk found himself skating with some new linemates. Valtteri Filppula has been Johnny-on-the-spot filling in, with four goals and two assists in the four games the above pair has missed. Also gaining benefit from increased opportunity has been Mikael Samuelsson, who now plays in a forward slot on the top power-play unit. In spite of not having any points with the man advantage during that span, Samuelsson has notched two goals and four assists at even strength. The Wings start the week with two home games, so Zetterberg and Holmstrom surely will play if healthy.
Martin Havlat, RW, Blackhawks: Back to the IR for you, young man! Havlat can't seem to catch a break this season. Just as he was getting into a nice scoring rhythm in the games after his shoulder problem, he suffers a groin injury. The reports indicate that Havlat might play in Thursday's game, but for weekly leaguers, that is not enough evidence to start him, so look elsewhere.
Michael Cammalleri, LW, Kings: Cammalleri missed two games last week because of a rib injury and should be back at full strength within a week. The timing of the injury is somewhat unfortunate; the Kings have six straight home games in the next two weeks. Patrick O'Sullivan becomes the obligatory add if Cammalleri misses a long span of time.
Ales Hemsky, RW, Oilers: Hemsky also missed two games last week, but his knee injury still is considered day-to-day. The team has a three-game road trip this week before returning home to host the Rangers on Saturday, so look for Hemsky to return during that trip, and certainly by Saturday, unless he has a setback.
David Legwand, C, Predators: Legwand left Saturday's tilt against San Jose after being made into sandwich meat by two slices of Sharkbread (Kyle McLaren and Christian Ehrhoff). The injury is top secret, and all we know is that it is of the "upper body" variety and that his status is day-to-day. Vernon Fiddler was a healthy scratch for Saturday's game, and he had a nice chemistry with Legwand linemate Alexander "Rad Dog" Radulov last season, so there's a chance Fiddler could be put into that role again if Legwand misses significant time.
Glen Murray, RW, Bruins: Murray's hip flexor injury, which has kept him in street clothes since Dec. 20, will keep him out another two weeks, according to the Boston Herald. With Murray out of action, the top line for the B's has been P.J. Axelsson and Phil Kessel on the wings with all-world Marc Savard at center. This is a good spot for veteran Axelsson, and he has responded with two goals in the four games since Murray went down. Those of you who need a little boost on the wing, take note.
Vesa Toskala, G, Maple Leafs: Toskala has a groin injury, and although the team is mum on his official status, groin problems can be a long-term issue for goaltenders, and understandably so. While Toskala is on the shelf, Andrew Raycroft will be getting the majority of starts in net -- the first of which did not go swimmingly, as he was chased from Saturday's game after letting in five goals on 29 Rangers shots. The other goalie on the Leafs' roster is Scott Clemmensen, who spent the first four years of his career as Martin Brodeur's squire in New Jersey, starting just 13 games in that span, so it's unlikely the team will lean on him, and neither should you.
Bret Hedican, D, Hurricanes: Friday night, Carolina fans cringed as they saw Hedican helped off the ice with a knee injury. Fortunately, the injury is expected to keep him out no longer than two weeks, so his real-life and fantasy fans can breathe a sigh of relief. Hedican was not skating significant time on the power play, so this injury does not bring in a new heir apparent in that regard.
Joe Sakic, C, Avalanche: With news of Sakic's successful hernia surgery last week comes the realization of two things: (1) We won't be seeing him in action again until just before the playoffs; and (2) This is now officially Paul Stastny's team, as he becomes a No. 1 center for the Avs and for fantasy owners. This presents an interesting quandary for owners of Sakic in the fantasy realm. With an unknown return -- from a time standpoint and from a quality standpoint -- do you cut ties to free up the roster spot for someone who will be able to contribute the rest of the way? If your league has IR slots, that is always an option. Even if you don't have IR slots, throwing Sakic to the free-agency pile should be done only in the shallowest of leagues.
Daniel Carcillo, LW, Coyotes: The league's resident penalty-minute specialist suffered a knee sprain in a fracas against San Jose on Dec. 20 and will miss six to eight weeks. In analyzing Carcillo's contribution to fantasy this season, I'm strongly reminded of another youngster: Ben Eager. Eager had an astonishing 233 penalty minutes last season, his rookie campaign, and has 67 PIMs through 26 games this year. He's owned in 0.0 percent of ESPN leagues after a slow start, but if you need a quick replacement for Carcillo, Eager is your man.
Tim Kavanagh is a fantasy hockey analyst for ESPN.com.