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Jokinen back early; Gaborik returns to practice

Wednesday, 12.10.2008 / 12:52 PM / Fantasy Hockey Draft Rankings, Advice and Analysis

By Dave Lozo - NHL.com Staff Writer

It seems as though injuries to major players have been far more frequent this season than ever before. Fantasy owners can breathe a sigh of relief, as it looks like many of them are starting to get healthy.

Olli Jokinen, originally thought to be out for a month with a shoulder injury, will return to the Coyotes lineup Wednesday after missing two weeks. Jokinen (21, 7-11) is still the team's second-leading scorer despite missing six games. Get him active for tonight's game against the Dallas Stars immediately. ...

Hacky Sack aficionado Marian Gaborik practiced with the Wild for the first time in two months since injuring himself while kicking around a bean bag. When asked if Gaborik would be available for the Wild's upcoming road trip, coach Jacques Lemaire told the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, "No, no, no, no, no." Hmmmm. I wonder what Lemaire really meant by that.

Gaborik, who hadn't practiced since he was injured Oct. 15, said he's hopeful that he could play during the trip to Phoenix, Anaheim and Los Angeles. Lemaire's rule is if you don't practice, you don't play. Wait and see how Gaborik handles practices during the trip. If the Wild activate him, you would be wise to immediately follow suit. ...

Canucks goalie Roberto Luongo took part in practice Monday, but the all-world goaltender is still considered week-to-week with a groin injury, according to the Vancouver Sun. However, the newspaper says that Luongo could return as soon as this weekend. "It went pretty well," Luongo said, adding that his injured muscle still ached. "Obviously, I was still guarding it a bit. I was trying to keep everything in the middle of my body as much as I could. But it was a good step, a good day for me."

It will be a good day for fantasy owners when they can see Luongo in their starting lineups once again. ....

With Sami Salo out of the Vancouver lineup Tuesday night, Alexander Edler got a chance to step up, and he did not disappoint. The 22-year-old had nearly nine minutes of ice time on the power play and scored a goal with the man-advantage during the Canucks' 3-1 victory against the Predators. Should Edler (27, 2-9) start picking up more minutes on the power play, he will become a more interesting play in fantasy leagues. ...

According to the Denver Post, Avs forward Marek Svatos (27, 6-7) was forced to leave Tuesday night's game against the Kings with a back injury. The team is saying the injury doesn't appear to be serious, but they said the same exact thing about Joe Sakic's back injury, and now he's out for six weeks. You'll probably want to check back with NHL.com for further updates on Svatos' injury. ...

Red Wings coach Mike Babcock has decided to shuffle things a bit in Detroit.

There were reports of breaking up the dynamic duo, but defensemen Nicklas Lidstrom and Brian Rafalski will be together for Wednesday night's game against the Flames after not skating together in practice. "I just thought we needed to freshen up, needed to do something different for a few days," Babcock said to the Detroit media.

But while the D-men just needed to "freshen up," it looks like the offense is going to get a full wash and rinse. Expect the line combinations to look like this: Filppula-Datsyuk-Holmstrom; Cleary-Zetterberg-Hossa; Hudler-Franzen-Samuelsson, and Kopecky-Draper-Maltby. If things don't start well for Detroit against Calgary, Babcock will likely mix and match, making this paragraph almost completely useless to you.

Also, Ty Conklin (7-3-0, 2.81, .901) will get the start over Chris Osgood (11-1-4, 3.17, .876) for the defending Stanley Cup champs. It will be the seventh time in the past 12 games that Osgood is riding the pine. ...

The Sharks' Ryan Clowe (25, 11-12) sat out his second straight practice Tuesday, but coach Todd McLellan expects Clowe to be in the lineup Thursday night. After a hot start, Clowe has been held without a goal in his last six games and has gone pointless in last three. In other words, there isn't much of a point in starting Clowe if he's both injured and slumping. ...

It turns out that Blackhawks rookie Kris Versteeg will serve his one-game suspension Wednesday night. Versteeg took an instigating penalty in the final seconds of the Blackhawks' 7-1 win against the Coyotes on Sunday, resulting in the automatic punishment. Versteeg should be back in the lineup Friday when Chicago visits Colorado. ...

 
 
Chicago's goaltending situation continues to be as confusing as a Charlie Kaufman movie. Nikolai Khabibulin, who seemed to have seized control of the starting job before his injury, is healthy and ready to go, but won't be between the pipes tonight. It will be Cristobal Huet making his sixth consecutive start for the Blackhawks. However, Khabibulin is scheduled to start Friday against the Avalanche. It's anyone's best guess who will be starting after that. ...

Finally, NHL.com's Shawn Roarke, a fantasy genius in his own right, would like everyone to be aware of Montreal's Matt D'Agostini. His goal in Tuesday's night's game against the Flames extended his goal-scoring streak to four games. The rookie was Shawn's "diamond in the rough"  this week, and it's reached the point where he loves D'Agostini more than heavy metal. So you would be well-advised to jump on the D'Agostini bandwagon while you can still ride shotgun with Shawn.

WEDNESDAY'S GAMES:

Tampa Bay Lightning (6-13-8) at Buffalo Sabres (13-11-3), 7 p.m. ET -- The Sabres will look to hand the Lightning their ninth consecutive loss. Perhaps Tampa Bay will find better luck at the site of one of its three road victories. Tampa came away with a 5-2 victory in Buffalo on Oct. 30.
Pittsburgh Penguins (15-8-4) at New Jersey Devils (14-8-2), 7 p.m. ET -- The Martin Brodeur-less Devils have won seven of eight, but that one loss was to the Penguins. Pittsburgh, however, has lost consecutive games for the first time since Oct. 28-30.
Boston Bruins (19-4-4) at Washington Capitals (15-10-3), 7 p.m. ET -- Boston's David Krejci has nine-game point streak. Jose Theodore hasn't faced Boston in more than three years. He went 2-0-0 with a 2.01 GAA against the Bruins in October 2005 while with Montreal.
New York Rangers (18-10-2) at Atlanta Thrashers (9-14-3), 7 p.m. ET -- The Rangers have been outscored 15-4 in their last four games, making a matchup against the lowly Thrashers just what the doctor ordered. But the Thrashers have gone 4-1-0 against New York-based teams this season.
Calgary Flames (16-11-1) at Detroit Red Wings (18-4-4), 7:30 p.m. ET, TSN, NHLN -- Ty Conklin gets the start tonight for the Red Wings, who look to wrap a perfect four-game homestand. The Red Wings have won four of their last five matchups with the Flames overall, including a 5-2 road victory Nov. 22.
Ottawa Senators (10-10-5) at Chicago Blackhawks (12-6-7), 8:30 p.m. ET, TSN2 -- Good news for Senators goaltender Martin Gerber: He's getting his first start in more than a month. Bad news for Gerber: It's against the Blackhawks, who have scored 16 goals in their past three games.
Phoenix Coyotes (12-13-2) at Dallas Stars (10-12-4), 8:30 p.m. ET -- Olli Jokinen makes his return for the Coyotes, who are 1-5-1 in their past seven road games. Coyotes goalie Mikael Tellqvist has a lower-body injury, meaning Ilya Bryzgalov is likely to get the start.
St. Louis Blues (12-11-3) at Anaheim Ducks (15-10-3), 10 p.m. ET -- The Blues' Brad Boyes has 7 points over the last three games and 10 in the last six. Manny Legace has an excellent track record against the Ducks, going 11-2-1 with one tie and a 2.03 goals-against average in 18 career meetings. He's expected to start.

RECENT INJURIES:

David Booth, LW, Florida: Is day-to-day with a left shoulder injury.
Philippe Boucher, D, Pittsburgh: Is day-to-day with an undisclosed injury.
Matt Carle, D, Philadelphia: Is day-to-day with a back injury.
Jonathan Cheechoo, RW, San Jose: Is day-to-day with an upper-body injury.
Derek Dorsett, RW, Columbus: Is out 3-5 weeks with a fractured finger.
Hal Gill, D, Pittsburgh: Is out 2-4 weeks with a shoulder injury.
Tim Gleason, D, Carolina: Is day-to-day with a lower-body injury.
Niklas Hagman, LW, Toronto: Is day-to-day with a minor concussion.
Olli Jokinen, C, Phoenix: Is day-to-day with an upper-body injury.
Patrick Kaleta, RW, Buffalo: Is out indefinitely with a neck injury.
Nikolai Khabibulin, G, Chicago: Is day-to-day with a lower-body injury.
Tom Poti, D, Washington: Is day-to-day with a groin injury.
Wayne Primeau, C, Calgary: Is day-to-day with a foot injury.
Mathieu Schneider, D, Atlanta: Is day-to-day with an upper-body injury.
Dennis Seidenberg, C, Carolina: Is day-to-day with a groin injury
Brian Sutherby, C, Anaheim: Is day-to-day with a groin injury.
Jordin Tootoo, LW, Nashville: Is day-to-day with a lower-body injury.
Sergei Zubov, D, Dallas: Is day-to-day with a lower-body injury.

TRANSACTIONS:

Anaheim Ducks: Signed left wing Eric Tangradi to a three-year contract.
Boston Bruins: Recalled center Vladimir Sobotka from Providence of the American Hockey League.
Chicago Blackhawks: Recalled left wing Pascal Pelletier from Rockford of the American Hockey League; placed right wing Adam Burish on injured reserve; acquired defenseman Jimmy Sharrow from the Vancouver Canucks for a 2009 conditional pick and assigned him to Rockford.
Pittsburgh Penguins: Recalled left wing Jeff Taffe and right wing Tim Wallace from Wilkes-Barre/Scranton of the American Hockey League; assigned left wing Janne Pesonen to Wilkes-Barre/Scranton.
Tampa Bay Lightning: Assigned center Chris Gratton to Norfolk of the American Hockey League; assigned right wing Radim Vrbata to BK Mlada Boleslav of the Czech Extraliga.

E-MAIL OF THE DAY:

(Unfortunately, Rocky is away on vacation this week and didn't leave anyone access to the fantasy mailbag vault. I wouldn't trust me with it, either. However, if you'd like to send me questions this week, e-mail me at dlozo@nhl.com.)

Dear Fantasy Forecaster Impersonator,
Do I dress Barker, Campbell and Byfuglien against Ottawa all on D tonight? I also have Oduya and Eminger to fill my 4 spots. G, A, +/-, PIM, PPP, SOG. It's a 14-team roto league.
Keep reaching for the stars,
Matt, Chatham, ON


A fine question. Also a timely one. Also one of the three questions I received, so the odds of it being chosen were great. Anyway, let's break this down and see who your four starters should be.

Obviously you're starting Brian Campbell no matter what. That leaves you with four defensemen to fill three spots. Let's take a look at their numbers:

Cam Barker -- 3 goals, 9 assists, 13 PIMs, 9 PPP, 24 SOG, -5
Dustin Byfuglien -- 3 goals, 5 assists, 27 PIMs, 1 PPP, 59 SOG, +2
Johnny Oduya -- 1 goal, 10 assists, 6 PIMs, 2 PPP, 34 SOG, +9
Steve Eminger -- 1 goal, 10 assists, 18 PIMs, 6 PPP, 32 SOG, -5

This is why there shouldn't be 14-team fantasy hockey leagues. No one should be forced to make decisions like this. It's like choosing between painting your walls white, eggshell, alabaster or steamed ivory. At the end of the day, are you really going to notice a difference?

That being said, the guy I'd leave out of that group is Oduya. He has the best plus/minus of the group, but in 18 career games against the Penguins, he has zero goals, 4 assists and is a minus-1.

----------------------

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