Injuries have been a huge issue this season. It's hard to remember the last time two of the NHL's biggest stars have been out for as many games as Evgeni Malkin and Sidney Crosby have been in Pittsburgh. When Crosby was diagnosed with a concussion Jan. 6, many were hoping the Penguins' star would be back sooner rather then later. But fifteen games after the diagnosis and there remains no timetable for his return. Penguins fans, as well as Crosby fantasy owners, are hoping Crosby can return shortly for the fantasy playoff run.
The Penguins aren't the only team suffering from injuries. Out for the season with a concussion is Boston Bruins center Marc Savard. The Bruins have shown they can survive without him and will hold tight with some youngsters from within the organization (Tyler Seguin, Jordan Caron, Zach Hamill), but a trade to shore up the center position is possible. In Anaheim, the Ducks have placed All-Star goaltender Jonas Hiller on injured reserve due to fatigue and light-headedness. However, don't expect him to be out for too long.
Speaking of goaltenders, the New York Islanders have lost three starters in a little more then five weeks, as they traded Dwayne Roloson to the Tampa Bay Lightning, lost Rick DiPietro to facial fractures and knee swelling after a fight with Penguins goaltender Brent Johnson and now will miss Kevin Poulin for the year after he dislocated his left kneecap. However, if you were relying on an Islanders goaltender in your fantasy league, you weren't in good position to begin with.
For positive news on the injury front, we can look at Red Wings star Pavel Datsyuk. The center (with left wing eligibility) missed 19 games with a broken hand, yet still is producing well above a point per game (41 points in 35 games). His first game back against the Rangers saw him score a goal and add an assist in a 3-2 win against the Rangers on Feb. 7. He provides everything you look for in a scoring forward and is a must-start in all formats.
Another must-start is Jason Spezza, who returned from a shoulder injury Feb. 5 to face the Islanders. His point totals are not where owners, who drafted him in Yahoo! leagues on average at No. 25, would like them to be, with 22 points in 35 games. However, Spezza was one of the hottest players last season after his return from a knee injury, totaling 19 points in 30 games before the injury, but 38 points (15 on the power play) in 30 games after he came back.
Top Pick-Ups (owned in less than 50 percent of Yahoo! Leagues)
1. Brendan Morrison, C, Flames (11 percent) -- It's not so much the stats that have caught the eyes of the fantasy hockey world, but the fact that he has been playing on a line with Jarome Iginla. Morrison has 33 points on the season, but over the last 11 games on the top line, he has 12 points, is a plus-5 and has contributed 4 points on the power play. If he remains the center on the No. 1 unit, look for his point totals to continue climbing.
2. Nikolai Kulemin, LW, Maple Leafs (38 percent) -- Kulemin has been hot recently, with a six-game point-scoring streak that has seen him total 5 goals and 3 assists. He has been on the wing with Mikhail Grabovski and Clarke MacArthur for most of the season, with Phil Kessel making an appearance on the line for Tuesday's game against the Islanders. Grabovski and Kulemin have developed some chemistry and coach Ron Wilson has been able to move leading scorer MacArthur to the second line to balance the offense. Meanwhile, Kulemin has 21 goals, 20 assists and a plus-5 rating this season. He provides shots and is a popular choice on the power play with 11 points. Look for the offense to continue.
3. Teddy Purcell, RW, Lightning (15 percent) -- Purcell has been on a roll since Jan. 23, as he has 4 goals and 5 assists in six games. He's become a fixture on a lethal power play, where he lines up with Martin St. Louis and Steven Stamkos. He has solid stats across the board, with 34 points (16 on the man-advantage). With Simon Gagne and Vincent Lecavalier on his line during 5-on-5 play, look for his shots (132) and his points to increase.
4. Dennis Seidenberg, D, Bruins (46 percent) -- Seidenberg has been a steady presence for the Bruins this season. He's a plus-9, is tied for 14th among NHL blueliners in shots and is projected to have 35 points, with 14 on the power play. He is a solid option to add to any team's defense corps.
5. Robin Lehner, G, Senators (2 percent) -- You look at his stats and cringe, but not all is bad for him. Yes, in seven games he's 1-3-0 with a 3.40 goals-against average and .890 save percentage, but the numbers tend to hide the real story. Ottawa is 19th in shots allowed, and with more experience -- and possibly a tighter defense in front of him -- he can start putting together some decent starts. He's highly regarded after being a 2009 second-round pick of the Senators. This is his first season in North America.
Offensive Schedule Strength
|4||Off||Off||vs. MIN||Off||vs. CBJ||Off||vs. PIT|
|8||Off||vs. PHI||Off||vs. DET||Off||vs. FLA||Off|
|11||vs. CGY||Off||vs. PIT||Off||Off||@SJS||Off|
|12||Off||Off||Off||vs. LAK||@NJD||Off||vs. PHI|
|13||Off||vs. SJS||Off||vs. VAN||Off||vs. PHX||Off|
|15||Off||@NSH||Off||vs. WAS||Off||vs. COL||Off|
|16||vs. VAN||Off||Off||Off||@BUF||vs. ANA||Off|
|18||Off||@MTL||vs. TOR||Off||vs. STL||Off||vs. WAS|
|19||Off||Off||@NJD||Off||vs. PHI||vs. NJD||Off|
|20||Off||Off||vs. CAR||Off||vs. NYR||@CAR||Off|
|22||vs. WAS||Off||Off||vs. ATL||Off||@NSH||Off|
|23||Off||vs. VAN||@CHI||Off||vs. ANA||Off||vs. DET|
|25||Off||@OTT||Off||vs. BOS||Off||vs. LAK||Off|
|26||Off||vs. NYI||Off||Off||vs. BOS||@TOR||Off|
|27||@COL||Off||vs. DAL||Off||Off||Off||vs. MTL|
|29||Off||vs. DAL||Off||vs. MTL||Off||vs. ATL||Off|
|30||Off||Off||vs. PHI||Off||vs. DET||@TBL||Off|