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Fantasy Five: The injury bug lives on

by Matt Cubeta /
Every season players go down with injuries, and every season fantasy owners struggle to overcome them. Well, this season the amount of injured players seems to be even greater, especially the importance of the players. From Zach Parise and Martin Brodeur to Marian Gaborik and Drew Doughty, there has been plenty of star power relegated to the sidelines.

In this edition of the Fantasy Five, we'll take a look at five critical players who are either currently hurt or have just recently returned to action. Hopefully you don't own any of the players that are still out, but if you do, we'll provide you with some suggestions on whom you can grab to replace them.

1. Marc Savard, C, Boston Bruins

One of the League's premiere playmakers, Savard returned to action on Dec. 2 against Tampa Bay after missing Boston's first 23 contests because of post-concussion symptoms. Despite the Bruins handling the Lightning, 8-1, Savard finished his first game of the 2010-11 season with no points and one shot on goal in 15:45 of ice time. If you own him, feel free to activate him immediately and expect his ice time to increase as he becomes more comfortable with game action. Savard won't score a ton of goals for you, but he will certainly help you out with plenty of assists and a solid plus-minus rating while playing on a sound defensive squad in Boston. If he can remain healthy for the rest of the season, hope for Savard to finish the campaign with point-per-game numbers, but on the safe side, expect around 40-45 points going forward.

2. Pekka Rinne, G, Nashville Predators

The Nashville netminder will be sidelined for approximately 2-4 weeks with a left knee injury. If you happen to own Rinne, you know what a blow this will be, even if it's only for two weeks. Rinne has been extremely solid for most of the season, posting an 8-7-4 record, 2.37 goals-against average, .918 save percentage and three shutouts. However, if you do own him and no one has picked up his backup, Anders Lindback, you should go do that immediately. Lindback has recorded a 3-1-1 record with a 2.78 GAA and a .913 save percentage in five starts for Nashville this season. Like the Bruins, the Predators play a defensive-style game and currently rank ninth in the NHL in goals against per game at 2.54. Lindback won't put up numbers quite like Rinne, but he's certainly worth owning until the No. 1 goalie returns.

3. Steve Downie, RW, Tampa Bay Lightning

Downie went down with what was originally believed to be a broken ankle after blocking a shot against the Bruins on Dec. 2, but it was later declared as a high ankle sprain. However, ankle sprains tend to linger for quite some time, so this is still a significant blow to any fantasy owner that has relied on Downie for has ability to put up some points and loads of penalty minutes. Downie has disappointed a bit so far with just 3 goals in 23 games, but he also has 12 helpers, 4 power-play points and 68 penalty minutes while seeing ice time with Steven Stamkos and Martin St. Louis occasionally. A time frame for his return hasn't been declared yet, but if you're looking for a player similar to Downie, try and pick up Rangers forward Brandon Prust. Prust has 76 PIMs on the season, but doesn't record quite as many points as Downie -- 2 goals and 6 assists in 28 games. Hopefully you can place Downie on your IR, but if you can't, don't go dropping him until a timetable is provided for his injury.

4. Jordan Staal, C, Pittsburgh Penguins

Poor Jordan Staal. First he had two foot surgeries, then he had an infection in his foot, and just when we thought we were going to get him back, he broke his right hand in practice. However, a return to the ice could happen as early as mid-December. If and when he does return, temper your expectations with the 22-year-old forward, as he's been away from game action for a long time. Staal has been skating in practice and just recently was able to hold a stick with both hands and stickhandle for the first time since suffering the broken hand. Staal recorded 49 points in each of the two previous seasons, and while he may not be a must-own player in all fantasy leagues, he's certainly worth a flyer in case he ends up on a line with either Sidney Crosby or Evgeni Malkin. Here's hoping his second attempt to return to the ice goes better than the last.

5. Marian Hossa, RW, Chicago Blackhawks

Hossa will be out for approximately 2-3 weeks with a lower-body injury after colliding with teammate Nick Boynton during practice on Nov. 29. Hossa, the most talented and useful fantasy player of the five discussed here, just seems to be injury prone this season for the Hawks. Hossa already missed a couple of weeks earlier in the season because of an upper-body injury, and now his fantasy owners have to deal with this. Hossa was in the middle of a scoring slump, with just one goal in his last 14 games, but he still has 8 G, 10 A, plus-4 rating, 14 PIMs, 7 PPP and 61 SOG in 21 contests overall. Hossa will certainly be missed by his fantasy owners, but if you're looking for a replacement off waivers, try to add Vancouver right wing Mikael Samuelsson (owned in 60 percent of Yahoo! leagues). If you need someone a little deeper, grab Colorado's David Jones (owned in 17 percent of Yahoo! leagues) or Tampa Bay's Teddy Purcell (owned in 12 percent of Yahoo! leagues).
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