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Fantasy Spin: Neal, Kesler injuries loom large

by Pete Jensen

Two top-tier fantasy forwards will be sidelined for an extended period of time. Back to the waiver wire we go, fantasy owners.

Ryan Kesler (C/RW in Yahoo leagues) leads NHL forwards in ice time per game (22:08) and will be missed by the Vancouver Canucks over the next few weeks as he recovers from a knee injury.

James Neal (LW/RW), who serves as Evgeni Malkin's sidekick at even strength and on the power play, is out indefinitely with a concussion.

Fantasy owners of James Neal and Ryan Kesler still have some waiver-wire options available that could help ease the pain of their absences due to injuries. (Photo: Gregory Shamus/NHLI, Jeff Vinnick/NHLI)

Neither of these dual-eligible players is fully replaceable considering fantasy trade deadlines have already passed in most leagues. That said, there are a number of waiver wire candidates who can help patch up your roster in time for the fantasy playoffs -- which begin March 17 in standard leagues.


Ryan O'Reilly (C/LW, Colorado Avalanche)

Yahoo ownership: 69 percent

O'Reilly has shattered his previous single-season mark with a career-high 25 goals, making him one of 22 players League-wide to score that many in 2013-14. He has six game-winning goals this season, which is tied for 10th in the NHL. He's below 70 percent ownership in fantasy because he has played the most games in the NHL among players who have not committed a penalty. But his ability to avoid PIMs has allowed him to lead Avalanche forwards in ice time per game (19:38). The bottom line is, even with PA Parenteau's recent injury, O'Reilly plays alongside Matt Duchene and should be owned in all league formats.

Shane Doan (LW/RW, Phoenix Coyotes)

Yahoo ownership: 41 percent

Doan missed time earlier this season due to an illness, but his Coyotes have weathered the storm and are within one point of Stanley Cup Playoff position in the Western Conference. With a balanced stat line of 38 points, nine power-play goals (T-9th in NHL), 137 shots on goal and 106 hits, he has provided his fantasy owners with the valuable category coverage they expected from him based on years past. If you're in a shallow league and just lost Neal, Doan could help you hold down the fort.

Brayden Schenn (C/LW, Philadelphia Flyers)

Yahoo ownership: 41 percent

Alongside Vincent Lecavalier and Wayne Simmonds, Schenn is making his living on the Flyers' second line as they push toward the playoffs. Like Doan, he can give your team position flexibility and hits for leagues that take those into account. With points in five of his past seven games and strong penalty minutes (48) and shots (136) totals, Schenn is a viable multi-category producer who could serve as a replacement for either Kesler or Neal.

Tommy Wingels
Center - SJS
GOALS: 15 | ASST: 21 | PTS: 36
SOG: 134 | +/-: 10

Tommy Wingels (C/RW, San Jose Sharks)

Yahoo ownership: 20 percent

Wingels has played on the Sharks' third line of late alongside James Sheppard. Raffi Torres, who has dealt with soreness over the past two games, rounds out that unit nicely when healthy. Wingels has three goals, two assists, 15 shots on goal and eight hits over his past four games and is one of eight forwards with 14-plus goals & 160-plus hits this season.

Lee Stempniak (LW/RW, Pittsburgh Penguins)

Yahoo ownership: 16 percent

Stempniak was identified as a potential fantasy addition following the trade deadline and is living up to expectations playing with Sidney Crosby and Chris Kunitz. He has three assists over his past two games and could even see a bit of power-play time with Neal out of the lineup.

Alexandre Burrows (LW/RW, Vancouver Canucks)

Yahoo ownership: 9 percent

Daniel Sedin (goalless in 22 straight games) has missed time this month due to injury and Kesler is set to join him on the injured list. Henrik Sedin has one goal over his past 25 games and Burrows, Henrik's linemate, was goalless over his first 35 games this season. But Burrows broke out of his slump Wednesday with two goals, two penalty minutes, six shots on goal and five hits. There were days when games like that were Burrows' calling card, so don't be surprised if he rediscovers his groove and produces in a number of areas for your fantasy team down the stretch.


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