This is a short week in the NHL, as there are no games this weekend due to the Christmas holiday. Rosters are frozen until Monday, so there won’t be any transactions except perhaps a player coming off long-term injured reserve.
Don’t be surprised if players who were injured earlier this week get extra time to heal. Teams can use this break like MLB managers would use MLB’s All-Star break. There’s no reason to risk the long-term health of a player for just one game. This could affect Rick Nash (groin) of the Rangers and Marian Hossa (upper body) of the Blackhawks.
This also means you will have a couple of days, when you’re not celebrating, opening presents or watching football, to contemplate how help your Fantasy team. Just because NHL teams can’t make moves doesn’t mean you can’t. It’s the holiday season. Why not make a trade offer or two and see if you can find a Fantasy owner in a giving mood? It certainly can’t hurt to try, and as I like to say, at the very least it will open the lines of communication.
The Blackhawks still believe that Corey Crawford will be ready to return to the crease Friday. Crawford does seem to be ready to play, but I would take the cautious route with starting him in his first game back from the appendectomy. First of all, I don’t like to start any player coming off an injury that has kept him out of action for multiple weeks. We just don’t know if he will need a game or two to get up to game speed, or whether he will be rusty in his return or if he will get hurt again. Second, why would the Hawks want to play him Friday. They are playing the Avalanche, one of the worst teams in the NHL. Scott Darling has been playing well and by sitting Crawford here, they can give him a couple of extra days off.
Tuesday night was a painful one for goaltenders. Jimmy Howard has already been placed on IR with a leg injury. He had just returned to the team on Dec. 9 after missing six contests with a groin injury. Howard was solid in his return, stopping 99 of 108 shots against (.916 save percentage). All of the injuries he has suffered over the past couple of years, however, have to be unsettling to both the Red Wings and Fantasy owners. This could also hurt his trade value as no team is going to want to give up a premium package for a goaltender they can’t rely on. Petr Mrazek will, once again, be the undisputed starter in Motown, with the recently recalled Jared Coreau backing him up.
Ben Bishop also left the game early last night. He has what is being described as a lower body injury with no timetable for his return to the crease. Bishop hasn’t played up to his capabilities this season. The reason for this are unknown. Maybe he’s worried about where he will be playing next season. Maybe he’s thinking about getting as much money as possible. Or perhaps he’s feeling the pressure from Andrei Vasilevskiy, who has outplayed him and is playing more than a typical backup. Bishop’s name will come up in trade talks more and more as we get closer to the trade deadline. It’s unlikely that the Lightning will just let him walk away for free after the season; not when the team has to be pretty sure that Vasilevskiy could take over the starting role, and that the team wouldn’t miss a beat.
I have to congratulate Jaromir Jagr. His three assists last night tied him with Mark Messier for number two on the all-time scoring list (1,888) behind the Great One, Wayne Gretzky (2,857). Jagr really isn’t Fantasy-worthy at this point in his career but it’s fun to wonder just how close he would be to the record if he didn’t take time off to play in the KHL. He’s a living legend on the ice and has no plans to retire, not as long as someone is willing to give him a roster spot.
Happy Holidays to you and your family, and continued good luck during the Fantasy Hockey season.
You can feel free to follow me on Twitter, @georgekurtz