The NHL picked up again Wednesday night after taking three days off for Christmas. I’m sure quite a few Fantasy owners found a late lump of coal in their stocking, however, when it was announced earlier in the day that Corey Crawford would be placed on injured reserve due to an undisclosed injury. Although Crawford hadn’t played well of late (seven goals on 29 shots in his last two games) there was no mention of a possible injury.
This has been an up and down season for Crawford. When healthy, he has been one of the better goaltenders in the NHL with a 2.27 GAA and .929 save percentage, but a lack of goal scoring from the Chicago forwards has cost him more than a few wins. This is also his second stint on IR this season, which could leave one to wonder if this could be an injury that he will be battling all season long. If you need a goaltender to either replace Crawford or just for some depth, Anton Forsberg would be a solid addition to your Fantasy team until Crawford returns but the same goal scoring issue will remain.
Kris Letang is also out of the lineup for at least the game Wednesday versus Columbus. His injury is to the lower body and at this point in time, it’s not expected to keep him out of the lineup for anything more than a couple of days. This injury, however, could have a ripple effect. Keep in mind Letang’s injury history; it’s not pretty. He’s only played more than 70 games in a season twice in his career and once he does get hurt, he seems to take a long time to get back in the lineup.
Another problem for the Penguins is that Justin Schultz has also been out of the lineup with a lower-body injury. The Pens aren’t the deepest team on defense in the first place but if you take away any team’s Top 2 defenders, they are going to struggle more than most teams. With Schultz and Letang out of the lineup, the team will have issues breaking out of the defensive zone and goal scoring could be an issue. You’re still starting players like Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin of course, but this may not be a good week for them. Matt Murray is likely to face a lot more rubber than he would prefer, and his ratios could suffer. If you have another option between the pipes, you may want to use him this week.
Cam Atkinson, one of the biggest busts in Fantasy this season, has been placed on injured reserve due to a foot injury and is expected to be out of the lineup until February. His loss may not be a huge one, though, as he only had six goals and 13 points in 32 games so far, this season. The Blue Jackets have been searching for answers as to where Atkinson’s goal scoring has gone, as he had potted 62 goals during the prior two seasons including 10 on the power play last year. This season, he has yet to score with the man advantage. Atkinson is far from the only Blue Jacket struggling on offense, but he may be the poster boy for Fantasy disappointment during the first half this season. Fantasy owners now don’t have to wrestle with whether to start him, that question has been answered.
The Ducks will finally see the season debut of Ryan Kesler on Wednesday. Kesler had been on IR after undergoing hip surgery at the end of last season. He will debut on the third line but once he shows that he is back in game shape, it shouldn’t be long until he anchors the second line. If you’re struggling at center, he is a player you can think about acquiring to add depth to your lineup.