There are now only five weeks left in the NHL regular season. The NHL trade deadline and likely the trade deadline in your league has passed. It’s now time to look at your roster and the waiver wire to decide how to best improve your team for the Fantasy Hockey playoffs. Depending upon how many bench slots your league allows, you may want to make sure you have enough depth at each position to survive an injury or two. It’s not as important now to have a glut at one position. In H2H leagues you should be looking at who your probable first round opponent is and see if there is a position they are weak at. There is nothing wrong with stealing a player off of the waiver wire that they may need. Sometimes the best offense is a good defense. Another strategy is to look at schedules. Players for a team that is only scheduled for two games this week won’t be as valuable as those for a team playing four. Keep in mind also that teams will lie about their injured players. Just because a coach states a certain player is day to day, doesn’t make it so. It’s crunch time, and everyone is looking for any kind of advantage.
The Rangers may have lost to the Islanders on Sunday, but they could be receiving two pieces of good news this week. First, the neck injury that Henrik Lundqvist suffered Thursday is not considered to be serious, and he could be back between the pipes as soon as Tuesday in Buffalo. Fantasy Hockey owners in weekly lineup leagues may want to play it safe, however, if they have a solid backup option, as the Rangers only play three games this week and could opt to give Lundqvist a game off versus the lowly Sabres to make sure he is 100 percent healthy. Lundqvist is by far the heart and soul of the Rangers, but the return of Rick Nash (bruised knee) is also important. Nash has been out of the lineup since Jan. 22, but he is currently skating with the team and could return to practice at some point this week. It would seem a return to game action shouldn’t be more than 7-10 days away.
The Flyers lost Jakub Voracek for approximately two weeks with what is stated to be a lower body injury. Voracek wasn’t having the greatest of seasons anyway, but his loss could still be felt by Fantasy owners. He did have 38 assists and that may be a category in your league. Voracek has been a disappointment this season but not a complete bust. If you can hold onto him, I still would. But if you need the spot to ensure a playoff berth or if there is a player you want off the waiver wire, I wouldn’t be shy about releasing him either.
The Devils and Fantasy owners received a really tough blow when it was announced the Cory Schneider suffered a grade 1 sprained MCL during the game Friday. With only five weeks left in the season and the Devils all but playing out the string, this could spell the end of the 2015-16 season for Schneider. It’s time to move on and his backup, Keith Kinkaid, is not the answer.
Pavel Datsyuk missed the game Sunday versus the Blackhawks due to an illness. That’s the bad news; the good is that he should return before the next game for Detroit, Tuesday in Columbus.
John Klingberg suffered a lower body injury Friday versus the Devils and missed the game Sunday versus the Senators. Once again, the injury is not expected to be serious and he could play Tuesday in Montreal. The Stars are also without Patrick Sharp. It was announced late last week that he would miss a couple of games with a lower body injury as well. Sharp has been in a major goal scoring slump since the calendar turned, with only one goal in his last 24 games. So perhaps his absence isn’t the worst thing to happen to his Fantasy owners.
One player I would shy away from this week is Carl Hagelin of the Penguins. He is in the concussion protocol and missed the game Sunday versus New Jersey. When it comes to concussions there really is no way of telling when the player will return, and I’m not one to take a chance and assume or hope he plays in Brooklyn on Tuesday.
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (hand) has returned to practice but is still at least another couple of days from getting into game action. The bigger question for when he returns is, where and on what line he will play? We know that Connor McDavid will center the top line and probably remain with Jordan Eberle. Right now, Nail Yakupov is also on that line, but he could be moved off of it if coach Todd McLellan decides to move Leon Draisaitl from centering the second line to put him back at wing with McDavid, a position he played earlier this season. The Oilers are out of playoff contention and the only thing they are playing for another top draft pick; and they’re also trying to figure out who can play with whom. Between McDavid, Eberle, Nugent-Hopkins, Taylor Hall, and Yakupov, it’s imperative to find the right chemistry. Just think what could happen if they end up with the number one draft pick again this year and take forward Auston Matthews?
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