We are officially at the Fantasy Hockey All-Star break now. It’s a good time to reassess your team and figure out what is and what isn’t working. The All-Star Game itself means very little to me. I won’t watch the game, not unless I just happen to be home, and I worry more about players on my teams getting injured more than anything else. I especially worry about the goalies. Why? Well, defense wasn’t a big part of this game when they were playing 5 vs. 5, it will be even less so going 3 vs. 3. No one will hit in the game because of the injury risk in a meaningless exhibition. Goalies will be hung out to dry. They will face a barrage of shots and be forced to go from side to side quickly, thus putting quite a bit of strain on their lower bodies. Yeah, I’d prefer my goaltender to take a four-day vacation than to play in this game. Now for the goaltending news between the pipes.
Carolina Hurricanes: Cam Ward was activated off of the injured reserve this week. Ward has recovered from his concussion and will go back to being in somewhat of a timeshare with Eddie Lack. The Hurricanes are actually playing better than expected and are currently only one point out of a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. Unfortunately for the Canes, however, they are tied with Columbus for the most games played in the East with 51. They aren’t as good as they are playing right now and the team would still be smart to look to move Ward in a trade deadline deal if it will get them better for the future.
Boston Bruins: This is a team that has had some minor problems in net this week. Starter Tuukka Rask missed the game Saturday with an illness. The team said it was nothing to be concerned about and they were correct, as Rask came back Monday and played well, stopping 34 of 36 shots in a 3-2 win over Philadelphia. On Tuesday, Jonas Gustavsson had to leave the game early due to an elevated heart rate and was taken to the hospital. He has already been discharged, however, and both net minders should be good to go right after the break.
Columbus Blue Jackets: The Jackets are a mess in net. Sergei Bobrovsky is still out with no real timetable for a return after suffering yet another groin injury about two weeks ago. The team states that these injuries are not related but that is certainly hard to believe. One can still make the argument that this team is going nowhere fast and is better off just shutting Bobrovsky down and letting him get 100-percent healthy for next season. Curtis McElhinney is close to a return with the ankle injury. He is skating with the team and does plan on traveling with them on the upcoming road trip. This is a sign that his return is not far off. Anton Forsberg was sent down to the AHL to get in some work during the break. He should be back with the team early next week.
Philadelphia Flyers: Steve Mason has a lower body injury that has cost him a couple of games this week. As usual, the Flyers are being very hush hush about how serious the injury is and when he might return to the lineup. The injury, however, is not expected to keep him out long and the team may be using the All-Star break just to give him a few more days to heal.
Colorado Avalanche: Semyon Varlamov wasn’t with the team Wednesday due to personal reasons. He should return next week. Varlamov is dealing with a civil lawsuit. Reto Berra is also close to a return and could be back shortly after the break as well.
St. Louis Blues: Jake Allen (knee) owners shouldn’t get too excited about the news that Jordan Binnington was sent down to the AHL. This was done just to give him some work during the break and not because the return of Allen is imminent. Allen owners also have to be concerned about how well Brian Elliott has played. It’s unlikely coach Ken Hitchcock will just forget about Elliott when Allen returns. This may once again be a Fantasy owner’s nightmare, a 50/50 split.
Montreal Canadiens: There is no news about Carey Price. The team is cratering in a big way, though, and one has to wonder whether the Canadiens would think about trading for a veteran net minder (Ward) if the news on Price doesn’t get any better in the very near future.
One piece of non-goalie news is that Alexander Ovechkin will not play in the All-Star Game. Why does this matter? Well, the NHL has a rule in place that if you are elected to play in the game and use your health as an excuse for why you can’t play, then you must miss the first game for your NHL team after the break. You’re more than likely not going to sit Ovechkin next week anyway, but keep this in mind when setting your lineups.