Another snowstorm here on Long Island, lucky me. I’m writing this column while looking at the white stuff accumulate in my backyard, knowing that when I’m done I’ll have to shovel it.
I hate winter but I do love hockey, and I also love how the games take on more meaning at this time of year. There are only 8-10 weeks left in your Fantasy Hockey season depending upon what type of league you play in. NHL teams are also starting to ramp up for their playoff push. This will lead to fewer days off for the starting goaltenders. Oh sure, they might get a rest on the second half of back-to-back games, but a day off just for the sake of a day off will become rare, as teams will need their best goalie between the pipes in order to get two points closer to the playoffs.
Fantasy Hockey owners hoping that Carey Price will come back to lead them to victory should probably start to look in another direction. Price has taken to the ice this week, but is only doing basic skating and it’s without pads. What can even be more disconcerting is that he is still walking with a noticeable limp. This is starting more and more to look like a lost season for Price and possibly the Canadiens. Montreal is in 12th place in the East and falling quicker than Wile E. Coyote off of a cliff. The organization may feel at this point that with Price looking like he’s a least a few weeks (if not a month) away from action to just call it a wrap and make sure one of the best stoppers in the league is 100 percent healthy for next season.
Jake Allen is also back on the ice, but he’s just taking baby steps for now. He’s skating but just solo sessions, and he still isn’t taking shots or practicing yet. This would indicate that he is still at least two weeks away from a return to action, and with Brian Elliott playing so well, it’s not like the Blues will feel the need to rush him back. When Allen does return and prove himself healthy, he may no longer be the full-time starter but more of a timeshare goaltender with Elliott. This is something no Fantasy owner will want to hear, especially going into the playoffs.
The clock may have struck midnight on Louis Domingue. He was always the “play him while he’s hot guy”, but now allowing five goals in three straight games has taken the bloom off of that rose. Mike Smith is still out for at least another 3-4 weeks, so look for the Coyotes to go with a rotation of Domingue and Anders Lindback until his return.
Semyon Varlamov was missing in action because of a civil suit he was involved in (a suit he won). The Avs still gave him Thursday off, starting Calvin Pickard in his place, but Varlamov should be back and ready to get back between the pipes as soon as Saturday versus Winnipeg.
The Islanders made a curious move earlier this week when they started Jean-Francois Berube in their first game back from the All-Star break. According to coach Jack Capuano, the reason for this move was because Berube has played well during the ASB, whereas Jaroslav Halak and Thomas Greiss hadn’t played in a week. While this may be true, the problem is that this further delays Halak and/or Greiss getting back in game action, and when they do, it would be against the Nationals, currently the best team in the league. The truth is probably more that the Isles are showcasing Berube to potential trade partners. They would prefer to send him down to the AHL, but he won’t pass through waivers without being claimed, so a trade would be their best bet. The problem is that Berube has only played in two NHL games and is unlikely to bring back much in a trade. The Islanders may be stuck with Berube on their 23-man roster for the remainder of the season, but he is unlikely to take more than another start or two away from Halak or Greiss.
Sergei Bobrovsky is reportedly still not close to a return to action. The Blue Jackets should play it safe here. The season is lost and they need to make sure his groin injury gets as healthy as possible.
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