I have said it before but believe it’s worth repeating; no matter how much you study, no matter how close you pay attention, injuries will determine your success in Fantasy leagues more than anything else. Sure, making the right moves during the season will also play a part, but you need your Fantasy team to stay in one piece, or at the very least, not suffer more than your share of injuries. Yes, bumps and bruises are part of the game. Most of us will have to deal with an injury or two at some point or another, but it’s when you start losing star players for months rather than weeks that it can become frustrating. When you start to lose multiple players at the same position, your depth gets tested. Of course, that assumes you have a league that allows enough reserves spots to have adequate depth. The past 7-10 days have been a brutal one for goaltenders, testing depth across whole Fantasy leagues; never mind one or two teams.
has a slight groin tear and the team states he will be lost for at least two to four weeks. This timetable sounds extremely optimistic. Howard has had groin problems on and off all season, and quite obviously, he has never been able to put this injury completely in the rearview mirror. Does anyone really believe he’s coming back just two weeks after tearing it? Even four weeks sounds like an optimistic projection. Fantasy owners should be prepared for Howard to be out six weeks, until the end of February or early March. Possible good news for Howard owners could be that Petr Mrazek might still be available on your waiver wire. Depending on the size of your league and how many goaltenders you start, I’d go out and grab him. The Red Wings play a defensive system that should support Mrazek well, and while yes, this will be his first long-term run in the NHL as a starting goaltender, his numbers (2.13 GAA, .921 save percentage) state that he should be able to handle it.
The Flyers are another team scrambling in net, as Steve Mason suffered a knee injury last weekend and won’t return until after the All-Star game. Mason hasn’t put up quite the statistics he did last season. But playing on a defensively inept team, he hasn’t been bad either. Now, while his injury isn’t expected to keep him out long-term, it is worth noting that the original one-week timetable was almost immediately bumped up to two weeks. Mason has also been hurt multiple times this season so staying on the ice has been an issue. Most assumed Ray Emery would take over the starting role in Mason’s absence, but he has been terrible this season with a 3.34 GAA and a .885 save percentage. The Flyers are freefalling this season and need every last point they can muster, so over the past two games they have turned to Rob Zepp in net. Now Zepp isn’t a prospect, he’s a nice story. Zepp is 33 years old and had been traveling around the minor leagues forever before finally getting his shot this year in Philly. Is he the answer in net? Probably not, but he’s playing better than Emery and the Flyers will almost certainly ride the hot goaltender while Mason is out.
The really tough news for Fantasy owners this week is the loss of Pekka Rinne (lower body). He may have been the Fantasy MVP to this point in the season as he has proven once again to be back to being the player he once was. That was no sure bet after missing most of last season due to hip surgery and a subsequent infection. Rinne already has 29 wins with a sub-two GAA and .931 save percentage. Yeah, tough loss indeed. Carter Hutton is expected to take over the starting role until Rinne returns (3-5 weeks). Hutton is not Rinne but like the Wings and Petr Mrazek, he should be claimed even though the team is unlikely to perform just as well with Hutton as they would with Rinne, they won’t fall off a cliff either.
The Wild acquired Devan Dubnyk from the Coyotes this week. Will this cure their ills? It certainly can’t hurt (he did post a shutout in his first start Thursday). Darcy Kuemper has been inconsistent this season and is currently on the injured reserve list (lower body), and Niklas Backstrom has proven to be nothing more than a backup goaltender for more than a season now. Dubnyk failed in Edmonton when handed the starting job and didn’t exactly impress all that much in Arizona, but Minnesota will be the best team he has played for by far. He won’t have to worry about facing 30-plus shots each night, nor will he have to worry about one goal losing him a game. He’s worth a shot for Fantasy owners but I’d be wary here. When Kuemper comes back there will be quite a few cooks in the kitchen.
Martin Brodeur has asked and received a one-week leave of absence (vacation) from the Blues. Brodeur will use this time to decide what he wants to do with his future: stay with St. Louis and be the third goaltender behind Brian Elliott and Jake Allen, ask for his release and hope to hook up with another team, ask for a trade, or retire. Either way, Elliott is once again the main goalie in St. Louis with Allen the main backup as Brodeur has little or no Fantasy value.
The Bruins have decided to keep David Pastrnak with the big club, thus starting the first year of his contract. The Bruins are desperate for goal scoring, have been since the loss of Jarome Iginla, and Pastrnak (four goals in his last three games) has been helping in that department. I still have my doubts about to whether his six-foot, 170 lb. frame can stand up over a full season; but for now, if you need goal scoring, he is someone to look at.
This is a reminder to set your lineup appropriately next week. The All-Star game will lead to some leagues having either a short week or a long one. Make sure to check your league settings before setting your lineup.
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