NAVIGATING THROUGH THE INJURY ISSUES
Injuries are starting to mount in the NHL and that really isn't any surprise. Hockey is a physical game played at a speed that will lead to bumps, bruises, breaks and tears. Like all Fantasy sports, it's important to have depth on your roster. Center is generally a deeper position than wing when it comes to the waiver wire, so it's more important to have extra wings on your roster. It's the same with defensemen, as you always seem to be able to find an adequate pick up during the season. Not a superstar of course, but someone that won't hurt your team. Goaltending is a completely different story. There are only 30 NHL teams and since an overwhelming majority of Fantasy leagues start two net minders, well, you can see what the problem will be once a starter or two goes down. Henrik Lundqvist, Josh Harding, Pekka Rinne, Tim Thomas and Cam Ward were all hurt this past week. Combine that with Evgeni Nabokov, Devan Dubnyk and Karri Ramo, who are playing poorly. Not to mention teams like Toronto and New Jersey that don't have a true number one starter, and you have nearly a third of the NHL with a problem in goal. Those problems carry over for Fantasy owners. If you're playing in a league that treats goaltending and forwards evenly then you need to keep this in mind. It's not a bad idea to handcuff your starting goalie if the backup is adequate and someone you wouldn't mind plugging in. Keep in mind; if and when your starter goes down, it's going to be a race to the waiver wire, as you won't be the only team in need of a backstop.
- As mentioned above there were a slew of goaltending injuries this week. Lundqvist has missed the past couple of games due to an upper body injury. So many teams guard these injuries like they are state secrets. The good
[caption id="attachment_55561" align="alignright" width="300"] Pekka Rinne is one of the notable names that has popped up on the injury report. <em><strong>Photo Credit:</strong> </em><a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/krissyj182/">Kristen Jerkins</a>[/caption]
news is that it looks like he will return to the crease Tuesday versus the Islanders. The bad news is that the Rangers aren't scoring and Lundqvist wasn't playing all that well before the injury. You have no choice but to start him, as it's unlikely you have the kind of depth that would allow you to bench him, but wins could be tough to come by for a little while. Cam Talbot has taken over the starting role in his absence and played well, but I wouldn't bother rostering him. If Lundqvist were to go down long-term he's unlikely to save your season.
- Rinne had to have an infection cleaned out from his off-season hip surgery. Yeah, that sounds pretty icky. If you're looking on the bright side this isn't really a setback but more along the lines of bad luck. Pekka is a Top 5 goaltender in most rankings but there was some concern about him coming into the season due to the off-season surgery. Was he going to be his old self? Is he someone who singlehandedly can keep the team in games, as the Predators are another team that lacks offensive firepower? He looked good early on, but now the question will be how long does it take him to get back in shape after he has recovered? Carter Hutton will take over the starting role until Rinne returns. He should be able to protect your ratios, but he's not going to do any better than Rinne at getting a win.
- The Hurricanes are a mess right now in net. Not only is Ward out for a month with a lower body injury, but the backup, Anton Khudobin (also a lower body injury), has been out of action as well. That leaves the starting job to Justin Peters. Yeah, I'm not rushing out to the waiver wire to grab him either. Now, Khubobin could return at some point this coming week and he is a player to watch. He was signed as free agent this past off-season after a successful campaign backing up Tuukka Rask of the Bruins. Some thought he might even challenge for the starting job. With Ward's history of injuries he is someone that should be on your Fantasy radar.
- Minnesota has one of the most interesting goaltending situations this season so far. Niklas Backstrom was re-signed during the off-season only because of the MLS diagnosis for Josh Harding. The Wild had no way of knowing if Harding could handle the starting job and didn't want to take a chance with an unproven net minder should Harding suffer a relapse. Well, Backstrom started the season playing okay, but then he suffered a knee injury. Harding has taken over and is nothing short of a brick wall in net with a GAA of 1.00 (not a misprint) and save percentage of .953. Those are god-like numbers. Then Harding suffers a…wait for it…lower body injury, which gets Backstrom back between the pipes. Now, as of this writing there really is no update on Harding but the injury does not look to be serious. Here's the problem for Fantasy owners. What happens next week if/when Harding is ready to return? Does he get the starting job back? What if Backstrom is playing well? I have Backstrom on three teams and this is driving me crazy. I have Harding/Backstrom in a league with daily lineup changes so it’s no big deal, but in the other two leagues we’re required to set our lineups by first game Monday. That has left me to benching them both over the past couple of weeks to play it safe with Ryan Miller.
- Should anyone really be surprised by the injuries that Tim Thomas has suffered? First off, he's playing for Florida, one of the worst franchises in the NHL. What were you expecting out of him this season anyway? Also, doesn't it always seem that whenever a player misses most of, if not all of, training camp (not just in hockey) that they always suffer some kind of leg injury?
- The Islanders and Oilers have just about had it with their starting goaltenders. The problem his neither organization has a future goaltender in their system. The Isles are going to give Kevin Poulin a chance to play more often but he's more than likely not the answer. If there is a team in the NHL that is poised to make the first big move this season via a trade, Edmonton is it. They have the young offensive talent to make a run at a Jake Allen (St. Louis). Once Taylor Hall (month) and Sam Gagner (early November) return from injury, it will be interesting to see if the Oilers decide to make a splash.
- It's just been announced that Cory Schneider is day to day with a lower body injury. This makes the decision about who will start easier right now; Martin Brodeur for the time being. Earlier this week Brodeur tweeted that he was no longer the starter for New Jersey. With this injury, perhaps Brodeur will have a chance to get that job back.
- Toronto actually has two capable goalies in Jonathan Berneir and James Reimer. So for Fantasy owners it's becoming a bit of a guessing game to figure out who will start each week. So far, whoever is healthy (Reimer has battled a concussion and illness so far this year) and playing better has gotten the nod. Reimer won the starting job during camp but Bernier was expensive to acquire during the off-season and has played well for the most part. Look for him to get every opportunity to take the job as the season rolls along.
Feel free to follow me and ask any Fantasy related questions you like on twitter, @georgekurtz.
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