James O'Brien

Hockey Daily Dose

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Back in business

Tuesday, December 27, 2011


I’ve had to be the bearer of bad news on the Daily Dose often enough that it feels downright weird to actually have a bunch of happy thoughts to spread. Then again, maybe it’s all relative; there are, after all, plenty of things to be concerned with today, too. Still, a while ago, it seemed like nothing but storm clouds on the horizon. Now there are least a few rays of sunlight peeking through the gloom.


KOIVU RETURNS

 

While the Minnesota Wild stumble away on their seven-game losing streak, there was some great news for the struggling team and fantasy owners alike. Mikko Koivu finally returned to action and registered an assist.

 

He didn’t just happen to get a point either, as Mike Yeo paid little mind to “easing him in.” Koivu had 23:32 of ice time, threw four hits, took three shots and went 14-8 in the faceoff circle. That doesn’t sound like a guy who’s too rusty, but we’ll see if he slows down once the return adrenaline wears off.


MICHALEK MAKES HIS WAY BACK

 

It seems like a nice chunk of players are returning from unhappy accidents in which they collided with teammates and suffered concussions. Claude Giroux didn’t just return last week, he showered four points (one goal and three assists) on his unlucky opponents.

 

Hopefully Milan Michalek will enjoy a similarly bright return. He remains the Ottawa Senators’ top goal scorer, so it’s obvious that they’ll likely be just as excited to see him back in uniform. (In fact, one might argue that he’s more important to Ottawa than Giroux is to Philly simply based on the fact that the Senators are nowhere as deep as the Flyers.)

 

The Kyle Turris trade already benefited Ottawa in two ways: his instant bit of offense and as backup for Peter Regin, who looks primed to miss an extensive amount of time with a shoulder issue. It turns out there might be a third area of benefit: allowing the Senators to load up their first line with top guns.

 

That means that the likely starting trio for Ottawa will include Michalek and Daniel Alfredsson on the wings with Jason Spezza in the middle. I already recommended scooping up Alf last week, but if that combo holds on even a semi-regular basis, then the aging Swede might be able to ape his prime years.


WEBER WATCH

 

So, the details are very scarce on Shea Weber’s new injury, but hopefully the results won’t be scary. His issue is being labeled as an upper-body injury, which hopefully isn’t code for “concussion” like it’s been far too often this season.

 

The Nashville Predators are banged up enough that they decided to give their much-touted offensive defenseman of the future Ryan Ellis a spin on Monday. Ellis was unable to register a point in that appearance, but that hasn’t diminished the excitement building around an organization that has been bumping up the young volume scorer.

 

Unless something unlikely happens, it’s hard to imagine Ellis being too much of an impact player this season (and maybe not next). Then again, if Weber’s injury breaks the long way and Barry Trotz can live with whatever rookie mistakes Ellis might make, then you just never know.

 

That being said, I’m fairly confident that you only need to keep him on your radar for future fantasy drafts.


HOVERING OVER A RETURN

 

Two important players are still in very indefinite situations. The difference between this week and last week is that optimism is swelling that each guy might actually return pretty soon. Both potential comebacks could have some ripple effects on their respective rosters, too.


LEHTONEN BACK IN SOON?

 

The target return date remains vague, but there are some murmurs that Kari Lehtonen could man the Dallas Stars net as early as this week. That would fall in line with the more realistic projections related to his groin injury, but nagging problems like those lend themselves to setbacks, so we’ll have to see if it’s really going to happen.

 

The Stars must be clamoring for Kari’s comeback at this point because it seems like Richard Bachman’s short-term magic is just about up. Bachman was pulled from last night’s 5-3 loss against the St. Louis Blues, his eight consecutive start. That’s a pretty impressive run, though, so if you decided to jump on that bandwagon early on while Lehtonen’s rehab was in full swing, then you’ve been rewarded handsomely with your bold thinking.

 

Either way, the fairy tale might be up. Still, Bachman must have proved himself at least a bit to Stars management after holding down the fort so admirably.


MARC STAAL MAKES PROGRESS

 

Marc Staal said he really doesn’t want to miss the Winter Classic on Jan. 2. It’s hard to imagine to  see him get back into the swing of things in time to play in that game, especially after John Tortorella expressed concerns that the New York Rangers’ No. 1 defenseman might just miss the entire campaign.

 

Staal’s gain is someone else’s loss. Whether it Mike del Zotto, Ryan McDonagh or another rising-to-the-occasion youngster, someone is going to have to get cut out of the equation.

 

Staal’s injury should have been devastating. Instead, the Rangers are playing better hockey than they’ve had in quite some time. That milestone is illustrated quite impressively by the fact that the Rangers currently sit atop of the entire Eastern Conference, with the Boston Bruins are one point behind with a game in hand.

 

(Interesting side note: the Rangers are a ridiculous 20-5-1 in their last 26 games.)


QUICK HITS/INJURY SNIPES


Devante Smith-Pelly will miss at least one month with what some are calling a broken leg … A wrist injury sidelined T.J. Oshie on Monday and could very well do the same on Tuesday … If you need PIMs, David Clarkson and Chris Neil are good options for players who can score a bit and fill up some other categories … Fantasy owners must be angry when a goalie gets a point, since those don’t count in any league I’ve ever heard of. (Wouldn’t it be great if that could act as a tie-breaker?) … Chris Stewart scored two goals last night and showed a willingness to go to the dirty areas of the ice. He’s been a huge disappointment this season, but keep this in mind: all that matters for free agent acquisitions is what happens in future games. That doesn’t mean you should pick him up immediately, but keep an eye on him … Corey Crawford and Tomas Vokoun are two goalies who seem like they’re in a better situation today than they were last week. Crawford did it by putting two great performances together while Vokoun’s outlook improved because Michal Neuvirth was brutal last night. (Click here for the full injury list.)



James O'Brien is the Hockey Daily Dose's author and has been a contributor to NBC's Pro Hockey Talk for more than four years. Follow him on Twitter.
Email :James O'Brien



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