James O'Brien

Hockey Daily Dose

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Howard hurts

Monday, February 06, 2012

Every now and then, the NFL charges through the sports world’s weekend like a bull in a china shop (or maybe some non-cliché in which a powerful, uncontrollable beast stomps around and breaks delicate things). Super Bowl weekend is likely the finest example of this, at least when the league manages a captivating storyline (check) and engrossing results (check).


With that in mind, you might be a night or even weekend behind the NHL action. Fear not, fantasy owners, for the Daily Dose will do its best to lap up the most pertinent information like a sturdy tortilla chip carrying a massive amount of dip or some other reference to the caloric mistakes millions of us made on Sunday.



At first, it seemed like Detroit Red Wings goalie Jimmy Howard’s broken finger wouldn’t be a big deal, as the original diagnosis seemed to imply that he’d only miss a few games, if not days.


To some, the Red Wings’ early prognosis appeared almost glaringly optimistic, as a broken finger often causes bigger problems (especially for goalies, who use both hands so frequently over the course of a game). Those skeptics were vindicated later on this weekend, as the window of recovery jumped dramatically to a four-to-six week outlook. (Howard seems optimistic that he might be able to come back sooner than that, but he basically admitted that his viewpoint is based heavily on hopefulness and without much backing in medical science.)


In at least the short term, the temporary battle for the spoils is awfully interesting for fantasy owners and stomach-churning for the Red Wings and their fans. If GM Ken Holland decides to stand pat, it looks like it might come down to journeyman backup Ty Conklin and borderline NHLer Joey MacDonald. (It would be pretty funny if Detroit ends up with Evgeni Nabokov a year after being thwarted from picking him up by sneaky New York Islanders GM Garth Snow, wouldn't it?)


Perhaps it’s best to watch this situation from afar for at least a bit to see if the Red Wings show their hand, but if you’re antsy to try to reap the rewards or at least fill some of the Howard void right away, Conklin is likely the best bet. He’s filled in as a quasi-starter for Detroit years ago and has more experience than MacDonald, who pretty much only has "suffering with the Islanders" on his NHL resume. (Conklin also looks like a caveman/Old West outlaw when his beard is in full form, which counts as an arbitrary tie-breaker in my troubled mind.)



It very well might be too late to take advantage, but James Reimer seems poised to either take back the Toronto Maple Leafs’ No. 1 job or at least make it a platoon situation with Jonas Gustavsson. Reimer now has back-to-back shutouts and looked awfully impressive in gaining his second one. If he’s available in your league as a free agent, add him now. (He’d be a respectable Howard antidote, even.)



Reimer isn’t the only goalie whose stock improved at least an increment over the weekend, though.


First things first, Jaroslav Halak looks like he has an increasingly unbreakable stranglehold on the St. Louis Blues’ starting job. That means that the Blues look poised to have surprise All-Star Brian Elliott on the bench more often than not. Hopefully you’ve paid attention to the Daily Dose’s recommendations to shift to Halak (in the rare event he was available) because it’s unlikely you’ll get much value for Elliott on the trade market now. (Hey, it was a great run, wasn’t it?)


It’s been a miserable season for Carey Price, even if it’s laughable to pin the tail of blame on him in Montreal considering the carnage on the blue line and in the front office. Still, Price hasn’t carried the Habs like he did last season, which could very well hurt him in the wallet come July 2012. That being said, he’s starting to show that he might deserve to be paid like a franchise goalie with back-to-back shutouts. It’s unlikely that you’d find him on the waiver wire unless you’re in a resoundingly harsh league, so if you’re one of the many owners begrudgingly sticking things out with Price, congrats. Your long nightmare has been eased for at least a weekend. (Hopefully he was in your lineup, then.)


Speaking of disappointing goalies heating up, Cam Ward completed a season sweep of the Boston Bruins on Friday and then only allowed one goal in a win against the Los Angeles Kings on Saturday. It’s hard to imagine another crazy run for Carolina, but if they achieve something close to that, Ward could be a great addition either in a less patient league’s bargain bin or via a low-ball trade.



Jeez, for the last two periods of his most recent game, Sam Gagner was a real slacker. He failed to score a point in those 40 minutes after piling up another three in the first period against Detroit, giving the scalding-hot forward an Oilers franchise-record 11 consecutive points. (As in, he factored into 11 Edmonton goals in a row.)


When you beat out Wayne Gretzky & Co. in a specific-but-not-wacky category like that, you can hold your head up high. I’d be stunned if you still have a chance to roll the dice with Gagner, but if he’s there, do it. There’s nothing wrong with purchasing at least a short-term supply of the flavor of the month, especially if there’s a pedigree (Gagner’s a former first-round pick) to hint at possible sustained success.



The Jeff Carter rumor mill hasn’t gone out of commission even though he’s from the media hub of Philadelphia. He returned from the IR for the Columbus Blue Jackets with a goal on Friday, but it’s hard not to wonder if that was one of the last tallies he’ll collected in that seemingly ill-fitting arranged marriage.


One of the hot ideas is for Carter to join Curtis Sanford in a trade to Los Angeles for much-ballyhooed Kings backup Jonathan Bernier and Jarret Stoll. Such a deal would bring the “Flyers West/Hollywood Bullies” connection to a ridiculous crescendo, as the high-volume sniper would join his buddy Mike Richards, Simon Gagne, and Justin Williams as former Philly forwards in important roles for the Kings.


Who knows how likely that really is, but it would be an interesting “be careful what you wish for” scenario for Carter owners because he’d get a desirable trade to a contender but not to a high-scoring system. It seems like any change of scenery could be good for him, though.



Ilya Kovalchuk almost looks like a guy worth $100 million right now. He has six points in his last two contests and even won a fight in shocking fashion over the weekend … Travis Hamonic and his cheesy-pun-producing-name are on the shelf for a couple weeks … Brooks Laich went down with a worrisome leg injury on Sunday. Perhaps more details will surface today … Martin Brodeur could actually (at least slightly) resemble the fantasy stalwart he once was over the stretch run as Peter DeBoer gave every indication that they’ll be going with the future Hall of Famer in the final stages of 2011-12 … Jason Arnott hurt his shoulder crashing into the boards this weekend … The Lightning continue to show some promise to finish the season strong, although a playoff run wouldn’t be easy. (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.
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