James O'Brien

Hockey Daily Dose

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Bad times for Backstrom

Friday, February 10, 2012

If this column was just about the NHL in general and not fantasy, I’d probably be hammering on the 2013 Winter Classic finally being official right now.


(Well, at least I think it would. Let’s face it, word that the Toronto Maple Leafs will visit the Red Wings in Ann Arbor, Michigan isn’t a surprise to anyone who’s been following the well-founded rumors, so maybe I would’ve sneered at the idea or buried it in a quick hits section …)


Without that big story, Thursday generated a lot of newsworthy, bite-sized bits. Just don’t fill up on snacks, kids.



Thursday didn’t open up the floodgates of good news injury-wise, but I’d say that it was more positive than usual. (Perhaps we’ve all been a little beaten down by all the talk of high-ankle sprains and concussions to the point that every morsel of positivity seems to count that much more, though.)


In the “Probably not too surprising” category, Henrik Sedin didn’t miss a single game with his ankle injury. For the most part, that’s a pretty cool thing – for those of you who don’t think that Sedin is tough, you might want to note this as his iron man streak continues – but I wonder if it might slow the sweet-passing Swede in subtle ways over the long haul. Still, for many Sedin owners – even Daniel Sedin owners – this certainly seems like a breath of fresh air (or at least a sigh of relief).


Speaking of hearty Northwest Division centers, Mikko Koivu returned to the Minnesota Wild against Sedins’ Vancouver Canucks. The good news is that Koivu played just under 23 minutes in that game and managed to have an even plus/minus rating despite his team’s 5-2 loss. The bad news is that end result and the fact that he couldn’t manage a point.



OK, so maybe the injury news isn’t weighted that much toward the positive side. Let’s take a look at some of the more noteworthy ones real quick.


The most troubling update is that Nicklas Backstrom isn’t making much progress regarding his recovery from a concussion. Backstrom hasn’t really been at the rink much lately, as he hasn’t been able to do much more than nap. He even uttered a chilling expectation that he “hopes to be back by the playoffs.” That’s a huge bummer for Backstrom owners – and not exactly great news for Alex Ovechkin owners, really, either.


Adam Henrique’s rookie breakthrough and Patrik Elias’ rebound to near-star status have blunted the loss of Travis Zajac, but his situation must really smart for the handful of owners who risked a pick on him in hopes that he’d only sit on the IR for a little while before benefiting from a half-season (or so) alongside Ilya Kovalchuk and contract year dynamo Zach Parise. That hasn’t worked out as Zajac has only played in eight games so far this season and it looks like things won’t be better any time soon. The underrated center is expected to miss about another month in recovering from his issues.



The Pittsburgh Penguins are used to this drill: every bit of good news seems to be laced with a negative note. The most recent example is that Jordan Staal seems to be on the verge of returning to action (good), but solid depth forward Tyler Kennedy will be sidelined for four-to-six weeks with a high-ankle sprain (bad). Sure, Kennedy isn’t an impact player from a fantasy standpoint, but the more quality guys the Penguins lose; the bigger burden is placed on the few semi-healthy guys available.



Detroit’s duo of banged up players’ statuses remain a bit unclear, but the word is that Jimmy Howard (broken finger) and Danny Cleary (knee) won’t be available this weekend. That’s not a big deal in the scheme of this season, but it certainly will be make things tougher for the Red Wings to break an all-time record. The team currently has 18consecutive wins at Joe Louis Arena, which is already a franchise record. The NHL record of 20 straight home wins is within reach, starting with tonight’s game, but they’ll need to do it without Howard and Cleary.


Further evaluations will determine how many more games they might win.



A lot of Internet jokesters must be sad this morning. After a year and four days, Scott Gomez finally scored a goal. Much like his last one (on Feb. 5, 2011), Gomez scored the game-winner last night.


Of course, Gomez wasn’t the real star as Max Pacioretty scored a hat trick. Still, it’s pretty hard to deny the well-paid whipping boy the headlines in this case.



Maybe Jaroslav Halak hasn’t totally run away with the St. Louis Blues’ starting job just yet. Halak was pulled in the Blues’ big game against the New Jersey Devils in favor for Brian Elliott, who was perfect in relief while getting another win. Interesting … Jason Spezza stopped the bleeding for Ottawa and produced three points in the process … Don’t hold me to this, but the rumor is that Thomas Vanek will return to action tonight. Stay tuned for updates to make sure, naturally … The Carolina Hurricanes seem like they’re still undecided regarding whether or not they’ll trade Tuomo Ruutu. The New York Islanders are at least claiming to feel the same way about Evgeni NabokovChris Phillips scored two goals in Game No. 1,000. Good timing. (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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