Two weeks ago I opined Jiri Hudler received a gift on a silver platter when the Wings lost Tomas Holmstrom, Pavel Datsyuk and Dan Cleary to injury. No matter how deep in the doghouse Hudler was for his lacklustre production, coach Mike Babcock had no choice but to hand him 17 minutes of ice per game, as well as decent PP time. Now that all three injured players are poised to return, perhaps as early as Wednesday, has Hudler shown enough?
His 12 points in 14 games are convincing, but at the same time he accrued them quietly. With the exception of back-to-back two-point games in late December and his three-point effort January 20, it seems as though Hudler has either been held off the scoresheet an awful lot or he has managed a secondary assist.
What we do know is that youngsters Tomas Tatar and Cory Emmerton will remain in Grand Rapids, while Drew Miller and Darren Helm will likely revert back to their checking roles.
I consider Hudler to be in the mix for second-line ice time, but he’s on a short leash. After all, if he’s there both Cleary and Todd Bertuzzi would have to move down to the third line and either one of them could – and would – replace him in a pinch.
Don’t drop Hudler just yet. Let’s see what he does the next two games with Datsyuk and Cleary in the lineup. Watch the ice time, the PP time and, of course, the production. Then pull the cord if you’re not convinced.
St. Louis shakeup
T.J. Oshie has just returned to the Blues lineup and Andy McDonald is expected back shortly. Ditto for David Perron who, like McDonald, has been out with a concussion. Similar to the Detroit situation, these returns insert an entire first or second line onto the game roster. The player who will be hit hardest, however, is Matt D’Agostini, who had been enjoying a breakout season thanks to the added ice time. These returns could also hurt Brad Boyes, who really struggled to start the campaign, but picked it up when several of his mates went down with injury. Boyes has 14 points in his past 14 games, so it would be a shame to see that production tail off.
One interesting note is goaltender Jaroslav Halak started the season 8-1-1 with an eye-popping GAA that was less than 1.50 and a SP of nearly .950. His play eroded as the bodies dropped from the lineup. With the guys coming back, does this mean the Halak of old will return?
Hold onto Holtby
While Semyon Varlamov and Michal Neuvirth play the “let’s see who can get injured more often” game, another stellar young netminder in the organization continues to remain healthy. Braden Holtby has just as bright a future as either of the other backstops, but – get this – he doesn’t miss every second week with a groin pull or the flu. When this season is over, it would not surprise me in the least if I find myself coveting Holtby on my keeper team more than Varlamov or Neuvirth. There is a lot to be said about durability.
Grant Grant a roster spot
It’s been a long road for Columbus rearguard Grant Clitsome, but he’s making enough of a splash now to remain in the NHL. The 271st overall pick in the 2004 draft has six points in seven games for the Blue Jackets. This is a team in desperate need of a consistent producer from the blueline and Clitsome has been that guy for nearly three weeks now. He’s probably more of a 40-point guy who’s playing over his head right now, but even D-men of that caliber are hard to find in many fantasy leagues.
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