These nine players either are returning to the lineup, or will be soon. What impact will they have on the players who stood in for them? Fantasy expert Darryl Dobbs takes a closer look.
The Olympic break was a great opportunity for some injured players to rest up. Here is a look at some key names expected to be back in the post-Olympic lineup and what the fantasy impact of these returns will be.
Viktor Fasth, Anaheim Ducks – For the second time this year, Fasth has been sent to the American League on a conditioning stint. The first one didn’t go so well as he managed just one game before being sidelined again with a lower-body injury. Last year, Fasth established himself as an above-average NHL-caliber goaltender who was giving starter Jonas Hiller a run for his money. This season, rookie Frederik Andersen is doing the same thing. A healthy Fasth makes this situation very interesting, but it will be Andersen who eventually gets sent back down. The Ducks won’t want to enter the playoffs without Hiller being on a roll. So expect Hiller to get the bulk of the starts, regardless of the status of Fasth.
Marian Gaborik, Columbus Blue Jackets – When Nathan Horton returned to action, Cam Atkinson was pushed down the depth chart. But that was probably better for Atkinson, who wasn’t ready for top ice time and responsibility. In a secondary role, Atkinson has shown to be a tremendous asset capable of 45 to 50 points. Gaborik’s return could go one of two ways. It could push one of he or Atkinson to the left wing, something that was done in pre-season games when they were linemates. Or it could push Atkinson down the depth chart even further. Although Atkinson now carries a bit of a risk as a result of this circumstance, I like the first scenario better – look for the two to be linemates, which actually helps Atkinson’s potential production.
Stephen Weiss, Detroit Red Wings – Weiss has played terrible hockey for Detroit since joining the team in the off-season. But if this was the result of him trying to play through a groin injury – one which he eventually had surgery on in December – then his return could be productive for his fantasy owners. Projected to return by Detroit’s third post-Olympics game, Weiss is a proven 60-point player who just might play like that again.
Johan Franzen, Detroit Red Wings – Franzen’s return will impact youngsters Gustav Nyquist and Tomas Tatar, who had been enjoying pretty good success with all the added ice time they’ve been getting. More worrisome is Nyquist, who was a stalwart on the Henrik Zetterberg line. With Zetterberg out and Franzen back – that’ll be two blows to Nyquist’s “groove.” He has 14 points in his past 11 games.
Mikko Koivu, Minnesota Wild – Mikael Granlund was really on a roll with Koivu sidelined, potting eight points in his past seven games, as well as getting points in 13 of his past 22 contests. He was frequently seeing around 20 minutes of ice time per game and top power play time, but that’s unlikely to continue. Koivu is expected back from his ankle injury Thursday.
Logan Couture, San Jose Sharks – Couture’s return from hand surgery will push Tommy Wingels and Matt Nieto off the power play altogether. And Raffi Torres’ return could knock Nieto out of the lineup altogether. Couture played a lot with Wingels prior to this injury, so if that duo comes together again Wingels will still maintain value (or even a bump in value) at even strength.
Steven Stamkos, Tampa Bay Lightning – Stamkos will reportedly miss another four games before making his return next week. In all likelihood, he will replace Tyler Johnson on the Martin St-Louis line. So will the Lightning keep Ondrej Palat there? Or will they keep the Palat/Johnson pairing together on another line? Johnson will likely see a dip in production and Palat is at risk as well. If Palat loses that spot, then whoever gets it (Alex Killorn was a great fit there before the Stamkos injury) will see a huge bump.
Henrik Sedin, Vancouver Canucks – The last time the Canucks had a healthy Henrik in the lineup – truly healthy – was back in early January. Those were the days when the team actually scored goals. If Henrik is 100 percent, his line will produce as well as the Ryan Kesler line. It will have a very positive domino effect. Fantasy owners of any Canucks players should be happy with this development.
Mikhail Grabovski, Washington Capitals – With just six points in his past 17 games, Grabovski suffered an ankle injury Jan. 24 and missed the next eight. The timing of the Olympics limited the amount of games he was forced to miss, which bodes well for his final numbers. He hasn’t played hockey in more than a month, giving the ankle extra time to heal as well as recharging his batteries after a pretty lengthy cold streak. Look for Grabo to have some jump down the stretch.
Darryl Dobbs’ Fantasy Pool Look is an in-depth presentation of player trends, injuries and much more as it pertains to rotisserie pool leagues. Also, get the top 300 roto-player rankings on the first of every month in THN’s Fantasy section. Do you have a question about fantasy hockey? Send it to the Fantasy Mailbag.