Fantasy hockey forecaster: Dec. 18-24

Matt Murray and Marc-Andre Fleury both returned from injuries this week. David Becker/NHLI via Getty Images

It was one of those weeks where fantasy managers are either rejoicing or mourning, as injuries and returns to health seemed to dominate the NHL headlines. Many of the injury-related events have significant fantasy implications, so let's have a stroll through the most recent developments.

Corey Perry, RW, Anaheim Ducks: Injured

Perry's leg injury didn't look good, as he had to be helped off the ice after a collision against the Carolina Hurricanes on Monday. It's been described as "week-to-week" for now, which is code for no real timetable. It couldn't have come at a worse time with the Ducks finally getting Ryan Getzlaf back from an 18-game absence the very same night. Perry's totals are more than respectable enough to stash him for however long his absence may be. In the meantime, Getzlaf skated with Jakob Silfverberg and Kevin Roy on Thursday. While Roy got the attention with a two-goal effort, this is a chance for Silfverberg to really shine with a creative playmaker as his centerman. He's available in 49.8 percent of ESPN leagues.

Marc-Andre Fleury, G, Vegas Golden Knights: Healthy

Back from a concussion on Tuesday, Fleury picked up right where he left off in October. He stopped 59 of 62 shots in a pair of contests this week, earning one win in the process. His save percentage of .934 is good enough as it is, but remember that it's actually marred by him playing a period or so following his concussion against the Detroit Red Wings on Oct. 13 (five of the six goals he allowed that game came after he took a knee to the head from Anthony Mantha in the second period). During his absence, the Golden Knights proved they can hang with any team in the NHL. Fleury's stellar stats will come back down to Earth, but he has plenty of wiggle room to stay as a No. 1 fantasy goaltender. He's still available in 32.4 percent of leagues.

Devan Dubnyk, G, Minnesota Wild: Injured

Another "week-to-week" candidate following a lower-body injury suffered on Tuesday, Dubnyk will miss the next handful of games for the Wild. As always with goaltenders and the dreaded lower-body injury, this timetable could be extended as he looks to rehab his most important muscles for cross-crease mobility. Alex Stalock has never really started for a significant stretch, with 56 total career starts over a seven-year career. That said, he's always maintained respectable ratios, posting a career save percentage of .913. The stamina is there, as he played 50 games in the AHL last season while tying for second in the league with a .926 save percentage. He started things off with his first shutout since 2015, so it's safe to say he's a no-brainer short-term addition to fantasy squads.

Evgenii Dadonov, RW, Florida Panthers: Healthy

Surprise! Two weeks into a four-to-six week timetable for an injured shoulder, Dadonov returned to the ice with the Panthers on Tuesday. But perhaps an even bigger surprise, the team has been so pleased with Nick Bjugstad's work on the top line that he stayed there with Aleksander Barkov and Jonathan Huberdeau. It's not a terrible move for the fantasy universe overall, as Bjugstad has been thriving in the role. While it hasn't manifested on the score sheet as much, Bjugstad's three goals and two assists in 10 games belie what's been his best hockey since late in the 2014-15 season. Meanwhile, Dadonov still gets to work with the dynamic Vincent Trocheck on the second line. This decision creates a rising tide to lift all boats, but the outlook for Dadonov as an individual will be somewhat muted.

Dustin Byfuglien, D, Winnipeg Jets: Injured

Are you kidding me? Yet another "week-to-week" lower-body injury? Byfuglien, as discussed in Monday's rest-of-season rankings, has had a rock solid season outside of his bad luck with goals. Tyler Myers slightly outpaces Jacob Trouba for power-play time in the two games Byfuglien has already missed, and while Trouba may have the higher career ceiling, Myers has been having the better season. With five goals and 11 assists, the added ice time while Byfuglien is out should have Myers bordering on No. 1 fantasy defenseman value. He's available in 51.3 percent of ESPN leagues.

Matt Murray, G, Pittsburgh Penguins: Healthy

Back just in time to duel his mentor on Thursday night in Vegas, Murray returns to a crease kept, let's say, lukewarm by Tristan Jarry. While Jarry had some great games, he also posted a sub-.900 save percentage in three of his six starts with Murray out. We might see a tad more of Jarry this season because of his solid outings, but it won't detract from a healthy Murray's workhorse status. That said, Murray needs to trend his ratios into better territory if he wants to give his fantasy managers more than No. 2 fantasy goaltender value.

Fantasy Forecaster: Dec. 18-24

Despite the entire league getting Sunday off for Christmas Eve, the schedule manages to stay heavy next week. In fact, all but three NHL teams play at least three games during six days from Monday to Saturday. Furthermore, four clubs still manage to have a four-game week. The condensed schedule ahead of the holidays (the league is also off the following Monday and Tuesday) should mean a few more No. 2 goaltender appearances.

The Ducks, Boston Bruins, Columbus Blue Jackets and Philadelphia Flyers get the extra game boost, with each of them playing four times. The Bruins are home for three of them, the Jackets and Flyers stay home for two and the Ducks travel for all four.

The Calgary Flames, Chicago Blackhawks and Golden Knights are limited to two games next week. Start your studs from these squads, but don't reach any deeper.

Note: For those new to the forecaster chart, here are some explanations: "O" (offense) and "D" (defense) matchup ratings are based upon a scale from 1 (poor matchup) to 10 (excellent matchup) and are calculated using a formula that evaluates the team's season-to-date statistics, their performance in home/road games depending on where the game is to be played, as well as their opponents' numbers in those categories. The "Ratings" column lists the cumulative rating from 1-10 of that week's offensive ("O") and defensive ("D") matchups.

In the notes -- team, goalie and player -- below, the focus every week will be mainly on players who are available for potential use. Being rostered in less than 50 percent of ESPN leagues is a good generalized cutoff, and I'll try to include players below 10 percent whenever possible to cater to deeper formats.

Team notes

Tampa Bay Lightning

This Tyler Johnson guy is pretty good at playing the wing, eh? Buried as third-line center through all of October and November, Johnson had 11 points in 25 games. Switched to the wing and promoted to the top six to start December, Johnson has 11 points in six games. Riding high with Brayden Point and Ondrej Palat on the second line, Johnson and the Bolts face the Golden Knights, Ottawa Senators and Wild next week. He's available in 41.9 percent of ESPN leagues.

San Jose Sharks

Returning from an undisclosed injury that kept him out for six games, Joonas Donskoi skated on a line with young power forward Timo Meier and Chris Tierney on Thursday evening. The trio had a goal and assist each against the Flames and allowed the Sharks to roll three lines of attack throughout the contest. Donskoi, in particular, can be argued for fantasy lineups for next week's games against the Edmonton Oilers, Vancouver Canucks and Los Angeles Kings.

Goalie notes

Brian Elliott, G, Philadelphia Flyers (rostered in 61.1 percent of ESPN leagues)

The good times continue, and his availability remains high. Elliott continued rolling, adding two more wins since last week's Forecaster when he was featured in this space. He was rostered in 55 percent of leagues last week and is still widely available, with that number only climbing by six percent. Be at the ready for the next valley in his established mercurial style, but never hesitate to ride Elliott when he's hot. He's gone stretches of more than half a season as the best goalie in the NHL before.

Ondrej Pavelec, G, New York Rangers (1.3 percent)

Not since in the 2008-09 Atlanta Thrashers' crease have Pavelec and Kari Lehtonen battled as intensely as they did in Monday night's affair between the Rangers and Stars. It was a spectacle from the goaltending perspective, as these veteran backups put on an absolute show. For Pavelec, it was his second acrobatic performance in the crease in December, topping 40 saves in each start. As thrilling as it was to see, there's no reason for fantasy players with Henrik Lundqvist to panic. That said, Lundqvist has only been consistent at home this season. Pavelec, believe it or not, is five years Lundqvist's junior. A cautious fantasy manager with stock in Lundqvist might consider a handcuff following Pavelec's performances. It could be nothing, but then again, it could be something. In the meantime, the Rangers' lone road game next week is against the New Jersey Devils and may be Pavelec's next chance to shine.

That's way more than I intended to write about Pavelec in what is likely a fruitless fantasy tangent, but do yourself a favor and check out the highlights from Monday's game.

Player notes

Kevin Fiala, C, Nashville Predators (18.5 percent)

Do the Predators know how to trade for a centerman or what? Ryan Johansen has been an unbridled success since being acquired to anchor the team's top line two seasons ago. Now, Kyle Turris looks like the perfect addition to support him on the second unit. Just ask Craig Smith or Fiala, both of whom are tearing up the league since Turris arrived. For his part, Fiala has five goals and three assists in the past six games.

Kevin Roy, C, Anaheim Ducks (0.3 percent)

Death, taxes and Getzlaf's playmaking ability. With Perry nursing a leg injury for the foreseeable future, Roy steps in on a line with the returning Getzlaf to fill in until his return. Roy was actually sent to the AHL on Monday to make room for Getzlaf's return, only to be brought back up that same day when Perry went down. He has six goals in 16 games of limited ice time, but should play a significant role in Perry's stead.

Honorable mentions: It feels like the dam is getting ready to burst for the Oilers' offense after two games of six-plus goals in their past four contests, but they aren't all the way there yet. Still, in preparation for what is surely a stronger offense on the horizon, fantasy players may want to finally stash Jesse Puljujarvi, who has five points in his past seven games and is still playing with Connor McDavid (for now). ... Auston Matthews continue to be unavailable with an upper-body injury. With the Toronto Maple Leafs managing only three goals in the three games of his current absence, it's pretty clear who is driving this offensive bus. While Patrick Marleau is playing a bigger role in Matthews' absence, there isn't much to gain for fantasy purposes. ... With two-thirds of what was the Canucks' top line now injured (Bo Horvat and Sven Baertschi), Brock Boeser has now been paired with the Sedin twins to lead the offense. The presence of the veteran Sedins should be enough to keep Boeser's stellar rookie season humming along. ... This should be your last warning while Ryan Kesler is still available in more than 50 percent of ESPN leagues. He's with the team on its current road trip, but isn't expected back until after next week.