In all varieties of athletic activity, injuries happen. Arguably more often in hockey, a tougher sport than most (see: golf etc.). So, in similar fashion to real-life managers, us NHL fantasy-engaged folk need to adjust when losing a significant player for a significant period of time. Or, when it's bad in the pluralized sense, several players for extra-long periods. Those who make the smartest decisions on the fly will always vanquish managers who don't. In that view, a round-up of who's hurt, who's recovered, and how to best stay afloat, or even take advantage, in fantasy leagues of all varieties.
All times Eastern.
Boston Bruins: So much for the week before American Thanksgiving. WAY ahead of schedule in his recovery from hip surgery, Brad Marchand (rostered in 84.0% of ESPN.com leagues) is expected back on competitive ice tonight, as in Thursday, October 27th. (He's then pegged to take the next night off in Columbus.) While the winger's return will inevitably spell the end of Pavel Zacha's role on Boston's top line, it strengthens the unit as a whole.
Patrice Bergeron (95.5%) may be rostered in the overwhelming majority of ESPN.com fantasy leagues but Jake DeBrusk (23.5%) is not. First, please, check on if Marchand is somehow/way available in your fantasy league, then turn to DeBrusk.
Note: On defense, Charlie McAvoy is estimated back for the beginning of December, at the latest. The Bruins' top blue-line fantasy asset won't be available in a third of leagues for long.
Detroit Red Wings: The star of the league's underappreciated injury substitutes, Dominik Kubalik (47.8%) is on an absolute tear, scoring four goals and six assists in the five games since Tyler Bertuzzi fell hurt. If the former Blackhawk keeps anywhere near this stride, there's no way coach Derek Lalonde shuffles him off the Red Wings' top line, alongside Dylan Larkin, even once Bertuzzi is fit to return. No chance. Check to see if Kubalik is available in your league, right now. I wish he was in any of mine.
Washington Capitals: With forwards Nicklas Backstrom and Tom Wilson both out long term - and now Connor Brown as well - center Dylan Strome (26.3%) and winger Conor Sheary (3.5%) sport enhanced fantasy value as linemates alongside Alex Ovechkin. Strome in particular, who also skates on the power play with one of the best in the biz, and, not coincidentally, already has four points on the man advantage. While Wilson could return some time in December, there's no timetable on Backstrom's comeback.
St. Louis Blues: The Blues have been vague-at-best about when to expect Pavel Buchnevich (83.9%) back in action. Until we learn more about the forward's as-yet undisclosed injury - or until he just returns to play without warning - assume the spot on a scoring line with Vladimir Tarasenko and Robert Thomas belongs to Brayden Schenn (61.1%), who's admittedly made the most of the opportunity, notching four points in the four games spanning Buchnevich's absence.
Colorado Avalanche: If Artturi Lehkonen (66.3%) is shuffled out of his top-six role anytime soon, it won't be because of the Colorado Captain's healthy return. Gabriel Landeskog (92.4%) will remain sidelined until at least the new year after undergoing knee surgery last week. But another couple of unproductive games, and someone else could be given the opportunity to skate with Nathan Mackinnon and Mikko Rantanen, five on five. After an explosive start to the season, Lehkonen has just the one assist in his past five contests.
Invested fantasy managers will want to keep a view of how it rolls out on that top line, moving forward. Also, re-think keeping a grip on Landeskog if not endowed with an excess of IR spots. January is a way away.
Philadelphia Flyers: It's difficult not to feel sorry for two of the Flyers' more prominent forwards in the early stages of this season. According to the most recent update from the team, neither Sean Couturier nor Cam Atkinson is expected back on the ice anytime soon. Not even to skate, which is frustratingly lousy news. "I'm not thinking about them right now, as far as lineups in the near future," John Tortorella said Thursday.
Fantasy managers should follow the head coach's lead in that respect. Forward Kevin Hayes (15.4%) is your widely available go-to fantasy option up front for Philadelphia at present. The temporary top center has a goal and seven assists, including three power-play points, in six games. Note: James van Riemsdyk is also expected to miss a few weeks following surgery on a broken finger.
Chicago Blackhawks: The unfortunate lower-body injury suffered by Tyler Johnson could create an opportunity for Philipp Kurashev (0.2%) within Chicago's top six. The third-year winger already has four points on the year, including two goals in his past three contests. The Blackhawks are, admittedly surprisingly, scoring goals and winning games. There's fantasy value to mine on this roster beyond Patrick Kane and Seth Jones, especially in deeper leagues.
On fire since taking over for an injured Petr Mrazek, No. 1-for-now Alex Stalock should be exploited in all fantasy formats until he cools off. Ahead of Thursday's tilt with the Oilers, Stalock has won three straight, including Tuesday's impressive 29-save, 4-2 win over the Panthers. However long this hot streak endure - days, weeks, whatever - the 35-year-old netminder should be rostered in much more than six precent of ESPN.com fantasy leagues. Don't forget about him in daily competition either.
Florida Panthers: Assuming the Panthers don't bring in outside help, Brandon Montour (16.2%) is Paul Maurice's preferred option to replace Aaron Ekblad on Florida's top power play. At least for now. The top-pair defender skated nearly 29 minutes in Chicago on Tuesday, and has three assists to show for his past three contests. Montour merits serious consideration in deeper ESPN.com leagues.
Toronto Maple Leafs: Goalie Ilya Samsonov (71.5%) has been cucumber-like cool in taking over (nearly) full time in Toronto's net, performing well and winning games. Which, considering the intense scrutiny players receive in Leafs Nation, is rather lucky. As long as Matt Murray remains out, if not beyond that estimated four-week stretch, Samsonov should be enlisted as a netminding fantasy go-to most in matches. Beginning with this week's road trip through California.
Seattle Kraken: While I'm not willing to endorse Martin Jones as a viable fantasy asset in most conventional leagues, he boasts appeal as a wildcard option in DFS competition. When the match-up makes sense. The Kraken's de facto No. 1 while Philipp Grubauer convalesces off-ice has been good in half of his appearances this season. And not so good in the other half. Which is more of a Seattle thing then a Jones thing.
Additional injury notes:
In great news for a club that could certainly use some, Quinn Hughes is now considered day-to-day for the Vancouver Canucks. Defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson will continue to play a more prominent role, including anchoring the top power play, until Hughes is fully fit.
Forward Nikolaj Ehlers is pegged to sit out the Winnipeg Jets' upcoming three stops in L.A, Arizona, and Vegas, despite travelling with the team. Mason Appleton has three assists in four games as fill-in on the Jets' top line.
Alex Iafallo scored two goals and three assists in his first four games. Unfortunately, the Los Angeles Kings forward is projected to remain out until mid-November, at the earliest.
The Tampa Bay Lightning expect to get Anthony Cirelli back around late November. A top-six role awaits the center when he's ready to go.