Quite a bit is of hoopla is being made over the selections to Team USA for the Sochi Olympics next month. Kyle Okposo, Bobby Ryan and Keith Yandle were just a few of the snubs. Does this make any difference for your Fantasy Hockey team? Probably not, unless those snubs play a slew of games against the decision makers and want to stick it to them. I suppose it could also make a difference if you’re planning on participating in an Olympic Fantasy Hockey league. Don’t laugh, I do. February is a tough month for Fantasy Sports with football just ending, baseball not ready to start, and now hockey going on hiatus for over two weeks (I’m not a basketball guy). One of the leagues I play in is a very simple one. We all put $20 in, and whatever players are on your NHL Fantasy Hockey roster on Feb. 1 are now on your Olympic roster. We know at draft time and during the season that this is how it will be. No getting together for a draft and the winner takes it all in a points-based system. Yeah, we might need to seek counseling.
The first of six outdoor games was played Wednesday between Detroit and Toronto. It was awesome television as the game was played in a pretty good snowstorm but it should also serve as a reminder to Fantasy owners that these games will not be high scoring. Even without the snow the ice surface won’t be the best, making stick handling, shooting and passing very difficult. The star offensive players will suffer. The flipside, of course, is that the defense and goaltending will benefit. I’d be looking for any reason to start my blue liners and goalies in these games.
Nathan Horton and Sergei Bobrovsky were activated by the Blue Jackets on Thursday. Bobrovsky was the Vezina Trophy winner last season, but was playing well below average this year with a GAA of 2.72 and a save percentage of .909 before his injury. You more than likely drafted him early, so you probably have no choice but to insert him back into your lineup, but Columbus is once again struggling in all facets of the game. Unless he is on fire, he may not be the answer to any questions you have in net. Horton also will not be a savior for your team. As I mentioned, this is a bad team with very little offensive firepower. As a matter of fact their only true offensive threat, Marian Gaborik, is out until after the Olympics with a broken collarbone. Horton didn’t exactly light it up with an extremely talented Bruins team the past two seasons. Granted, he has battled multiple injuries, but he’s not a player that can generate offense all by himself, he’s more of a complementary player. But the Blue Jackets don’t have much to match him with. Hopefully you have enough depth at wing or forward that you can play the wait-and-see game with Horton.
Bobrovsky isn’t the only Top 10 goalie that will return this week. Corey Crawford started against the Islanders on Thursday. Although he lost the game in OT, he looked sharp, stopping quite a few point blank shots. Not that you needed me to tell you this, but get him back into your lineups immediately. Jonathan Quick was supposed to start a rehab stint this weekend for the Kings, but the brutal weather on the east coast has cancelled those plans. Now it looks like he will finish his rehab with the team. Look for Quick to get back into the Kings net in about 7-10 days. I would expect that that Martin Jones will be sent down to the AHL once Quick returns as he still has options left, Ben Scrivens will be the backup. Roberto Luongo seems to be over his groin injury and should return to the crease as soon as this weekend, and like Crawford, he should immediately be placed back in your lineup.
If you’re a Joffrey Lupul owner you should prepare for a suspension after his cross-check to the head of the Red Wings’ Patrick Eaves on Wednesday. Lupul is a repeat offender (suspended last March) so it is unlikely that he will get off with just a fine. It is however a telephone hearing, so he will get no more than five games. How the referee only assessed a two minute penalty for this infraction is beyond me.
Josh Harding didn’t start the game Thursday for the Wild, but not because of any complications due to his MS. He just has the flu so he needed the night off. This is the problem with Harding, however, as any unexplained injury or illness will automatically have us Fantasy owners thinking he had a relapse. It’s imperative that if you own Harding, you had better have Niklas Backstrom also. While we are talking about the Wild, there are plenty of rumors abound that Mike Yeo’s job could be on the line if the team doesn’t turn things around. This shouldn’t warrant any worries from Fantasy owners. Harding will still be the starting goaltender and even if a new coach were to change offensive systems, it’s not like the Wild are scoring goals by the bushel anyway.
If I’m a Jaroslav Halak owner, I’m starting to panic. We have seen this movie before. Brian Elliott seems to be slowly taking away his starting job. Elliott has now started four straight games and hasn’t allowed more than two goals in any of them. If you’re looking for a goalie on your waiver wire and Elliott is staring at you, I’d take a shot and grab him. Elliott, by the way, just shut out the Los Angeles Kings.
As always you can feel free to follow me on Twitter-@georgekurtz.