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Thursday, March 20, 2014
Kane's injury provides opportunity

By Victoria Matiash
ESPN.com

Of the 380 games left in the NHL regular season (we counted), the Chicago Blackhawks will participate in 12. Unfortunately, Patrick Kane isn't likely to compete in any of them.

Kane
Patrick Kane is unlikely to contribute again in the regular season, meaning his fantasy owners will have to look elsewhere.

After getting tangled up with St. Louis Blues forward Brenden Morrow on Wednesday, the dynamic winger has been knocked out for three to five weeks with a lower-body injury. Although a genuine drag for the Blackhawks and Kane's fantasy owners, it's not the end of the world for either. While the former are blessed with plenty other talent, and sit securely in a playoff spot, the latter have already handsomely benefited from Kane's stellar fantasy stats through 69 regular-season games. Don't expect much sympathy.

So beyond the obvious player-specific fallout, let's have a look at the fresh fantasy landscape in the Windy City, now that Kane is essentially out of the picture. In truth, it's a touch foggy. First of all, coach Joel Quenneville pledges to amend for Kane's absence by "committee," essentially divvying up Kane's responsibilities at even strength and with the man advantage among several players. For fantasy owners looking to get a cheap edge, this approach isn't of much help. While Marian Hossa or Brent Seabrook might see additional opportunities to contribute with the top power play, the forward and defenseman are universally spoken for in ESPN.com leagues. But you know who is still widely available? Andrew Shaw.

Even before Wednesday's tilt with the Blues, Shaw was skating on a line with Patrick Sharp and Michal Handzus, and on a top power-play unit with Sharp, Kane, Jonathan Toews and defenseman Duncan Keith. Sub in Hossa or Seabrook for Kane, and Shaw's special-teams role remains prominent. Unlike all others mentioned here, the young center -- who has four goals and three assists in his past seven games -- is available in over 82 percent of ESPN.com leagues.

Then there's the pending arrival of the club's top prospect. For a couple of weeks now, the Blackhawks faithful have been abuzz about Teuvo Teravainen and how and where he would fit in once he landed in North America (his SM-Liiga club, Jokerit, just recently bowed out of the playoffs). Maybe Kane's injury opens the door for NHL entry a little earlier than anticipated. If the Hawks place Kane on injured reserve, they'll clear enough cap space to accommodate Teravainen's $925,000 big league salary. Otherwise, the 19-year-old Finn won't join the NHL club until the postseason. ESPN Insider prospect analyst Corey Pronman suggests Teravainen is ready to make an impact immediately.

Either way, the talented playmaker will make an impression in the NHL soon enough, whether it's in the waning weeks of the regular season (in Kane's absence), in the playoffs, or later. A pro in Finland's top league since 2011, the teen forward notched 44 points in 49 games this season. He won't be easily intimidated. Those in dynasty leagues, in particular, should consider snatching up Teravainen before it's too late.

Trending up

Evgeny Kuznetsov, C, Washington Capitals (owned in 16 percent of ESPN.com leagues): Less than 10 days in the NHL and the 21-year-old Russian is already skating on a forward line with Nicklas Backstrom (and Troy Brouwer). Kuznetsov is skilled at scoring goals. Backstrom is one of the best in the business at setting up goals. So this relationship should blossom nicely. Owners in keeper leagues will have an even sharper interest in acquiring this former first-round draft pick (2010).

Nicklas Jensen, LW, Vancouver Canucks (owned in 5 percent of ESPN.com leagues): Entrenched on a top line with Henrik Sedin and Alex Burrows (who may be nursing a hand injury), Jensen has five points in seven games since being called up from the AHL. The 21-year-old has brought some much-needed oomph to a Canucks squad that desperately craved a bit of scoring punch. Even coach John Tortorella has had mostly good things to say about Jensen since his recent arrival.

Nick Holden, D, Colorado Avalanche (4 percent of ESPN.com leagues): Behind fellow Colorado defensemen Erik Johnson and Tyson Barrie, Holden is a funky little fantasy asset (figuratively "little" ... he's 6-foot-3) from which owners can benefit as the season draws to a close. Good for a point every couple of games and close to 20 minutes of ice time in each contest, the power-play fixture won't let you down when included in the Avs' lineup.

Cam Fowler
Cam Fowler had developed into a productive young player for the Ducks this season, but his injury opens the door for Hampus Lindholm.

Hampus Lindholm, D, Anaheim Ducks (owned in 35 percent of ESPN.com leagues): The injury to Cam Fowler boots Lindholm to the forefront as the Ducks' top offensive defenseman. Promoted to duty on the top power-play unit, the 20-year-old has four assists in his past three games. He's also seeing more ice time; he played 24:22 against the Washington Capitals this week. It's adds up to a lot of responsibility for the rookie, but Lindholm can handle it.

David Desharnais , C, Montreal Canadiens (owned in 25 percent of ESPN.com leagues): What middling NHL centerman wouldn't want Desharnais' current gig? Wedged between Thomas Vanek and Max Pacioretty, the diminutive 27-year-old is having a jolly time of it in Montreal. Assisting on two-thirds of Vanek's hat trick against the Avalanche Tuesday, Desharnais has a total of two goals and four helpers in his past four contests. He doesn't shoot much, but that's more Vanek's and Pacioretty's collective department.

Trending down

Michael Del Zotto, D, Nashville Predators (owned in 21 percent of ESPN.com leagues): The deal sending the 23-year-old from New York to Nashville hasn't worked out well for anyone outside of the Big Apple: not the Predators, not the defenseman's fantasy owners, not Del Zotto himself. Not yet, anyway. A healthy scratch in the Preds' most recent game, the puck-moving defenseman had also lost his role with the man advantage. And Del Zotto has contributed all of three assists (and is a minus-5 in plus/minus) in the 18 games since joining the Nashville club in late January. No room for him on an active roster right now.

James Reimer, G, Toronto Maple Leafs (owned in 41 percent of ESPN.com leagues): Recently tossed the opportunity to run with the starter's gig, Reimer has fallen short. Since shutting the door on the Los Angeles Kings this past week, Reimer has been "just OK" -- coach Randy Carlyle's words -- once, maybe twice, and not-so-good on the third occasion. Now, the Leafs are entertaining the notion of having a healing Jonathan Bernier (groin) back by the weekend. With the relationship souring on all sides, Reimer's glory days in Toronto may well over.

Pekka Rinne, G, Nashville Predators (owned in 100 percent of ESPN.com leagues): After he lost the majority of 10 months to hip surgery and a nasty postoperative infection, we're allowing Rinne to take somewhat of a "mulligan" in 2013-14. To no great surprise, he's been solid at times and terribly wobbly at others. And while the former Vezina Trophy finalist may eventually get back into a steady rhythm, there are only 14 regular-season games remaining. If you have other quality goaltending options, on a nightly or weekly basis, perhaps activate one of them instead.

Short-term substitutes

Anders Lee, C, New York Islanders, (owned in 15 percent of ESPN.com leagues): Situated on the Islanders' top forward line with Kyle Okposo and Frans Nielsen, feasibly for the rest of 2013-14, Lee is poised to extend his 10-points-in-10-games run. And while he isn't seeing monster on-ice minutes, the Notre Dame alumnus isn't wary of shooting the puck. In a full regular season, Lee would be on pace to comfortably break the 250-shot mark.

Brandon Pirri, C, Florida Panthers (owned in 2 percent of ESPN.com leagues): Since joining the Panthers, the former Chicago asset has really come into his own. Without much of an experienced supporting cast, the 22-year-old has managed seven points in his past five games. This young forward is going to develop into a fine professional hockey player before you know it, and he's getting the opportunity to really stretch his scoring legs in Florida. However, this season, be ready to pull the chute if the magic with linemates with Quinton Howden and Jimmy Hayes fizzles out.

Jake Gardiner, D, Toronto Maple Leafs (owned in 8 percent of ESPN.com leagues): With a noticeable strut to his stride and an obvious inclination to be more creative, Gardiner has been unleashing some highlight-reel moves of late. He's also scored five goals in his past seven games. If you need D help, look no further than the 23-year-old puck mover. He's currently well in tune.

Matt Read, RW, Philadelphia Flyers, (owned in 15 percent of ESPN.com leagues): The Flyers are soaring, and so is Read. The linemate to Steve Downie and Sean Couturier has four goals and five assists in his past nine games. Strike while the secondary power-play winger is hot.