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Within the bar and restaurant industry, many practitioners insist that they know what a certain patron will order when they walk in the door. Whether it's looks, age or some other ability to read predilections, it's assuredly a useful talent. It would be handy to have the same kind of all-knowing foresight as a fantasy sports columnist, but no one is always right. With that in mind, we come to the case of Dustin Byfuglien. He first caught everyone's attention a couple of Friday nights ago when he scored a natural hat trick during the Blackhawks' romp over the Coyotes. His name has been a hot topic since then, and my colleague Sean Allen mentioned in the latest Open Ice that he doesn't foresee great things yet for the youngster. I will have to respectively disagree with that assertion for the reasons discussed below. But first, here is this week's injury rundown.
Antti Miettinen, RW, Stars: The big question in Dallas the last few weeks has been who will be playing the role of Jere Lehtinen on the top line while the ace winger recovers from surgery? The man lined up to replace him on Monday, according to a report in the Dallas Morning News, is his countryman Miettinen, who himself is returning from injury. I would never recommend adding a player who has just five points through 18 games, but I will mane an exception now. It's very, very likely that he's available for free right now in your league's free agent pool, and if nothing else, he'll enjoy the plus-minus benefit of skating with Brenden Morrow and Mike Ribeiro. In the best-case scenario, the trio jells quickly and Miettinen becomes a point-per-gamer like the man he replaced. I'd say it's worth the risk.
Sergei Gonchar, D, Penguins: After missing three games, Gonchar came back Wednesday night. It took him to his second game back to get back on the scoring sheet, where he obliged with a power-play assist. Given that he skated more than 30 minutes on Saturday night, it would appear he's back for good. Gonchar's return means a decrease in value for Kris Letang, who had enjoyed increased ice time at even strength and on the power play in Gonchar's place, however Letang did net the shootout-clincher against the Canucks on Saturday night.
Kurtis Foster, D, Wild: From the "If You're Hardcore" files, the 26 year-old Foster made his return to the ice during the weekend after a facial fracture sidelined him for four games. Foster is instrumental to the success of the Wild power play, and has recorded two goals and four assists with the man advantage to this point, so he can be useful to round out the bottom of your deep-league defensive corps if you're still looking for some help there.
Joe Sakic, C, Avalanche: One of the last remaining active players who was in the original NHL Hockey on Sega, Sakic has yet to play in December. Even before the injury, coach Joel Quenneville had been messing around with the top forward lines, and there's not a player on the Avs who can easily take over his level of production. All indications, however, point to his return within the next two weeks, so sit him this week and re-evaluate heading into next week's games.
Marc-Andre Fleury, G, Penguins: Fleury injured his ankle Thursday night in Calgary just 4:39 into the first period, and with Dany Sabourin having proven to be a reasonably suitable backup this season, the Penguins will make sure to fully rehab Fleury before putting him back in action. After winning the shootout in relief of Fleury on Thursday, Sabourin also backstopped the team to a shootout victory over Vancouver on Saturday, letting in just one goal in regulation in Saturday's contest. Sabourin becomes the ace with Fleury on the mend, however the Pens face a tough defensive challenge in the first part of the week, traveling to Philly and hosting Ottawa before taking on the Islanders to close out on Saturday.
Jonathan Cheechoo, RW, Sharks: Official word on the extent of the injury has yet to come down, but the Moose Factory, Ontario, native left the ice during Saturday's game and did not return. He had double hernia surgery this past offseason. It's been a disappointing year for Cheechoo -- as well as any other Shark not named Joe Thornton or Evgeni Nabokov -- as his year-to-year stats now resemble a bell curve, with its apex in 2005-06, when he had a breakout, 51-goal campaign. Cheechoo's value is at its lowest right now (he was even outright dropped in one league of mine), but there's no reason to think he won't regain his form and finish the year in the 25-30 goal range, meaning that a pickup would net you those stats from here on out.
Manny Legace, G, Blues: Along with Brad Boyes, Legace's success this season had been a nice bonus for any fantasy owners who turned to the Blues for late-round fliers. Legace sustained a knee injury prior to the game on Tuesday night, and will be replaced by Hannu Toivonen in net, with Marek Schwarz called up from Peoria to serve as backup. Toivonen is consistent enough to give you a good performance in the ratios, and the Blues have a favorable schedule this week with three home games, making him a must-start.
Michael Nylander, C, Capitals: In spite of debuting some sleek new jerseys this year, the Capitals have been dealt an awful hand when it comes to the health of their top-six forwards, with Alexander Semin and Chris Clark both missing stretches of games in the first part of the season. The team can now add Nylander's name to their list of injured top-six forwards, as he's been out of action since the first of the month. Nylander has been classified as having an undisclosed injury, and the team will divulge information neither on the cause of the injury nor on the extent of time he will miss. In any case, the team recalled Joe Motzko from Hershey of the AHL, but the more important information is that Viktor Kozlov has replaced Nylander as the pivot between Alexander Ovechkin and Semin on the top line. Kozlov is available in the majority of leagues, and should be picked up and started while this line remains intact.
Jason Williams, RW, Blackhawks: Williams was off to such a strong start this year that his groin could not handle it. With seven goals and 12 assists in 20 games, it looked as though he'd better his career-best season from two years ago when he had 21 goals and 37 assists. However, a nagging groin condition became bad enough that he could not play, so he's been put on injured reserve with an indefinite timetable for his return. With Williams out of the lineup, the converted defenseman Dustin Byfuglien has been skating on the top line with Martin Havlat and Robert Lang. So for you multi-sport fantasy owners, this is along the lines of when Marques Colston had tight-end eligibility in football for some leagues last year, even though he was playing wide receiver. Add "Buff" accordingly, since he has also retained a role on the point on the Blackhawks' power play unit with his thunderous slap shot.
Tim Kavanagh is a fantasy hockey analyst for ESPN.com.