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Monday, January 14, 2008
Icing it Down: Heatley injury creates opportunity

By Tim Kavanagh
Special to ESPN.com

A big, big name took to the ranks of the wounded over the weekend, an injury that will have nothing less than devastating effects on one team in every fantasy hockey league worldwide. Nevertheless, this is no time to panic, owners of Dany Heatley. Certainly he is worthy of a bench slot while he is on the mend.

It's business time

Simon Gagne
Simon Gagne has 14 shots on goals in three games since his return.
Simon Gagne, LW, Flyers: The hockey gods giveth, and the hockey gods taketh. After losing the sensational Joffrey Lupul earlier in the month because of a concussion, the Flyers welcomed back the sharpshooting Gagne on Thursday night. He has yet to disappoint, as he has found points in each of the three games since his return, including the exclamation point sixth goal in Thursday's beat-down of the Rangers. The Gagne-Daniel Briere combination will be extraordinarily formidable for the rest of the season, and it wouldn't be a bad idea to target either in a trade offer before the goal onslaught begins in earnest.

Tomas Holmstrom, RW, Red Wings: The third piece of one of the league's deadliest lines made his return last week, albeit rather unceremoniously. After operating at the vaunted point-per-game output level before his injury in December, Holmstrom managed just one assist in the three games last week. I would not be too concerned about this anomaly, and if you haven't already, send him back into active duty.

Vesa Toskala, G, Maple Leafs: Speaking of unceremonious returns, Toskala was rocked in both of his starts this past week after returning from a groin injury, giving up five goals on Wednesday and three on Saturday. Vesa was actually the sharpest when he was sent into action on Thursday night in relief of Andrew Raycroft, surrendering just one goal in 37 minutes. What can really be said? If you were relying on Toskala to cement your goaltending ranks, you're in a bit of a bind at this point. You will not get anything reasonable in a trade, and dropping him outright is silly. Bench him if you have a better option, and see if more game action can help him get back into the groove he found during November and December.

Mikko Koivu, C, Wild: The victim of a brutal slash by Mattias Ohlund in November, Saku's little bro made his return to the ice on Friday night, earning an assist. He'll be a great asset during the second half, so see if he was dropped in your league and pick him up if you need an extra set of hands down the middle. In the karma department, take note that Ohlund has now missed nine games due to a concussion.

Miroslav Satan, RW, Islanders: Satan -- which is actually pronounced Shuh-tan, something that has always wildly disappointed me -- was unable to parlay his evil powers into healing his sprained right knee. He missed two games this past week, although he did return for Sunday's win against Ottawa. Satan's best days appear to be well behind him, as he has failed to match his 2002-03 level of production in the past three seasons and is on pace for just 43 points this season. If you're hell-bent on including an Islander on your roster, Mike Sillinger has nearly identical stats to Satan and is on a mini hot streak, with two goals and an assist in the past three games. Personally, I'd look elsewhere.

'Tis but a scratch

Adrian Aucoin, D, Flames: Aucoin has now missed the team's past four games due to the never-more-popular groin injury, which should concern any owners relying on him to shore up their defensive ranks. In the games that Aucoin has missed, veteran Anders Eriksson -- owned in just 0.5 percent of ESPN leagues -- scored one third of his season's point total with four assists in that span, and he skated more than 23 minutes in each contest. Those looking for a modest replacement defenseman should grab him for the time being.

John Madden, C, Devils: Perhaps the section should be renamed "'Tis but a slice" for this entry. Madden, on pace for a career-best 45 points and one of the early season's pleasant surprises, was cut on his ankle by a skate blade during Saturday's win against Buffalo. He'll undergo an MRI to determine the extent of the injury, but let's not forget this is a guy who took a stick to the face and came back during the same game to score a game-winning goal earlier in his career.

Lights Out

Dany Heatley, LW, Senators: The most influential long-term injury this season came as a result of Heatley's crash into the boards on Saturday night, and it'll be six weeks before we see one of the league's top stars take the ice again. Although the injury is to Heatley's right shoulder and he is a left-handed shot, the right hand is used for much of the stability while stickhandling and shooting, so the shoulder will have to be completely healed before he can be expected back. Sunday night, the Senators played their first game AH (After Heatley), and Randy Robitaille was on the top line with Daniel Alfredsson and Jason Spezza. To add insult to injury, Spezza played only one period in the game after taking a thunderous check from Freddy Meyer. The Senators as a team should be able to withstand the injury to Heatley due to their influx of talent. Specifically, look for Mike Fisher to increase his role on the power play, and for Antoine Vermette to be relied on, as well. Most importantly, pay attention to the lineup in the next few games to see who gets the coveted spot on the top line, since this gentleman will be a bona fide fantasy superstar during Heatley's recovery.

Tim Kavanagh is a fantasy hockey analyst for ESPN.com.