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Thursday, November 20, 2008
Point Shots: The aftermath of recent injuries

By Jim Wilkie
Special to ESPN.com

Quite a few impact players have suffered significant injuries lately, and the impact of those injuries will be felt by many teams, real and fantasy.

Here's a glance at some of the players on the shelf and the repercussions that will be felt on their teams:

Andrew Ference, D, Boston Bruins (fractured right tibia; out up to eight weeks): Before this season, Ference was rarely a fantasy option, but at the time of his injury this season, he was arguably the best all-around defenseman on a strong Bruins team, and had seven assists and a plus-9 through 16 games.

Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli told the Boston Herald he is not actively seeking a defenseman through a trade, however. "[Ference has] been playing a real solid, efficient game and moving the puck well. … He's going to be hard to replace, but we'll make do."

Matt Hunwick
Matt Hunwick will be relied upon to replace Ference.
So far, they have; they're 2-0-1 since Ference's injury. Rookie Matt Hunwick has been the biggest beneficiary, with a goal, two assists and a plus-3 in those three games. Although he has had very little time on the power play, Hunwick, whom Chiarelli told the Herald has a lot of the same characteristics as Ference, could be worth considering in deep leagues with the Bruins rolling.

Meanwhile, Shane Hnidy and Mark Stuart are getting more ice time in Ference's absence, but they are not fantasy options. Matt Lashoff, just called up from AHL Providence, where he had 13 points in 15 games, might get a shot soon, and Bruins management wants to see him work his way into the lineup, according to the Boston Herald.

Kevin Bieksa, D, Vancouver Canucks (fractured left foot; out at least two weeks from time of injury): Two weeks is nothing compared with the 48 games he missed last season because of injury, but the frustrating part for Bieksa owners and Canucks fans was that he was starting to produce -- he had three goals, eight assists and a plus-5 through 13 games, and eight points in his past seven games -- before suffering the injury Nov. 12 against the Avalanche. He and Willie Mitchell teamed up to make a formidable shutdown pairing that deserved some credit for Roberto Luongo's recent shutout streak.

Bieksa's absence will mean more ice time for Shane O'Brien, and it brings Lawrence Nycholat into the lineup. But no defenseman further down the depth chart will approach Bieksa's talent or minutes, so that means coach Alain Vigneault will be leaning more on the top blueliners in Mattias Ohlund, Sami Salo, Alexander Edler and Mitchell. And with forward Pavol Demitra back from injury, the Canucks have a power-play point man to take Bieksa's spot.

Some impatient fantasy owners are dropping Bieksa (now owned in 93.8 percent of ESPN leagues), so a few of you might be lucky enough to grab him off waivers and reap the benefits next month and beyond. Meanwhile, Bieksa will be sensible with his return date: "I'm hoping it's sooner than two weeks, but we have to give the bone time to heal," Bieksa told the Vancouver Sun. "If I get hit there again, it might get to the point where I would need surgery or something. We don't want it to get to the point where it's months instead of weeks."

Francois Beauchemin, D, Anaheim Ducks (torn ACL in left knee; out for season): Anaheim's once-strong defense takes a big blow with the loss of its third-best blueliner. Beauchemin had four goals and one assist through 18 games, and his 25:35 in average ice time per game was second only to Scott Niedermayer.

Steve Montador (one goal, four assists in 19 games) and Kent Huskins (two goals, three assists in 19 games) will be asked to pick up the slack on special teams and should get chances to boost their scoring, but they aren't strong fantasy options. The same can be said for Bret Hedican, 38; Nathan McIver; and rookie call-up Brett Festerling.

Ducks coach Randy Carlyle told The Orange County Register his defensemen are just going to have to share the minutes. "The distribution of the minutes will probably fall specifically to Huskins and Montador and McIver."

Andy McDonald, forward, St. Louis Blues (broken ankle, out eight weeks): McDonald was leading the Blues in scoring with 18 points before getting hurt Sunday against the Canadiens.

Patrik Berglund
Talented Blues rookie Patrik Berglund will get a chance to show his stuff with Andy McDonald out.
Blues coach Andy Murray told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that Patrik Berglund will remain the No. 2 center between Lee Stempniak and David Perron for now, but the rookie Berglund might get a chance to take McDonald's spot on the No. 1 power-play unit.

"If Berglund plays the way he played in every game but the last one -- I didn't like him [against Montreal on Sunday] -- he's a pretty good player," Murray told the Post-Dispatch. "He's strong, he's competing … he's battling. He didn't do that [against Montreal], but he has been doing that more consistently."

Berglund, 20, has five goals, five assists and a plus-8 rating in 15 games. McDonald had 11 of his 18 points on the power play.

Jason Arnott, forward, Nashville Predators (sore neck; might return Friday): Arnott was taken to the hospital after he was hit from behind and knocked headfirst into the San Jose net in Monday's 4-1 loss to the Sharks.

Arnott was skating Wednesday and told The (Nashville) Tennessean he hoped to play Friday against the Lightning.

Mike Fisher, C, Senators (strained right knee ligaments; out two weeks): If it weren't for bad luck, Ottawa wouldn't have any luck at all. Like the Senators, Fisher has been struggling all season and had just two goals and four assists in 16 games. Still, he's their No. 2 center, and is not easily replaced.

Fourth-liner Dean McAmmond could move up to the second line, and the Ottawa Sun reports that Zach Smith, 20, or Cody Bass, 21, might be called up from the AHL.

Meanwhile, rugged winger Chris Neil's knee injury is even worse, and the club won't know how long he'll be out until after arthroscopic surgery Friday, according to the Ottawa Citizen. Defenseman Christoph Schubert might move up to forward to take Neil's spot.

"With [Fisher] out of the lineup, it's going to be a good challenge for our group," said Senators coach Craig Hartsburg. "But when we play a certain way, we can have success."

Scott Gomez, C, Rangers (ankle stress fracture; day-to-day): The Rangers kept the details of Gomez's injury quiet until the New York Post reported that the center had played 10 games with a stress fracture he suffered Oct. 18. Gomez has missed four games, and might practice Friday, but is doubtful to return Saturday at Ottawa, according to the Post. The paper said there's a chance he could return Monday against the Coyotes.

The sooner the better for the Rangers, who have just six goals in the past three games and miss Gomez's offensive skills. Although the Rangers are 3-1 without Gomez, it has been defense and goalie Henrik Lundqvist who have deserved credit for the victories, which included two via shootout.

Wednesday's 6-3 loss to the Canucks featured numerous turnovers that showed how much the Rangers miss Gomez's confidence in carrying the puck. Brandon Dubinsky has cooled greatly from his hot start to the season and failed to take advantage of Gomez's absence. Chris Drury has stepped up with two goals and two assists in the four games.

Jim Wilkie is a former NHL editor/writer for ESPN.com. You can email him at espnpucks@comcast.net.