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Wednesday, February 18, 2009
Richards' pain is Ott's gain


If you would have told Dallas Stars co-GMs Les Jackson and Brett Hull before the season began that by Feb. 18 they would be without Sergei Zubov, Brenden Morrow, Sean Avery and Brad Richards, they might not have bothered icing a team. But that's exactly the situation the Stars face as the club heads into the trade deadline without their most expensive player, Richards, the latest to fall victim to the injury bug. The 28-year-old center will be lost for six to eight weeks after suffering a broken wrist in a 3-2 win over Columbus on Monday. This essentially ends his fantasy value for the rest of this season because by the time he is healthy again it may be too late for fantasy purposes.

"Hopefully, I'm going to set a goal to be back for the first week of April," Richards told ESPN. "But the doctor said for sure, the playoffs. It's the top hand, so that makes it tough."

The injury is a tough pill to swallow for a franchise that already is trying its hardest to prove it can win despite having nearly an All-Star squad of players on the injured reserve. For fantasy purposes, though, every cloud has a silver lining. While Richards' injury most likely crushes an owner in your league -- here's hoping it isn't you -- Richards' minutes must fall somewhere, and while Mike Modano and Mike Ribeiro will see an increase in ice time, Steve Ott may be the biggest winner in this game of injured-reserve Russian roulette. Ott has 15 points in his past 15 games and has becoming known as a legitimate offensive threat as well as a gritty center who's not afraid to play the physical game. His average ice time for the remainder of the season should eclipse 20 minutes per game, but more importantly, he should see even more time on the man advantage. With his ownership level sitting at 12.8 percent in ESPN.com leagues, he could be an astute addition down the stretch for your fantasy squad.

There is a flip side to this coin, though. While Ott's value is on the rise, the men who play on the wings in Dallas may see a decrease in value. Ott is nowhere near the playmaker that Richards is, and someone like Loui Eriksson will learn that lesson quickly. Eriksson has already scored 27 goals, a career best, and has benefited from skating alongside the smooth-passing Richards. Eriksson's pace will no doubt slow down now, so you may well consider trading him away while you can still get full value.

While I would bet good money that the Stars will add another forward ahead of the March 4 deadline to improve themselves before the playoffs, any guess as to whom they would be interested in at this point would be nothing more than speculation. So all we have to go with at this time is co-GM Jackson's statement yesterday. "[Richards is] out and we are moving ahead with our group of players," Jackson told ESPN.com's Pierre Lebrun via e-mail. "We will measure our options as we move along." If someone -- likely the Rangers -- claims Sean Avery when he is placed on re-entry waivers, it should clear up enough cap space for the Stars to add a player of significance before the deadline. Keep your eye on this evolving story line.

Ice Chips

Alexei Kovalev
Alexei Kovalev will have a week to ponder his recent play.

The Montreal Canadiens have said thanks, but no thanks to Alexei Kovalev this week. Kovalev, who is fully healthy and has not been suspended, has played so poorly of late that he simply has been asked not to join the Canadiens on their two-game road trip. It's quite frankly shocking that a team fighting for its playoff life would ask its best player to stay away during a pivotal point in the season. Be prepared to bench Kovalev until this situation is sorted out. In the meantime, the Canadiens will move away from their finesse-style lineup that brought them so much success last year. … Meanwhile, that wasn't the only surprising news from la belle province Tuesday. The Canadiens sent slumping winger Sergei Kostitsyn back down to the AHL, recalling Gregory Stewart to replace him on the roster. Kostitsyn had only three points in his past 11 games. Stewart will have no fantasy value. … It looks like Joe Sakic is on pace for a return in March. It's been an injury-riddled season for Burnaby Joe, who has missed time following a surgery to repair a herniated disk in his back and an incident with a snowblower that left him with three broken fingers. Sakic is available in about half of ESPN.com leagues. … David Krejci led the way as the Boston Bruins ended their four-game losing streak with a 5-1 win over Carolina. Krejci had been in a mini-slump of his own, but with a goal and an assist on the night, he showed that he isn't ready to slow down during the drive into the playoffs. … Drew Stafford's fantasy value hasn't taken a hit since Thomas Vanek went down to injury; in fact, it may be on the rise. Stafford had two goals as the Buffalo Sabres once again dumped the Toronto Maple Leafs in an easy matchup. "He's been making some plays, moving his feet down low," teammate Derek Roy said of Stafford after the game. "He's a strong body in front of the net on the power play and we need that from him. He's playing really well; he had a couple more chances to score some more goals tonight." … Steven Stamkos had the best night of his young career but it wasn't enough to carry the Lightning past the Blackhawks on Tuesday. Stamkos scored his first career hat trick in the losing effort. The first overall pick is finally starting to find his game at the NHL level; he has six points in his past five games. … Chicago's leading scorer, Patrick Sharp, will be out of the lineup for two to three weeks, according to coach Joel Quenneville. Sharp has a left knee injury. … Is there any doubt that Tomas Vokoun is again an elite fantasy goalie? Vokoun stopped all 36 shots he faced for a 4-0 shutout win over New Jersey. Since Feb. 1, he has a 1.70 goals against average and a .947 save percentage. … Paul Stastny may be back on the ice sooner rather than later. The Avalanche center could return to action as soon as Friday after missing seven games with a broken forearm. … Rene Bourque didn't score 20 goals combined in his last two seasons in Chicago. It took him only 57 games in Calgary to accomplish that feat. Bourque picked up his 20th of the season in a loss to Vancouver on Tuesday night. He is available in about 60 percent of ESPN.com leagues and could be a nice asset for your team when you consider he is also a plus-18 on the year. … Talk about redemption. Patrick Marleau scored twice to bump his point total up to 62 on the season as the Sharks handed the Oilers a 4-2 loss. Marleau is on pace for 92 points, which would represent a career-best mark for the former second overall pick. It's an impressive turnaround for the big center, considering he had only 48 points and was a minus-19 last season.