Fall has finally begun in earnest: the sweaters have made their way out of the closet and onto the torso, the sealed-up down comforters have made their way back onto the beds, and each team in the NHL seems to have a number of holes in its roster due to injury. While we get ourselves sartorially ready for the cold weather ahead, let's take a tour through the injuries from the past week that will have a major fantasy impact.
'Tis But a Scratch
Dominik Hasek, G, Red Wings: The debut of the Nintendo Entertainment System in Japan. The debut of Tom Brokaw as lead anchor for "NBC Nightly News." The debut of the very first Hooters restaurant in Clearwater, Fla. And, most germane to our discussion here, the selection of Dominik Hasek in the NHL draft. All of these events took place in 1983, when yours truly was all of a precocious 3 years of age. In the time since, Nintendo now makes a machine that detects your every motion to control its video game, Tom Brokaw relinquished his post as most-watched news anchor, Hooters has expanded to 435 worldwide locations, and Dominik Hasek has stopped over 18,000 NHL shots from entering the net. Such a feat can take its toll on a man's body, especially given the rag doll-like means by which Hasek routinely performs this task, and it's no surprise he's out again with a hip injury. In his place, fellow veteran Chris Osgood will split starts with Jimmy Howard, with Osgood getting the first crack in Friday night's laugher against the Sharks as well as Sunday night's game against Vancouver. The official injury report lists Hasek's malady as an "irritated hip," so it's difficult to predict his exact prognosis aside from the fact that you'll need to handcuff one (or both) of the other goalies to Hasek just to be safe.
Bryan McCabe, D, Maple Leafs: One of the top fantasy defensemen for the past three seasons for his points and penalty-minute output, McCabe missed two games this past week due to a groin injury. According to the Toronto Sun, he will see a specialist on Monday to determine the extent of the injury, but his loss could be devastating to a fantasy team as you really can't replace him with only one guy. Stay tuned.
Kyle Wellwood, C, Maple Leafs: A good note out of the injury ward for Leafs fans was the news that Kyle Wellwood has been practicing with the team's skating coach while the team was on the latest road trip, and he aims to return later this week. Wellwood should pick up where he left off last season, when he scored 12 goals and added 32 assists in just 48 games, and is worth rostering in large leagues where such production will help you from a deep center or utility slot.
Jaroslav Spacek, D, Sabres: According to multiple sources, Spacek will return to the ice on Thursday against Boston. For weekly-lineup leagues, that will give him two games this week -- the team also hosts Florida on Friday night -- so adjust your lineup accordingly if Spacek can outscore any of your other options in that abbreviated time frame.
Pavol Demitra, LW, Niklas Backstrom, G, and Marian Gaborik, RW, Wild: All three of Minnesota's top stars -- with honorable mention for star power to Derek Boogaard and Cal Clutterbuck -- missed Sunday afternoon's game against the Avalanche with groin injuries. As bad as it was for those of us trying to make up ground in a weekly head-to-head league, all three injuries are reported to be of the minor, day-to-day variety.
Patrice Bergeron, C, Bruins: Bergeron took a brutal hit into the boards during Saturday night's game against the Flyers, suffered a concussion, was treated at Massachusetts General Hospital and was released on Sunday night. His return to the ice is questionable as of this writing, so keep an eye on the situation to determine when it's safe to reactivate him.
Bryan Berard, D, Islanders: Berard will be off the ice for two to four weeks due to a groin injury suffered on Saturday, so the offensive load from the blue line will continue to be shouldered by Chris Campoli and Marc-Andre Bergeron. Campoli's hot start has him owned in about 80 percent of ESPN leagues as of now, but that number will surely climb during Berard's absence.
Jordan Leopold, D, Avalanche: Back to the injured list for the Minnesota native, as wrist surgery will keep him off the active roster for two months. Leopold was a somewhat-valuable defenseman in deep leagues as a Calgary Flame -- he had nine goals and 24 assists in 2003-04 -- but he has had an injury-plagued go of it as a member of the Colorado Avalanche to this point: only dressing for 15 games last season, and just seven before the injury this season. It is OK to jettison him for now, and make a late-season pickup if he regains some of his past form upon his return.
Kari Lehtonen, G, Thrashers: Since we spoke last week, Lehtonen underwent an MRI and it was revealed that there is no tear in his groin. Much rejoicing from Atlanta fans that this injury is not a season-ending one aside, the Thrashers' netminder will be out four to six weeks as he rehabs the strain. It looks as though Johan Hedberg will be getting the lion's share of starts going forward, given that he's played just about every minute since the Lehtonen injury, but Ondrej Pavelec should get a start before the team's five-game road trip is through.
Joni Pitkanen, D, Oilers: Pitkanen underwent arthroscopic knee surgery on Friday, which requires six to eight weeks of recovery for a weekend warrior like most of us. While his recovery time may be less than that, his impact as a fantasy D-man will have been relinquished back to fellow fallen Oiler Sheldon Souray, who will have returned to action by that time. Pitkanen will have a bit of value for deeper leagues after his return, but due to the impotent offense in Edmonton, his value is less than as a member of the Flyers, where he had turned in back-to-back 40-point seasons.
Ryane Clowe, LW, Sharks: The beneficiary of being on one of the deadliest lines in all of hockey alongside the all-world Joe Thornton, Clowe has been placed on injured reserve by the Sharks and will miss an unknown amount of time. The injury to Clowe, as well as that of Rob Davison, caused the team to call up Devin Setoguchi and Lukas Kaspar from the AHL affiliate in Worcester. The injuries also force a reshuffling of the offensive lines, and according to the Sharks' team Web site, the lines for Sunday's practice put Jeremy Roenick and Milan Michalek on the top line with Thornton, with newcomer Kaspar skating with Patrick Marleau and Steve Bernier. That left Jonathan Cheechoo skating with Marcel Goc and Joe Pavelski.
Tim Kavanagh is a fantasy hockey analyst for ESPN.com.