Mike Schmidt investigates the injury situation for all 16 of the Stanley Cup playoff teams, arming you with information that will give you the edge in your playoff pool.
Chicago Blackhawks vs. Minnesota Wild
The Blackhawks enter postseason play with a healthy roster. Patrick Sharp returned this past week from a lingering shoulder injury and saw action in a pair of games. He looks in fine form, as he scored a pair of points while seeing a ton of action on the same line as fellow high-end forward Patrick Kane. Meanwhile, goaltender Ray Emery is dealing with a lower-body injury that isn’t considered to be very serious. Nevertheless, it will be enough to cause the Blackhawks to turn to Corey Crawford in net early and often against the Wild. Both netminders have posted spectacular numbers and in a timeshare that has favored Crawford in terms of opportunity, but don’t expect Chicago to use Emery unless he is fully healthy. Dave Bolland’s groin injury should be healed in time for him to suit up in the playoff opener.
Jason Pominville has been out of the lineup since this past Tuesday with a head injury he suffered when he took a hit from the elbow of Los Angeles forward Dustin Brown (which resulted in a two-game suspension for Brown)…
Minnesota desperately needs Pominville’s scoring touch in the postseason – especially since Dany Heatley was lost to a season-ending shoulder injury earlier this month. Pominville, acquired from Buffalo at the trade deadline, remains day-to-day for now. Since Pominville’s injury, the Wild’s top six wingers include rookie Charlie Coyle, the offensively-limited Cal Clutterbuck, and the always underwhelming Devin Setoguchi. Coyle has been the only Minnesota player to truly benefit from the injuries to Heatley and Pominville. The 21-year-old 2010 first round selection is seeing substantial ice time alongside Mikko Koivu and Zach Parise, and he finished the regular season with four points in his final four games. He’s a great sleeper for playoff pools.
Anaheim Ducks vs. Detroit Red Wings
The Ducks were without veteran defenseman Sheldon Souray for a couple games last week, but he was back in action on Thursday. He hasn’t scored a goal since notching his seventh of the season on March 29, but the Ducks still turn to him on the power play. Bobby Ryan was out of the lineup for two games this week with an illness, but he returned to action this past Saturday. Luca Sbisa remains sidelined with a lower-body injury that knocked him out of the lineup a little more than two weeks ago.
Detroit fans have to be relieved Johan Franzen didn’t miss time after getting nicked up during this past Wednesday’s tilt against Los Angeles. Franzen was healthy enough to return the next evening and score a goal and an assist. Injuries have limited the once-useful Mikael Samuelsson to just four games this season, and he hasn’t been in the lineup since March 31 (when he played a whopping nine minutes). A proven secondary offensive option and power-play threat when healthy, Samuelsson can’t seem to stay on the ice long enough to be a useful factor in fantasy. He is day-to-day with a pectoral muscle injury. Meanwhile, veteran Todd Bertuzzi remains out with a leg injury sustained in early February.
Vancouver vs. San Jose
A pair of defensemen returned to the Vancouver lineup this week, just in time to see a bit of action before the postseasonbegins. While Keith Ballard isn’t a trusted fantasy option, Kevin Bieksa is capable of providing both penalty minutes and points this postseason. Bieksa didn’t provide the all-around production fantasy owners wanted to see from him coming off a 44-point campaign a year ago. After totaling a career-high 36 assists in 2011-12, Bieksa managed just six this season. However, he remains a solid option for playoff pools now that he’s healthy. Cory Schneider was held out of the lineup this past week due to an undisclosed injury, but he is expected to be in net for the playoff opener against San Jose. Also, Christopher Higgins is showing no ill effects after being out of the lineup earlier this month with a knee injury. He’s nothing special, but Higgins is seeing time on the second line with Ryan Kesler and Derek Roy. That’s an enviable role for any player.
The Sharks are extremely healthy heading into their postseason matchup against Vancouver. Martin Havlat was held out of Saturday’s regular season finale with a variety of minor injuries, but he is expected to be ready to roll come playoff time. Health is always an issue with Havlat, but at least fantasy owners can expect him to play against the Canucks.
St. Louis vs. Los Angeles
The Blues have been cautious with top-six forward T.J. Oshie, who has been out with an ankle injury since the last week of March. However, he should be completely recovered once the playoffs begin. The Blues have a wealth of depth at the forward position, but Oshie is a well-rounded player capable of contributing on both ends of the ice. Meanwhile, it looks like Brian Elliott will enter the playoffs as the preferred option in goal for St. Louis. Jaroslav Halak hasn’t been between the pipes since April 1 due to a lingering groin injury, and Jake Allen’s performances in net have been uneven over the course of the last month. Elliott has earned the opportunity with his stellar performance in net in April, and few netminders have offered better production as of late. Defenseman Barret Jackman is also recovering from an ankle injury, and it is reasonable to expect him to be ready for the playoffs.
Health is not an issue for the Los Angeles Kings as they enter postseason play. Mike Richards missed Saturday’s regular season finale due to illness, but he should be fine moving forward.
Pittsburgh vs. New York Islanders
James Neal’s hat trick in his return to the lineup Saturday in the team’s regular season finale should eliminate any concerns about how ready he is to contribute during postseason play. Evgeni Malkin is also healthy and ready to roll. The same cannot be said for Sidney Crosby. While the Penguins superstar practiced late last week, it is not known when he’ll be ready to suit up in a game. However, he is making progress in his recovery from a broken jaw. Meanwhile, Paul Martin has returned from a broken hand and is fine form - logging two assists Saturday.
The New York Islanders enter the playoffs in great health. Depth defenseman Brian Strait returned from an ankle injury last week, but he’s a non-factor in playoff pools.
Montreal vs. Ottawa
Veteran Michael Ryder missed just one game with an upper-body injury last week. He’s been extremely productive (21 points in 27 games) since being acquired by Montreal in a trade with Dallas earlier this season. Ryder has shown great chemistry with linemate Tomas Plekanec, and shouldn’t’ be overlooked in playoff pools this spring. Yannick Weber and Brandon Prust also returned from injuries last week for the Habs, but neither are worthy of consideration in fantasy.
Given his near-miraculous recovery from a serious Achilles injury and his ability to log significant ice time during the final week of the regular season, Erik Karlsson should be a good bet to perform to expectations in his squad’s opening round series against Montreal. Karlsson totaled two assists in his first game back and saw nearly 28 minutes in his second game back in the lineup. Use him with confidence. Yes, Jason Spezza is skating on his own as he works to recover from back surgery. No, he will not return for the playoffs.
Washington vs. New York Rangers
The 2013 campaign has been an injury-riddled one for longtime Capitals centerman Brooks Laich. He’s only appeared in nine games all year, the last of which was on April 4. He’s still recovering from hernia surgery, and might not be available until late in the first round of the playoffs (at the earliest). The injury, coupled with Laich’s declining offensive production makes him less than ideal for playoff pools. Meanwhile, Joel Ward missed Saturday’s regular season finale with a knee contusion. However, he is expected to be ready come playoff time.
Recently acquired Ryane Clowe took an elbow to the head and also appeared to have sustained some sort of leg injury in last Thursday’s game against Carolina. It seems he didn’t sustain a concussion, so it seems reasonable that a little bit of rest will be enough to get Clowe ready for the postseason. He has been effective in his short stay with the Rangers, so feel free to use him if he’s healthy and ready to play against Washington. Meanwhile, no news is bad news for defenseman Marc Staal. He is out indefinitely with an eye injury sustained in early March. It doesn’t look like he’ll be back at any point in the near future, not that he’s a very valuable fantasy asset when healthy.
Boston vs. Toronto
Nathan Horton is solid top-six forward capable of providing decent point totals for fantasy owners, but he has not been able to play in more than a week and remains day-to-day with an upper-body injury he sustained in a fight with Pittsburgh’s Jarome Iginla…
Continue to look out for news on Horton, as he hasn’t been cleared to return for the playoff opener. Meanwhile, Jaromir Jagr is dealing with a bout of the flu. He should be fine to play in game one against Toronto.
The Maple Leafs are extremely healthy heading into postseason play. Tyler Bozak is day-to-day with a shoulder injury, but all other fantasy-relevant players should be good to go for the start of the series against Boston this week.