Fantasy Grapevine: Week 23

Finding replacements for injured superstars is critical both in reality and in fantasy. Getty Images

As is customary this time of year -- Olympics or no Olympics -- the long regular season is beginning to wear on NHL rosters. With the playoffs just around the corner, most NHLers are, to some degree, bruised, banged-up and/or justifiably bushed. It seems we can’t go more than a few hours without hearing of another significant injury. So while the Washington Capitals await word on the health status of Nicklas Backstrom, two other clubs are already working around losing their own game-changing centermen. All of whom happen to be valued fantasy assets.

Backstrom is considered day-to-day following his premature departure from Tuesday’s 5-4 shootout loss to the Los Angeles Kings. On the upside, the 26-year-old forward was not subjected to the league’s mandatory concussion testing after enduring the nasty fallout from a Drew Doughty hit. Coach Adam Oates says Backstrom was held out from returning to the game for precautionary reasons. Many suspect he’s nursing a shoulder injury, and since the Capitals don’t play again until Saturday, there’s hardly cause for panic here.

On the other hand, while the Vancouver Canucks insist on declaring Henrik Sedin day-to-day, word has it the club’s captain is more likely to miss a couple of weeks with a suspected left leg/foot problem. That leaves maybe a game or two before the 2013-14 regular campaign wraps up for good. Owners fighting for fantasy supremacy -- especially in redraft leagues -- are advised to cut Henrik immediately. As a substitute, center Shawn Matthias could continue to get time on a line with Daniel Sedin and Nicklas Jensen.

Then we have the Pittsburgh Penguins, who seem fairly open about the latest injury to shelve Evgeni Malkin. Coach Dan Bylsma concedes Malkin will miss two to three weeks -- the rest of the regular season -- with a bad right foot. Again, if you want to make a final charge in your non-dynasty league, and there isn’t an IR slot available, drop the Russian center outright. Why not? Owners in deeper leagues may like to know that Brandon Sutter is pegged to replace Malkin on the second line with wingers Jussi Jokinen and James Neal.