Add injuries in fantasy hockey to the short list of unavoidable experiences in life, along with death and taxes.
Yes, they are inevitable. The injury bug has taken some nasty bites out of fantasy hockey teams once again this season.
The list of injured stars includes forwards Joe Sakic, Justin Williams and Patrice Bergeron, goaltenders Manny Fernandez and Marc-Andre Fleury, and defencemen Dan Boyle and Bryan McCabe.
Many of those injuries occurred early enough to give poolies ample time to find suitable replacements. It's when a team fighting for the prize loses a marquee producer now, with less than half a season to play, that the results are potentially devastating.
And this month has been particularly nasty. Poolies out there with Sidney Crosby and Dany Heatley are nodding their heads in agreement.
Crosby went down Friday with an ankle sprain and with it went south the spirits if not the fortunes of his pool owners. Those with Heatley were similarly clobbered last Saturday when the Ottawa sniper was lost for at least a month with a separated shoulder.
The loss of Crosby and his offensive skills for an extended spell will have a negative impact on the entire Pittsburgh lineup. Power-play production will suffer and even goaltender wins will be harder to come by.
That same sort of trickle-down effect will also stymie poolies who have Colorado Avalanche players. Not only are Sakic and Ryan Smyth out, but leading scorer Paul Stastny went on the IR last week after an appendectomy.
Michael Nylander of the Washington Capitals was the fourth major producer lost last week, as shoulder surgery put him on the shelf for the season. He can be dropped in all but keeper leagues.
Injuries are the reason it is so important to be constantly scouring the boxscores and waiver wires, picking up information on sudden streaks or player movements around the league.
Inevitable as they are, injuries can put poolies in a near-desperate search for decent replacements.
Poolies would be wise to latch onto Nicklas Backstrom, if the Washington rookie is still available. He had four assists on Saturday and will likely assume a more prominent role with the Capitals now that Nylander is gone.
Another rookie worth checking out is Peter Mueller of the Phoenix Coyotes. Coach Wayne Gretzky continues to put a lot of faith in his abilities, placing him on top lines and the power play.
Veteran Todd Bertuzzi of the Anaheim Ducks might also be an available free agent. He has been pretty much written off as an offensive contributor over the past two years, but all of a sudden Big Bert, signed in the off-season as a free agent, is showing flashes of former brilliance.
Bertuzzi credits a switch from right to left wing for his current six-game point streak. Whatever the reason, he's now worth an immediate waiver claim.
Interestingly, Bertuzzi was traded from the Florida Panthers to the Red Wings last spring in exchange for Detroit's second-round pick in the 2006 draft. Shawn Matthias, now 19, helped Team Canada win gold at the world juniors earlier this month and was called up by the Panthers on Friday. In just his second NHL game the next night, he scored two goals.
He might not be the next Crosby or Stastny, but this rookie is getting a chance to play on the same line with Olli Jokinen and Nathan Horton. If you're already without Heatley and Nylander, you've got nothing to lose by grabbing Matthias for now.
Greg Dennis can be reached at theCanadianpress.pool(at)hotmail.com.
Some players to watch or watch out for in your hockey pool this week
Some players to watch or watch out for in your hockey pool this week:
1. RW J.P. Dumont, Predators. Entering play Monday, he's sizzling with seven goals and 16 points over an 11-game point streak.
2. RW Todd Bertuzzi, Ducks. An overdue return to form for Big Bert, who has 12 points in six games.
3. C Peter Mueller, Coyotes. Unheralded rookie has 28 points on the season, six in three games last week.
4. D Kimmo Timonen, Flyers. Off-season acquisition starts paying back with five points and a plus-7 rating in four games.
5. G Patrick Lalime, Blackhawks. Replacing the struggling Nikolai Khabibulin, the backup is undefeated in January.
1. C Saku Koivu, Canadiens. Held without a point in the past four games, and an ugly minus-6 to boot.
2. LW Brendan Shanahan, Rangers. The veteran forward is battling injuries and inconsistency in 2008.
3. LW Richard Zednik, Panthers. Last year's worst free-agent signing has one goal in 23 games, no points in his last 11.
4. D Steve Staios, Oilers. Not the most prolific defenceman in hockey but three points since Nov. 1 is ridiculous.
5. C Evgeni Nabokov, Sharks. Gave up four or more goals in each of three resounding thumpings last week.