The Leafs are in the midst of their traditional mid-to-end-of-season collapse and it’s a surprise to exactly no one. Oh, you’re surprised? Were you also surprised that the sun came up this morning? Because baby, this is like clockwork for the Leafs. Looking at the team on paper coming into the season you figured they had to have a chance to be better than they were last season, perhaps even avoid the slump they’re in right now. Yeah, not so much, eh? Well, despite their perennial struggles you can’t lose hope yet and jettison James van Riemsdyk, LW (1 G, 8 SOG, +1), Tyler Bozak, C (1 A, 3 SOG, +1) or Phil Kessel, RW (zip, zilch, nada) for pennies on the dollar, because the upside is just much too high there and sooner or later they’re going to rebound and start producing again.

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With Kyle Okposo basically out for the rest of the season big questions about what will happen in the Isles’ top six loom large. In the past no one would have cared at all beyond when Okie was getting back into the lineup, but 2015 is a new year and the Isles offense is one of the best in the league posting a heady 3.2 goals per game, good for second in the NHL. So now that question of who replaces Okie on the Isles’ top line along side superstar pivot John Tavares, C (1 G, 2 SOG, +1) is pretty intriguing and Mikhail Grabovski, C (1 G, 4 SOG, +1) wasted no time answering it by putting the biscuit in the basket on a feed from Josh Bailey, RW (1 A, 2 SOG, +1) after JT started the whole dance with a nice feed of his own. The trio looked like they had some solid chemistry and word has it that Grabby is going to be replacing Okie in role and position moving forward. He absolutely has the ability to finish, so I’d go ahead and add him where you can as he could be in line for a strong second half push. That being said, he has a history of being streaky and if he goes cold, Ryan Strome, C (1 G, 2 SOG, +1) could step in and fill the gap without missing a beat.

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Just what the doctor ordered for the start of your stretch run, there’s a bunch of key guys out with injuries and almost no one who can replace them. We all knew about Sergei Bobrovsky‘s injury going into the break, but the big news is that Kyle Okposo is going to be out for the next two months with an upper-body injury. The Isles are mum on what exactly happened to Okie, but some fan accounts say it’s likely a wrist problem. That sounds terrible. This is terrible and there’s no replacing him. Ryan Strome might get a shot at the top line, Brock Nelson could see a promotion and Mikhail Grabovski is on his way back to the lineup after missing some time with an injury, but regardless of who ends up playing on John Tavares‘ wing, the slot isn’t going to provide the value boost to whomever gets the bump up without Okie there. Josh Bailey and his newfound value also take a hit here, as defenses will be able to clamp down on him and he’s going to lose the space that Okie and JT created for him, which was a large part of his recent success. All in all this is a crushing blow for the Isles and fantasy owners alike. All you can do is stash him on IR and hope for a speedy recovery, but if it’s his wrist, and that two month timeline is because he needs to recover from surgery we’re in trouble fellow Okie owners. Even if he does get back before the playoffs if he has to shake off rust, get back into game shape and get his shot mechanics back to normal there just isn’t going to be enough time for him to get back up to full speed and his value will be nil for the rest of this season. If that isn’t enough to start your week with a “Dammit all!” here’s the skinny on a few more key guys who are down for a while with injuries:

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Going into the season Sergei Bobrovsky, G (L, 9 SV, 3 GA, .750%) was one of the most sought after fantasy asset in goal and for good reason, the former Vezina winner was coming off of two straight fantastic years for less than stellar teams and at just 26 years old and entering his fifth year on big ice all the stars seemed like up not only for Bob to maintain his Vezina quality play but for the Blue Jackets to step up to his level, too. So far this season that hasn’t happened and yesterday everything went from bad to worse for Bob as he suffered an apparent LBI making a routine save in the first. There’s no word as to the extent or severity of the injury, but he needed to be helped off the ice after staying on all fours for a few minutes and from the looks of it it’s going to be a groin thing, and he might be out for a while.

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In just his second full season with the Rangers 23-year-old power forward Chris Kreider, LW (1 G, 7 SOG, +1) burst out of the gates strong and quickly faded, often looking lost on the ice. His decent culminated with a demotion to the Rangers’ fourth line, a destination that Kreider is none too familiar or comfortable with, and following that he was a healthy scratch. The Rangers claimed it was a neck issue, but it was clear to everyone he was just getting scratched. It was clear that the sophomore was listless on the ice at times, bereft of the passion and drive that had propelled him to early playoff success two years ago and a hot start this season. Kreider hadn’t lost it though; he was suffering through the death of his Grandfather, and admitted that his heart just wasn’t in it during that difficult period. Well, that period is over, and he’s currently riding a three game point streak posting four points (2 G, 2 A) over that span. He enters the all-star break riding high, showing every sign of finishing this season with a bang and breaking out in a big way next year.

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The New York Islanders have one of the best offenses in the NHL, in fact they have the second best offense in the entire league. Let that sink in for a moment. Yes, it’s true, the Isles sport the second best offense posting 3.2 goals per tilt and they show absolutely no signs of stopping anytime soon. In fact, they’ve been picking up the pace lately and could soon be the best offense in the league. The engine that drives this goal scoring machine is their top line, anchored by the dynamic duo of John Tavares, C (1 G, 1 A, 6 SOG) and Kyle Okposo, RW (1 G, 1 SOG, +1). The wild card has been the coveted third spot that has mostly been used by Isles Head Coach Jack Capuano to stream whoever the hot hand is at the moment, and lately with eight points (2 G, 6 A) over his last eight games that’s been Josh Bailey, LW (1 G, 1 SOG, +1).

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At this point in the season players start to break down and injuries tend to be more frequent. You may have suffered through the loss of guys like Jimmy Howard or Pekka Rinne recently so you’re keenly aware of the sting that comes with losing all-world players giving you all-world seasons. The increased likelihood and frequency of injuries means adding the right replacement at the right time is critical to the overall success or failure of your season, so you have to be Johnny-on-the-spot when your studs go down. When Howie tore his groin picking up his understudy Petr Mrazek, G (4 SV, 3 GA, .571%) was a no brainer and after three strong starts since taking over as the starter for the Red Wings, last night’s breakdown against the league’s worst team might make you want to send the talented young tender packing back to the wire, but if you do you will be making a big mistake.

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The Arizona Coyotoes did a strange thing yesterday when they traded their best goalie, Devan Dubnyk, to the Wild for a third round pick. On the surface this might sound like a fairly yawnstipating deal. The Wild are getting killed in goal this season and it’s one of the few parts that don’t work for them, but adding a guy who has a career GAA of 2.88 might seem like the wrong direction to take to fix those woes, but if you take a deeper dive into his numbers you’ll find a goalie who has been burned by playing on some of the worst possession teams in the league for his entire career, and this season is no different. With Niklas Backstrom clearly past it and Darcy Kuemper both injured and clearly not ready to handle a starter’s workload, Dubs will get every opportunity to win the starting job right now and that means if you need help in the crease, he’s is definitely worth adding.

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Marred by injuries and a general inability to put the biscuit in the basket the first half of the 2015 season has been a huge disappointment for the Boston Bruins, but all that may be changing with the arrival of their newest weapon David Pastrnak, RW (2 G, 7 SOG, +4). They call him Pasta but he should be called butter because he’s on a roll (R.I.P Stuart Scott, you will be missed.) with five points (4 G, 1 A) in his first eight games on big ice including back-to-back two goal games. Not only that, the Bruins have one all three games that Pasta has suited up and he has a plus-5 rating over that span. It sure seems like the Bs have found their spark, but given the kid is just 18-years-old and he’s about to burn a year of his entry-level contract, fantasy owners and the Boston brass alike aren’t entirely sure what to do with him. Luckily for you, dear readers, I do! Pick him up, now.

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In seven seasons since the Flames took Mikael Backlund 24th overall he has failed to live up his draft position or the hype that followed. Not once has he topped 40 points or 20 goals, so it might seem odd to peg him as a second half sleeper now, but after he returned from an abdominal injury recently he’s been on fire. Since January 7th he’s put up three goals, two assists, a game winning goal, a shorthanded goal, 11 faceoff wins, three hits, a plus-3 rating and a block in three games. That pushes his season line to 4/5/9/+3 in just 14 games and it looks like he might finally be ready to live up to the high expectations heaped upon him nearly a decade ago.

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