Jimmy Howard, G (2 SV, 1 GA, 3 SA, .667%) has the worst luck. Just hours after he was named to the 2015 All-Star Game in a rebound season he was caught out of position, slid awkwardly against the far post to try to stop a wrap around chance and suffered a slight groin tear in the process. He coughed up the goal, too. After an MRI revealed the slight tear the initial estimates are that he’ll be out for at least a week now that he’s on IR, and up to a month or longer depending on the severity of the injury. We won’t know for sure how bad it is until Howie undergoes an ultrasound for a more accurate assessment, but whether he’s out of a week or a month, you have to add Petr Mrazek, G (L, 12 SV, 2 GA, 14 SA, .857%) everywhere.

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Johan Franzen can’t go very long without getting hurt and he kept the streak alive last night after hitting the IR with what the Wings are calling an “upper-body issue.” An issue? Like he has emotional baggage from his childhood issue? It’s an injury, call it what it is. Does calling it an “issue” make it seem less severe? Even if it did, why bother? Franzen’s 22 points in 33 games aren’t exactly bringing the house down, eh? Anyway, the point of this anti-Franzen rant is that his absence frees up an opportunity for AHL goals leader Teemu Pulkkinen and his cannon of a shot to get a chance on big ice and it will be exciting to see what he can do.

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If you are among the many owners who benched Semyon Varlamov, G (W, 54 SV, 0 GA, 1.000%, SHO) and David Backes, C (4 G, 6 SOG, +2) take some solace in the fact that it was the right call. It might sting, but don’t second-guess yourself here. Before either guy found some semblance of their 2014 selves on Wednesday night they were hot garbage with a side of crusty old gym socks so there was no reason to put either of them in your lineups. Generally the rule of thumb is to always, always start your big names. You drafted them, you can’t trade them and if there’s nothing better on the wire, you just slot them in and live or die with your decisions. But both Varly and Backes have been so bad this year that you almost had no choice but to bench them. With performances this good it begs the question whether or not either of them has found their stride for a big second half, but I’m sorry to say that neither is poised for a big run and neither of them has earned the right to be regularly inserted into your lineups moving forward, either.

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When Jason Spezza signed with the Stars in the off-season it seemed like a perfect fit. The Stars already had two superstars anchoring their top line and they needed someone to take over the second line and make it a respectable unit. Beyond that, the Stars were looking for the last piece that would help tie together what looked like the most dangerous power play unit in the league after he signed. The situation looked even brighter for Spezza after the club added Ales Hemsky, a guy who Spazz clicked with Spazz in a big way in Ottawa late last season and, again, it seemed like a perfect fit. The Stars now had the core of a second line and two more key top power play pieces to help catapult them to the next level, perhaps even good enough to make a cup run in 2015. Naturally fantasy owners pounced on Spezza early in drafts looking for a big season on a high octane offense, usually somewhere in the the third, fourth or fifth rounds, but the first half of the 2015 season has been a disaster for Spezza who posted a dismal line of 6/21/27/-8 in 38 games so far and it doesn’t look like the second half is going to be any better.

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Early in the season a lack of patience is one of the biggest mistakes new fantasy owners make. They are quick to drop established stars starting slow, quick to add and overvalue upstart rookies and old vets that are hot out of the gate and predictably, this is a recipe for disaster. As such, I preach patience as a virtue early on pretty heavily and try and reinforce the idea whenever I can. It’s important to troll the wire constantly throughout the season for streaking players, but now that we’re in the second half of the season you don’t have the luxury of time that you had in the first half and waiting for players like Matt Duchene (1 A, 2 SOG, -1) or Jordan Eberle, RW (1 G, 3 SOG, +1) to get going may cost you a playoff berth.

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Kris Versteeg did his best impression of Dan Boyle the other night and blocked an Eric Fehr shot with his hand. It didn’t work and predictably his hand is broken. Hawks Head Coach Joel Quenneville said it’s doubtful that the injury will require surgery, so that’s good, but Steeg is down for a month or so. That’s bad. Despite the recent slow down in production, Steeg hits the IR third in points for the Hawks with 27 in 34 games played. He was on pace for 65 points, 20 goals and a plus-32 and considering his 10.8% shooting percentage is right in line with his career average of 11.5%, it’s a safe bet that he’d have hit all those marks. All this from a guy you likely picked up for nothing. Sadface. There’s a silver lining in this dark cloud, though, and his name is Teuvo Teräväinen.

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The Pittsburgh Penguins are getting beat up by injury, disease and all sorts of nonsense this season and their luck didn’t improve with the news that Patric Hornqvist will miss at least a few weeks with a lower-body injury as he hit the IR for the first time this season a few days ago. Horny isn’t the only Pen down for a few weeks either, Blake Comeau suffered an upper-body injury a few days before Christmas and will be out until mid-January as well. The fun doesn’t stop there, either! Steve Downie joined the mumps brigade not too long ago, and though he’s returning this week and bringing his NHL leading 135 PIM with him, the Pens needed to shore up their top six in a bad way so they saved David Perron from the Oilers and banished Rob Klinkhammer and whoever the poor bastard that ends up being their number one pick in 2015 to the Great White North. While this does little to help Klink’s already minimal value, Perron gets a huge boost, but expectations should be tempered.

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When you drafted Matt Duchene in the third round this year you were drafting a guy that you expected 70-plus points and 30 goals from and given his history, his team and his expected line mates that those were totally reasonable expectations. Well, 33 games into the 2014-’15 season Duchene has just 10 goals and 10 assists and is on pace for just 50 points and 25 goals by season’s end. Currently riding a four game scoreless streak he’s slowly sinking on a team that is riddled with problems. Nathan MacKinnon has been hit by a serious sophomore slump and isn’t performing nearly up to the high expectations he set for himself after last year’s stellar performance. Gabriel Landeskog is putting up similarly weak numbers and looking just as lost as Jarome Iginla, Semyon Varlamov and Ryan O’Reilly. Lets face it, the Avs are a mess and they aren’t making any great strides to improve their situation as we approach the halfway mark of the season. Usually a dig into the advanced stats will show a star player doing everything right but getting unlucky, so the points should flow anytime, but sadly for Duchene’s owners that just isn’t the case so far this season.

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It might seem like crazy talk to consider Victor Hedman a buy-low candidate, but right now, in the right situation, he is absolutely ripe for the plucking. You won’t be able to get him for pennies on the dollar but what you do have the opportunity to do is pay a whole lot less for him than you ever thought possible.

After last season’s breakout 55-point performance expectations were high for Hedman going into the ’14-’15 season and he answered the call early on with seven points in his first five games before breaking a digit blocking a shot with his hand. Smart. Since his return he’s posted just six points (all helpers) in 12 games and sunk to a new low last night with no points and no shots on goal in a 3-1 loss to the Isles. That masks what is otherwise a strong start this season with 13 points in 17 games so far and I’ve heard the beginnings of grumbles o’ doubt about whether my Sun and Stars will return to form again this season. Long story short, yes he will. There are owners out there with short memories and shorter tempers and now is the time to find them and exploit them for your gain. If you take into account that Hedman was only on the ice for five games before missing 18 over the course of a month and has now returned with lots of zeros on the score sheet, he might strike some owners as a lot worse than he really is. A bust, even? Blasphemy!

The key to closing a deal for players of his magnitude is finding an owner in the right situation at the right time. Is there an owner who has Hedman but is languishing in the bottom of your league? If he’s hurting on offense Hedman’s lack of production recently will seem all the more glaring and that opens up a small window of opportunity for you to swoop in and make Hedman your number two defenseman. It might sound too good to be true, but these types of owners make great targets to snatch under performing superstars from if you offer the right package. Anyway, here’s what else I saw in the world o’ fantasy hockey recently: 

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Draft day is one of the most important moments in any fantasy season. It can make or break your chances and though a bad draft isn’t a death sentence for your season, it definitely puts it on death row early on. One of the big mistakes I see a lot of owners make is taking goalies too early, especially in the first round. Henrik Lundqvist and Tuukka Rask were the usual suspects this season and neither has or will live up to their ADP this year and it’s likely that if you drafted either your team is hurting because of it, but goalies aren’t the only position to be wary of taking too early. Defensemen are a bigger gamble early on than people give them credit for and so far Erik Karlsson, D (1 A, 2 SOG) is doing his damnedest to make that point clear as day to all. 

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