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Injury Analysis: Rafalski Nearly Ready to Return

William Lee

William Lee writes about fantasy sports for RotoWire.

Edmontonís Ales Hemsky will be out another week or two with a rotator cuff injury; but since the Oilers are nowhere near playoff contention, it may be wise for Hemsky to just hang up the skates and focus on rehabilitating the shoulder in preparation for next season. Shoulder rehab is complicated as it is because it involves significant interaction between the shoulder and the trunk, but it could become even more difficult in the long run if Hemsky aggravates the injury by returning too soon. Hesmky has enough time to return at some point, but fantasy owners will be in limbo until the Oilers officially announce a target date.

Edmonton teammate Taylor Hall suffered a high ankle sprain in early March and will miss the rest of the season. Initial treatment starts with immobilizing the ankle joint so that the ligament heals properly before the rehab starts. If the syndesmosis is not allowed to heal completely before starting rehab, the ankle will remain unstable and painful enough to limit activity. Hallís rookie season is over, but he should be back at 100 percent well in advance of training camp.

Chicagoís Duncan Keith suffered a hand injury last week when he tried blocking a shot with his hand, but he was able to return for Tuesdayís game. Make sure he is in your lineup going forward.

Islanders goaltender Kevin Poulin is no longer using crutches after undergoing surgery for a dislocated kneecap February 14, but he will wear a brace for the next month before beginning rehab. Wearing the brace will allow the ligaments and connective tissue to heal so that the increased stress of rehab does not lead to re-injury. The rehab will include re-training movement, as well as strengthening, to decrease the lateral forces that could displace the patella again. Poulin suffered a similar injury in the past, so itís possible that his knee is just naturally unstable. If thatís the case, the rehab/training will become even more crucial.

Detroitís Brian Rafalski has missed the last six games with back spasms that crept up in late February. Itís not exactly clear what is causing the spasms, but itís likely that Rafalski strained his back somehow. Though Rafalski has missed about two weeks, he is close to returning to the ice. He skated Wednesday and might be able to play in Fridayís game against the Oilers. The Red Wings will not rush Rafalski back, however, so donít be surprised if he gets another couple days off and returns next week.

Tampa Bayís Marc-Andre Bergeron had also been dealing with back spasms, but he returned to the ice last Saturday and has not reported any setbacks since. Consider Bergeron healthy.

Nashvilleís Steve Sullivan underwent groin surgery last week and is expected to be out 4-to-6 weeks. Sullivan attempted to play through the nagging injury for several weeks, but he ultimately decided to go under the knife in an effort to get back to 100 percent. With Nashville in the thick of the playoff race, they may need Sullivan back as soon as possible. However, his timetable makes him a long shot to help your fantasy team any further this season.

Anaheimís Saku Koivu had been dealing with a groin injury of his own since late February, but he was able to return to the ice Wednesday after missing six games. Re-injury is still a concern given the type of injury, but Koivu probably would not have been cleared to play if team doctors were still overly concerned. Keep an eye on Koivuís status over the next few games just to make sure he is back at full health.

Dallasí Nicklas Grossman suffered a hip flexor injury on February 13 that kept him out of action until this point. However, he was able to take part in practice over the last couple days and will play in Fridayís game against the Wild. Grossman is not a key fantasy player, but he will help solidify the Starsí blueline corps.

Defenseman Shane Hnidy has yet to play this season after injuring his shoulder during training camp, but the fact that he signed with the Bruins in late February is a sign he is close to returning. Still, Hnidy is still probably a week or two away from suiting up and wonít do much for your fantasy team once he takes the ice.