Fantasy hockey injury updates: Pacioretty returns, Oettinger back soon

Carter Verhaeghe nets goal vs. Golden Knights (0:40)

Carter Verhaeghe nets goal vs. Golden Knights (0:40)

After making his Washington Capitals debut against the New Jersey Devils on Wednesday, forward Max Pacioretty seemed less than fully satisfied with his first game in nearly a calendar year.

"... At the end of the day it probably couldn't get any worse than it did [Wednesday] for me. So, got to just get better ... I don't think [I] ever really caught up."

A relatively fair self-assessment since the winger registered zero shots on net (one attempt), took a bad tripping penalty, and finished minus-one through less than 12 minutes of ice-time. The six-time 30-plus goal-scorer has certainly enjoyed better outings in his career.

But how about we give him a minute? Again, it's the 35-year-old's first game since blowing out his Achilles for the second time as a member of the Carolina Hurricanes last January. As someone with prospective fantasy interest in the prolific shooter/scorer, I'm mostly thrilled he finished the contest in one piece.

"It's not easy at his age to step back into NHL games, especially against this team that I would argue is one of the fastest in the league," Capitals Coach Spencer Carbery said. "It's going to be a work in progress."

So a little patience please. Allowing Pacioretty the time to develop chemistry with new line mates, get his legs under him, and reclaim that vicious timing could pay off in deeper fantasy leagues. However, by all means, if he's still struggling to find his form wading into late January, rethink matters.

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Other key injury notes from around the league:

The Minnesota Wild: The Wild are banged up bad. Star forward Kirill Kaprizov is expected to miss at least another week with an upper-body ailment. After sustaining a lower-body injury before the New Year, No. 1 netminder Filip Gustavsson is sidelined another two weeks (also at least). Winger Mats Zuccarello remains out until mid-month at minimum, while defenseman Jared Spurgeon lasted all of three games before re-aggravating a lower-body issue. While it's worth waiting it out on Kaprizov and Gustavsson, sit tight otherwise. Backup Marc-Andre Fleury hasn't won a game since taking over. Largely because the Wild aren't scoring.

Logan Couture, F, San Jose Sharks: He's better! He's back to practicing! He hopes to be back with the guys soon! Couture essentially told Sharks reporter Tara Slone as much on Wednesday. Once up to speed, the Sharks captain will provide a significant boost to this struggling San Jose squad as a key member of their top power play and top six. Maybe in a couple of weeks? If your deep-league fantasy squad isn't exactly sizzling, give Couture a gander. There's a good chance he's available.

Kyle Connor, F, Winnipeg Jets: While he's still skating in a non-contact jersey, the Jets' leading goal-scorer (still) looks pretty slick, whipping around the ice. Which feels key, after one suffers a fairly serious knee injury. Connor was initially projected to miss six to eight weeks after he was injured Dec. 10. At this rate, he might be back in five - likely spelling the end of Cole Perfetti's gig in the top-six.

New Jersey Devils: Just as he was showing tangible signs of breaking out of a dreary slump, Timo Meier is sidelined once more with a "medium-body" issue. So far, this sounds like a day-to-day affair. "He's just being evaluated," Coach Lindy Ruff said. "He won't make the trip (to Washington). ... Hopefully, it shouldn't be too long." If invested as a fantasy manager, hang tight for now. The Devils next host the Blackhawks on Friday. It's also worth noting that forward Ondrej Palat is expected to miss the next few games, while defender Dougie Hamilton remains out indefinitely.

If keen on acquiring a fantasy asset from what's been a rather productive Devils team of late, give Dawson Mercer some thought. The 22-year-old - now skating on a scoring line with Nico Hischier - has five goals and three assists in his past six games.

Frederik Andersen, G, Carolina Hurricanes: If all goes well, we could see the Hurricanes netminder back between the pipes within the month. As GM Don Waddell predicted in December, Andersen (blood clots) is now skating regularly. While there's no rushing Andersen's return until he's beyond good and ready, encouraging news all around. More importantly in the here and now, Pyotr Kochetkov is doing a spectacular job in helping Carolina climb back into playoff contention. Only four other NHL goalies have earned more fantasy points in the past month. The best part? Kochetkov remains available in nearly 60% of ESPN.com fantasy leagues.

Jake Oettinger, G, Dallas Stars: According to the Stars' head coach, Oettinger could return sooner rather than later. "A lot of progress. He's been on the ice regularly, doing a little bit more every day," Peter DeBoer said this week. "I wouldn't term him week-to-week, I would start to call it more day-to-day. Everything positive, moving in the right direction." DTD certainly rings more positively than WTW. Scott Wedgewood has been shouldering the goaltending load for the club since Oettinger suffered a lower-body injury in mid-December. Dallas plays six times in the next 10 days.

Anaheim Ducks: Placed on IR with an upper-body injury, Troy Terry could return to Anaheim's lineup as soon as this Sunday versus Detroit. Whether he's ready to go at that point remains to be seen, but the Ducks aren't making noises about the issue being altogether serious. Without Terry, the club's reshuffled top line now includes Trevor Zegras, Adam Henrique, and Max Jones - a unit that doesn't exactly brim with fantasy appeal. Meanwhile, rookie Leo Carlsson remains out at least another week (probably more) after suffering an MCL sprain in December. Fantasy managers might look forward to what Zegras, Terry, and Carlsson can accomplish when all three are back healthy. It's been a while.

Seth Jones, D, Chicago Blackhawks: After suffering a shoulder injury in earlier December, the Blackhawks defender is projected to start skating again in the next few days. Which could herald a return to the ice in the next couple of weeks. At which point he'll reclaim his spot on Chicago's top power play and hopefully score a goal at some point.

Columbus Blue Jackets: If all goes to plan, Boone Jenner (broken jaw) should be back in action in the next couple of weeks. It will be interesting to see how Pascal Vincent jostles his lineup in light of how well Adam Fantilli - rostered in 37.6% of ESPN.com leagues - has performed in that top-line center role (except perhaps this week against Boston). That lineup scene certainly merits monitoring.

Meanwhile, defenseman Damon Severson appears to inherit the top power-play gig from Zach Werenski, who's out until February with an ankle injury. Erratic fantasy asset Patrik Laine (fractured clavicle) is expected to return in and around that same period.

Viktor Arvidsson, F, Los Angeles Kings: Out all season after undergoing back surgery, Arvidsson could return to action not too long after the All-Star Game. John Hoven of Mayor's Manor: "After checking in with our sources over the past few days, from what we understand, Arvidsson is set to start skating on his own shortly. Should everything go as planned, the rough timeline would suggest a potential return to the lineup in mid-February." Definitely keep a view of this timeline, especially if your team competes in a deeper league. The 30-year-old is more than capable of providing some fantasy pop when feeling right.

Adin Hill, G, Vegas Golden Knights: After suffering a setback on Dec. 17, Hill still isn't properly practicing with his squad (at last word). As such, the Knights' crease belongs to Logan Thompson, with Jiri Patera serving as backup, for now. Thompson has been hit-and-miss (more miss) since mid-December, totalling -6.4 fantasy points through his most recent seven appearances. There are more attractive fantasy options available.