On Sunday, the Chicago Blackhawks suffered what could become a devastating injury on their blue line when Brian Campbell was hit from behind by Alex Ovechkin early in the first period. Campbell remained on the ice for some time before being helped to the dressing room.
Ovechkin received a five minute penalty for boarding and his fourth game misconduct of the season for the hit. Washington came back to win the game with three goals in the third period and one in overtime, stealing two points from the Blackhawks 4-3.
The loss of Campbell for any amount of time could be devastating to the Blackhawks, and could hurt your fantasy team even if you don't own him.
Campbell had been playing at a high level all season, averaging 23:30 on ice (third on the Blackhawks, two seconds behind Brent Seabrook for second) and had scored 38 points (7 G, 31 A). His +17 rating was one of the best of his career, and ranks among the best for defensemen in the NHL.
Taking Campbell off your fantasy roster for some time will likely mean you will need to, somehow, replace one of your top two defensemen. That's not likely going to happen easily, sorry to say. At this point in the season, finding a sleeper to give you the production a player like Campbell has all season is hard to do. For a few ideas, check out our Defense Rankings.
However, the indirect impact could hammer owners of other Blackhawks' defensemen.
Duncan Keith played over 34 minutes on Sunday, and Seabrook has also been putting in too many minutes lately. Considering that Kim Johnsson, acquired from Minnesota before the Olympics, also missed Sunday's game with an upper body injury, the Hawks could be working with a seriously thin blue line against some good offensive teams in the next week. Wednesday Chicago visits the Anaheim Ducks before travelling to the LA Kings and Phoenix Coyotes.
Campbell has already been ruled out for the three-game trip, according to Chicago coach Joel Quenneville after the game Sunday.
This means that either Jordan Hendry and Brent Sopelwill continue to see more minutes than normal (or comfortable for Chicago fans), or the Blackhawks might need to consider bringing a defenseman up from Rockford. The most likely candidate would be Nick Boynton, acquired in a minor deal at the trade deadline.
Adding a player like Boynton presents other issues for the Blackhawks. With centers Dave Bolland and Adam Burishcoming back from long-term injuries, the Hawks are now scratching two healthy forwards for every game. Adding another defenseman to the roster puts the Blackhawks not only at their maximum number of players on the active roster (potentially scratching three per game), but also put them dangerously close to the salary cap.
How the entire situation shakes down in Chicago could be a mess.
However, fantasy owners should be carefully watching a number of pieces to this puzzle.
First, watch for a formal announcement on Campbell's injury (we'll update you here on FantasyKnuckleheads when that happens).
Secondly, owners of Keith, Seabrook, and Niklas Hjalmarssonshould do what the Blackhawks cannot afford to do and consider sitting them. These three will be playing a lot of heavy minutes and they've already shown signs of fatigue.
Third, if you own either Cristobal Huet or Antti Niemi, make sure you're heavily medicated.
Overall, this injury could be a deal-breaker for the Blackhawks and your fantasy team in the playoffs.