PITTSBURGH PENGUINSRED HOT 1st Chair: Sebastien Caron 2nd Chair: Joceyln Thibault, Marc Andre-Fleury? Skinny: Might we see Fleury back in the NHL after all? Mario Lemieux thinks so. According to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Lemieux thinks GM Craig Patrick will find a way to get Fleury back in Pittsburgh. A move would most certainly involve salary dumping elsewhere on the roster, but as we saw with the Sergei Fedorov deal, there are teams willing to take on contracts. Fleury is 10-2 in the AHL with a 1.57 GAA and a .939 save percentage. Penguins' goalies, meanwhile, rank last in the NHL with a 4.13 GAA.
NEW YORK RANGERSRED HOT 1st Chair: Kevin Weekes 2nd Chair: Henrik Lundqvist Skinny: Weekes feared an Achilles injury when he was injured in Thursday's 6-3 win over Atlanta. Not so, says an MRI, which along with X-rays revealed only an ankle contusion. Weekes, who had started eight of 12 games for the Rangers, is considered day-to-day. The injury gives Lundqvist another chance to push for the No. 1 job. He was excellent Saturday, turning away 35 of 37 shots against Alexander Ovechkin and the Caps. Coach Tom Renney still hasn't named a No. 1, so expect to see both get their fair share of starts once Weekes returns.
ATLANTA THRASHERSRED HOT 1st Chair: Michael Garnett 2nd Chair: Adam Berkhoel Skinny: Try to keep up. Veteran Steve Shields returned from a sprained knee Tuesday, only to re-injure it, prompting the team to recall Berkhoel, who is healthy but allowing roughly four goals per game, a season total that is substantially better than the one belonging to Garnett, who has started the team's past two games, presumably keeping the seat warm until Mike Dunham (groin) is ready to come back. Which brings us to the only name that matters: Kari Lehtonen. According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Lehtonen skated without incident at the team's practice facility Saturday. The rookie will reportedly be ready to practice Dec. 7 when Atlanta returns from a West Coast swing.
LOS ANGELES KINGSHOT 1st Chair: Mathieu Garon 2nd Chair: Jason LaBarbera Skinny: LaBarbera made his first start in two weeks Thursday, and allowed four goals on 33 shots in a loss at Nashville. While he was away, Los Angeles caught fire – moving to within three points of struggling Detroit for tops in the Western Conference. Given his first shot at extended action, Garon responded by going 6-1 so far in November with a solid .914 save percentage. Coach Andy Murray has clearly ditched the every-other-game rotation he employed in October. Right now the hot hand rules, and that belongs to Garon.
EDMONTON OILERSHOT 1st Chair: Michael Morrison 2nd Chair: Jussi Markkanen Skinny: Suddenly, Morrison is not only the No. 1 in Edmonton, he's one of the hottest goalies in the NHL. This is the same guy who watched 10 straight games after being called up to serve as Markkanen's backup. In four starts this season, Morrison is 4-0 with a .935 save percentage. Coach Craig MacTavish told the Edmonton Sun that he's going to ride this wave until he sees where it's going. That means Markkanen sits until Morrison cools off.
COLORADO AVALANCHEHOT 1st Chair: David Aebischer 2nd Chair: Peter Budaj Skinny: Coach Joel Quenneville was impressed with Aebischer's 35-save performance in Friday's shutout of Columbus, so he stuck with him Sunday against Vancouver. This after Budaj had started four of the previous five games, winning two. Aebischer was solid again Sunday, turning aside 38 shots to improve to 4-0 against the Canucks his season. Colorado plays on consecutive nights beginning Tuesday at Edmonton. If both goalies get a shot we'll have a good idea about which direction this battle is headed.
ST. LOUIS BLUESHOT 1st Chair: Curtis Sanford 2nd Chair: Patrick Lalime Skinny: If you're starting a St. Louis Blues goalie, you're probably not reading this column. For the record, Sanford has started six straight, losing the past three after a three-game win streak. To listen to coach Mike Kitchen, it may be a while until we see Lalime again. The Blues are entering a peculiar stretch with only two games in the next 11 days. "It's a bad time to go into a slump," Kitchen told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
CAROLINA HURRICANESWARM 1st Chair: Martin Gerber 2nd Chair: Cam Ward Skinny: Carolina cooled off in a hurry. Sunday's loss to Atlanta was the fourth in five games for the Hurricanes. Gerber started against the Thrashers and dropped his third decision in four starts. His save percentage during that stretch is .873. That means we have an opening for Ward, but Cam hasn't played since allowing 12 goals in a five-period stretch ending Nov. 20.
BOSTON BRUINSWARM 1st Chair: Andrew Raycroft 2nd Chair: Hannu Toivonen Skinny: Raycroft insists that he's not down emotionally, but he's at a loss to explain his struggles this year. He has won only four of 16 starts and his stats across all categories have regressed dramatically since his rookie season. Coach Mike Sullivan showed some confidence in his goalie by starting him on back-to-back nights, and though Boston lost, Raycroft was sharp Saturday at Ottawa. Toivonen has been better in November, but just not good enough to force Sullivan's hand.
MINNESOTA WILDWARM 1st Chair: Dwayne Roloson 2nd Chair: Manny Fernandez Skinny: Could Fernandez finally break free of this platoon situation? Unlikely, but it's not out of the question. When asked by the Pioneer Press if he would consider ditching his goalie rotation, coach Jacques Lemaire said, "I would if I felt one of them was struggling. It's possible, sure." Fernandez certainly isn't struggling. He leads the NHL with his .934 save percentage and he ranks second in GAA. Roloson, on the other hand, has accounted for only three of the team's 10 wins. Advantage Fernandez, but both have started five games in November.
BUFFALO SABRESLUKEWARM 1st Chair: Martin Biron 2nd Chair: Mike Noronen Skinny: Biron has wins in five of his last six starts, and he was simply spectacular Friday, stopping 40 of 41 shots in a win over Montreal. Noronen was pretty good too his last time out, but he had to leave Tuesday's game with a groin injury that forced his departure during the deciding shootout. According to various reports, the team is targeting a mid-December return for No. 1 goalie Ryan Miller.
DETROIT RED WINGSLUKEWARM 1st Chair: Manny Legace 2nd Chair: Chris Osgood Skinny: Legace sprained his left knee for the second time this season Friday and was not available when the Red Wings faced San Jose Saturday. According to the Detroit News, Legace was placed on the IR and will be unavailable until the weekend. Osgood filled in Saturday and made some key saves despite allowing six goals to the Sharks.
SAN JOSE SHARKSLUKEWARM 1st Chair: Evgeni Nabokov 2nd Chair: Nolan Schaefer Skinny: San Jose hasn't won a game in regulation in 18 games. Nabokov is winless in November with an .865 save percentage. The problems go deeper than Nabby, but when you're slumping like this and you're backup is 5-1 with a 1.94 GAA, you've got reason to worry.
Welcome back. Here's hoping everyone had a great Thanksgiving holiday, even if that does mean skating a few extra shifts to work off some of that overindulgence. Did you catch the video of the Hanson brothers wreaking havoc on holiday shoppers at Wal-Mart? Who would have thought that trying to find a deal on a plasma TV would be more dangerous than skating into Colorado wearing a Bertuzzi jersey? The Skinny, for one, is glad to have spent the weekend with the Center Ice package rather than searching for holiday bargains. Here's what went down:
WEEKEND UPDATE: Need-to-know info from the past few days
The Skinny is a sucker for defensemen who can score. Sure blue line production is up this year, but it's still a top heavy group. If you don't have Bryan McCabe, Lubomir Visnovsky or one of a small handful of defensemen with 20-plus points, you're probably playing catch-up. Which brings us to an impressive debut. Kurtis Foster, who tallied 15 points in 19 games with Houston in the AHL to earn a promotion, has four points in three games since joining Minnesota. Foster scored two goals in his Wild debut, then had a goal and an assist in 21 minutes of ice time Friday against St. Louis. Suddenly, coach Jacques Lemaire isn't so anxious to get injured rear-guard Andrei Zyuzin back in the lineup.
"Foster was in on five scoring chances," Lemaire told the Minneapolis Star-Tribune. "I don't think since Day 1 we've ever had a defenseman involved in five offensive chances." The 2000 second-round draft pick ranked second in the AHL among defensemen with 17 goals in 2004-05. At 6-foot-5, Foster can move some bodies, too. Since he's inexperienced, Foster is still a gamble, but it's a low-risk one if you're carrying one or more underachieving defensemen.
Line of the weekend honors goes to the Viktor Kozlov- Scott Gomez- Brian Gionta trio in New Jersey. They exploded big time at Tampa Bay's expense Friday, and the enigmatic Kozlov led the way with a goal and four assists. That was a career-best night for the Russian, who remains available in nearly all Yahoo! leagues. He had only three points in his previous eight games, so even considering Friday's outburst, he's a risky play.
More intriguing is Gomez. The Alaska native has five goals and seven assists during his current seven-game point streak. That includes seven points on the power play. Fantasy owners have been understandably bullish on this center lately, but as of Sunday he remained a free agent in more than 30 percent of leagues. Coach Larry Robinson has been all over Gomez this year, and the tactics appears to have motivated the playmaker. This is a line to watch closely as long as Robinson keeps it together.
The view from section 126: The Detroit Red Wings visited San Jose Saturday, which is always an event in the Bay Area. Detroit traditionally rolls out an entertaining product, and Red Wings fans travel well. Saturday was no different. On the ice, the teams traded punches until Detroit was left standing as 7-6 victors. And while the roof came off the Shark Tank after Wayne Primeau's short-handed goal in the third period, the folks from Hockeytown still had their voices heard.
Not much has gone right for the Sharks lately, but the emergence of Grant Stevenson has been a pleasant surprise. He scored a goal Wednesday at Calgary in his first NHL game, then had two assists on Thanksgiving against the Canucks. Saturday coach Ron Wilson had him on the ice during a critical 5-on-3 power play late in the game. The 24-year-old forward came through with a beautiful pass to Marcel Goc for a goal that gave San Jose a brief 6-5 lead. Stevensen, the grandson of Hall of Fame goalie Glenn Hall, had led Cleveland of the AHL in scoring before joining San Jose. Keep an eye on this kid, as San Jose is desperate for a spark.
BARGAIN BIN: Top players available in 50 percent of Yahoo! leagues
Mark Bell, LW, Chi The Mark Bell-Kyle Calder line just won't quit. Even as the Blackhawks have been stymied in their past three games – Chicago was held to a combined four goals in consecutive losses to Vancouver, Los Angeles and Anaheim – these guys are finding a way to make the score sheet. On Sunday, Bell scored Chicago's lone goal to extend his goal streak to six games. Go back a few more games and the four-year vet has nine goals and four assists in his past nine games. In those same games, Calder, a bargain in his own right, has a goal and 10 assists.
MARKET MOVERS: Charting player values
Brad May, LW, Col – The season-ending injury to Steve Konowalchuk creates an opening on Colorado's second line that May will have a shot at filling. He scored his second goal of the season Friday, and snapped off a season-high six shots Sunday against the Canucks. Unfortunately for fantasy owners, he's staying out of the penalty box.
Jason Blake, LW, NYI – The loss of linemate Shawn Bates hasn't done much to slow Blake's scoring pace. Of course, it doesn't hurt that he was promoted to the Isles' top line alongside Alexei Yashin. He scored his third career hat trick Saturday and now has 10 points in his past eight games.
Kyle Wellwood, LW, Tor – Coach Pat Quinn has him on the top line with Mats Sundin and Alex Steen. The line pairing is no lock to stick, reports the Toronto Sun, but short-term this is an opportunity for this dynamic youngster to shine.
Mikael Samuelsson, RW, Det – After eight games without a goal, Samuelsson has rediscovered his scoring touch. He has five goals and two assists in his past five games, including a tally Saturday against the San Jose team that originally drafted him. Random note: he's been even or better in all 25 of his games this season.
Joe Corvo, D, LA – As Lubomir Visnovsky's defense partner, Corvo is generally content to play conservative while Visnovsky jumps into the offensive zone. That changed a bit last week when he scored three goals on 10 shots in a two-game span. That gives him a modest yet productive 10 points in 16 games.
Eric Nickulas, RW, Bos – Saint Nick was on Boston's top line with Joe Thornton Friday and he responded with a goal and an assist. His ice time, however, dropped considerably the next night at Ottawa.
Brian Campbell, D, Buf – Relatively quiet in October, Campbell is having a huge fantasy month, particularly on special teams. He had a goal and an assist Friday against Montreal to raise his November totals to four goals and six assists in 13 games. Eight of those points have come with the man advantage, which explains his minus-8 rating.
Michael Peca, C, Edm – Peca may yet figure it out, but if he's going to do it, it will be from Edmonton's fourth line. He was demoted last week after scoring just one point in all of November.
Ryan Whitney, D, Pit – I hate to say it, as I was such a supporter after his Pens debut, but his production has slipped and he'll lose power-play ice time now that Dick Tarnstrom is back in the lineup.
Petr Sykora, LW, Ana – Keep an eye out for a trade here. Until then, keep him on your bench. Or better yet, cut him.