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NHL Skinny: Got Goons?

Matt Romig
Yahoo Sports

GOALIE HOT SEAT
TAMPA BAY LIGHTNING RED HOT
1st Chair: Johan Holmqvist
2nd Chair: Marc Denis
Skinny: Holmqvist made his sixth start in eight games Sunday at New York. Before the game, coach John Tortorella credited Denis with being a "competitor," but emphasized that Holmqvist has been the better goalie of late. Holmqvist saw his five-game win streak snapped, but should hold on to No. 1 duties for now.
ATLANTA THRASHERS RED HOT
1st Chair: Kari Lehtonen
2nd Chair: Johan Hedberg
Skinny: "Our job, as an organization, is to give enough rope to let [Lehtonen] grow," coach Bob Hartley recently told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. There's more than one use for a rope, however, and lately you don't want to let Lehtonen out of sight with his. In his past three games he has a woeful .821 save percentage. Hedberg got the start Saturday and was solid in stopping 30 of 32 shots at Montreal.
ST. LOUIS BLUES RED HOT
1st Chair: Curtis Sanford
2nd Chair: Manny Legace
Skinny: Sanford can't stay healthy and Legace can't keep pucks out of the net. You really don't want to touch this situation, but this is an advisory that Sanford is due back this week and will get a chance to reclaim the No. 1 spot.
OTTAWA SENATORS RED HOT
1st Chair: Ray Emery
2nd Chair: Martin Gerber
Skinny: The Sens are now 2-0 against the Sabres and they have Emery to thank for both wins. Shutting down Buffalo is no easy task, but Emery has stopped 50 of 53 shots against the NHL's scoring leaders. Saturday's win was his third start in four days, a clear indication there's been a changing of the guard in Ottawa.
MONTREAL CANADIENS RED HOT
1st Chair: Cristobal Huet
2nd Chair: David Aebischer
Skinny: Though he told the Montreal Gazette that "David won't be two or three weeks on the bench," coach Guy Carbonneau has tossed his two-games-each rotation out the window. Aebischer was pulled from Thursday's game after allowing a soft goal, then watched as Huet stopped 39 of 40 against the high-flying Thrashers. Carbonneau had previously hinted that he'd be willing to ride a hot goalie for a stretch. Now he's got one.
COLORADO AVALANCHE HOT
1st Chair: Jose Theodore
2nd Chair: Peter Budaj
Skinny: Coach Joel Quenneville admitted that Budaj had earned himself a longer look, which should mean a third straight start on Monday. Budaj won back-to-back starts on the road to help snap a four-game losing streak he wasn't responsible for. Theodore owners should seriously consider an insurance pickup here.
FLORIDA PANTHERS HOT
1st Chair: Ed Belfour
2nd Chair: Alex Auld
Skinny: Auld, who hasn't won since Oct. 13, is still in the picture according to coach Jacques Martin. The Panthers begin a stretch of four games in six nights Monday in Boston, and Martin says Auld will start at least one game, possibly two.
NEW YORK RANGERS WARM
1st Chair: Henrik Lundqvist
2nd Chair: Kevin Weekes
Skinny: Lundqvist was a darling at Madison Square Garden last season, posting a 21-6-4 record and a sub-2.00 GAA. This year's performance – just two wins in his first six starts and a 3.54 goals-against – hasn't been met with rave reviews. Sunday's solid effort against Tampa Bay could signal a turnaround, and Lundqvist's numbers are improving in all categories in November. Note of caution to Weekes owners: Coach Tom Renney is considering making Lundqvist his go-to goalie in all games that go to shootouts.
PHILADELPHIA FLYERS WARM
1st Chair: Antero Niittymaki
2nd Chair: Robert Esche
Skinny: A pair of victories in Southern California had this looking like a goalie battle that might matter again entering the weekend. Then the Flyers hit San Jose, Esche hit the wall (again) and fantasy owners got hit with another reminder to stay away from Philly's crease. Esche now has an unthinkable 7.47 goals-against in three November starts. Niittymaki is just 3-9-2 on the season, but is the guy unless the Flyers strike a deal for a netminder.
TORONTO MAPLE LEAFS LUKEWARM
1st Chair: Andrew Raycroft
2nd Chair: Jean-Sebastien Aubin, Mikael Tellqvist
Skinny: According to the Toronto Star, Raycroft is expected to start Monday when the Leafs host the Islanders. As the winner of five straight starts, he has a chance to put a stranglehold on this job. Aubin posted a .928 save percentage in his three November starts and remains a viable fantasy No. 3.
I'll start this week's Skinny with a few quick injury updates. Jordan Leopold is nearing a return from hernia surgery. He's been one of the all-time snake-bit goal scorers, but maybe a change of scenery to Colorado will change all that. He's available in your league and probably worthy of a No. 3 or 4 defense spot. Mats Sundin is ahead of schedule. According to the Toronto Star, he may play Nov. 25 or 28 against Boston. Don't be surprised if Jonathan Cheechoo misses the entire week.

WEEKEND UPDATE: Need-to-know info from the past few days

If fighting in the NHL is dead as everyone claims, then shouldn't those who are willing to drop the gloves be even more valuable than ever? Given that no one category in a fantasy league carries more weight than another, isn't a 200-PIM guy in today's NHL akin to a 40-goal scorer from back in the clutch-and-grab days? I get the argument against carrying goons. Real-life GM's are shying away because of the salary cap. Fantasy GM's are put off because everyone has point-per-game scorers up and down their lineups. Carrying a one-dimensional player, the thinking goes, puts you at a disadvantage in the skill categories.

There are two ways around that problem. First, you can grab a guy that does a little of both. Take Colorado winger Ian Laperriere. He has 10 points on the season. Modest, yes, but he also dropped the gloves in four straight games recently. Not bad. It's actually amazing that Sean Avery is still available in about 75 percent of Yahoo! leagues. He's on pace for right around 200 PIM, but also leads the Kings in shots on goal and has a respectable 15 points. Other candidates for a PIM boost: Ottawa's Chris Neil (52 PIM, 12 points), San Jose's Mark Bell (has to come around offensively … right?) and Dallas' Matthew Barnaby (79 PIM, six points).

Another potentially less risky way to boost your PIM totals is to dedicate your No. 4 defense position to a tough guy. Leagues using the Yahoo! default settings feature 12 teams carrying four defensemen each. That means 48 blueliners will be owned in your league. Scan the defensemen scoring leaders and work your way down to the 48-50 range. There you will find guys like Ian White, Brett Clark and Paul Mara. Would your offensive numbers really take a big hit if you cut one of these guys loose? At best we're talking .5 points per game production from a No. 4 defenseman.

Wouldn't guys like Nick Boynton (4.0 PIM per game), Steve Staois (2.5 PIM per game and nine points for good measure) or Stephane Robidas (2.0 PIM per game) be more valuable as a No. 4? If you want to get really creative, you can visit a site like hockeyfights.com and see who's fighting who. The NHL schedule is a mess, but with division rivals playing eight times a year, it does give guys who don't get along plenty of chances to rub each other the wrong way. Doesn't hurt to make spot acquisitions to take advantage of rematch bouts.

Commit the following Pittsburgh lines to memory: Recchi-Crosby-Armstrong, Talbot-Malkin-Ouellet, Ruutu-Staal-Petrovicky. Got 'em? All three? OK, now forget you ever knew them. That's how things are going these days in Pittsburgh, where coach Michel Therrien constantly tinkers with his lines like a comic prepping for his evening set. For the folks in Mellon Arena, getting comfortable with a line pairing means seeing the same trio on the ice together for back-to-back shifts. Game-to-game, period-to-period, you just never know.

What does this mean for fantasy owners? Well, you need to be ready to change on the fly, too. Colby Armstrong has stuck on the Crosby line for quite a while. The Kid likes playing with Armstrong, even though their chemistry hasn't registered on the scoresheet for Armstrong. If that changes, get ready to buy early. Likewise if Ouellet gets more than just a taste of time alongside Malkin, get ready to pounce. And keep Ryan Malone on your radar. He'll get his cast removed Monday, and could be back in the lineup in early December. Nobody stepped up as a complement to Crosby or Malkin while Malone was on the shelf, so he might just be right back in the mix upon his return.

BARGAIN BIN: Top players available in 50 percent of Yahoo! leagues

  • Shea Weber, D, Nas – In keeping with this week's getting tough theme, we present Weber, Nashville's second-round pick from the 2003 entry draft. Just 21, Weber is on pace for a 50-point season. Last year only 50 blueliners reached the half-century mark. He also doesn't back down from a fight, taking on Laperriere and Bell in recent weeks.

MARKET MOVERS: Charting player values

Zach Parise, LW, NJ – Parise (available in only about 15 percent of Yahoo! leagues) has points in nine of 10, including his first career three-point night Friday. Center Travis Zajac also tallied three points Friday and is worth keeping an eye on.

Chris Campoli, D, NYI – Campoli was a minus-7 during his seven-game conditioning stint in the AHL, so it's not a shock that coach Ted Nolan made him a healthy scratch for three straight after activating the defenseman. Still, he'll get a chance eventually, and after a 35-point rookie campaign merits a No. 4 defenseman shot on most rosters.

Tim Thomas, G, Bos – Look who's back – it's the feel-good-story version of Tim Thomas. After a slow start, the one-time journeyman has turned things around, winning four straight one-goal games while posting a .932 save percentage. He's still available in roughly 48 percent of Yahoo! leagues and is playing like a legit No. 2 fantasy guy for a Bruins team that has quietly inched above the .500 mark.

Braydon Coburn, D, Atl – Simply an advisory here. The Thrashers love this kid, but so far the 6-5, smooth-skating defenseman has averaged about 10 minutes of even-strength time in two games. He'll probably get a ticket back to the AHL when Atlanta's defense gets well, but if he sticks, keep an eye on him.

Phil Kessel, LW, Bos – The addition of left wing eligibility gives his value a huge boost. A brief two-game goal streak was snapped Saturday.

Shawn Horcoff, C, Edm – From the slumps-we-knew-couldn't-last files we find Horcoff, who has a goal and four assists in four games after enduring eight straight games without a point.

Daniel Cleary, LW, Det – He's eligible at both wing positions, which helps. Also helps that's he's kicked up his production (5 goals, 4 assists in 6 games) while playing with offensive-minded forwards Pavel Datsyuk and Mikael Samuelsson.

Nikolai Khabibulin, G, Chi – In two games since being activated from the IR, Khabibulin has stopped 79 of 84 shots. Now is a good buy-low time, as Chicago should only get better as some health issues work themselves out. There's also speculation that through some waiver trickery, the Blackhawks may leave their No. 1 goalie exposed in hopes of getting some of his salary off the books. He's a lot better with a contender.

Yanic Perreault, C, Pho – He's got six goals and an assist during his five-game scoring streak for the injury ravaged Coyotes.

Guillaume Latendresse, RW, Mon – The rookie has really stepped up his production since being inserted into Montreal's top line. The right wing has four goals and two assists in his last six games.

Georges Laraque, RW, Pho – One last sales pitch for a guy with a mean streak. Laraque never topped 30 points in eight seasons in Edmonton, but with Phoenix is on pace for 46 points and 112 penalty minutes. He's actually looked like the Coyotes most active forward at times.

Kyle Calder, LW, Phi – He's still owned in 37 percent of Yahoo! leagues, which is curious considering his minus-14 rating and season-long goalless drought. Calder watched from the press box without a medical excuse in each of the last three games. Time to move on.

John LeClair, LW, Pit – Not that many of you were clinging to the glory days, but time appears to be up for LeClair, who was a healthy scratch Saturday. Ronald Petrovicky took his spot in the lineup and registered two shots on goal.

Yahoo! Friends and Family League
Alexander Frolov's outburst of six goals in three games provided a much-needed boost for team Romig. Goal scoring has been a problem so far this season, but Frolov helped me earn a half a point this week. Hey, gotta start somewhere. Rotowire's Maingot continues to hold the overall lead.