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NHL Skinny: Lightning Crashes

Matt Romig
Yahoo Sports

GOALIE HOT SEAT
PITTSBURGH PENGUINS RED HOT
1st Chair: Jocelyn Thibault
2nd Chair: Sebastien Caron
Skinny: According to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Caron tested his injured quadriceps Saturday and didn't experience any pain. He will continue to practice this week, but since he was placed on injured reserve, his earliest possible return would be Saturday against Philadelphia. Caron had emerged as Pittsburgh's No. 1 goalie prior to the injury, starting five straight games and winning three. Thibault showed signs of life in a shootout win over Montreal and was solid against the Rangers despite losing 6-1. He'll have two more chances to gain a foothold before Caron returns, most likely to the No. 1 chair.
NEW YORK RANGERS RED HOT
1st Chair: Henrik Lundqvist
2nd Chair: Kevin Weekes
Skinny: It's game-to-game right now for coach Tom Renney. Weekes is 3-1 in November with a 1.98 GAA and a solid .924 save percentage. Ditto for Lundqvist, who is 2-0 with an identical save percentage to complement his 2.43 goals-against average. According to the Newark Star-Ledger, Renney was leaning toward splitting starts in Florida between the two goalies. Instead he went with the rookie twice, then came back with Weekes at Pittsburgh. Just goes to show that anything can happen on any night in this battle. Weekes remains a bargain who is available in far more leagues than the ultra-popular rookie.
LOS ANGELES KINGS RED HOT
1st Chair: Mathieu Garon
2nd Chair: Jason LaBarbera
Skinny: Coach Andy Murray isn't dying to name a No. 1 goalie. "I would prefer that we split the whole season, to be honest," Murray told the Los Angeles Daily News that Garon needs to step up to justify the time sharing, and he did just that his last two times out. Making his first start since Oct. 28, Garon stopped 32 of 34 shots in a 4-2 win Friday at Chicago. He followed that with a winning effort against Columbus. Then came news that LaBarbera was taking leave from the team to attend to a family matter. After a phenomenal October, he has very modest numbers this month: Two wins, 3.71 GAA, .878 save percentage. It wouldn't be surprising to see Murray revert back to his every-other game rotation with these two when LaBarbera returns.
ATLANTA THRASHERS RED HOT
1st Chair: Mike Dunham
2nd Chair: Adam Berkhoel
Skinny: Dunham has been solid in four November starts, posting two wins, a 1.76 GAA and a .926 save percentage. Unfortunately, his groin still is not 100 percent. He left Saturday's game after one period as a precaution. Berkhoel took it from there to complete the shutout. The rookie has stopped 48 of 50 shots in two appearances this month. As for rookie Kari Lehtonen, he still is shooting for an early December return. With Atlanta's improved play of late, Dunham is a solid option as a No. 3 goalie.
CAROLINA HURRICANES HOT
1st Chair: Martin Gerber
2nd Chair: Cam Ward
Skinny: There have been 13 shutouts in the NHL this season. The fact that Gerber has two of them in November alone makes him one of the most valuable fantasy goalies of late. He's 3-1 this month with a lofty .950 save percentage. Ward gave up seven goals Saturday in relief of Gerber, who had coughed up two on just three shots before leaving. Ward still has a ton of upside, but he has struggled to stay healthy and Gerber has been too good of late. Given the spate of goalie injuries this year, both Gerber and Ward are worth owning.
ST. LOUIS BLUES HOT
1st Chair: Curtis Sanford
2nd Chair: Patrick Lalime
Skinny: Citing a need for change, coach Mike Kitchen and the Blues promoted Sanford from Peoria and started him in goal Saturday. Predictably, the Blues lost. Sanford was decent, which may earn him another start Wednesday when the Blues travel to Columbus. Lalime had been in goal for eight of the team's 11 straight losses. Recommendation: You don't want to own either of these guys.
MINNESOTA WILD WARM
1st Chair: Dwayne Roloson
2nd Chair: Manny Fernandez
Skinny: No change in this battle. Roloson and Fernandez continue to split time, and both are low-risk starts on any given night. The problem is the Minnesota offense. Top scoring threat Marian Gaborik is out. So are two top centers. The Wild has scored more than three goals just once in the past 11 games. You can keep starting either side of this goalie tandem; just be prepared for some frustrating nights.
BUFFALO SABRES WARM
1st Chair: Martin Biron
2nd Chair: Mika Noronen
Skinny: With Ryan Miller out, Biron has made six starts in November. The results have been ugly: One win, 4.42 GAA, .855 save percentage. Noronen should get at least one start when the team begins a stretch of three games in five days starting Tuesday against New Jersey. Buffalo has lost seven of 10 and they lack a true No. 1 with Miller on the shelf. This position is best avoided entirely in all but the most desperate of situations.
EDMONTON OILERS LUKEWARM
1st Chair: Jussi Markkanen
2nd Chair: Michael Morrison
Skinny: Markkanen continues to silence those critics who believe he's not a true No. 1. Since Ty Conklin played his way out of town, Markkanen has made 13 straight starts for the Oilers, winning six of the past eight. Time for a rest, right? Maybe not. According to the Edmonton Sun, Jussi made 64 consecutive starts for Lada Togliatti of the Russian League during the lockout. In other words: It might be a while until we see Morrison.
DETROIT RED WINGS LUKEWARM
1st Chair: Manny Legace
2nd Chair: Chris Osgood
Skinny: Legace (knee) returned to action Wednesday to similar results. He beat Los Angeles that night and did the same against Minnesota two nights later. Legace now has 12 wins in 14 appearances this season, and he and the Red Wings are showing no signs of slowing down. Osgood was solid in five appearances and the perplexing question is this: Is he worth holding on to? The answer is yes. Coach Mike Babcock has made his philosophy clear: If you play well, you start; if you don't, you sit. That means Osgood still is in the picture, either as injury insurance or as a replacement for Legace should he stumble for a week or so.
VANCOUVER CANUCKS LUKEWARM
1st Chair: Dan Cloutier
2nd Chair: Alexander Auld
Skinny: Coach Marc Crawford continues to get peppered with questions about a goalie controversy that many in the Vancouver area believe is brewing. He'll have none of it. The coach once again asserted that Cloutier is his No. 1 goalie and accused reporters of trying to stir up trouble. Auld did his part to defuse things by losing his third straight start Thursday. Cloutier dressed for that game but served as Auld's backup as he continues to recover from a concussion suffered in October.
In 2003-04, 10 NHL scoring leaders averaged a point per game. That's assuming you count Peter Forsberg, who appeared in only 39 games for Colorado that year. That's 10 point-per-game scorers for your entire league to fight over. I just checked the available player list in one of my leagues, and there were at least that many available as free agents. OK, so it was a nine-team league, but the point remains: It's time to reexamine how we evaluate our fantasy rosters. With 15 points in 18 games, Eric Lindros no longer is the steal of your draft. You can't look at that and say, "I can't ask for more than that." You can. Craig Conroy is better. Henrik Sedin is coming on. Heck, Michael Cammalleri might outscore Lindros. That's not to say you need to cut loose everyone not on an 82-point pace. Just don't get complacent when you scan your rosters and see some familiar numbers. Those won't cut it anymore.

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

What a slide it's been for the Tampa Bay Lightning. Since hoisting the Cup in 2004, the team has endured a year-long wait for a proper ring ceremony, the misfortune of seeing its ping-pong ball selected first (worst) at the draft lottery and now the loss of the reigning NHL MVP. Sure Martin St. Louis will only be gone 2-4 weeks, but it's just starting to feel like a lost season for the Bolts. In case you haven't heard, St. Louis was struck by a Darryl Sydor slap shot in practice Sunday, and the resulting finger injuries will sideline the star winger for 10-14 days. First the slow start; now this. The injury certainly won't help Brad Richards' value in the short-term, but someone will get a temporary promotion to the top line. According to the Tampa Tribune, coach John Tortorella will move either Dmitry Afanasenkov or Evgeny Artyukhin to the right wing opposite Richards and Fredrik Modin. Neither player has had an impact fantasy season, but it will be interesting to watch how they perform in a high-profile role.
Slava Kozlov scored five points in October and struggled along with the rest of his Atlanta Thrashers teammates. Then it was suggested that he move to center to replace the injured Patrik Stefan. He fought the move. Perhaps team officials didn't clearly explain that moving to center would mean lining up with Ilya Kovalchuk and Marian Hossa on his wings. He eventually accepted the move, and his fantasy value has skyrocketed. Kozlov assisted on two goals in Saturday's 9-0 win to extend his scoring streak to a team-record nine games. In all he has three goals and 11 assists in those games. There has been a free agency run on him of late in fantasy leagues but you might just find him available, and left wing eligibility is a plus.
More bad news on the injury front: Montreal winger Alexei Kovalev is expected to undergo knee surgery Tuesday, a procedure that will sideline the team's second-leading scorer for 3-4 weeks. The injury occurred Saturday after Kovalev notched a goal and an assist against Toronto. No word yet on who might take his place on Montreal's top even-strength and power-play lines, but we'll know soon enough as the Canadiens face Florida Tuesday.

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

  • Peter Schaefer, LW, Ott
    The Jason Spezza-Dany Heatley line isn't the only Ottawa unit making life miserable for opponents. Schaefer and Martin Havlat have become a solid complementary scoring tandem for the Senators. Schaefer has five assists – all on Havlat goals – in five November games. This while accumulating a plus-7 rating, eight penalty minutes and a goal this month.

MARKET MOVERS: Charting player values

Derek Roy, C, Buf – Desperate to find a line combination that works for co-captain Chris Drury, coach Lindy Ruff had Roy centering a line with Drury and Ales Kotalik last week. Roy scored his first goal of the season on four shots in Saturday's loss at Ottawa.

Alexander Steen, C, Tor – He has six points in six November games and is averaging a robust 3.4 shots per game. Fellow Leafs rookie Kyle Wellwood also is averaging a point per game in his past four.

Dominic Moore, C, NYR – The Harvard grad is centering the HMO line between wingers Ryan Hollweg and Jed Ortmeyer. Moore scored twice Thursday and now has five goals and a plus-4 rating in his past eight games.

Andrei Markov, D, Mon – Markov scored his second goal of the season Saturday to extend his point streak to six games (2 goals, 6 assists). The 26-year old also has 18 penalty minutes this month.

Alexei Zhamnov, C, Bos – So far it's his mere presence on the ice, and not his contribution on the score sheet, that is boosting his fantasy value. Zhamnov played point on the power play Thursday and centered Patrice Bergeron and Shawn McEachern in his first game since training camp.

Mike Comrie, C, Pho – He took a lot of heat after starting the season with just two points and a minus-4 rating in the season's first five games, but he's rebounded nicely. Comrie has six goals, six assists and a plus-5 rating since Oct. 20.

Scott Hartnell, LW, Nas – Life on Nashville's top line started slowly for this gritty forward, but he's found his scoring touch of late. He scored two goals Saturday, giving him three goals and two assists in his past three games.

Jeff Carter, C, Phi – Last week's Bargain Bin selection keeps maturing. The rookie scored short-handed Saturday to follow up his three-point effort Thursday against the Islanders.

Steve Reinprecht, C, Cal – He's making the most of his time on special teams, notching at least one point on the power play in each of his past three games. In all, he has eight points in Calgary's past three games.

Andy McDonald, C, Ana – His goal-scoring binge officially over, McDonald now is struggling just to score a point. Sunday was his fifth straight game without showing up on the score sheet.

Patrick Marleau, C, SJ – He has just two points in November as the Sharks have failed to score more than two goals in four of five games.

Steve Eminger, D, Was – It was a nice run in October, but all he has to show for six games this month are two assists and a minus-6 rating.