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NHL Skinny: New Look Islanders

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GOALIE HOT SEAT
SAN JOSE SHARKS RED HOT
1st Chair: Vesa Toskala
2nd Chair: Evgeni Nabokov
Skinny: Nabokov had the unenviable task of facing the Red Wings in Detroit in his last start. San Jose never wins there, and the result was no different Thursday. Coach Ron Wilson told the San Jose Mercury News that he'd probably bounce right back with Toskala Saturday and he followed that plan. That plan resulted in back-to-back wins for the Sharks. Toskala has now won seven of his past eight starts and Nabokov's struggles continue. Vesa, by the way, is a free agent in roughly half of Yahoo! leagues.
PHILADELPHIA FLYERS RED HOT
1st Chair: Antero Niittymaki
2nd Chair: Robert Esche
Skinny: Coach Ken Hitchcock says he'll name his starter for the playoffs when he's "good and ready." That's not much help for fantasy owners who, until Hitchcock makes up his mind, have to treat this goalie battle like an injury – it's day-to-day. Niittymaki's recent numbers make him the favorite. He is 3-0 with a .929 save percentage in his past three starts and Hitchcock, like many coaches, has been known to play the hot hand. And for what it's worth, Esche told the Philadelphia Daily News that he thinks Niittymaki will be named starter.
PHOENIX COYOTES RED HOT
1st Chair: Vacant
2nd Chair: Curtis Joseph, David LeNeveu, Philippe Sauve
Skinny: The Arizona Republic asked coach Wayne Gretzky how he'd distribute starts down the stretch, but the "Great One" didn't have an answer. LeNeveu made back-to-back starts to close the week and is regarded as the team's goalie of the future. He wasn't all that sharp Saturday, which leaves the door open for either Joseph or Sauve to start Tuesday.
TORONTO MAPLE LEAFS WARM
1st Chair: Mikael Tellqvist
2nd Chair: Jean-Sebastien Aubin
Skinny: Ed Belfour is likely done for the year. Back problems appear to have ended his season and likely his career with the Maple Leafs. This is the opening Tellqvist owners have been waiting for, but so far the rookie has struggled carrying the load. In 10 critical March starts, he has just four wins and a 3.32 goals-against average. Aubin, who was Pittsburgh's No. 1 in 1999-2000, backstopped Toronto's win Sunday. He played well, but was just in there to get Tellqvist some rest.
MONTREAL CANADIENS LUKEWARM
1st Chair: Cristobal Huet
2nd Chair: David Aebischer
Skinny: Aebischer got his first win in a Montreal uniform Sunday, but in the process he allowed five goals for a third straight start. Huet, meanwhile, solidified his hold on the No. 1 job with wins in back-to-back games against Toronto. It's safe to cut Aebischer loose at this time. Montreal plays on back-to-back nights just once the rest of the way, so the Canadiens can focus on keeping Huet sharp for the playoffs.
EDMONTON OILERS LUKEWARM
1st Chair: Dwayne Roloson
2nd Chair: Ty Conklin, Jussi Markkanen
Skinny: Edmonton threw fantasy owners a curve ball Sunday, starting Roloson after they had sent Conklin to Denver early, presumably to be ready for a start against the Avalanche. No word yet on what prompted the change of heart, but Roloson was sharp again despite making his third start in four nights.
COLUMBUS BLUE JACKETS LUKEWARM
1st Chair: Vacant
2nd Chair: Pascal Leclaire, Marc Denis
Skinny: Denis gets the favorable matchup this week. He beat Calgary his last time out and should draw Chicago Saturday after a tougher matchup Tuesday against San Jose. Leclaire was a surprise winner against Detroit Saturday. Fans of the spot start might want to give him a shot Friday at St. Louis.
Just three full weeks remain in the fantasy hockey season. Remember to maximize your production between now and the end of the regular season on April 18. If you're ahead of the games-played pace at a position in a rotisserie league, play the guy most likely to help you in the categories you most need. If you're behind the pace, make a depth add to give yourself more roster flexibility down the stretch. And now may not be the best time to keep a guy like Alex Tanguay on your roster. Sure he may return for a week at the end of the season, but you don't want to leave all those points on the table by falling woefully short of the games-played pace at a position.

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

That other team in New York could easily go by the name New Look Islanders. Though realistically out of the playoff chase, the Isles are clinging to hopes. And they're pinning those hopes on the play of a couple of rookies. Left wing Sean Bergenheim is a guy to keep an eye on – if not for the stretch run this year, then as a sleeper pick in the fall. The 2002 first-round draft pick is riding a three-game goal scoring streak, and has been called for four minor penalties in the past four games.

While those costly penalties probably aren't helping out New York's playoff chances, every little bit counts in fantasy leagues. Back in Bridgeport Sound of the AHL, Bergenheim scored nearly a point per game while racking up 112 penalty minutes. He seems to have brought that mix of grit and grace to the big club. Fellow rookie Robert Nilsson has spent more time with the Islanders, but is just recently stepping up the production. The center is riding a four-game point streak (one goal, four assists) and figures to continue playing a key role in the team's rebuilding movement.

Last week in this space, we featured the Patrick Marleau-Milan Michalek-Steve Bernier line, San Jose's second scoring unit that has taken some of the scoring load off the Sharks' top line. Don't forget those guys. Bernier scored again Sunday, Michalek netted a game-winner Saturday and Marleau, well, we know what he can do. But this week we turn the spotlight on another support line, this one in Philadelphia – Niko Dimitrakos, Jeff Carter and R.J. Umberger have played their way into fantasy relevance.

Let's start with Carter. His goal Saturday was his fifth in six games. Carter was a draft-day sleeper when it appeared that he would center Peter Forsberg. That didn't work out, but the Flyers are starting to get the kind of production they were expecting from the rookie, even as he plays little more than 10 minutes per game. Dimitrakos has brought speed to that line, and while his fantasy numbers aren't great, he could be due for a breakout. Umberger has two goals, three assists and a plus-7 rating in his past six games.

Line changes: Pittsburgh's top line has yet another new look. According to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Andy Hilbert has joined Colby Armstrong as a wing on Sidney Crosby's line. Armstrong had two goals Sunday and Hilbert has a modest two-game point streak. … Alexandre Picard has joined Sergei Fedorov on Columbus' top line, the Calgary Sun reports. The 2004 first-round draft pick has just one shot on goal in four games this month. Rick Nash was paired with David Vyborny and Jan Hrdina as part of the shakeup. … Steve Yzerman has a four-game point streak, a boost in production that followed his move to left wing on a line with Robert Lang and Jason Williams. … Healthy again, Gary Roberts is back on Florida's top line with Olli Jokinen and Jozef Stumpel. Roberts has three assists in three games since his return.

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

  • Mike Sillinger, RW, Nas
    With Sillinger, the number that jumps out at you is the minus-15 rating. When every rotisserie point is critical, now is not the time to poison your roster with a guy who can kill you in a category. But with Sillinger, you have to remember that he spent a good part of the season with St. Louis, the minus capital of the NHL. In March, his first full months with the Preds, the right wing has two goals, 11 assists and a plus-6 rating in 13 games.

MARKET MOVERS: Charting player values

Tom Preissing, D, SJ – There's a lot to like about Preissing from a fantasy perspective. He's a plus-7 in the month of March and lately has been filling up the score sheet in other categories – four goals, four assists in seven games. For a deeper reach, take a look at teammate Matt Carle, a Hobey Baker finalist who scored a goal Saturday in his first NHL game.

Noah Welch, D, Pit – Pittsburgh's top defensive prospect finally got the call after recording 26 points and 81 penalty minutes in 68 games with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton of the AHL. Penguins defensemen have been plus/minus killers this year, but Welch is off to a good start with a goal, two assists and a plus-3 rating in his first two NHL games.

Dainius Zubrus, RW, Was – The Washington roster may be the last place you'd think to turn to for rotisserie help, but Zubrus is actually a top-10 fantasy right wing over the past month. He had a seven-game point streak earlier in the month and, with a goal Saturday, now has four goals, 10 assists and 10 penalty minutes in 13 March games.

Jozef Stumpel, C, Fla – Just a reminder: Stumpel has seven goals, 16 assists and a plus-12 rating in his past 15 games. He was a bargain-binner here a few weeks ago, and remains eligible as a guy owned in only 18 percent of Yahoo! leagues.

Alexander Frolov, LW, LA – Long-term injury issues forced Frolov to the waiver wire in about 20 percent of Yahoo! leagues. Give it a look. Frolov returned to the Kings' lineup Saturday with three-point night that included the game-winning goal.

Brad Boyes, C, Bos & ndash; Most fantasy owners feel pretty secure at center, which is why Boyes has slipped through the cracks and remained available in 85 percent of Yahoo! leagues. Dating back to Jan. 19, Boyes has points in 23 of 27 games, a streak that features eight multi-point games. Boyes is a solid depth add if you're behind the games-played pace at center, and you won't find a better injury replacement.

Josh Gratton, LW, Pho – Wayne Gretzky, perhaps more than any other NHL coach, should appreciate what a good enforcer brings to a roster. Gratton was acquired from Philadelphia on deadline day, and the tough guy already has two fights and 12 penalty minutes in two games with Phoenix. Give him a look if you need PIMs.

Ryan Malone, LW, Pit – If you haven't seen Malone's end-to-end rush for a goal against the Islanders Friday, do yourself a favor and visit Pittsburgh's team page and click the video icon. After you've done that, give his recent fantasy production a look. Malone has five goals, eight assists and 17 penalty minutes in 12 March games.

Michael Nylander, C, NYR – Nylander has been underappreciated all season. Lately, he's making fantasy owners pay for overlooking him. In his past seven games, Nylander has four goals, 10 assists, a plus-5 rating and 10 penalty minutes.

Martin Rucinsky, LW, NYR – Unfortunately, it's time to cut him loose. Rucinsky will miss the remainder of the regular season with a broken finger.

Ryan Miller, G, Buf – We still love this guy, but whether you can put him in your lineup day-to-day is questionable now that he's completed a full month with a goals-against average of about 3.00 and a save percentage below .900.

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