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NHL Skinny: Masonry

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GOALIE HOT SEAT
LOS ANGELES KINGS RED HOT
1st Chair: Dan Cloutier
2nd Chair: Mathieu Garon
Skinny: Garon started on back-to-back nights to close the week, losing at Dallas, but claiming two points at home against Calgary the next night. Cloutier ranks last in the NHL in both goals against and save percentage among goalies who have played at least 10 games. This would be a slam dunk if not for the $6.2 million the Kings have invested in Cloutier. Garon may well have earned a third straight start, but the organization clearly wants Cloutier to succeed.
ATLANTA THRASHERS RED HOT
1st Chair: Kari Lehtonen
2nd Chair: Johan Hedberg
Skinny: Nice rebound weekend for Lehtonen, who came within 20 seconds of beating Tampa Bay Friday (he lost in overtime) before recording his first shutout since Oct. 9 Saturday against Florida. "We saw the real Kari Lehtonen tonight," coach Bob Hartley told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Hedberg had started six of the previous nine.
ST. LOUIS BLUES RED HOT
1st Chair: Manny Legace
2nd Chair: Curtis Sanford
Skinny: Great weekend for Legace, who got his first win since Nov. 2 on Wednesday, then pulled a Joey Harrington in Detroit Friday and beat his former club, the Red Wings. The Blues have scored a total of three goals in Sanford's four November losses. He deserves better, but it looks like Legace is back behind the wheel.
OTTAWA SENATORS HOT
1st Chair: Ray Emery
2nd Chair: Martin Gerber
Skinny: Emery made his seventh straight start for Ottawa Sunday, and you'll be hard pressed to find a voice in the dressing room willing to speak out in favor of the streak ending. Emery did lose Sunday – it was just his third setback in his last 11 starts – but allowed only three goals while getting almost no support in a setback at Tampa Bay.
CAROLINA HURRICANES HOT
1st Chair: Cam Ward
2nd Chair: John Grahame
Skinny: Grahame started three of five for the Hurricanes during a busy stretch, winning two starts and stopping 90 of 95 shots faced. Ward has allowed four or more goals in three of his last four starts. These are hardly desperate times for Ward, but Grahame is a goalie who is proven to get hot from time to time.
TAMPA BAY LIGHTNING HOT
1st Chair: Johan Holmqvist
2nd Chair: Marc Denis
Skinny: Holmqvist has started five of six for Tampa Bay, his only night off being an unfortunate 7-2 loss at the hands of Buffalo. It's hard to fault Denis for that meltdown, but the fact of the matter is that Holmqvist is giving the Lightning a chance to win every night. He was superb in Tampa's 3-1 win over Ottawa Sunday.
COLORADO AVALANCHE HOT
1st Chair: Jose Theodore
2nd Chair: Peter Budaj
Skinny: Theodore got some extra time with goalies coach Jeff Hackett while Budaj made three straight starts spanning from Nov. 17-20. Coach and pupil agreed that maybe Theodore was thinking too much, so he took the ice Wednesday against Anaheim with a clear head and a mind to challenge shooters. Results so far have been good: 2 wins and 58 saves on 61 shots.
FLORIDA PANTHERS HOT
1st Chair: Ed Belfour
2nd Chair: Alex Auld
Skinny: As expected, Auld was busy during Florida's stretch of four games in six nights. He sandwiched a poor outing (5 goals against vs. Tampa Bay) between a pair of stellar efforts (56 saves on 59 shots vs. Boston and Atlanta). Belfour, meanwhile, has seen his numbers slide across all categories in November.
MONTREAL CANADIENS WARM
1st Chair: Cristobal Huet
2nd Chair: David Aebischer
Skinny: Huet beat Buffalo in overtime Friday to cap a stretch of three straight sparkling starts. The final numbers: 3-0, 1.30 goals-against, .963 save percentage. Coach Guy Carbonneau said he wouldn't let Aebischer rot on the bench and, true to his word, inserted him Saturday against Philadelphia. The loss he suffered to the lowly Flyers won't do much to help Aebischer in this battle.
Who are your favorite draft-day bargains? In the spirit of the season, The Skinny is thankful for the services of Evgeni Malkin (7th round), Jean-Sebastien Giguere (8th round) and Evgeni Nabokov (12th round). That was an early draft, of course. Malkin would never have been available had the Yahoo! Friends and Family draft occurred closer to opening night. Thanks in no small part to those guys, I'm sitting atop the league despite making only two moves (adding Michel Ouellet – who, note to self, I need to cut – and Milan Michalek).

'Tis can be the season for grouchiness, too, however. Yahoo!'s entry in the TalentedMrRoto.com ICE Experts league (hosted on Yahoo!) is floundering in 9th place out of 12 teams. First-round pick (9th overall) Daniel Alfredsson has grossly underachieved. Second-round selection Markus Naslund hasn't been much better. In fact you have to go all the way to the 8th round and Marc-Andre Fleury to find a draft pick that is out-performing his projections. Oh well, there's more than one way to build a fantasy winner. Good drafting is half the battle, but you'd better believe I'll be exhausting my free agent budget in the TMR.com league.

Share your favorite draft stories and we'll include a few in this space next week. On to the update:

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

If you drafted Nashville backup goalie Chris Mason as insurance, give yourself a pat on the back. If you signed him after he shut out Colorado on Nov. 11, consider yourself lucky. And if you've missed the boat entirely, hey, that ship may not have sailed just yet. As of Sunday morning, the Preds' new No. 1 goalie remained available in about 33 percent of Yahoo! leagues. No. 1 for now, that is. In case you missed the news somewhere between plates one and three Thursday, Nashville goalie Tomas Vokoun tore a thumb ligament in a win over Vancouver. According to the Tennessean, Vokoun will undergo surgery Monday. Full recovery time is expected to be six weeks, but he could return much sooner if he can play with a cast or a modified blocker.

You may remember that Mason was one of the league's hottest goalies down the stretch last season. After Vokoun was sidelined with a blood clot, Mason won six of his eight April starts, posting a 1.85 goals against average and a .932 save percentage. The Predators are plenty happy they didn't deal Mason, and they won't run out and rent a new starter with Vokoun on the shelf. Further good news for Mason owners: The Predators' next four opponents have a combined 29-53-8 record. Don't run out and grab call-up Karl Goehring, however. Nashville is expected to swing a deal for an experienced backup.

More goalie news: Anaheim coach Randy Carlyle told the Los Angeles Times that he would be "very surprised" if Jean-Sebastien Giguere wasn't available to the club Tuesday at Edmonton. Giguere sat out Sunday's win over Calgary, and in typical NHL fashion, mystery surrounds the reason for the night off. Several sources Sunday claimed Giguere had a broken finger. Those willing to go on the record flip-flopped between a "lower-body" injury and "wear and tear" as the cause.

Whatever the case, this is a situation worth monitoring. Giguere has proven to be a draft-day steal, as many fantasy insiders had Ilya Bryzgalov ranked higher on draft boards. Bryzgalov is out with what we're being told is a groin injury. With both on the shelf Sunday, rookie Michael Wall made his first NHL start in net and got the win. Obviously if Giguere is out for an extended period, Bryzgalov stands to be the beneficiary when healthy. While Wall could be a valuable short-term add in fantasy circles, there's no way the Ducks don't acquire a veteran starter if both of their top two options are sidelined for a significant period.

Here's your new No. 1 line in Columbus under new hire Ken Hitchcock: Nikolai Zherdev/Sergei Fedorov/Anson Carter. The jury is still out on this trio, but they put on quite a show in Saturday's win over the Wild. Fedorov had two goals and two assists, Carter had a goal and two assists for his first multi-point game of the season and Zherdev contributed a goal and an assist to give him five points in his last four games. Rick Nash played on a line with David Vyborny and Fredrik Modin and registered only one shot on goal in Saturday's win.

Fedorov sure looks like a guy taking the ice with a mandate. After recording just 20 shots on goal in his first 10 games, Fedorov has 19 in two games under Hitchcock. Carter hasn't done anything this year, but as we learned last year when he skated on the Sedin line in Vancouver, he can contribute under the right circumstances. As for Zherdev, he scored 33 points in his last 35 games last season. He's a star in the making. All three players are widely available in Yahoo! leagues. Only Carter is owned in more than 40 percent of pools out there. Keep all three on your radar.

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

  • Kristian Huselius, LW, Cal – He's a three-time 20-goal scorer who has always skated just outside the edge of fantasy relevance. There was promise last year – his 39 points in 54 games with Calgary translates to a 59-point season – but this year started with a seven-game goalless draught. Since then, however, Huselius has nine goals and 12 points in 14 games – More the speed we were expecting from the get-go.

MARKET MOVERS: Charting player values

Rick DiPietro, G, NYI – DiPietro finished a strong homestand with a 3-0 record, a 1.33 goals-against average and a .953 save percentage. He seems to have survived Mike Dunham's challenge.

Peter Schaefer, LW, Ott – Hard to ignore his performance over the last 10 games: four goals, nine assists and four points on the power play.

Erik Christensen, C, Pit – Monday's Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reports that the Penguins will give Christensen a long look at wing once center Sidney Crosby returns to the lineup. Christensen showed some promise in 33 games with the Pens last year, and was leading the club's top developmental affiliate in scoring this year.

Jussi Timonen, D, Phi – Recently recalled from Philadelphia's AHL affiliate, Timonen was immediately partnered with offensive defenseman Joni Pitkanen. The rookie has assists in each of the Flyers' last two games. More importantly for the franchise, both games landed in the win column.

Marc-Edouard Vlasic, D, SJ – It's hard to envision this 19-year-old being a more significant offensive force for the Sharks than fellow blueliners Christian Ehrhoff and Matt Carle, but with a goal and five assists in his last eight games, he's San Jose's most productive defenseman of late.

Jordan Leopold, D, Col – According to the Denver Post, the Avs are targeting Saturday for Leopold's Colorado debut. As stated here last week, he's a talented offensive player worthy of a No. 3 or No. 4 defense slot on fantasy rosters.

Mike Smith, G, Dal – Smith won three straight for the Stars last week, relieving starter Marty Turco Monday, then starting back-to-back games for the first time in his young career. Turco owners need not panic. He spent some extra time with goaltenders coach Andy Moog and has responded well in the past to extended tutelage. If anything the stretch of starts simply established Smith as a viable fantasy No. 3.

Alexander Radulov, RW, Nas – He has three points in two games despite playing only about nine minutes per contest. If this guy ever gets into the 15-17 minute range this season, watch out.

Dustin Brown, LW, LA – From the should-only-get-better files we find Brown, who is regularly the Kings' most impressive forward. Nothing eye-popping yet, but the 22-year-old has at least a point or a penalty minute in six straight and nine of 11 this month.

Freddy Meyer, D, Phi – I took a flyer on this guy in several drafts after he scored 13 points in 24 post-All Star break games. He rewarded me with one point in his first 16 games, but is back on the radar with four points in his last four. Consider him a watch-list candidate only for the short-term.

George Parros, RW, Ana – In keeping with last week's goonery theme, we take a look at Parros, who has dropped the gloves in three straight games. That's all he'll do for you, but there are worse places to look for a quick PIM infusion.

Ladislav Nagy, LW, Pho – He's a notoriously slow starter, yes. So better times should be ahead, but it's hard to snap out of a funk from the press box, and that's where Nagy was sitting as a healthy scratch Saturday. Just 24 hours earlier, coach Wayne Gretzky benched him for the third period of a loss to the Wild. Not a bad time to try to buy low here. His value will never be lower.

Michel Ouellet, RW, Pit – Another guy who has been a healthy scratch of late. The Skinny really likes the kid, but with Ryan Malone due back soon, his role could further diminish.

Manny Fernandez, G, Min – Backup Niklas Backstrom was the fifth-best goalie in fantasy hockey last week. While he's not about to unseat Fernandez – not yet, anyway – the days of Minnesota going with the same goalie for 15 straight are probably over.

Yahoo! Friends and Family League
Insurance policy goalies were all the rage this week as owners snapped up Martin Gerber, Michael Wall, Chris Mason, Mike Smith and Niklas Backstrom. Heading the wrong way on the waiver wire were Dan Cloutier, Shane Doan (a bit of a surprise) and Alexei Kovalev.