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NHL Skinny: Second Lines

Matt Romig
Yahoo Sports

GOALIE HOT SEAT
OTTAWA SENATORS RED HOT
1st Chair: Martin Gerber
2nd Chair: Ray Emery
Skinny: While admitting a bit of guess work, the Ottawa Citizen is predicting that Gerber will start Tuesday in Toronto. This despite a sparkling 34-save effort from Emery in Saturday's 8-1 win over New Jersey. Both goalies have appeared in four games this season. If Gerber does in fact get the nod against the Maple Leafs, it will be further evidence that the Sens feel he's the guy that can lead them deep into the playoffs. Emery is still a solid No. 3 fantasy goalie option.
BOSTON BRUINS RED HOT
1st Chair: Hannu Toivonen
2nd Chair: Tim Thomas
Skinny: We're inching toward none-of-the-above territory here. Toivonen made his third consecutive start Saturday, but for the second weekend in a row allowed a couple of soft goals in a Boston loss. The latest setback drew the ire of general manager Peter Chiarelli. Might a trade be in the works? "At this point I can't say for sure," Chiarelli told the Boston Herald. "But that would be the logical thing if [the goalie play] doesn't get any better." Thomas relieved Toivonen in Saturday's loss but allowed two goals on 13 shots.
MONTREAL CANADIENS RED HOT
1st Chair: David Aebischer
2nd Chair: Cristobal Huet
Skinny: Aebischer flopped Saturday in a matchup against the goalie he was traded for last season, but still managed a win over Colorado and Jose Theodore. Give him credit for stopping 11 of 12 shots in the final period as Montreal rallied. Still no official announcement from coach Guy Carbonneau, but it's telling that Aebischer was given back-to-back starts even after Huet notched his first win of the season.
ANAHEIM MIGHTY DUCKS HOT
1st Chair: Jean-Sebastien Giguere
2nd Chair: Ilya Bryzgalov
Skinny: Giguere was a risky pick on draft day, but so far he has paid dividends by ranking fourth in goals-against average, fourth in save percentage and fifth in wins. Bryzgalov hasn't been too shabby, but unlike the fixed rotation in San Jose, Anaheim coach Randy Carlyle seems plenty willing to stick with the hot hand. Right now that belongs to Giguere, so adjust your lineup accordingly.
SAN JOSE SHARKS HOT
1st Chair: Evgeni Nabokov
2nd Chair: Vesa Toskala
Skinny: Nabokov has two shutouts to his credit but is also responsible for San Jose's worst two statistical efforts of the season. Toskala extended his regular-season win streak to 11 games with Thursday's win over the Red Wings. In the week ahead, Toskala draws Columbus (Monday) and Nashville (Thursday) while Nabokov gets Detroit (Wednesday) and Tampa Bay (Sunday). The Sharks are committed to their every-other-game goalie rotation and only a prolonged slump (or a trade) will break the cycle.
PHILADELPHIA FLYERS WARM
1st Chair: Antero Niittymaki
2nd Chair: Robert Esche
Skinny: Don't expect the coaching change in Philadelphia to change Esche's fortunes. Niittymaki won 33 games with six shutouts and a 2.07 goals-against average for the Philadelphia Phantoms in 2004-05. That team won the Calder Cup and was coached by John Stevens, who took over head coaching duties for the Flyers when Ken Hitchcock was canned Sunday. Both goalies have been bad, but Esche has been much worse and Niittymaki has the edge of being a Stevens guy.
LOS ANGELES KINGS WARM
1st Chair: Dan Cloutier
2nd Chair: Mathieu Garon
Skinny: If coach Marc Crawford is true to his word, Cloutier will start three of the next four games for the Kings. With a stretch of five games in seven days beginning Sunday, the coach told the Los Angeles Times that Cloutier would start three games and Garon two. Garon got one of his starts Sunday, probably a reward for his 40-save shutout of Phoenix on Thursday. A nice night was spoiled when he allowed a soft Dustin Penner goal late in the third period of an eventual shootout loss.
CHICAGO BLACKHAWKS WARM
1st Chair: Brian Boucher
2nd Chair: Sebastien Caron
Skinny: Starter Nikolai Khabibulin broke his finger during warm-ups for Saturday's game and will miss at least 10 days, the Chicago Tribune reported Sunday. Ineffective in his first two starts, Boucher should get the call Wednesday when Chicago hosts Vancouver. Caron was summoned from Norfolk of the AHL to take Khabibulin's roster spot.
NEW YORK ISLANDERS LUKEWARM
1st Chair: Rick DiPietro
2nd Chair: Mike Dunham
Skinny: DiPietro notched his first win of the season Saturday, a 37-save effort against the defending champion Hurricanes. Dunham alternated between solid and spectacular in four starts, earning the Islanders six of a possible eight points.
Since The Skinny last toured the NHL, the Philadelphia Flyers waived three players, lost three games, forced their general manager to retire due to burnout and fired a coach who just a month earlier signed a contract extension. And you thought you had problems because Michael Handzus left a hole in your lineup and you can't figure out what to do with Wade Redden.

With all due respect to Flyers management, now isn't the time to panic. You don't drop Alex Tanguay to waivers or deal Miikka Kiprusoff to "upgrade" at goal. Unless, that is, you also preach a "sell low" philosophy to your 401k manager. Tinker, yes. Blow up? No. Not yet, anyway. More on the Flyers' mess and other musings in our weekly fantasy hockey roundup:

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

It's time to give up on Pittsburgh forward Ryan Malone. Wait, none of you took the bait in the first place? Now that's good discipline, folks. Scanning the ownership data for Yahoo! leagues, Malone is watching from the press box in all but about two percent of leagues. That's right about where he belongs, playing on Evgeni Malkin's wing or not. The Penguins left wing did one positive thing for fantasy owners in seven games, and that was instigate a fight with Rostislav Klesla in Saturday's win over Columbus. Malone earned 17 penalty minutes and a trip to the IR with a broken forearm. And all for what? He was sticking up for teammate Sidney Crosby, which is honorable enough, but replays seemed to indicate that it was Sid the Kid who left his skates making a run at Klesla. Oh well.

So who benefits while Malone sits for 4-6 weeks? One deserving beneficiary could be Michel Ouellet. He's off to a nice start – seven points in seven games and a spot alongside Crosby and Malkin on Pittsburgh's No. 1 power-play unit – despite playing in the 12-13 minute range for most of the season. Those minutes should be on the rise, along with his even-strength ice team with one of the big two centers. Ouellet is a free agent in all but a small fraction of leagues and should produce numbers justifying a spot as a No. 2 right wing. His play begged for more ice time even before the Malone injury.

Second scoring lines are all the rage so far this season. The first to emerge was San Jose's "heavyweight line," a trio of forwards with 747 bodies, but Gulf Stream grace. Center Patrick Marleau, who hit double-digit points Saturday, and winger Milan Michalek, the team leader in goals with six, have already been snapped up in most Yahoo! leagues. Steve Bernier has struggled lately with just one point in four games, but remains a potential bargain with seven points in eight games.

The next to tip the fantasy scales was Buffalo's No. 2 line, even if only one member weighs in at over 200 pounds. You've already missed the boat on Maxim Afinogenov (12 points in eight games), but you may still have a shot at Thomas Vanek (12 points) or center Derek Roy (5 points/last 3 games). Vanek has been snapped up in all but about 20 percent of leagues and that number should dwindle rapidly. Given the depth at center, Roy can be had for a song in just about every league. Buffalo has averaged nearly seven goals per game in their last four and the club is showing no signs of slowing.

Line changes: Previously dormant winger Raffi Torres should land a spot on one of Edmonton's scoring lines after the injury to Ethan Moreau, the Edmonton Journal reports. … Markus Naslund was off the Sedin line in Vancouver – at least for Saturday. Jan Bulis centered Naslund against Nashville and enjoyed his first two-point night of the season. … Brandon Bochenski played on Chicago's top line Saturday with Martin Havlat out of the lineup.

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

  • Ryan Whitney, D, Pit – Whitney is a skilled young defenseman with a 100-PIM mean streak. He's also part of Pittsburgh's No. 1 power-play unit, which means he can fall out of bed and land on a special teams point or two. Saturday he was on the ice for 9:24 of Pittsburgh's 14:57 power-play time. He assisted on a man-advantage goal for the second straight game and now has two goals and four assists in Pittsburgh's last four games. Available in roughly 65 percent of Yahoo! leagues, he should outperform most No. 2 fantasy defensemen the rest of the way.

MARKET MOVERS: Charting player values

Nikita Alexeev, RW, TB – He's already on a three-game goal streak and five-game point streak (4 goals, 2 assists), and his profile should continue to rise now that top-scorer Ryan Craig is out with a sprained knee. His two-goal effort Saturday came on a night he played a season-high 18 minutes.

Gilbert Brule, C, Clb – Not much has turned up on the score sheet yet, but Brule – rumored earlier to be ticketed for juniors – found himself centering Rick Nash and David Vyborny Saturday against Pittsburgh. The rookie scored his first NHL goal in 17:37 of ice time. Coach Gerard Gellant liked what he saw, so much so that he's keeping Brule with Nash and Vyborny Monday, even with Sergei Fedorov back in the lineup.

Ryan Shannon, C, Ana – Truth be told, there are too many productive centers out there for Shannon to really make an impact. But if he gains wing eligibility – he's played recently alongside centers Andy McDonald and Todd Marchant – this crafty forward could prove valuable in deeper leagues. The rookie had a goal and an assist Sunday in nearly 15 minutes of ice time.

Phil Kessel, C, Bos – The 18-year-old rookie had himself a new line assignment for Thursday's home opener, joining fellow wing Glen Murray on Patrice Bergeron's line. He scored his first NHL goal two nights later, meaning that more production – along with the juicy addition of wing eligibility – could be on the way.

Lasse Kukkonen, D, Chi – Last week The Skinny downgraded Blackhawks defenseman Brent Seabrook after coach Trent Yawney slapped the No. 2 power play tag on the duo of Duncan Keith and Jim Vandermeer. Well, Seabrook got his power-play time back, but the real fantasy beneficiary so far has been partner Lasse Kukkonen, who has two goals and five points in Chicago's last four games.

Alexander Radulov, RW, Nas – Radulov can score. He piled up 152 points in 62 games in his final season of juniors. He was a monster in just three games with Milwaukee of the AHL this year, scoring three goals to complement four assists, a plus-3 rating and eight penalty minutes. With Nashville struggling with injuries, the 20-year-old Russian was recalled. He didn't score in just over seven minutes of ice time in his debut.

Joe Corvo, D, Ott – Corvo led all Ottawa skaters in power-play ice time Saturday. Playing just his second game of the season, the defenseman recorded a goal and an assist.

Jason Blake, LW, NYI – Things continue to go well for Blake while playing alongside Alexei Yashin and Viktor Kozlov. He just missed out on Bargain Bin eligibility – he's owned in 57 percent of Yahoo! leagues – but he's still worth a look with four goals and five points in his last four games.

Glen Murray, RW, Bos – Murray, a former 40-goal scorer, had his first multi-goal game since November in Thursday's win over Calgary. Rumors are swirling that he may be dealt to San Jose in exchange for goalie Evgeni Nabokov. The Sharks are already loaded at forward, but the move would reunite Murray with former linemate Joe Thornton and allow the Sharks to promote prospect Nolan Schaefer.

Radim Vrbata, RW, Chi – Last week Vrbata found himself promoted to Chicago's top line. This week he saw that line disintegrate around him. First fellow Czech Martin Havlat injured his ankle. He'll miss at least a month. Now TSN.ca is reporting that center Michal Handzus may have suffered a season-ending knee injury in Saturday's loss. Vrbata is still destined for a breakout year, but it's time to adjust the ceiling downward a bit.

Brenden Morrow, RW, Dal – Morrow is on pace for a 120-minute drop in penalty production in 2006-07, and it's no accident. "It (last season's penalty-minute total) was something I was really disappointed in myself about, so I wanted to change," Morrow recently told the Dallas Morning News. Morrow is also on pace to shatter last season's career-best 65-point output, but if he's your primary PIM source, you should consider other arrangements.

Sergei Fedorov, C, Clb – He's been cleared to play, which is good. But Monday the Columbus Dispatch reported that Fedorov will center a line featuring Fredrik Modin and Nikolai Zherdev on his wings. Much of Fedorov's pre-season value was tied to his pairing with potential 50-goal scorer Rick Nash.

Yahoo! Friends and Family League
Team Romig is holding strong in first place behind the return of Malkin and another solid week for Anaheim's goalie platoon. Pickups last week included Martin Erat, Thomas Vanek and Ray Whitney.

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