NHL Skinny: Stars on ice

Matt Romig
Yahoo Sports

GOALIE HOT SEAT

MONTREAL CANADIENS RED HOT
1st Chair: Jaroslav Halak(notes)
2nd Chair: Carey Price(notes)
Skinny: Halak has won five of six, but in his last two starts is 1-1 with a 4.57 GAA and .849 save percentage. Price is coming off his best start since opening week, but the knock on him all along has been that he's playing just well enough to lose, and sure enough he allowed a goal with 4:10 remaining in a 3-2 loss at Chicago. Nothing from the team yet, but I'll bet on Halak (38-percent owned) against Atlanta on Tuesday.


TORONTO MAPLE LEAFS RED HOT
1st Chair: Jonas Gustavsson(notes)
2nd Chair: Vesa Toskala(notes)
Skinny: Gustavsson recorded Toronto's lone win on Oct. 26, then dropped two straight in overtime (57 saves, 64 shots). We'll give him the benefit of this being his training camp, but make no mistake, The Monster (25-percent owned) is a desperation play, not a fantasy savior. It's just never going to happen for Toskala in Toronto. Blame injuries, supporting cast, whatever – we're three years in and the .895 save pct. isn't getting any better.


NASHVILLE PREDATORS RED HOT
1st Chair: Pekka Rinne(notes)
2nd Chair: Dan Ellis(notes)
Skinny: Rinne (67-percent owned) is enjoying his best stretch of the season – 38 minutes of perfect relief in a come-from-behind win in Minnesota followed by a shutout of Chicago and a win over Dalllas on home ice. That's three straight games finished by Rinne, which represents a break from the nearly even time share that has been in place. Feast-or-famine Ellis has a .931 save pct. in games he's played start to finish (.897 overall).


WASHINGTON CAPITALS RED HOT
1st Chair: Jose Theodore(notes)
2nd Chair: Semyon Varlamov(notes)
Skinny: Varlamov (69-percent owned) is doing his best Chris Osgood(notes) in 2008-09 impersonation, piling up wins (5-0-0) despite some disagreeable ratios (3.20, .895). Theodore (59 percent) holds the edge in starts (9-5), has the better numbers (2.92, .907) and is the favorite of coach Bruce Boudreau. The ownership totals remain curious, but we can consider the back-to-back OT losses a crack in the door for Varlamov.


DETROIT RED WINGS HOT
1st Chair: Chris Osgood
2nd Chair: Jimmy Howard(notes)
Skinny: Osgood will start Tuesday after stopping a personal three-start winless streak Saturday in Calgary (20 saves, 21 shots). It's easy to say Howard hasn't seized his opportunity, but he hasn't been given much of a shot yet (only three starts, all on the road). Incredibly, Osgood actually had a better October statistically than he did a year ago (3.10, .889 to 3.38, .879).


CHICAGO BLACKHAWKS WARM
1st Chair: Cristobal Huet(notes)
2nd Chair: Antti Niemi(notes)
Skinny: Huet started on back-to-back nights for the first time this season Friday. He didn't falter, extending his stretch of useful fantasy starts to four games (3-1, 1.01, .959). Chicago is in the midst of a five-day break, so it's possible Huet could go back-to-back again in Phoenix and Colorado this week.


ANAHEIM DUCKS WARM
1st Chair: Jonas Hiller(notes)
2nd Chair: Jean-Sebastien Giguere(notes), Justin Pogge(notes)
Skinny: No progress here, as Giguere spent the week in a neutral corner nursing a groin injury. Hiller stopped 66 of 70 shots faced in back-to-backs over the weekend, beating Vancouver and dropping an OT decision in Phoenix.


NEW YORK ISLANDERS WARM
1st Chair: Dwayne Roloson(notes)
2nd Chair: Martin Biron(notes), Rick DiPietro(notes)
Skinny: Coming off back-to-back wins (75 shots, 71 saves), Roloson got the start against his old Oilers mates on Monday. There's no law against trying to get a fantasy taste of a hot goalie, but it's worth noting Roloson hasn't won more than three straight starts since November, 2006. The Isles are floating Thanksgiving as a possible return date for DiPietro.


ATLANTA THRASHERS WARM
1st Chair: Ondrej Pavelec(notes)
2nd Chair: Kari Lehtonen(notes), Johan Hedberg(notes)
Skinny: Not much news here since that ominous no closer to returning report on Lehtonen. Hard to really care when "Plan B" Pavelec ranks fifth in the NHL in save percentage (.924).


Simon Gagne(notes) is hurt. Alex Ovechkin(notes) is hurt. Heck, everybody hurts. If you're dealing with an injured star right now, chances are you're not alone. If your roster is 100-percent healthy right now … well, maybe you didn't draft that well. Malkin, Kovalchuk, Ovechkin, Savard, Toews, Gonchar – statistically it seems unlikely that anyone could completely dodge the injury bullet. And we're not even counting guys like Marian Hossa(notes) and Rick DiPietro who were selected with full knowledge of existing conditions.

It's a good thing this isn't under Scott Pianowski's byline, because these days this most certainly is an injury blog. Let's grab the charts and do the rounds …

Alex Ovechkin even gets injured with flair. After leaving Sunday's game with what is rumored to be a shoulder injury, he had a few laughs with reporters. The injury, of course, kicked off Ovechkin 24/7 coverage, which gave way early Monday to news that the Caps star would likely miss only one game. Relief, right? Not so fast – later Monday the Washington Post reported that Ovie is week-to-week, which is a whole different ballgame.

The bottom line here: We don't know how long Ovechkin will be out. Quite honestly – and this is easy to say as someone who has never had the privilege of being invested in AO – an 8-10 game absence could be good for fantasy leagues. Just a few years ago we were talking about Ovechkin-Crosby-Malkin-Brodeur in any order to kick off a fantasy draft. Now it's Ovechkin and everyone else and frankly it isn't even close. He has 14 goals in 14 games and the only other players in double-digits are all converting an unsustainable 22.4-percent or better of their shots into goals. The Caps' star is due for a correction, too – he's shooting at .163 compared to .124 career – but he has 30 more shots than every player ranked in the fantasy top 10 to date. Give us all a break, Ovechkin owners. Come back to the field.

If you want some actionable fantasy news coming out of Capsland, let's discuss the season debut of Tomas Fleischmann(notes). After getting his feet wet in 16 scoreless minutes against the Thrashers, he scored his first two goals of the season Friday, then added an assist Sunday playing on a line with Nicklas Backstrom(notes) and Alexander Semin(notes). There's a lot to like here for fantasy purposes: he has dual-wing eligibility, he's a favorite of coach Bruce Boudreau and the Red Wings, the team that drafted him in the second round back in 2002, know a little something about European scouting. The Ovechkin injury does take a bit – OK, a lot – of the sizzle out of Washington's offense, but it also guarantees Fleischmann a top-six gig as he gets his legs back. I'm willing to take the plunge in just about any sized format (though I missed the boat already in two of my four leagues).

One-timers: Blackhawks center Jonathan Toews(notes) missed practice again on Monday. … An 0-20 power-play slump prompted the Blues to shuffle some moving parts Saturday, but St. Louis was blanked and Alex Pietrangelo(notes) was a minus-4. … Patrik Elias(notes) hopes to play by the weekend. … When you don't see James Wisniewski(notes) on Anaheim's next two scoresheets, you'll know why. … Ducks wing Bobby Ryan(notes) has five points in three games after recording two in his first nine. A trusted Anaheim observer tells me the chances have been there all year. … Simon Gagne will miss 6-8 weeks after hernia surgery, but that was priced in when you drafted him. … Under the radar when a guy like Ovechkin gets dinged: Eric Staal(notes) will also miss a few games in the wake of a weekend injury.

BARGAIN BIN: Top player available in 50 percent of Yahoo! leagues
Jason Demers(notes), D, SJ (29-percent owned) – It's curious that defenseman bargains are so plentiful in Yahoo! leagues. Even in leagues using the default public setup, 48 defensemen occupy starting lineups compared to 24 players at each forward position. You'd think a player who stumbled into a secondary assist on back-to-back nights would get scooped up somewhere. But no, it seems every week we can make a case here for universal ownership for a player who is available in 70-plus percent of Yahoo! leagues.

Today's test case: Sharks rearguard Jason Demers. He's one of only six d-men with 10 or more assists. The most widely available of the other five is Tomas Kaberle(notes) (73-percent owned coming off a 12-point week). Sure, he's yet to score a goal in the NHL and he never had double-digit goals as a junior, but he's displaying plenty of confidence with the Sharks and the club hasn't hesitated to use him in high-pressure situations. I wouldn't expect spectacular numbers here but 10 points in 15 games and modest power-play production (4 helpers) has to be better than several No. 4 fantasy defensemen out there.

MARKET MOVERS: Charting player values

Derick Brassard(notes), C, Cls – You've probably seen this play out before in fantasy leagues of any flavor: young player is hyped, young player struggles, young player is mass dropped. The next step is up to the individual. So far Brassard has responded favorably. He's back up with the top-six forwards after a brief demotion to Columbus' No. 4 line. The 22-year-old has a three-game point streak (he had a four-gamer earlier in the year) and anyone spending time on the power play with Mr. Rick Nash(notes) has my attention. Standard two-center leaguers can do better, but deep leaguers need to give him another look.

Erik Cole(notes), LW, Car – The ownership figure has dipped to about 20 percent, which will happen when it's November and you've yet to get your name in the paper. The encouraging news is that Cole was back in the Carolina lineup Sunday, appearing in just his third game of the season. Remember that last year he had 15 points in 17 games after returning to the Hurricanes. The chemistry with Eric Staal is obvious, though he might be on his own for a while with his center injured.

Jon Quick(notes), G, LA – He's available in about 25 percent of Yahoo! leagues, but let's be honest: a search of the waiver wire is probably a fool's errand. Quick is employed in any self-respecting league. What's interesting is that while earlier in the season he appeared to be just riding the wave in Los Angeles – the Kings have scored five or more goals in five of his eight wins – lately he's been earning points the old-fashioned way. Quick stopped 43 of 45 shots in shootout losses on back-to-back nights to close the week. He hasn't suffered a regulation loss since Oct. 17.

Ryane Clowe(notes), LW, SJ – A popular late-round sleeper, Clowe is now bargain eligible at just 43-percent owned. Sunday he lined up on Joe Thornton's(notes) wing and collected two assists in a 5-1 Sharks wing. Two nights earlier he snapped his 21-game goalless drought and added an assist in a home win over Colorado. I wouldn't count on continued top-line time, but he could get back to being that reliable LW2 we all thought we were drafting.

Steven Reinprecht(notes), C, Fla – He's approaching his mid-30s and has just one 20-goal season to his credit, so we don't want to overreact to one hat trick, even a natural hat trick that was the fastest three goals by an individual in team history. Eight goals in six games are hard to completely ignore, however. Look to him as an injury replacement if you owned Valtteri Filppula(notes) in a deeper league.

Phil Kessel(notes), RW, Tor – You probably can't grab him (80-percent owned), but if he's parked on your IR you need to start planning that move to clear a roster spot. Kessel was a top-line winger at practice Monday and is expected to play Tuesday against Tampa Bay.

Kyle Okposo(notes), RW, NYI – He already has point streaks of four and six games to his credit. The Islanders have been guilty of some curious line shuffles, but Okposo manages to get his slice of pie no matter where he sits at the table. Now would it kill him to give us one multi-point game?

Jeff Tambellini(notes), LW, NYI – The holdover from last week recorded a hat trick Saturday, giving him six goals and seven points in five games. The power play was still there with Doug Weight(notes) back in the lineup.

Nathan Horton(notes), RW, Fla – He regressed in 2008-09 and was left for fantasy dead after this season's start (three points in nine games). Time to give him another shot? That depends on how deep your wounds go with him, but the dual position eligibility and six points in three games are a good start as far as olive branches go.

Vincent Lecavalier(notes), C, TB – We're not breaking news here. The Lecavalier demotion has been well-publicized. As for the early returns, he was a minus-3 in Monday's matinee against the Flyers.

Yahoo! Friends and Family League update
Fantasy Hockey Café barista Tony is back atop the standings, just rewards for a solid week in net (shutouts from Bryzgalov and Rinne on Thursday). League-wide fantasy auditions were offered to Ryane Clowe, Erik Cole, Ian White(notes), Willie Mitchell(notes), Alex Tanguay(notes) and David Perron(notes), among others.

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