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NHL Skinny: Get Whitney

Matt Romig
Yahoo Sports

GOALIE HOT SEAT
PITTSBURGH PENGUINS RED HOT
1st Chair: Sebastien Caron
2nd Chair: Joceyln Thibault
Skinny: Caron made his fifth straight start Saturday, but it was one of his most forgettable of the season. He allowed five goals in 30 minutes before head coach Ed Olczyk gave him the hook. In his four previous starts, Caron had backstopped Pittsburgh's first three wins of the season. It was a terrible team effort against Boston, so Olczyk may just go right back to Caron Monday at New York. Or, he may go where the money is and see if a little time off has inspired Thibault to arise from his season-long funk.
NEW YORK RANGERS RED HOT
1st Chair: Kevin Weekes
2nd Chair: Henrik Lundqvist
Skinny: They booed Weekes in New York Saturday when he was introduced as starting goalie, then kicked the jeers up a notch after he fell behind 2-0. Then Weekes set out to win some of the home fans back. He did just that, stopping 23 of 25 shots as the Rangers held on to win in a shootout. Since taking two weeks off to fully rehab his injured groin, the seven-year veteran has two wins and a .930 save percentage. According to the Newark Star-Ledger, head coach Tom Renney was leaning toward giving Weekes a third straight start Monday. Where does that leave rookie Henrik Lundqvist? If Renney wants to ride the hot hand, isn't that still Lundqvist, who has five wins and a .944 save percentage in his past eight starts? Hard to give advice here other than watch the situation closely. And Weekes is a huge free agent bargain if he can hold on to No. 1.
LOS ANGELES KINGS RED HOT
1st Chair: Jason LaBarbera
2nd Chair: Mathieu Garon
Skinny: The rookie can handle pressure. Just two nights after his worst start of the season – a start that was cut short when coach Andy Murray removed him after two periods – LaBarbera found himself facing a penalty shot with 31.9 seconds left in overtime against Nashville. He stopped David Legwand to preserve the tie, and then turned away both shootout attempts he faced in a 3-2 Los Angeles win. The goalie rotation is over. Murray alternated starters for nearly the entire month of October, but LaBarbera has started four straight, winning three.
ATLANTA THRASHERS RED HOT
1st Chair: Mike Dunham
2nd Chair: Steve Shields
Skinny: Dunham was sharp Friday in his first start after missing nearly four weeks with a groin injury. He stopped 30 of 32 shots before falling to Alexander Ovechkin and the Caps in a shootout. Steve Shields was tentatively scheduled to start the next night, but head coach Bob Hartley must have liked what he saw Friday, because Dunham was back in there. Maybe he should have gone with Shields. Dunham allowed four goals on just 18 shots in a 4-3 loss at Philadelphia. Don't expect much long-term help from Dunham, but there are worse guys to turn to if one of your top two goalies is injured. The wait for super-rookie Kari Lehtonen, according to the latest reports, is expected to drag into December.
CAROLINA HURRICANES HOT
1st Chair: Martin Gerber
2nd Chair: Cam Ward
Skinny: Gerber has won four straight starts, including a 2-0 shutout win over Florida Saturday. Ward, for his part, has won two straight, but while stopping only 85 percent of shots faced. The Hurricanes are red hot right now, so whoever is in goal is a good guy to have in your fantasy lineup. Gerber is the hotter and healthier of the two, so he will continue to get the bulk of starts. Ward, however, is much too talented to remain on the waiver wire in more than 50 percent of leagues. This season, regretfully, has been dominated by goalie injures. Ward is a perfect guy to stow away as a spot-starter and insurance against injury.
MINNESOTA WILD WARM
1st Chair: Dwayne Roloson
2nd Chair: Manny Fernandez
Skinny: For a while, this battle was statistically dominated by Fernandez. But all Roloson has done in his past three starts is earn Minnesota three points while posting a .966 save percentage and a goals-against just over 1.00. Fernandez has been equally as stingy, though he has a couple of hard-luck losses in his past four starts. For the year, it's eight starts for Roloson and seven for Fernandez. That's pretty much the pace we can expect for the rest of the year, assuming both guys stay healthy.
EDMONTON OILERS LUKEWARM
1st Chair: Jussi Markkanen
2nd Chair: Michael Morrison
Skinny: This was supposed to be Ty Conklin's job. When he failed, word around the league was that Edmonton was itching to acquire a No. 1 goalie via trade. Then a funny thing happened: Jussi Markkanen started playing like a guy who can carry a team. In his past five starts, Markkanen is 5-0 with a .931 save percentage. That includes four wins on the road, with the likes of Detroit and Nashville on his list of victims. Since Conklin was shipped to the AHL, Markkanen has played every minute in net for the Oilers. As for Conklin, he had two rough starts upon landing in Hamilton, but made 17 saves in a 4-1 win his last time out.
DETROIT RED WINGS LUKEWARM
1st Chair: Manny Legace
2nd Chair: Chris Osgood
Skinny: Legace owners got the best possible news on two fronts last week. First, it was determined that Legace's knee injury wasn't as serious as originally feared. He may be back in net as early as Wednesday against Los Angeles. Meanwhile, Osgood was solid, but far from spectacular, as an injury fill-in. He lost back-to-back starts at home to end the week, but rebounded Sunday with a strong effort against St. Louis. With head coach Mike Babcock making his "a little competition is a good thing" comments, the worst case would have been a string of shutouts for Osgood. Legace should climb right back into the No. 1 chair when he returns to action.
VANCOUVER CANUCKS LUKEWARM
1st Chair: Dan Cloutier
2nd Chair: Alexander Auld
Skinny: Head coach Marc Crawford made a point Thursday of reminding reporters that Cloutier is still his No. 1 goalie. This on the same day that Cloutier (concussion) completed his third straight day of off-ice workouts, declaring himself symptom-free, the Vancouver Sun reported. The coach had his hand forced by the outstanding play of Auld, who has a 2.02 GAA and a .925 save percentage. Both figures rank near the league lead. Cloutier, meanwhile, is still paying the price for playoff failures past. The vote of confidence is appreciated, I'm sure, but he'll still be under the gun when he returns.
Thanks for all the great feedback on your draft day steals and busts. I should have known going in that if there's one way to flood my inbox – other than leaving NHL scoring leader Eric Staal off the Big Board – it's soliciting stories about draft day success and heartbreak. Not surprisingly, goalies dominated the bust list, with Nikolai Khabibulin and Martin Brodeur appearing most often (Chris in Minnesota, shame on you for blaming your Rick Nash pick on your wife). On the steal side, Eric Staal, Jason Spezza and Dany Heatley were fantasy favorites. I also enjoyed the fact that many of you took pride in nabbing some lesser-known, guys, like Paul Mara, Marc Chouinard and San Jose's Patrick Marleau. Thanks again for the insightful, but mostly entertaining, email.

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

If Ryan Whitney is available as a free agent in your league, sign him. It's easy to write off a hot start as a fluke, but this kid has the potential to be something special. At 6-foot-4, 215 pounds, the former fifth overall pick has the size to man the blue line in the NHL. He's also skilled offensively, as evidenced by his 41 points as an AHL rookie last year and his otherworldly 19-points-in-10-games start to the 2005-06 campaign in the same league. Since making his Penguins debut on Nov. 1, all he's done is record six assists (three on the power play) and a plus-2 rating in three games. Twice he has logged more than 25 minutes of ice time, and he's getting a long look on special teams. And with Pittsburgh, time on special teams means time on the ice with the likes of Sergei Gonchar, Mario Lemieux and Sidney Crosby. There was a pretty good run on Whitney when he cleared waivers, but at last check Ric Jackman was still owned in more Yahoo! leagues. In case you hadn't noticed, Jackman has been a healthy scratch for each of Pittsburgh's last three games.
A trio of widely available Dallas forwards has recently caught fire. Leading the charge has been center Stu Barnes. Yes, the same Stu Barnes who managed just two points in Dallas' first 10 games. Since then, he has four goals, two assists and a plus-3 rating in four games. Not surprisingly, linemate Niko Kapanen enjoyed a similar spike in productivity. In those same four games, Kapanen has two goals and five assists, with three points coming on the power play. Finally, there's Antti Miettinen, who has a goal, three assists and four penalty minutes in his past two games for the Stars. Fantasy owners have been pretty lukewarm toward Dallas forwards ever since the team failed to top the three-goal mark in seven of its first eight games. Since then, however, the Stars are scoring an average of 4.5 goals per game.
There was plenty of injury news over the weekend. Predictably, none of it was good. Just as things were looking up for the Penguins, they lose winger John LeClair to multiple facial fractures. Sounds like surgery won't be necessary (similar to Mats Sundin's situation), but he's out indefinitely. Hopefully his loss will not require Pittsburgh to break up the newly formed Crosby-Lemieux-Recchi line that has been so productive of late. More bad news, also, for Chicago's Tuomo Ruutu, who returned to the Blackhawks lineup for just long enough to realize that not all was right. He'll miss 3-12 weeks. More problems for Rick Nash, too. He injured his left knee Thursday and is expected to miss 4-6 weeks. This spells doom for any Columbus forward in the fantasy pool, as the Jackets seemed destined to rank last in the NHL in scoring.

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

  • Jeff Carter, C, Phi
    Carter logged double-digit minutes just once in his first 10 games, and that was on opening night. The promising rookie tallied just one point in his first seven games, a disappointing start after scoring 74 points in 55 games in the OHL last year (not to mention 23 points in 21 AHL playoff games). According to the Philadelphia Daily News, a summer bout with mononucleosis may have contributed to his slow start. In any case, he's stronger now, and his ice time is up, due in part to the concussion suffered by Keith Primeau. Carter has four goals in his past five games and his role should only expand as the 20-year-old adjusts to the rigors of life in the NHL.

MARKET MOVERS: Charting player values

Petr Prucha, C, NYR – How's this for confidence: Head coach Tom Renney sent Prucha out as part of a 5-on-3 power play attack Saturday, then included the rookie in his shootout lineup after a scoreless overtime. He scored on that power play – his third goal in six games – and also won it for New York in the shootout. They'll count on him for offense while Martin Rucinsky is recovering from his knee injury.

Craig Conroy, C, LA – That Conroy-Alexander Frolov-Pavol Demitra line just keeps piling up points. For Conroy – generally regarding as a solid two-way forward but not a huge scoring threat – that means a career-high points pace. The 36-year-old has 15 points in his past nine games.

Bryan Muir, D, Was ‐ He's never scored more than seven points in an NHL career that has spanned nine seasons and seven teams. But the way things are going with defenseman scoring this year, all bets are off. Muir scored a goal and added an assist Sunday. He now has five points (four on the power play) and 14 penalty minutes in his past six games.

Brent Seabrook, D, Chi – Fantasy owners dismissed his four-assist performance on Oct. 7 as a fluke, justifiable since he followed it up with five straight games without a point. It might be time to re-think that stance. The rookie has two game-winning goals already this month, and his totals since that rough patch are: 2 goals, three assists, 10 penalty minutes and a plus-4 rating in eight games.

Mikko Koivu, C, Min – He's not getting top-line ice time yet, but we should expect that to change soon. Koivu won the No. 1 center job in training camp, but had the start of his season delayed until Saturday by injury. He scored his first career goal Sunday, and beat Jean-Sebastien Giguere as part of the Wild's winning shootout lineup.

Ales Kotalik, RW, Buf – Not much has gone right for Buffalo lately, but Kotalik keeps plucking along. He has held off the score sheet Saturday, but the winger has six goals and two assists in his past eight games.

Tomas Holmstrom, LW, Det – A great two-way fantasy player, Holmstrom has five goals and an assist in his past three games, while still finding time to maintain a streak of at least four games with a trip to the penalty box.

Alexander Mogilny, RW, NJ – After averaging slightly more than a point per game in October, Mogilny has begun November in a funk. He has a lone assist and a minus-2 rating in three games, and the winger played only two shifts in the third period of Saturday's 3-2 loss to the Rangers.

Sheldon Souray, D, Mon – Maybe he's still a little shaken up over that move Jason Spezza put on him Oct. 27. He has failed to register a point in Montreal's past seven games.