NHL Skinny: The wrong foot

Matt Romig
Yahoo! Sports

GOALIE HOT SEAT

TORONTO MAPLE LEAFS RED HOT
1st Chair: Vesa Toskala(notes)
2nd Chair: Jonas Gustavsson(notes), Joey MacDonald(notes)
Skinny: It looks like Toskala on Monday (@ NYR) and MacDonald on Tuesday in Colorado, though it goes without saying this is a toxic situation right now. If you're going to grab anyone, scoop up the 25-percent owned Gustavsson and tuck him in your IR spot (groin). He can't do any harm there, and fantasy owners should still be curious to see what he's capable of in an extended run as a No. 1.


NASHVILLE PREDATORS RED HOT
1st Chair: Dan Ellis(notes)
2nd Chair: Pekka Rinne(notes) (1a)
Skinny: Always nice when coaches take the guesswork out for fantasy owners, so thank you, Mr. Trotz, for mapping out the next four starts. It's an even work split through Saturday, so there's no reason why Ellis (36 percent) is trailing so far in the ownership totals (Rinne: 77 percent).


WASHINGTON CAPITALS RED HOT
1st Chair: Jose Theodore(notes)
2nd Chair: Semyon Varlamov(notes)
Skinny: The Caps Insider blog is must-read material for fantasy owners, and today Tarik El-Bashir has the goods on Bruce Boudreau's plan to stick with Theodore as his No. 1 for now. Varlamov (.857 save percentage) has been slow out of the gate. This is another instance where fantasy perception (ownership figures) is lagging behind real-world reality (Theodore's three straight starts).


ANAHEIM DUCKS RED HOT
1st Chair: Jonas Hiller(notes)
2nd Chair: Jean-Sebastien Giguere(notes)
Skinny: Hiller went 2-0 (1.45 GAA, .957 save pct.) on Anaheim's road trip. Giguere came home winless, but took a shutout into the third period Sunday in New York, an eventual 3-0 loss to the Rangers. I'm not cutting Giguere loose just yet. This battle still hasn't fully played out, and if Hiller does indeed cement himself as the No. 1, the Ducks will have financial motivation to find Giggy a new home.


OTTAWA SENATORS HOT
1st Chair: Pascal Leclaire(notes)
2nd Chair: Brian Elliott(notes)
Skinny: Leclair gets a degree-of-difficulty upgrade Monday, facing the Pens after back-to-back wins over the Leafs and Islanders. Elliott kept himself relevant with a 26-save effort Saturday in a 4-2 win over Atlanta.


MONTREAL CANADIENS HOT
1st Chair: Carey Price(notes)
2nd Chair: Jaroslav Halak(notes)
Skinny: We're five games into the season and the Habs are under .500, so naturally they are calling for Price to be shipped to the AHL or benched. Never mind that Halak's numbers are actually worse, albeit with a smaller sample size. You probably don't want to sleep in the turmoil here. Add the nine-percent owned Halak and see how this plays out.


NEW YORK ISLANDERS WARM
1st Chair: Dwayne Roloson(notes)
2nd Chair: Martin Biron(notes) (1a), Rick DiPietro(notes)
Skinny: A strict goalie rotation has been employed so far, with Biron getting the start Monday after Roloson fell to 0-2 in shootouts Saturday in Boston. Both goalies are available in about 75 percent of Y! leagues, but looking at the October schedule, there are no easy opponents to pick on. DiPietro could be back in the picture by the end of the month.


ATLANTA THRASHERS WARM
1st Chair: Ondrej Pavelec(notes)
2nd Chair: Kari Lehtonen(notes), Johan Hedberg(notes)
Skinny: Pavelec's style might not be easy on the eye, but so far he's been a serviceable fantasy plug-in with two wins and a .913 save percentage. They're concerned about the shots on goal in Atlanta. The Thrashers have allowed at least 31 shots in each of their three games; not a great sign when you've got a guy with fewer than 20 career starts keeping the crease warm for an oft-injured starter.


ST. LOUIS BLUES LUKEWARM
1st Chair: Chris Mason(notes)
2nd Chair: Ty Conklin(notes)
Skinny: The Blues play only three times in the next 11 days, so we may not see Conklin until Mason struggles or the Blues play on back-to-back nights (Oct. 23-24), whichever comes first.


CHICAGO BLACKHAWKS LUKEWARM
1st Chair: Cristobal Huet(notes)
2nd Chair: Antti Niemi(notes)
Skinny: Niemi generated some buzz with a shutout in his season debut, but has been slowly dropping off fantasy rosters with each passing game as a spectator. I wouldn't totally turn my back on this situation yet. The upside on Huet is that Chicago's defense has limited his exposure (22 shots/game). That hasn't stopped him from supply average to poor ratios, however.


Happy Thanksgiving, everybody. No holiday on the calendar here in California, but it sure is nice to wake up to morning hockey on the Center Ice package. This owner lost a Jon Quick(notes) start due to roster management carelessness, but oh well. Lesson learned. Let's jump right into the Skinny, as there's some significant injury ground to cover …

I have to admit I've never fully embraced the Sedin brothers from a fantasy perspective. Daniel brings left-wing eligibility to the table, has missed no more than three games in any season dating back to 2001-02 and offers a comfortable floor (at least 71 points for four straight seasons). But he also keeps his nose clean penalty-wise and seems to have topped out as a 30-goal contributor. Henrik has been similarly reliable in the games played and point-production departments, but plays a deeper position (center), also avoids the penalty box (career-high 66 PIM) and eschews the shot almost to a fault (one career 20-goal season). My guess is that owners who draft either twin are rarely disappointed with the final stat haul; I've just never written that check on draft day.

So I didn't feel the sting when it was revealed Sunday that Daniel Sedin(notes) has a broken foot that will sideline him 4-6 weeks. That doesn't mean I wasn't interested. The immediate aftermath is this: Steve Bernier(notes) slides to Henrik's wing opposite Alex Burrows(notes) on Vancouver's No. 1 line. Bernier (5-percent owned) picked up an assist Sunday in a 4-3 win over Dallas. You may remember Bernier as a member of San Jose's heavyweight line featuring Patrick Marleau(notes) and Milan Michalek(notes). Or you may recall him as an inconsistent, out-of-shape journeyman who has played for three teams in four years with only modest success. Whatever your perspective, he's reportedly in better condition this year and he's lining up alongside one of the game's finer passers, so he has my attention in deeper leagues. Eighty-two percent owned Burrows played a season-high 21:53 Sunday and scored his second goal. He also played 2:17 on the power-play, compared to the previous game when he logged fewer than 10 seconds. Given his production last season (28 goals) without a significant special teams role, I'm willing to make a case for universal ownership here (though a strong case existed before Sedin's injury). One final note here: Now might be a good time to make a buy-low pitch for Henrik's services. Given the uncertainty surrounding a rare Sedin breakup, you might just get a substantial discount. Keep Sergei Shirokov(notes) on your radar, too.

Sticking with the injury theme, it looks like The Mule will be kicking back for the next 4-5 months. Johan Franzen(notes) has a torn ACL in his left knee. He was a top-10 right wing in Yahoo! drafts, so this is no small loss. And it's only a tiny consolation that Franzen apparently scored a goal with that ligament tear. He's a hockey player. I wouldn't be surprised to see several combinations tried out in the wake of the injury, but it looks like Mike Babcock's first move will be to promote Todd Bertuzzi to the top line. It's not like Bertuzzi hasn't had his chances on high-octane lines over the past 3-4 years, so he's not an automatic add in fantasy circles. Show me something, Todd, and then we'll talk. Ville Leino(notes) gets a bump here, too (13-percent owned) and Tomas Holmstrom(notes) (23 percent) gets a shot to make another run at double-digit power-play goals.

One-timers: Don't expect any power-play production from Sheldon Souray(notes) for the next few games. … Matt Carle(notes) now has a four-game point streak (7 total points) and is the No. 2 defenseman in fantasy hockey, trailing only defense partner Chris Pronger(notes). … Fans who habitually scream "shoot the puck" have always gotten under my skin, but spending the better part of Friday afternoon in San Francisco at the Presidents Cup reaffirmed my belief that nobody is more annoying than the overly vocal golf fan. … I don't understand how Brenden Morrow(notes) is owned in only 70 percent of Y! leagues. I get that he was buried in pre-draft rankings, but sleeping on this start (5 points, plus-3 in 4 games) is inexcusable. … I'm not real worried about Tim Thomas'(notes) start, so there's nothing actionable in Tuukka Rask's(notes) back-to-back starts. … Rene Bourque(notes) has 24 goals in 63 games with Calgary. … Jussi Jokinen(notes) has two goals and five points in three games since Erik Cole's(notes) injury.

BARGAIN BIN: Top player available in 50 percent of Yahoo! leagues
Drew Doughty(notes), D, LA (45-percent owned) – As Scott Pianowski illuminated in Friday's Red Light District, they are playing an entertaining brand of hockey at Staples Center in 2009-10. Hit the freeways early. Monday's road tilt on the Island didn't quite have the offensive fireworks, but Doughty managed to score on his only shot for his second goal and sixth point in five games. Again, there's draft pedigree here (2nd overall pick in 2008), he's got a track record as a scorer (21 OHL goals in 2006-07) and these Kings have green-lighted their defense. It's hard to fathom how he's still available in more than half of Yahoo! leagues.

MARKET MOVERS: Charting player values
David Clarkson(notes), RW, NJ – Clarkson has not been getting a ton of ice times, but new Devils coach Jacques Lemaire hasn't been shy at all about using him on the power play. The right wing scored his first power-play goal of the season Saturday while playing more than one-third of his 12-plus minutes with the man advantage. There's 100-plus PIM upside here, too (a fantasy bonus). A 25-goal season is not out of reach if the PP time keeps coming.

Jonathan Cheechoo(notes), RW, Ott – The Sens shuffled lines and Cheechoo started Monday opposite Milan Michalek on Jason Spezza's(notes) line. We're long past chasing 50 goals here, but a healthy Cheechoo can still find space and bury a puck. I'll give him a shot at RW2 or 3 duties, but he needs to show me something first.

Alex Goligoski(notes), D, Pit – Even in leagues that accept the default four-defense roster configuration (a little shallow for my taste), there is room for Goligoski, who has four points in five games after sailing through 2008-09 just below a 40-point pace.

Marc-Andre Bergeron(notes), D, Mon – Yannick Weber(notes) has just one shot and is a minus-4 and Paul Mara(notes) can only pick up so much slack in the wake of Andrei Markov's(notes) injury, so let's make way for Bergeron, who should make his Canadiens debut this week. You're buying the power-play upside here and hoping you can absorb the damage he can do to your plus-minus at even-strength.

Sean Avery(notes), LW, NYR – Ten minutes of ice time translated into three shots and a power-play assist in Avery's season debut Sunday. You'll recall that after the Dallas disaster in 2008-09, Avery joined the Rangers and produced at a 55-point, 155-PIM pace in 18 games. You're taking on some risk here, yes, but Avery is just 18-percent owned today so your investment is minimal. If you're getting 50-plus points and some power-play help from one of your primary penalty minute sources, you're ahead of the game.

Jordan Staal(notes), C, Pit – There's talk of more ice time on Evgeni Malkin's line, which would certainly be a boost to what has already been an impressive start. He's probably a position eligibility upgrade away from universal ownership.

Ryan Malone(notes), LW, TB – You don't want to be the guy who makes the waiver add after every hat trick or two-goal performance, endures a two-point-in-eight-games dry spell, then cuts the dead weight loose. In Malone's case, however, you have a guy you know is capable of 25 goals and 100 PIMs, which from a left wing is nothing to scoff at. Give the 42-percent owned wing a shot and see if the trick was the start of something big.

Brad Richards(notes), C, DAL – He's been a waiver wire darling the last few days after extending his point streak to four games (2 goals, 4 assists). You know what you're getting here production-wise. With Richards lately it's just been a matter of staying in the lineup long enough to make a true fantasy impact.

Michael Del Zotto(notes), D, NYR – Del Zotto stays here as a holdover for those of you who missed out on Matt Carle. Del Zotto remains just 39-percent owned despite a three-game power-play point streak. The 19-year-old appears to be here to stay.

Derick Brassard(notes), C, CLS – When your beat writer singles you out as more noticeable, you know you're not off to a stellar start. Brassard did finally get on the scoresheet in that Saturday game, but this certainly isn't the start we were looking for from Rick Nash's(notes) centerman.

Yahoo! Friends and Family League update
Our early leader is Tony from the Fantasy Hockey Café. Not surprisingly he's the only manager with two shutouts (Emery, Bryzgalov), but he's also enjoyed a nice return from late-round investment Brandon Dubinsky(notes). Recent league-wide player adds include Steve Sullivan(notes), Tomas Plekanec(notes), Dustin Byfuglien(notes) and Denis Grebeshkov(notes).