NHL Skinny: Brouwer power

Matt Romig
Yahoo! Sports


1st Chair: Steve Mason(notes)
2nd Chair: Mathieu Garon(notes)
Skinny: It looks like Mason will start Monday in Boston. Garon has started seven of eight, and while there's a three-game winning streak in there, he's dropped three of the last four and was pulled early twice.

1st Chair: Carey Price(notes)
2nd Chair: Jaroslav Halak(notes) (1a)
Skinny: The Habs aren't blaming Halak for the 6-2 loss Sunday, but they did turn back to Price for Wednesday's tilt. After that Montreal's next four games all involve back-to-backs with travel, so expect a 2-2 split in starts barring a hot or cold streak.

1st Chair: Jose Theodore(notes)
2nd Chair: Semyon Varlamov(notes), Michal Neuvirth(notes)
Skinny: Look who's back and feeling the love. Theodore capped a four-game winning streak (six goals allowed) with a spectacular 42-save effort in Tuesday's win over Detroit. Varlamov's immediate future is uncertain and Neuvirth was pulled from his last two starts, so Theo may get a chance to thrive.

1st Chair: Michael Leighton(notes)
2nd Chair: Ray Emery(notes) , Brian Boucher(notes)
Skinny: Emery got his first win in more than two months Tuesday, but wasn't all that sharp in the 5-3 win over Columbus. Leighton won four of five before Emery stepped in for back-to-back starts. Emery's next few games are critical, as the Flyers can't afford to mess around while sitting on the fringes of the playoff chase.

1st Chair: Pekka Rinne(notes)
2nd Chair: Dan Ellis(notes) (1a)
Skinny: Some interesting comments from John Glennon of the Tennessean on which goalie has adapted better to the rotation. Here's a hint: Ellis has a 1.31 January GAA (three starts), while Rinne's sits at 2.91 (five starts).

1st Chair: Marty Turco(notes)
2nd Chair: Alex Auld(notes)
Skinny: It looks like Auld could get a third consecutive start Thursday and there has been a lot of chatter over Dallas goalies in recent days. Turco has one win and a 3.65 GAA in six starts this month.

1st Chair: Tim Thomas(notes)
2nd Chair: Tuukka Rask(notes)
Skinny: Thomas got an early hook Monday, but still boasts a solid .918 January save percentage. Rask has seen his workload drop dramatically, a trend that could continue short-term with Boston playing just three times in 10 days.

1st Chair: Jonas Gustavsson(notes)
2nd Chair: Vesa Toskala(notes)
Skinny: No change in recommendation here. One goalie has a 3.30 GAA in January (.896 save pct.) and the other has splits of 3.35, .891. With figures like that it doesn't matter which numbers go with which guy.

1st Chair: Ondrej Pavelec(notes)
2nd Chair: Johan Hedberg(notes), Kari Lehtonen(notes)
Skinny: Pavelec has won back-to-back starts for the first time since November. Looming is Lehtonen, who appears set to begin an AHL conditioning stint shortly.

1st Chair: Jimmy Howard(notes)
2nd Chair: Chris Osgood(notes)
Skinny: Osgood had some not-so-nice things to say about Mike Babcock's workload distribution after Tuesday's 3-2 loss to the Caps. Howard will be back in net Thursday and Babcock – thanks for the suggestion, Ozzie – will likely continue to play the hot hand nearly exclusively.

1st Chair: Dwayne Roloson(notes)
2nd Chair: Martin Biron(notes), Rick DiPietro(notes)
Skinny: DiPietro's shutout Monday (20 saves vs. NJ) was his first since February of 2008. Predictably, he did not play on the second night of back-to-backs. With two solid starts under his belt, however, it's probably safe to activate him from the IR, if you haven't already.

1st Chair: Jonas Hiller(notes)
2nd Chair: Jean-Sebastien Giguere(notes)
Skinny: Hiller is 7-2-1 in January. Maybe all it took was remembering this was a contract year. Giguere has made two starts since Christmas.

I try to read about 20-30 hockey blogs a day (starting with Puck Daddy, of course) and I get daily goalie sit/start news delivered to my inbox via goaliepost.com.

It sure is getting easier to manage fantasy hockey teams these days. We haven't quite reached NFL-level saturation when it comes to news useful to fantasy owners, but we're getting there. It has never been easier to find out who's starting in net for the Predators or who's lining up opposite Alex Ovechkin(notes) on the Caps' No. 1 line.

I personally gravitate toward beat-writer blogs. The general-interest blogs out there tend to focus on bigger issues within the sport, and while I'm not discounting the value of debates over blows to the head, officiating, replay review and the like, it's the team-specific information that is of most use to me in managing my five fantasy teams.

There are a lot of people doing it right out there, so many that it's not really fair to just single out a few. But for those of you just getting your feet wet in fantasy hockey research, check out the beat writer blogs from the Washington Post, Columbus Dispatch and Minnesota Wild. It's a start – good examples of mainstream guys getting it right for fans and fantasy owners alike.

Unfortunately, not everyone gets it. So with that in mind, I'm appointing myself hockey blog czar for one day and issuing the following directives to those scribes out there who are kind enough to shift into blog mode after filing their game stories.

1. Don't blog if you can't blog: I'm borrowing (and modifying) a phrase I heard a few too many times from Stan Morrison, basketball coach at San Jose State University, where I was a reserve (deep, deep reserve) forward from 1989-1991. Players would get gassed during practice and start missing dunks during drills or scrimmages, and Morrison would scream, "don't dunk if you can't dunk."

It was a laughably obvious statement, but a valid one – don't try to do too much if you don't have anything left in the tank. Look, I realize beat writers have primary responsibilities on the print side and a few long-time scribes were probably strong-armed into the blog space in the first place, but if your most recent post was on Jan. 5 and the one before that in late November, then just pull the plug.

(And yes, I realize the hypocrisy in this mandate given the frequency of Big Board updates this season, but I'm addressing that shortcoming, so those stale blogs out there can come along for the ride.)

2. Live blogging games is tricky business: There are so many different ways to follow games these days. Nearly every game is on TV or available online and score updates and in-game stats are just an iPhone app away. If you are bringing considerable insight and analysis to the table, then go ahead and empty your in-game thoughts into the blog. But you're not exactly breaking news when you post that the home team is trailing 3-1 after the second period. When I visit your blog looking for team and player news, I shouldn't have to scroll past 4-5 one-off posts that are basically in-game updates I could get off a ticker.

If you are adept at in-game analysis, consider collapsing all your thoughts into a single post or using coveritlive to host your chat. Less clutter is better.

3. Give us the lines: As fantasy owners, we know the risks in chasing every shuffled line from the morning skate. Those changes don't always see the harsh glare of TV lights and some of those experiments that do carry over to the games don't last much more than one or two periods. Still, give us the line combos from practice and let us decide whether it's important or not in our make-believe world.

I'd welcome any thoughts you have on blog coverage from the MSM in the comments. As fantasy owners I'm curious what you'd like to see more or less of from those with the most direct access to players and coaches. Again, I think a lot of people are getting it right out there, and I'm also sure that budget constraints are the root cause of many of the shortcomings.

Let's move on to a quick update – I'll be back in five days with next week's Skinny in it's regularly scheduled time slot.

Speaking of the blog space, Michael Russo of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune reports that Brent Burns(notes) could return for the Wild on Thursday against Detroit. He has missed 29 games due to a concussion and during that time has become a free agent in about 85 percent of Yahoo! leagues. Burns, you may remember, was a popular mid- to late-round pick in fantasy drafts this season, more than once flying off the board to a chorus of "nice pick" comments in expert draft chats. After a slow start (one point in seven games), he started to validate those expectations with nine points in 14 games before the injury. Grab Burns now if you can. The risk in cutting your D4 or D5 is manageable when you consider the potential offensive and special teams output.

It has been a while since a new goalie battle has emerged on the Hot Seat, so I'll drop a note here as an alert to a developing situation in Dallas. Details over in the goalie rundown.

One-timers: Avs rookie pivot Matt Duchene(notes) has 14 points in his last 14 games. … Pavol Demitra(notes) played just over 14 minutes Saturday in his season debut for the Canucks. … It appears that Tampa goalie Mike Smith(notes) did not suffer a concussion Jan. 12, but Antero Niittymaki(notes) started all three games of a recent road trip. … Niklas Kronwall(notes) might be getting close to a return to the Red Wings lineup. He's a free agent in about 35 percent of Yahoo! leagues. … Sabres center Tim Connolly(notes) has a 13-game point streak and is a free agent in about 40 percent of Yahoo! leagues. … Guillaume Latendresse(notes) has 12 points in eight games after a weekend hat trick. … Streaky left wing Alexei Ponikarovsky(notes) has four points (three goals) in two games for the Leafs. … Mike Fisher(notes) is heating up with seven points in four games, the last three of which coincided with the return of Daniel Alfredsson(notes). … Another streaky wing, Ryane Clowe(notes), has five points in his last three games for the Sharks. … Ryan Callahan(notes) has five points and 12 shots in his last two games. … Brian Gionta(notes) (60 percent owned) has nine points in 10 games since returning to the Canadiens' lineup in late December. … After disappointing fantasy owners for much of December, Anton Stralman(notes) has picked it up with six assists (five on the power play) in his last eight games. … Caps forward Mike Knuble(notes) has six goals in his last seven games. …

BARGAIN BIN: Available in 50 percent of Yahoo! leagues
Rostislav Olesz(notes), LW, Fla (3-percent owned) – If you give some weight to draft pedigree, and you should, then Olesz is a guy who should register as a breakout candidate for the final 30 or so games of the season. We've seen nothing but flashes from Olesz since he was drafted No. 7 overall in 2004, but lately some consistency has crept into his game, as he has 13 points (seven goals) in 15 games. He was recently bumped from what had been an effective second-line pairing, so his production is worth monitoring (he had a three-game point streak entering play Wednesday).

MARKET MOVERS: Charting player values
Brandon Dubinsky(notes), C, NYR – Since returning from a month-long injury hiatus in mid-December, Dubinsky has 18 points in 19 games. Tuesday's Gordie Howe hat trick got our attention, but really Dubinsky has been steady for quite some time. He already has 37 shots on goal in January (3.7 per game) and six games remaining to shatter his previous career high for shots in a month (38).

Brian Elliott(notes), G, Ott – If you need a short-term goalie add you might want to take a look at Elliott, winner of two straight (51 saves on 53 shots). Ottawa is on a nice run right now (four straight wins) and a winnable home game against St. Louis is up next. Mike Brodeur(notes) (3-0 this season) is the fall-back option should Elliott stumble.

John-Michael Liles(notes), D, Col – Liles has been a point-per-game performer over his last 10 (2-8-10), with six of those points coming on the power-play. Over the last month he ranks just outside the top 30 at his position, which is pretty high for a guy owned in just 41 percent of Yahoo! leagues. There's a good chance he's outperforming the D4 on a lot of rosters out there.

Troy Brouwer(notes), RW, Chi – Brouwer enjoyed a nice weekend (two goals, two assists, two PPP) that was really just an extension of his recent solid play. With all the offensive weapons on the Blackhawks' roster, you might be surprised to learn that Brouwer is tied with Jonathan Toews(notes) for the team lead in power-play goals (seven). Look for him to continue to put up solid RW2 numbers as long as he's out there doing the dirty work on Toews' wing.

Chris Stewart(notes), RW, Col – He has goals in three straight and 14 in 21 games dating back to early December. Stewart has also dropped the gloves twice in the last five games. He won't do a ton for you in the assists department and his plus/minus is neutral, but if you need a boost in goals or a small push in penalty minutes without scrapping your scoring pace, give the 32-percent owned Stewart a tryout.

Wayne Simmonds(notes), RW, LA – The voice of the people was finally heard in Los Angeles, as fan favorite Simmonds was recently promoted to the Kings' No. 1 line with Anze Kopitar(notes) and Ryan Smyth(notes). In his last three Simmonds has two goals, an assists and 14 minutes in penalties. Here's another guy that can give you a PIM push with offensive upside in your RW2 or 3 slot.

Kyle Okposo(notes), RW, NYI – Okposo had a six-game point streak (4-2-6) snapped Tuesday. He's not the only Islanders forward outperforming his ownership figures lately. Josh Bailey(notes) had a seven-game point streak (3-8-11) recently and Rob Schremp(notes) has eight points in his last nine. Back on the blueline Jack Hillen(notes) has five points in five (two on the power-play).

Steve Downie(notes), RW, TB – Since Christmas Day he's been right around a point-per-game guy (10 points in 12), and of course he's a constant threat to break a rule or two. At the very least keep Downie in mind for that Jan. 31 rematch with the Capitals.

Manny Malhotra(notes), C, SJ – The Sharks have shuffled lines in hopes of generating some secondary scoring outside the Heatley-Thornton-Marleau unit, the moves landing Malhotra on a line with Joe Pavelski(notes) and Devin Setoguchi(notes). Malhotra has five points in three games (two on the power-play) and is plus-five in those games. Mission accomplished. Malhotra is worth a flyer in deeper formats and would deserve attention in smaller leagues if he gains wing eligibility.

Benoit Pouliot(notes), LW, Mon – Very quietly Pouliot has four goals and 15 penalty minutes in his last six games. He's doing his best to make that trade with Minnesota involving Guillaume Latendresse look like a win-win.

Todd Bertuzzi(notes), RW/LW, Det – That December to remember gave way to a forgettable January. Did someone kick the plug for the rejuvenation matchine out of the socket? Bertuzzi hasn't been a factor on the power play in January and has just three points in nine games. As Detroit starts to heal up at the forward positions, Big Bert could find himself further marginalized.

Yahoo! Friends and Family League update
Last week Peter Maingot had a sizable lead. This week it's Scott Pianowski putting some distance between himself and the field. Patrick Marleau(notes) had a big week, Marian Gaborik(notes) went assist-happy and Mike Green(notes) kept doing his thing. It's interesting to note that Maingot and Pianowski rank 1, 3 in the league in roster moves and 2, 1 in the league standings. League-wide moves involved James van Riemsdyk(notes), Sami Salo(notes), R.J. Umberger(notes) and Mike Brodeur, among others.

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