GOALIE HOT SEAT
ANAHEIM DUCKS RED HOT
1st Chair: Jean-Sebastien Giguere(notes)
2nd Chair: Jonas Hiller(notes)
Skinny: At just 35-percent owned, Giguere might be this week's top fantasy bargain. He's started four straight, winning three (1 OTL), and some of that old Jiggy fire is back. Among the victories was a 28-save shutout of the Blackhawks on Saturday. It may just be a hot streak and coach Randy Carlyle isn't about to give fantasy owners guidance, but at the very least Hiller owners need to acquire some insurance.
DETROIT RED WINGS RED HOT
1st Chair: Jimmy Howard(notes)
2nd Chair: Chris Osgood(notes)
Skinny: Since Osgood returned from a bout with the flu, both goalies have started three games. Howard's start Monday will give him a 4-3 advantage in the work split and the results have been favorable for the youngster, too – he's won two of three while Ozzie has dropped three straight. The difference between this battle and the Osgood-Conklin tussle from a year ago is that Howard is viewed as the team's goalie of the future. Even if Osgood reestablishes himself as the No. 1, expect to see plenty of his backup. These may not be the same Red Wings, but Howard's 18-percent fantasy ownership total seems about 50 percent light.
TAMPA BAY LIGHTNING RED HOT
1st Chair: Mike Smith(notes)
2nd Chair: Antero Niittymaki(notes)
Skinny: Smith has started five of seven, earning points in four (2 wins, 2 OTL). Niittymaki (1-1-1 in last three) might be getting a raw deal, but such is life when you're not the guy a club views as a long-term option. Tampa turned to Niittymaki on Monday, so we could be approaching win-and-stay-in territory here. Smith is coming off an OT loss to his former employer.
TORONTO MAPLE LEAFS RED HOT
1st Chair: Jonas Gustavsson(notes)
2nd Chair: Vesa Toskala(notes) (1a), Joey MacDonald(notes)
Skinny: We celebrated Toskala's fresh start here last week, then he went out and allowed three goals on 15 shots against the Islanders before departing with a groin injury. If they are, in fact, in win-and-stay mode in Toronto, then Gustavsson didn't need the injury. He mopped up the loss to the Isles, then helped the Leafs sweep a Florida trip (54 saves, 61 shots). Toskala appears to be about a week away from game action.
WASHINGTON CAPITALS HOT
1st Chair: Semyon Varlamov(notes)
2nd Chair: Jose Theodore(notes)
Skinny: Varlamov hasn't lost in regulation since Nov. 4 (5-0-2) while Theodore hasn't faced a shot in game action since Nov. 14 (5-2 loss @ NJ). That changes Monday when Theodore starts against the Hurricanes. This is a nice chance for Jose to restore some confidence, but this is also the type of gig a backup typically gets (Carolina ranks 30th in NHL in scoring).
NASHVILLE PREDATORS WARM
1st Chair: Pekka Rinne(notes)
2nd Chair: Dan Ellis(notes)
Skinny: Rinne's hot streak (7-2, 2.18, .921) has made him the only goalie in the season top-10 who is owned in fewer than 80 percent of Y! leagues (79-percent owned). Ellis also got a piece of the Preds' positive momentum (4-1 win vs. Florida on Sat.), but there's been a major swing in this battle since early November.
MONTREAL CANADIENS WARM
1st Chair: Carey Price(notes)
2nd Chair: Jaroslav Halak(notes)
Skinny: Price is ranked 19th among goalies over the last month (5 wins, .922 save pct.) and would have a loftier rank if he had snuck in a shutout. Halak has started just once since Halloween, but is only a Price funk away from fantasy relevance.
COLUMBUS BLUE JACKETS WARM
1st Chair: Steve Mason(notes)
2nd Chair: Mathieu Garon(notes)
Skinny: If you're wondering what to do with Mason, the first thing might be to bench him away from home (4.13 GAA, .877 save pct.). Garon isn't a long-term option, either for the Blue Jackets or fantasy owners.
NEW YORK ISLANDERS WARM
1st Chair: Dwayne Roloson(notes)
2nd Chair: Martin Biron(notes), Rick DiPietro(notes)
Skinny: DiPietro had a full practice Monday and stayed an extra 15 minutes to take shots, reports Chris Botta's Islanders blog. Biron has dropped three straight while Roloson has enjoyed a respectable November (5-1-2, 2.67, .921).
PHILADELPHIA FLYERS LUKEWARM
1st Chair: Ray Emery(notes)
2nd Chair: Brian Boucher(notes)
Skinny: We're a long way from a transfer of power here, but with an asset as volatile as Emery you have to be aware when you hit a bump in the road (one win in last six starts). Boucher, a capable No. 2 last year in San Jose, has a 1.44 GAA in three November starts.
The final "t" in this column is generally crossed around the time the Monday slate in the NHL begins, so I think I can be forgiven if this week's Skinny arrived a little late. Between the Alex Ovechkin(notes) injury and ejection and the hatchet job Florida defenseman Keith Ballard(notes) unleashed on his own goaltender, there has been plenty to distract and intrigue a fantasy owner.
On the Ovechkin side of things it appears that the team will not comment Monday on the superstar's injury. Whether we hear from the NHL regarding his knee-on-knee hit on Tim Gleason(notes) remains to be seen. The Vokoun injury was plenty sensational, but based on early word from the team (ear laceration), I wouldn't run out and grab Scott Clemmensen(notes). Florida has games on back-to-back nights mid-week, so I wouldn't panic if you don't see Vokoun on Wednesday against Colorado. Certainly keep an eye out for updates. OK, enough instant analysis, let's get to the Skinny …
• We are starting to get a clear picture of Rick DiPietro's rehab calendar. The team has confirmed that DiPietro will start Saturday for Bridgeport of the AHL, but will not play the entire game. The plan is to have him work his way up to playing a full 60 minutes to set the stage for an eventual season debut with the Islanders in mid-December. Could the team be targeting the home-and-home against the Rangers Dec. 16-17? When he does return it will be his first game action since Jan. 2. DiPietro played only five games in the 2008-09 season.
So is the goalie's return a fantasy non-event? As of Monday morning the top overall pick from the 2000 NHL Draft was owned in just 12 percent of Yahoo! leagues. Either owners out there can't be bothered, or there are thousands of rotisserie managers engaged in games of IR-activation chicken. I sense the former is true. DiPietro had his best season in 2006-07 when he went 32-19-9 with a 2.58 GAA and a .919 save percentage. The next season his numbers slipped across the board and he was the 31st ranked goalie in default formats, making him a borderline No. 2 goalie or a solid matchup play as a G3.
Back in that 2006-07 season the Islanders claimed the 8th seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs (thanks to some heroics from Wade Dubielewicz(notes)). This year the Isles are once again a fringe playoff team. New York allowed a ton of shots back in '06-07, forcing goalies to make 2,437 saves, third-most in the league. Nothing new this year, as the Islanders are allowing the most shots in the league. So as far as conditions go, not much has changed. The Islanders have a deeper nucleus of young talent this year, but the division is stronger with the Flyers reestablished as a playoff contender. We'll call those influences a wash.
The easy fantasy advice to give is to cut loose a spare part today and sign DiPietro, then move him to the IR and hope for a hot start. Then you can decide whether he's a valuable asset on your roster going forward or someone to shop to owners of Steve Mason, Nikolai Khabibulin(notes), Jonas Hiller or anyone else in your league lagging in the goalie categories. But it's not that simple in a year when most fantasy owners are probably carrying one player on their IR and maybe one or two others on their bench. It's been that kind of year injury-wise. So I'd say in a 10-team league you can let DiPietro's return play out on the free agent list. In 12-team or larger leagues, it's a case-by-case call. I'm going to pass in the Friends and Family league since I'm already carrying four goalies after adding Jimmy Howard to the mix. I already own DiPietro in another experts league and in my blog league I have Cam Ward(notes) on the IR already and the league doesn't allow for bench players. So play this how you like, but keep the new timetable in mind if you've been holding off on making a move.
• One-timers: Struggling Colorado center Matt Duchene(notes) was dropped to the fourth line Friday, but responded with two points (one power-play goal) in a home-and-home against the Wild. … The Blues have recalled defenseman Jonas Junland(notes), who had 18 points in 22 games with Peoria of the AHL. … Caps winger Alexandre Giroux(notes) has at least a temporary place on the Alex Ovechkin line. He picked up an assist against Montreal on Saturday. … Olli Jokinen(notes) (now just 81-percent owned) has 10 points in his last eight games. … Simon Gagne(notes) could return to action for the Flyers in about three weeks. … It's hard to attach fantasy advice to a guy this erratic, but here are the numbers for Sean Avery(notes) over the past four games: 2 goals, 2 assists, 23 PIM, 2 power-play points. Apply them as you please. … Fedor Tyutin(notes) is averaging an assist per game over his last seven for Columbus.
BARGAIN BIN: Available in 50 percent of Yahoo! leagues
Jean-Sebastien Giguere, G, Ana (36-percent owned) – We generally allow the goalie issues to sort themselves out over there in the sidebar, but this week we'll single out Giguere to also drive attention to a number of other backups who are making a case for broader fantasy ownership. Given Giguere's list of accomplishments in Anaheim and his recent run of success, you have to consider him a must-add in most formats. Similarly, Jimmy Howard is making a case for universal ownership. He's outplaying Chris Osgood much the same as Ty Conklin(notes) did a season ago. The Red Wings went with Osgood in the playoffs, you might counter, but that would be discounting the fantasy impact Conks had in making 37 starts (25 wins, 2.51 GAA) in the regular season.
In Boston Tuukka Rask(notes) ranks No. 5 among all goalies over the past month with six wins, a 1.58 GAA and a .943 save percentage. He remains eligible in 41 percent of Yahoo! leagues. Nothing says you have to keep these guys long-term and nobody is challenging Tim Thomas'(notes) right to the Bruins' crease when his upper-body injury is healed, but you don't lose any rotisserie ground earned if you drop these guys later.
MARKET MOVERS: Charting player values
David Backes(notes), RW, Stl – Last year's 31-goal, 165-PIM revelation has been a dud in 2009-10, with only nine points in 24 games. But as Jeff Gordon of the Post-Dispatch puts it, Backas has recently "rejoined the living." Over the past three games fantasy owners have gotten exactly what they thought they were investing in on draft day: three goals, two assists and four penalty minutes. This could be the start of something for the now-61 percent owned right wing.
Erik Cole(notes), LW, Car – He's lost without buddy Eric Staal(notes), so it's no surprise that he had just three points in the 10 games his centerman missed. So far the results for Cole with Staal back in the lineup have been modest (goal, assist in three games), but over time they could rekindle some of the magic that allowed Cole to tally 15 points in 17 games down the stretch last year.
Eric Fehr(notes), RW, Was – Fehr's goal Monday was his fifth in seven games (six points total, plus-4 rating). He's owned in fewer leagues than current linemates Brendan Morrison(notes) (27-percent owned) and Brooks Laich(notes) (80 percent), but lately he's the hottest hand in the trio.
Niklas Hagman(notes), LW, Tor – Hagman flashed some 30-goal potential two seasons ago with the Stars and is back in a scoring groove in his second campaign in Toronto. The 30-percent owned left wing has six goals in four games
Kurtis Foster(notes), D, TB – The fantasy guidance here is fairly clear. Foster has some history of power-play success and may have been on the verge of a breakthrough in Minnesota before that gruesome broken leg back in 2008. Pockets of rogue production are not unusual, so don't get too attached, but there's reason to believe Foster can stick as a serviceable D4.
Gilbert Brule(notes), C, Edm – Continually using the post-hype sleeper tag as an endorsement can grow tiresome, but once again we're seeing glimpses of why Brule was selected No. 6 overall in 2005. He has seven points in six games, including two power-play points in Saturday's ugly loss to the Canucks.
Max Pacioretty(notes), LW, Mon – A variety of performance and physical issues have thrust Pacioretty into a top-six role with the Canadiens and so far he's playing like he belongs: 2 goals, 4 assists, plus-2 in six games. He could be a hot hand to ride in deeper formats.
Tyler Myers(notes), D, Buf – If you're a disappointed Jason Demers(notes) owner (see below), maybe you can kill the pain with Myers, just 13-percent owned and fresh off four assists in two games over the weekend.
David Legwand(notes), C, Cls – Just nine percent owned, Legwand is the 40th ranked player over the past month with five goals, seven assists and a plus-6 rating. He's currently on a five-game point streak.
Jason Demers, D, SJ – Despite producing at just below a 40-point pace, Demers was sent to Worcester when the Sharks activated Rob Blake(notes). The rookie lost out to Derek Joslin(notes), who San Jose likely views as the more responsible defensive option.
Yahoo! Friends and Family League update
The top of the standings remain volatile. Tony from the Fantasy Hockey CafÃ© is back atop the league with last week's leader Scott Pianowski falling to fourth. Only 10 rotisserie points separates first from seventh. That's competitive. My own team is struggling mightily in the goals and shots categories (how can you be buried in shots with Olli Jokinen on your roster?) but is holding tough in third place. This week's transactions involved Brian Rolston(notes), Antoine Vermette(notes), Jeff Deslauriers and Andrej Meszaros(notes), among others.