NHL Skinny: Halak attack

Matt Romig
Yahoo! Sports


1st Chair: Steve Mason(notes)
2nd Chair: Mathieu Garon(notes)
Skinny: Mason still has the support of his goalie coach, for what that's worth. Fantasy owners? That might be a different story, as Mason hasn't won back-to-back games since his fourth and fifth starts of the season. Wow. He's expected to make a third straight start Tuesday.

1st Chair: Jaroslav Halak(notes)
2nd Chair: Carey Price(notes) (1a)
Skinny: The argument that Halak has won this job isn't a new one. The voices may be a bit more passionate lately, however. And Habs brass may be listening. Halak is coming off back-to-back wins (one shutout) and is expected to start Tuesday at Florida.

1st Chair: Jose Theodore(notes)
2nd Chair: Semyon Varlamov(notes), Michal Neuvirth(notes)
Skinny: Theodore has won five straight (nine total goals allowed) and Neuvirth had a nice rebound start Saturday against Phoenix (28 saves, 4-2 win). Varlamov didn't practice Monday and his situation is still "up in the air." Given how hot the Caps have been of late and the uncertainty surrounding Varlamov, Theodore should be owned in more than the 52 percent of leagues currently employing him.

1st Chair: Pekka Rinne(notes)
2nd Chair: Dan Ellis(notes) (1a)
Skinny: Preds coach Barry Trotz hinted that he might ditch the goalie rotation and give Rinne back-to-back starts. The bench boss has been concerned about a recent spate of soft goals, so the thinking is it might be time to let one guy get in a groove.

1st Chair: Cristobal Huet(notes)
2nd Chair: Antti Niemi(notes)
Skinny: Niemi had some momentum going before Saturday's forgettable start in Vancouver (12 shots, 3 goals). Huet has allowed nine goals in his last two starts, adding to the growing angst that the Blackhawks don't have championship-caliber goaltending.

1st Chair: Brian Elliott(notes)
2nd Chair: Pascal Leclaire(notes), Mike Brodeur(notes)
Skinny: Coach Cory Clouston has declared that Leclaire would reassume starting duties upon his return from a head injury, but that was before Elliott won four straight (five goals allowed) to earn the NHL's first star of the week honor. Leclaire has resumed on-ice activities. Further success from Elliott, however, could cloud this situation.

1st Chair: Marty Turco(notes)
2nd Chair: Alex Auld(notes)
Skinny: Turco doesn't want to talk about his situation, one complicated by his poor play and impending free agency. Auld went 2-1 in his three-game stretch as starter before the Stars turned back to Turco for two starts (one win). Auld really isn't a fantasy option (Dallas shutting down Turco for a few games is nothing new), but some fantasy intrigue could surface at the trade deadline.

1st Chair: Tim Thomas(notes)
2nd Chair: Tuukka Rask(notes)
Skinny: Thomas was critical of his own play after Sunday's 5-1 loss to Carolina. He stopped just 11 of 15 shots in 31 minutes. Boston has four days off between games, after which we'll likely see Thomas and Rask split starts on Friday (@Buf) and Saturday (vs. L.A.).

1st Chair: Jonas Gustavsson(notes)
2nd Chair: Vesa Toskala(notes)
Skinny: If you're regularly starting Gustavsson (2-5-1 in January) or Toskala (1-3-0) on your fantasy team and are also leading your league, we'd like to hear your tales of rotisserie genius in the comments section. The Leafs have motivation to see as much of The Monster as possible.

1st Chair: Ondrej Pavelec(notes)
2nd Chair: Johan Hedberg(notes), Kari Lehtonen(notes)
Skinny: Although his ratios are a drag, Pavelec has a respectable 3-2-1 record in January. Lehtonen allowed five goals in the first start of his AHL conditioning stint. He is expected to remain with Chicago for two weeks.

1st Chair: Ray Emery(notes)
2nd Chair: Michael Leighton(notes), Brian Boucher(notes)
Skinny: Emery started five games in eight days, winning three and reestablishing himself as Philly's No. 1. In his last three Emery stopped 77 of 81 shots faced. Leighton remains a safety net should Emery struggle again as he did in late November.

1st Chair: Dwayne Roloson(notes)
2nd Chair: Martin Biron(notes), Rick DiPietro(notes)
Skinny: If you're a fantasy owner, DiPietro's start (2-2-0, 2.22, .917) has been just about a best-case scenario. The workload will gradually increase. DiPietro is a necessary add for anyone rolling with Roloson, and there are some unprotected rosters out there given the ownership edge for Rollie (56 percent-38 percent).

We'll jump right into the Skinny this week following one programming note:

No Skinny next week as this editor will be on vacation in advance of spending the entirety of the Vancouver Olympics in an underground bunker in Southern California as part of the Yahoo! Sports coverage team – we'll have plenty of editors, writers and analysts on-site, with the rest of us sequestered in California keeping the site updated.

Since you're here reading hockey content, you're probably as excited (and anxious, if your fantasy roster is loaded with Olympians) as all of us for the ice hockey tournament and all the other events. Scott Pianowski will be with you Monday over in the Roto Arcade with an update and you're encouraged to follow his analysis for the entire season. We'll also have a Big Board update later this week.

Let's get to the action …

Another housekeeping note: You'll notice two goalie battles absent from the Hot Seat this week. Jimmy Howard(notes) is off the burner in Detroit. Chris Osgood(notes) has made just one start since Dec. 20 and there's no sense providing the same update every week: Howard plays, Ozzie gripes. Do you cut Osgood loose if you own him? I'm not making that move. Howard has been human in his last three starts (1-1-1, nine goals allowed) and at the first sign of vulnerability the Red Wings may crawl back to their playoff comfort zone, and that's Osgood. Detroit is getting close to full strength with Tomas Holmstrom(notes) and Niklas Kronwall(notes) returning from injuries. There's every reason to anticipate a late-season push here and you want a taste of that in fantasy circles.

Slightly different story in Anaheim. While Jean-Sebastien Giguere(notes) tries to stay positive, his fantasy owners are justified in moving on. It's Jonas Hiller(notes) who will drive the Ducks' playoff push. If it's obvious Anaheim will fall short (the Ducks are currently 10th in the West), then it's likely the team will shed assets, not stockpile them, making Orange County a tough place to dig for goalie wins. Thanks for the memories, J.S.

Ottawa and Chicago have been added to the Hot Seat as challenges to the presumptive No. 1s in both cities have escalated in recent days.

One-timers: Marc Savard(notes) should be back in the Boston lineup Friday against Buffalo. … Brian Pothier(notes) (hand) could return to the Washington lineup within the week. … More injury news: Tampa goalie Mike Smith(notes) appears close to returning after missing nearly two weeks with a neck strain. … Florida forward David Booth(notes) practiced Monday and a return before the Olympic break is being considered. … Niklas Kronwall (13 points in 21 games) should return for the Red Wings on Tuesday against Phoenix. … Tim Connolly(notes) now has a 15-game point streak (7-17-24) and an ownership percentage approaching 70 percent. … John-Michael Liles(notes) (45-percent owned) has seven points during a five-game point streak. … Chris Stewart(notes) scored again Sunday and added an assist. He has four goals in five games. … Ottawa's Peter Regin(notes) picked up three points on the power play Thursday. He had two man-advantage points in his previous 56 NHL games.

BARGAIN BIN: Available in 50 percent of Yahoo! leagues
Wayne Simmonds(notes), RW, LA (20-percent owned) – Simmonds' star continues to rise in Los Angeles, both in the eyes of Kings' fans and with the men behind the bench. He hasn't stopped scoring since joining the No. 1 line, currently comprised of Brad Richardson(notes), Anze Kopitar(notes) and Simmonds. The numbers over the last five games for the Kings' forward: two goals, four assists, plus-3 and 16 PIM. Going back further he has 19 points in 23 games, all without the benefit of significant power-play time. Give Simmonds a look as an injury fill-in at RW or if you need a PIM push without sacrificing your scoring pace.

MARKET MOVERS: Charting player values
Keith Tkachuk(notes), LW, Stl – There's nothing stimulating about his season numbers (11-16-27), but they look a little better when you consider his ice time is down and he's toiled the bulk of the season on St. Louis' fourth line. Well with David Backes(notes) out of the lineup for now, Tkachuk brings his left-wing eligibility to a line with Andy MacDonald and David Perron(notes). That Blues line has been effective of late, so there's a chance Tkachuk will provide some deep-league value in the short-term.

Benoit Pouliot(notes), LW, Mon – The goals just keep coming. Two more over the weekend gave the left wing 10 goals in 15 games since recovering from a wrist injury and joining the Canadiens. Meanwhile Guillaume Latendresse(notes) has no points in three for the Wild, but he was No. 2 star after recording five shots in a Jan. 21 loss to Detroit.

Eric Fehr(notes), RW, Was – Interesting read from Caps Insider about how coach Bruce Boudreau has broken form of late and kept his lines together. The result has been a scoring spike for an already potent offense. Fehr might be the most widely available player (he's six-percent owned) who has benefited from the budding chemistry. He has six goals and eight points in 12 games, the last 10 of which have involved the static lines. Shallow leaguers should take a look at Mike Knuble(notes), who is 60 percent owned and has eight points in nine games on the Ovechkin line.

Saku Koivu(notes), C, Ana – Koivu was back at practice Monday centering a line with Bobby Ryan(notes) and Dan Sexton(notes). He could return to game action as soon as Tuesday in Atlanta. I'm not sure what his ownership figure was before he suffered a sprained knee, but judging from his current employment total (he's owned in 15 percent of Y! leagues), it looks like his streak of 18 points in 19 games went underappreciated. Give him a look if you need an assists boost.

Jussi Jokinen(notes), LW, Car – Over the past month only the Alexes (Ovechkin and Burrows) and Patrick Marleau(notes) and Daniel Sedin(notes) have been more valuable to fantasy owners at left wing than Jokinen, who has seven goals and 10 assists (seven power-play points) in 14 games. Those power-play numbers are particularly useful, as Jokinen has all seven of those man-advantage points in the last seven games. He had three power-play points all of last season and hasn't been a force on special teams since emerging as a shootout dynamo for the Stars in the seasons after the lockout.

Cory Stillman(notes), LW, Fla – He's getting the first shot at filling the void left by Nathan Horton(notes) (out 4-6 weeks, broken leg) on Florida's top line with Stephen Weiss(notes) and Michael Frolik(notes). Florida is hardly an offensive juggernaut, but Stillman is a proven goal scorer who has had some recent success (four goals in six).

Jed Ortmeyer(notes), RW, SJ – Let his current ownership figure (zero percent) give you an idea about the depth of value we're talking here. Standard-format rosters should be Jed-free. For those starting three or four players at each wing, Ortmeyer has three goals and six points in his last four games. It's easy to dismiss given his caree body of work, but the spike does coincide with Todd McLellan's shuffling of lines to stimulate secondary scoring, so he's worth keeping an eye on.

Joni Pitkanen(notes), D, Car – Thanks to a recent binge (nine helpers in last seven), Pitkanen now ranks in the top 10 in assists among defensemen on the season with 26. For a lightly owned guy (42-percent), there's an undeniable skill set here. He's a bit fragile, yes, but if you're jettisoning your No. 4 defenseman to make a move, the risk is low.

Chris Conner(notes), RW, Pit – Conner showed some flashes in his Dallas days and Monday finally made a splash in Pittsburgh, scoring two goals off feeds from Sidney Crosby(notes). Bill Guerin(notes) was out of the lineup and Conner played just nine minutes, but keep his name in your rolodex should he continue to get time with Pittsburgh's top two centermen.

Ty Conklin(notes), G, Stl – Sticking with Monday's heroes, Conklin blanked Calgary 2-0 (34 saves) to record his third shutout in 15 starts. Even if the Blues don't shift more of the workload over to Conks, there are four more sets of back-to-backs between now and the Olympic break. That's four more starts for the backup and potentially another shutout given his current rate.

Sheldon Souray(notes), D, Edm – This isn't exactly breaking news, but two points and a minus-7 in nine January games is unacceptable for a player considered an elite fantasy defenseman just one season ago. Souray trade talks have heated up, so perhaps there's hope for a post-deadline resurgence. Souray is in a position to hand-pick his next destination.

Yahoo! Friends and Family League update
A couple of early season blueline revelations were given pink slips this week, as Matt Carle(notes) and Kyle Quincey(notes) were jettisoned to the waiver wire. Recent player adds include Cody Franson(notes), Daniel Carcillo(notes) and Francois Beauchemin(notes), among others. Scott Pianowski remains atop the standings with a fairly sizeable lead.

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