NEW YORK RANGERSRED HOT 1st Chair: Kevin Weekes 2nd Chair: Henrik Lundqvist Skinny: What a start for Lundqvist, who held both New Jersey and Atlanta to one goal in back-to-back starts last week, then began this week with a shutout. In four career starts, he has three wins, an overtime loss and a .950 save percentage. So what happens when Weekes returns from his groin injury? According to the New York Post, he goes right back between the pipes. Coach Tom Renney will go back to the "original plan" when Weekes returns. That plan called for Lundqvist to start about 20 games this season. Don't bet against him starting 25-plus.
LOS ANGELES KINGSRED HOT 1st Chair: Mathieu Garon 2nd Chair: Jason LaBarbera Skinny: Coach Andy Murray's commitment to a goalie rotation system expired Sunday night, according to the Los Angeles Daily News. From here on, performance and not a pre-set plan will dictate who starts from night-to-night. LaBarbera won all three of his audition starts, including a near shutout of Columbus Sunday. Garon wasn't as solid in his three starts, but both have been guilty of allowing soft goals. Next move: see exactly what Murray decides to do in back-to-back road games beginning Wednesday.
ATLANTA THRASHERSRED HOT 1st Chair: Michael Garnett 2nd Chair: Steve Shields? Skinny: The good news is that rookie Kari Lehtonen may be ready to go by early next week. According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, he will begin practicing on his own Wednesday, and could be in game shape as early as five days later. Dunham, who left Wednesday's game with an injured groin, probably won't resume skating until Saturday. As an insurance policy, the team invited veteran Steve Shields for a workout. He may serve as backup when the Thrashers play Tampa Bay Thursday.
CAROLINA HURRICANESHOT 1st Chair: Cam Ward 2nd Chair: Martin Gerber Skinny: Ward has been every bit as good as promised. After his sparkling 2005 debut against Pittsburgh, Ward has won two of three starts. Friday he turned away 27 of 28 shots to beat New Jersey on the road. Gerber has been out since injuring his hip on opening night, but he was available to play against New Jersey Saturday. Gerber will certainly get a chance to start again soon, but the No. 1 job in now Ward's to lose.
EDMONTON OILERSHOT 1st Chair: Ty Conklin, Jussi Markkanen 2nd Chair: Vacant Skinny: Conklin was pulled 16 seconds into the second period Friday after allowing a tap-in goal by Dallas' Bill Guerin. After the game, Coach Craig MacTavish said he didn't blame Conklin for the 3-2 loss. Markkanen started the next night and was solid in stopping 25 of 27 shots against Calgary. Markkanen holds the advantage in nearly every statistical category, but until MacTavish commits to one as his starter, this should still be considered a platoon situation.
MINNESOTA WILDWARM 1st Chair: Dwayne Roloson 2nd Chair: Manny Fernandez Skinny: Minnesota's decision to remain a conservative, defensive-minded team is sitting just fine with the club's goalie tandem. Roloson faced a flurry of shots in a loss to Vancouver Friday, but has otherwise been fairly well protected. He has a shutout to his credit and a solid .926 save percentage. Fernandez nearly blanked Anaheim Sunday in his second start of the season. The Ducks scored with less than a minute remaining to spoil the bid. Now that he has recovered from his toweling-off injury, expect Fernandez to see more time in goal.
PITTSBURGH PENGUINSWARM 1st Chair: Jocelyn Thibault 2nd Chair: Sebastien Caron Skinny: Marc-Andre Fleury was sent back to the AHL Monday, a move that clears the way for the team to activate Thibault, who suffered a bruised knee warming up for an Oct. 8 game against Boston. Both Fleury and Caron struggled while Thibault was sidelined, but much of the blame belongs to the Pittsburgh defense, which is allowing 37 shots on goal per game.
PHOENIX COYOTESLUKEWARM 1st Chair: Curtis Joseph 2nd Chair: David Leneveu Skinny: You can't blame the slow start in the desert on poor goalie play. Joseph shut out Calgary Monday, and has yet to allow more than three goals in any of his four starts. A tender groin has limited his playing time, allowing Leneveu to impress Coach Wayne Gretzky. His numbers haven't been great, but the rookie has wowed teammates with his poise and maturity. According to the East Valley Tribune, injured goalie Brian Boucher (groin) has resumed practice and is traveling with the team, but no timetable has been set for his return.
COLORADO AVALANCHELUKEWARM 1st Chair: David Aebischer 2nd Chair: Peter Budaj Skinny: Budaj stopped 38 of 40 shots Friday against Chicago before coming up on the losing end of the shootout result. Coach Joel Quenneville told the Rocky Mountain News that Aebischer is still his guy. Why is it even an issue? Aebischer has allowed 12 goals in three starts. The Avs have been shorthanded too often in those starts and Aebischer was solid last year, so he has some room to struggle. But not much.
Thankfully — mercifully, even — this new-look NHL is becoming more recognizable by the day. Sure the game still looks different, with more penalties, breakaways and odd-man rushes that we've seen before. But the right faces are slowly beginning to appear in the right places on the score sheets. Miikka Kiprusoff has allowed a total of four goals in his past three starts. Briefly the NHL's scoring leader, defenseman Brent Seabrook has gone four games without scoring a point. He's been replaced by guys like Forsberg and Jagr and Alfredsson. Maybe fantasy owners don't have to re-learn this game after all.
WEEKEND UPDATE: Need-to-know info from the past few days
I had to do a double-take upon hearing the news that Brett Hull had retired. The news itself wasn't a surprise — Hull wasn't effective and the Coyotes were asking him to be patient about his minutes. He's much too proud to allow himself to slowly fade into retirement. What was shocking about the announcement was that it barely made a ripple in fantasy leagues. In my three leagues, Hull was drafted only twice, and never before the seventh round. Two seasons ago he nearly scored 40 goals with Detroit. In 2003-04, he was still serviceable. But the years — and possibly the year off — had finally rendered him irrelevant. We can still thank him for all those brilliant seasons and for being an outspoken advocate for the game.
Tracking rivalries is a great way to stockpile points in the penalty minutes category. And I'm not talking team rivalries. I'm talking about player rivalries. The goon has been marginalized a bit in the new NHL, and fighting is down. Gone, most likely, are the days of tucking a single instigator into a roster spot and banking on 200-plus minutes. Coaches dress enforcers less frequently now that depth is at such a premium. Fights are fairly easy to predict, so fantasy owners with a roster spot to spare can spot start enforcers. Example: Minnesota heavyweight Derek Boogaard dropped the gloves with Anaheim's Todd Fedoruk to settle a score that dates back to their AHL days. You can bet they'll dance again when the teams meet in November. Columbus' Jody Shelley and Krzysztof Oliwa, now with New Jersey, never miss a chance to fight. A great resource for tracking fights and who doesn't like who is the website hockeyfights.com. I use it regularly to see if there is a history of bad blood between players. After all, a guy like San Jose's Scott Parker isn't of much use in fantasy leagues if he isn't angry at someone.
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Steve Eminger, D, Was He earned serious consideration for NHL defensive player of the week honors by recording back-to-back two-point games against the Islanders and Tampa Bay. On a team that has been prone to blowout losses this season, this 2002 first-round draft pick has emerged as a solid fantasy contributor across all categories. He has six points, a plus-two rating and 19 penalty minutes in seven games. Sunday he led all Washington defensemen in ice time, logging nearly 33 minutes against the Lightning. MARKET MOVERS: Charting player values John-Michael Liles, D, Col — He led all rookie defensemen in scoring in 2003-04. From the looks of it, the year off hasn't hurt him. Liles is leading the Avs in scoring with seven points in five games. The total ranks third among all NHL defensemen.
Rostisslav Olesz, C, Fla — He logged an assist Saturday in a 3-2 win over Buffalo. The 20-year-old has had a modest start to his NHL career, but Olesz has already spent time on Florida's top line, and coach Jacques Martin has been raving about this kid. More ice time would certainly boost his value.
Tomas Plekanic, C, Mon — According to the Montreal Gazette, Plakanic will be promoted to the team's No. 2 line for Tuesday's game. He played the third period with that line Saturday, and scored a goal to even the score against Toronto at 2-2.
Joffrey Lupul, RW, Ana — He led the team in scoring in the preseason and has been logging more ice time than any Anaheim forward save Sergei Fedorov. He already has a pair of two-goal games to his credit.
Rod Brind'Amour, C, Car — He led all Carolina forwards in ice time Saturday, eating up over 22 minutes. In his past two games, the captain has three goals and two assists.
Christian Backman, D, Stl — In case you hadn't noticed, the departures of Al MacInnis and Chris Pronger have left a void on the St. Louis blue line. The Blues are leaning heavily on their top two defensemen pairings, and Backman has benefited with lots of ice time. He has four points in his past three games and has at least one minor penalty in every game this season.
Sergei Gonchar, D, Pit — The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette called him a "monumental disappointment at both ends of the ice." For fantasy owners, the biggest disappointment has come at the offensive end, where Gonchar has registered a lone assist in six games.
John LeClair, LW, Pit — OK, so the entire Pittsburgh lineup is struggling, but we expected more than six shots on goal in six games from LeClair.