NHL Skinny: Surging Schultz

Matt Romig
Yahoo! Sports


1st Chair: Tuukka Rask(notes)
2nd Chair: Tim Thomas(notes)
Skinny: Sunday's shutout in Montreal probably earned Rask a fourth straight start. Rask has a .956 save pct. over his last three, but a 1-0-2 record thanks to a lack of support. Thomas wasn't terrible in January (3-5-2, 2.74, .909) but he's left waiting for an opening, or possibly a new address.

1st Chair: Jose Theodore(notes)
2nd Chair: Semyon Varlamov(notes), Michal Neuvirth(notes)
Skinny: You can't lose with Theodore (10 straight wins) or Neuvirth (three straight) right now. Obviously Theodore (59 percent owned) has been the go-to guy during the Caps' 14-game streak. Varlamov could complicate things by returning this week. He made 26 saves in a 5-4 win for Hershey in an AHL rehab start on Sunday.

1st Chair: Antero Niittymaki(notes)
2nd Chair: Mike Smith(notes)
Skinny: Smith appears ready to return after missing a few weeks with a neck strain. Niittymaki, however, has won six of seven and boasts strong ratios (1.32, .955) in his three February starts. There's no reason to throw Smith right back into the No. 1 chair, but we've seen Niittymaki cede time before despite being the more effective of the two.

1st Chair: Pekka Rinne(notes)
2nd Chair: Dan Ellis(notes)
Skinny: Rinne has made four straight starts as coach Barry Trotz has switched focus from keeping two guys active to trying to "get someone going and on a roll." Rinne is 2-1-1 during the streak, with the overtime loss being one of those 1-0 shootout heartbreakers. Ellis should get at least one start before the break as the Preds play on the road four times in six nights.

1st Chair: Jaroslav Halak(notes)
2nd Chair: Carey Price(notes)
Skinny: Halak's three-game win streak was snapped Sunday, but he got zero offensive support and two of Boston's three goals deflected off teammates before finding the net. He's started eight of nine, winning five and never allowing more than three goals. It will be interesting to see if the post-Gainey Habs decide to move Price before the deadline.

1st Chair: Cristobal Huet(notes)
2nd Chair: Antti Niemi(notes)
Skinny: Coach Joel Quenneville said he was "not blaming the goaltending at all" for Chicago's struggles. Huet went 0-2-1 during the slump, starting five straight in part because Niemi was ill. The fact that Niemi returned with 34 saves in a 2-1 win in St. Louis won't make Huet's life any easier.

1st Chair: Brian Elliott(notes)
2nd Chair: Pascal Leclaire(notes), Mike Brodeur(notes)
Skinny: Elliott ranks third in default formats over the last month with nine wins and a 1.84 GAA. He had a bit of a hiccup Saturday (four allowed in two periods), which allowed the Sens to get Leclaire in a game for the first time since Jan. 12. One loss doesn't hand the job right back to Pascal, but given that coach Cory Clouston had previously said the job was waiting for Leclaire, there's not much room for error for Elliott.

1st Chair: Johan Hedberg(notes)
2nd Chair: Kari Lehtonen(notes), Ondrej Pavelec(notes)
Skinny: Lehtonen has declared himself ready to go after a 1-1-2 stint with Chicago of the AHL. As of Monday there was no timetable for Lehtonen's season debut with Atlanta. With a 13-9-4 record and a solid .916 save pct., Hedberg has quietly been a solid G3 bargain for fantasy owners.

1st Chair: Jean-Sebastien Giguere(notes)
2nd Chair: Jonas Gustavsson(notes)
Skinny: Last time we met we discussed how the Leafs would try to see as much as Gustavsson as possible. Well now they have a second goalie on board who may or may not be the answer in 2010-11. Coach Ron Wilson's initial thought was the Gustavsson could still play "hopefully once a week."

1st Chair: Steve Mason(notes)
2nd Chair: Mathieu Garon(notes)
Skinny: A Saturday shutout of Buffalo gave Mason wins in back-to-back starts for the first time since mid-October. You can't blame Ken Hitchcock for Mason's sophomore slump, but everyone gets a fresh start after a change behind the bench.

1st Chair: Ray Emery(notes)
2nd Chair: Michael Leighton(notes), Brian Boucher(notes)
Skinny: Leighton made a third straight start Monday as Emery deals with a hip injury. The injury is worrisome for fantasy owners but isn't considered serious – the decision to start Leighton on Monday went down to the wire. If Monday's MRI results are unfavorable, all bets are off.

1st Chair: Marty Turco(notes)
2nd Chair: Alex Auld(notes)
Skinny: The Stars are still exploring all options in goal, but for now their guy is Turco, fresh off a 34-save shutout of Phoenix on Saturday. In three February starts he has a 1.01 GAA.

I'll be heading to Southern California mid-week for the Vancouver Games, because frankly nothing says winter like morning runs along the Santa Monica Pier and curbside hot dogs at Pink's to close the night. OK, so it's hardly the place to get in the mood, but it's not like there's any snow in Vancouver, either.

Please keep our Olympics pages bookmarked. We'll have a solid crew of reporters and analysts on the ground in Canada and an equally passionate group in Southern California getting all those stories and images packaged in the same manner that made our coverage of the Beijing Games such a success.

The Skinny will be shelved until early March. Let's hope the injury reports are minimal, but we'll cover any breaking fantasy stories in the Roto Arcade until play resumes in the NHL.

Let's start this week with a couple of goalie stories to closely monitor. Ray Emery had what is being called a precautionary MRI on Monday after complaining for several days about tightness in his left hip. If you've ever spent time chilling out in an MRI tube, you know you don't subject yourself to the experience unless absolutely necessary. There has been some chatter that Emery could require surgery at some point. Michael Leighton is the necessary insurance add here. He had a few hard-luck losses to open the month, but was between the pipes for Monday's come-from-behind win over New Jersey.

Meanwhile it looks like Carolina's Cam Ward(notes) will be under observation for the next few weeks. GM Jim Rutherford would not rule out the possibility that Ward might need surgery to repair his ailing back. One look at the standings will tell you everything you need to know about how carefully the Hurricanes are likely to handle this situation. Carolina has three games remaining before the Olympic break. If Ward is shut down for the season, we'll probably know at some point before play resumes in March. If you're a Ward owner you need to prepare for life without him. Manny Legace(notes) and Justin Peters(notes) are next on the depth chart and are both widely available. Legace will start Tuesday, but Carolina hopes to get Peters another start later in the week.

One other goalie note: We're hearing our first whispers that Jimmy Howard(notes) needs to have his workload cut. The Red Wings and Mike Babcock responded by announcing that Howard will start again on Tuesday. It's not like Chris Osgood(notes) is out there on free agency in most fantasy leagues – he's still owned in roughly 60 percent of pools – but this is a situation worth monitoring if Howard's recent struggles continue. The Olympic break could provide Detroit with a convenient and quiet opportunity to hand the reins back to Ozzie for the stretch run.

Niklas Backstrom(notes) told Michael Russo that he's ready to go, but isn't certain who will start on Wednesday for the Wild. With Josh Harding(notes) (hip) also ailing, Anton Khudobin(notes) picked up his first two NHL wins. … Mike Ribeiro(notes) (56-percent owned) has been activated by the Dallas Stars. … Joni Pitkanen(notes) is still cranking away at a point-per-game pace over his last 14 games. … Pavol Demitra's(notes) modest three-game point streak includes two points on the power-play. … New Olympian Ryan Whitney(notes) has points in four of five. … Wayne Simmonds(notes) is a top-40 forward over the past month with 11 points and 37 penalty minutes. … Mike Modano(notes) has seven goals in his last 11 games. …

BARGAIN BIN: Available in 50 percent of Yahoo! leagues
Jeff Schultz(notes), D, Was (10-percent owned) – Here's a unique one. Schultz doesn't shoot the puck (none on net in his last five games) and won't score much (20 points would be a career-year), but what he does do is play responsible defense for the hottest team in the NHL. Over the past month he's a plus-19, tops in that category along with a more widely owned teammate who wears No. 8. In fact the first six players in that category are all Caps. Then you get to Pascal Dupuis(notes), who is a plus-10. If you're willing to jettison a spare-part forward to make a PIM push, then why not give Schultz a ride as your fourth or fifth defenseman for a guaranteed plus/minus surge? The risk is fairly minimal, but only make the move if an extra plus-10 or 15 the rest of the way would make a difference in the standings.

MARKET MOVERS: Charting player values
T.J. Galiardi(notes), LW, Col – His four-assist game on Feb. 2 got our attention. It also got him promoted to Colorado's No. 1 line following a Feb. 4 stinker in Nashville. The shuffle resulted in a 3-0 win, and while Galiardi did not land on the scoresheet, he did register four shots. Another new line – Wojtek Wolski(notes), Matt Duchene(notes) and Brandon Yip(notes) – accounted for all three Avs goals in the win. Yip deserves a look in any format starting three or more wings per position.

Anton Stralman(notes), D, Cls – Say all you want about a post-Hitchcock spike here – and frankly, an upgrade is justified – but we liked Stralman earlier this season and his numbers in the games leading up to the coaching change were just fine. He had a goal and an assist Saturday against Buffalo, giving the Jackets defenseman nine points in nine games, including six on the power-play. He's only 15-percent owned and would be a D4 upgrade on a lot of rosters out there.

Tuomo Ruutu(notes), LW, Car – He's due back Tuesday after missing a month with an injury suffered in a Jan. 8 fight with Darcy Tucker(notes). Before the injury Ruutu was doing what he does, scoring at around a 50-point pace while keeping the agitation level up. He's also a sneaky source of power-play production. If you need a PIM boost and don't want to totally sacrifice scoring punch, consider the 34-percent owned Ruutu as a LW2 or 3.

Tyler Bozak(notes), C, Bos – We're nearing mid-February, which means most fantasy owners are either a) out of contention and, sadly, not paying much attention, or b) doing just fine and probably not in need of a center. If you're currently stuck somewhere in between, kick the tires on Bozak, who has a three-game point streak (1-3-4) entering play Monday and a consistent 18-20 minutes of ice time per night. He's got some weapons on his wings and doesn't look at all overwhelmed just 14 games into his NHL career.

Jussi Jokinen(notes), LW, Car – He's still technically bargain-bin eligible (45-percent owned), but we all know he's likely scooped up in most competitive pools. For those in public leagues, take a look and see if his six-game point streak (5-2-7) is still sitting on the wire. Only Ovechkin, Marleau and Heatley have been more valuable to fantasy owners at left wing over the last month.

Matt Stajan(notes), C, Cgy – Stajan has just one point in four games since joining the Flames, so his 27-percent ownership figure isn't likely on the upswing. That's fine – go ahead and let the growing pains work themselves out on the waiver wire, but keep his name on speed dial in case the developing chemistry with Jarome Iginla(notes) results in a production spike.

Jamie Benn(notes), LW, Dal – Benn had five points in his first five NHL games, but has slowly played himself off the fantasy radar with just 13 points in 41 games in the middle months. Benn has recently shifted to center and has five goals in his last eight games (he had seven shots and two goals Saturday). He won't lose that wing eligibility, and if you're planning on lobbying for center designation, let us introduce you to a concept called position scarcity.

Tom Poti(notes), D, Was – It's very easy to dismiss Poti's production, but we've reached the point where you might as well let the story play out on your roster. The 24-percent owned rearguard has four points in four February games and looking back further has 14 points and is a needle-moving plus-18 over the past 20 games.

Mark Giordano(notes), D, Cgy – Giordano is one of 11 defensemen with at least 10 goals on the season, thanks to six goals in his last 16 games. Of those blueliners with double-digit goals, only Giordano (35 percent) and Marc-Andre Bergeron(notes) (38) are currently owned in fewer than 50 percent of Yahoo! leagues.

J.P. Dumont(notes), RW, Nas – Dumont has responded to some fairly public criticism with two goals, an assist and two power-play points in his last two games. He needs to continue to produce to justify the ice time. That much has been made clear to him lately. Take a look at his game logs over the past two seasons and you'll see one of the streakiest players in the NHL. This could be the time to target him on the upswing.

Jason Demers(notes), D, SJ – Five points in five nights is nice. But the arrival of defenseman Niclas Wallin(notes) from Carolina could mean fewer trips on the San Jose-Worcester shuttle for the Sharks rookie.

Yahoo! Friends and Family League update
Yahoo!'s own Scott Pianowski has been making himself comfortable in the top spot. He's not sitting idly atop the standings, however. He's as active as anyone on the waiver wire, and recently shipped Patrick Marleau(notes) to acquire Miikka Kiprusoff(notes). Other recent moves league-wide involved Sami Salo(notes), Matt Moulson(notes), Alex Steen(notes), Jakub Voracek(notes), Dennis Wideman(notes) and Chris Kunitz(notes), among others.

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