NHL Skinny: Wild weekend

Matt Romig
Yahoo! Sports


1st Chair: Mathieu Garon(notes)
2nd Chair: Steve Mason(notes)
Skinny: Two things we haven't seen since Mason's disastrous Jan. 5 start in Vancouver: Mason in net and a Jackets game in the loss column (they've won three straight). Garon picked up a shutout Sunday against Dallas, a 2-0 victory that was a one-goal nailbiter until the final seconds. In his past nine games, Garon has a 2.02 GAA and a .919 save pct. Ken Hitchcock scrapped the win-and-play system, so there's no guarantee a loss hands Mason another immediate shot.

1st Chair: Carey Price(notes)
2nd Chair: Jaroslav Halak(notes) (1a)
Skinny: For the graduate course on this battle, please head over to Eyes on the Prize. The numbers analysis is interesting, but to make a golf comparison, there are putts and there are clutch putts, and just maybe there's something to the notion that Price plays just well enough to lose by one goal. Price's status as the franchise favorite keeps him in the top chair – for now.

1st Chair: Michal Neuvirth(notes)
2nd Chair: Semyon Varlamov(notes), Jose Theodore(notes)
Skinny: The Caps eventually turned it into a laugher, but Neuvirth deserves credit for stopping all 18 shots he faced in the first period of an eventual 8-1 win over Atlanta on Saturday. If you look at the game log and remember that two of those five goals against San Jose were scored on penalty shots, you see why coach Bruce Boudreau may have some tough decisions to make when Varlomov returns from groin/leg injuries. Theodore will start one of the Caps' next two games.

1st Chair: Michael Leighton(notes)
2nd Chair: Ray Emery(notes), Brian Boucher(notes)
Skinny: Leighton is enjoying his run as Flyers starter, and he should be (7-0-1 in last nine). Since joining Philadelphia he has a 2.14 GAA and a .928 save pct. Emery is back after an AHL conditioning start, but coach Peter Laviolette said he's not ready to pull the plug on the 20-percent owned fill-in. Boucher is on borrowed time.

1st Chair: Pekka Rinne(notes)
2nd Chair: Dan Ellis(notes) (1a)
Skinny: Nashville ditched its goalie rotation and gave Rinne a second straight start Saturday. With that game falling in the loss column, it wouldn't be a surprise to see Ellis back on Monday. The Preds play seven of eight away from home and have two sets of road back-to-backs on the horizon, so both goalies should see action and remain rosterable.

1st Chair: Tim Thomas(notes)
2nd Chair: Tuukka Rask(notes)
Skinny: Look for Thomas and Rask to split road back-to-backs in Anaheim and San Jose mid-week. Thomas was solid Saturday despite losing 3-1 to the Rangers. If you're invested in Boston's goal, you have to be a little worried about the overall health of this situation.

1st Chair: Jonas Gustavsson(notes)
2nd Chair: Vesa Toskala(notes)
Skinny: Both goalies are owned in about 25 percent of Y! leagues and both own GAAs north of 3.00 in January (a monthly thing for Tosks). Rather than chasing wins here search the wire for names like Neuvirth, Leighton, Ellis and Garon.

1st Chair: Johan Hedberg(notes)
2nd Chair: Ondrej Pavelec(notes), Kari Lehtonen(notes)
Skinny: Lehtonen practiced Monday for the first time since his two back surgeries. Hedberg and Pavelec each allowed four goals Saturday, which isn't exactly easy to do. Pavelec (no wins since Dec. 17) is droppable. Hedberg (3.84 Jan. GAA) is a matchup play for desperate owners.

1st Chair: Jimmy Howard(notes)
2nd Chair: Chris Osgood(notes)
Skinny: Howard will make his ninth consecutive start Tuesday. His recent run includes that otherworldly 51-save effort in Los Angeles and a convincing 4-1 win over San Jose on Saturday. Somehow Osgood is owned in more Y! leagues (73-68 percent), but we all know Howard has been employed in competitive pools for some time now.

1st Chair: Jonas Hiller(notes)
2nd Chair: Jean-Sebastien Giguere(notes)
Skinny: Hiller's four-game winning streak gives him nine wins in his last 11 starts, and his January splits (1.61 GAA, .952 save pct., four wins) are among the best in hockey. Real glad I painted this as a situation to avoid last week.

1st Chair: Dwayne Roloson(notes)
2nd Chair: Martin Biron(notes), Rick DiPietro(notes)
Skinny: The Islanders want to get DiPietro going, but they also " want to be smart about it." DP's Friday debut was predictably mediocre (four goals on 28 shots in 4-3 loss in Dallas). It's a two-game week for the Isles, so the wise approach is leaving DiPietro stashed on your IR (assuming you don't need to make another add/drop) until he's ready for a bigger workload.

Well that was an interesting weekend.

A power outage in New Jersey left fantasy owners wondering where those stats went (and whether they'd ever come back) for a couple of days. I'm sure a few Martin Brodeur(notes) owners out there were quietly hoping the guy who locked up the gym also swept Marty's numbers into a utility closet. Sorry, folks.

There was also Dave Tippett's failure to put a player in the penalty box putting the Phoenix Coyotes in a tough spot and Pittsburgh scoring a goal when it appeared Toronto had been awarded a penalty shot. Blown leads, long shootouts, laser pointers – there was a bit of everything out there.

In case you spent the weekend on the slopes or engrossed in Wild Card weekend mania, get yourself caught up here and here.

The fantasy rundown follows when you're all caught up …

One-timers: Injuries have forced the Bruins to insert Miroslav Satan(notes) into their No. 1 power-play unit. … Vaclav Prospal(notes) appears ready to return to the Rangers' lineup on Tuesday. … After a nice run in the wake of Daniel Alfredsson's(notes) injury, Ryan Shannon(notes) has come back to earth with no points and a minus-6 rating in his last four. … That was a nice four-point, 12-PIM binge for Sean Avery(notes) vs. the Stars on Jan. 6, but those are his only points over his last eight games. It's a shame for fantasy owners (and Rangers fans) that all his former teams are in the Western Conference. … Isles center Rob Schremp(notes) has seven points in seven games, including a goal that should land on some season best-of lists. Josh Bailey(notes) has 10 points during his six-game scoring streak. … Hurricanes left wing Ray Whitney(notes) has seven points in six games, and if he gets traded at the deadline it'll likely be to a team that needs what he can bring to a power play. … Tim Connolly(notes) has 14 points during his nine-game point streak. … Nashville's Steve Sullivan(notes) has points in four straight, with three of his five points coming on the power play. … Tomas Fleischmann(notes) has four points in three games since moving to center for the Caps. He already has dual-wing eligibility, so he's not far from being the ultimate fantasy utilityman.

BARGAIN BIN: Available in 50 percent of Yahoo! leagues
Tyler Myers(notes), D, Buf (34-percent owned) – When a player makes multiple bargain-bin appearances in a season, it usually means a slump was involved along the line. That's clearly not the case with Myers, who is the No. 4 ranked defenseman over the last week, No. 28 over the last month and No. 36 on the season. So if anything he's just getting better. Myers had three points on the power play Friday, and if he can pick up his production on specials teams (he had six man-up points going in), you can kiss one of his blind spots goodbye (he won't be a source of PIMs). If your fourth defenseman is better, consider trading one and bringing Myers on board.

Blake Wheeler(notes), RW, Bos (40-percent owned) – Wheeler has the draft pedigree (No. 5 overall pick in 2004), has already had some moderate success in the NHL (21 goals, 45 points as a rookie last season) and has a favorable role (OK, so Boston's No. 1 line has some third-line names on it, but still). So if you're looking for reasons to discount Wheeler's recent stretch (seven points in four games), you're going to have to look pretty deep. If you're buying that recent pace, you'll be disappointed, but RW2 numbers going forward is a realistic target.

MARKET MOVERS: Charting player values
Antoine Vermette(notes), C, Cls – Rick Nash(notes) hasn't scored a goal in nine games, and while the phrase "somebody has to score the goals" hasn't necessarily applied to the Jackets this season, they do indeed have one productive line over the last several games. Vermette has scored goals in three straight games and has 11 points in 12 games dating back to mid-December. Linemates Raffi Torres(notes) (five points in last five) and Jakub Voracek(notes) (three assists in last three) could be of interest in deeper formats.

Teemu Selanne(notes), RW, Ana – He scored once on a fluky deflection and the next night into an empty net, so let's not start with the "vintage Selanne" talk just yet. Still, it's nice to get two goals in two games in those "getting the legs back" starts after missing more than a month with a hand injury (Selanne is a free agent in about 30 percent of Y! leagues, so take a look). It's fair to step off the Dan Sexton(notes) train (six points, last 13 games). Matt Beleskey(notes) (three goals in last four) deserves a look in deeper leagues if he can stick with Corey Perry(notes) and Ryan Getzlaf(notes) for an extended stretch.

Patric Hornqvist(notes), RW, Nas – Sort the player pool for goal scorers over the last month and the guy on top of the list might surprise you. It's Hornqvist, who with 11 goals in 13 games holds a one-goal edge over universally owned forwards Patrick Kane(notes) and Nicklas Backstrom(notes). Five of those goals have come on the power-play, giving this 30-percent owned forward nice multi-category punch. Give him a look if you're dealing with injury or ineptitude in your RW2 slot.

Brandon Yip(notes), RW, Col – He stays right here this week after recording two goals and an assist on a sweep through Carolina and Buffalo. That makes eight points in 10 games for the latest Avs rookie to show some promise this season.

Erik Christensen(notes), C, NYR – This will be a familiar name for those of you who played the Sidney Crosby(notes) linemate shuffle game from 2006-08. Christensen is now three teams removed from his Penguins days and in fact his days in the NHL appeared numbered until Vinny Prospal's injury. Centering the Rangers' No. 1 line, Christensen has made a splash with seven points in six games. He may even survive Prospal's return.

Luca Caputi(notes), LW, Pit – He's been getting a look on Evgeni Malkin's(notes) line and even surfaced on Pittsburgh's top power-play unit. So far the results have been modest (two points, four shots in three games), but left wing isn't the deepest position in the world and a top-six role in Pittsburgh is always tantalizing, even if the numbers don't always back up the hype. Our friend Dobber penned a piece for The Hockey News applauding the Pens for giving some young forwards a look.

Tom Poti(notes), D, Was – Any time a defenseman scores points in five straight games (1-6-7), he has my attention. Poti is just two-percent owned in Yahoo! leagues, which is understandable given his work to date with the Caps (six goals in three seasons, little help in PIM or PP categories). Two of those points have come on special teams, and if he can stick in Washington's PP rotation, I'm willing to take a flier in a D4 slot.

James van Riemsdyk(notes), LW, Phi – Saturday's game snapped a streak of three straight two-point games for JVR (three goals, three assists). Let's keep an eye on the rookie and see if he can sustain the production like he did from opening night through mid-November. He's a case study in why it's frustrating drafting rookies in fantasy leagues. You look like a genius when he has 18 points through 16 games, but you're not deep enough to endure two points in 21 games, so you cut him loose. Not saying he's going to be a point-per-game forward the rest of the way, but if he does prove useful, it will be painful to watch.

Guillaume Latendresse(notes), LW, Min – Latendresse has seven goals in his last 11 and nine total in 20 games since arriving from Montreal. In watching a few Wild games recently, it seems like every time you look up this guy is either on a breakaway or generating a scoring chance. Wednesday against Calgary he had a team-high seven shots. Here's a good need-based add if you're thin at left wing or in the goals category.

Mike Smith(notes), G, TB – In four of his last five starts, Smith has recorded a save percentage of .943 or better. He seems to be finding a groove after injuries and a challenge from Antero Niittymaki(notes) interrupted his progress to start the season.

Yahoo! Friends and Family League update
Peter Maingot not only took over the top spot this week, he put some distance between himself and his nearest challengers. Looking to add some scoring punch (I rank last in the league in goals), I accepted Janet Eagleson's offer of Alex Burrows(notes) for Jonathan Quick(notes) (I also need to get off the gas on my games-played pace in goal). League-wide virtual contracts were awarded to Jeff Schultz(notes), Michael Del Zotto(notes), Kim Johnsson(notes), Jason Demers(notes) and James Wisniewski(notes) (popular week for free agent d-men), among others.

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