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Shots on Goal: Who can you count on?

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by John Toperzer
RotoWire Writer

As the playoffs near, games seemingly become more and more critical by the night. Accordingly, we'll take a look at the last week of netminding around the league.    

Anaheim: Jonas Hiller has played once in the last month. After practicing Tuesday he said nothing hurts, but that he just doesn't feel right. Enter Dan Ellis. Acquired for Curtis McElhinney in a deadline deal, Ellis has looked the part of a starting tender with a win and a tie in two starts for Anaheim. While Ellis bears little resemblance to Gump Worsley, he's worth a waiver-wire look. Ray Emery has yet to appear for the Ducks since his recall on February 23 and the team doesn't play back-to-backs until March 19-20.

Atlanta: Young defenseman Zach Bogosian didn't go anywhere at the deadline, as had been rumored. Not sure that matters much at this stage of his development. Franchise goalie Ondrej Pavelec has won three games (3-10-4) since January 7 and has no timetable for a return from a wrist injury. Backup Chris Mason holds a .943 save percentage since taking over for Pavelec, but at this point in the fantasy season his risk isn't worth the reward.

Boston: Lester Patrick came out of retirement to play goalie at age 44, leading the Rangers to their first Cup in the 1920s and 75-year-old Eddie Johnston - the last NHL netminder to go maskless - might win a few games the way the Bruins are playing. Tuukka Rask won four starts during a six-game road win streak, giving Tim Thomas a bit of a break. It was tough enough on opponents with Thomas playing so well, but now even Rask is playing like it's 2009-10.

Buffalo: Patrick Lalime is the only NHL goaltender to lose five games without a win in 2010-11. Jonas Enroth is probably a better backup, even at this young stage of his career. It all comes down to Ryan Miller. Miller is 3-0-1 in his last four starts for his brand new owner, but the Sabres are currently on the second game of a seven-game road trip that will go a long way toward determining whether Buffalo plays past mid-April. Miller has faced the fourth-highest number of shots on goal among tenders, important if for no other reason than the title of this column. Actually, it's hard to believe that there are three other goalies who have faced more shots. 

Calgary: Miikka Kiprusoff continues to lead Calgary toward a surprising playoff berth. The 34-year-old Finn has recorded back-to-back shutouts, giving him three blankings in his last five starts. There was a buy-low opportunity on Kiprusoff early in the season -- actually it was a buy low on the entire team -- but new GM Jay Feaster has found the Midas Touch.

Carolina: Cam Ward wins this week's honorary "Shots On Goal" title. Why? Ward leads all goalies with 1841 shots on goal, nearly 200 more than the next netminder. Unfortunately, that means his 2.70 GAA and is more heavily weighted. Even then, Ward holds a .920 save percentage. What does it all mean? The Hurricanes will continue to lean heavily him in hopes of a Cup run similar to 2005-06. We can all dream, can't we?

Chicago: Wouldn't it be ironic if Marty Turco emerged in the playoffs and led the Blackhawks past the Red Wings? That might help to make up for years of nightmares from the vet tender. Corey Crawford won't let that happen, though. The Calder Trophy frontrunner continues to get better by the month. Crawford went 7-2-1 in February with season-bests in both goals-against (1.96) and save percentage (.932).  The playoffs might be another story for the untested goalie, but for now he's on a roll.

Colorado: It's hard to shake the image of Brian Elliott repeatedly getting torched in Canada's capital city. At some point he might become a cheap fantasy sleeper, but it's not going to happen this year. Elliott has lost his first three starts for the Avs, who are still too young and too injured to compete. Pass.

Columbus: Have the Blue Jackets ever made the playoffs? Those who believe the team is on the cusp of the postseason will want to continue deploying Chris Mason as he's been on fire, going 7-1-1 in his last nine decisions. Columbus is on the road for its next three games, however, and is due for a come-uppance.

Dallas: It's hard to say what's going wrong, but the Stars are winning -- three in a row, to be exact. The recovering Jamie Benn won Tuesday's tilt with a goal at the end of overtime. For most of February, the "L" in Lehtonen stood for "loss", but the whole team is breathing easier after the non-trade of Brad Richards and the passing of the trade deadline in general. Dallas is back in the playoff hunt after a month off and Lehtonen has returned to form. The schedule remains difficult, with three road games against California-based teams in the coming week.

Detroit: Votes of confidence in hockey typically mean that the coach is going to get fired in the next week. Jimmy Howard got his vote of confidence in the form of a two-year, $4.5 million contract extension in late February. Howard leads the NHL with 31 wins, but his 2.82 GAA ranks 30th among qualified goalies. Detroit's front office knows its players better than anybody else, but it's surprising the deadline passed without a move.

Edmonton: Nikolai Khabibulin inked a four-year, $15 million deal in July of 2009. That contract looks worse by the day but it's a sunk cost the Oilers can do little about. He pronounced himself ready Wednesday after battling an eye problem. Devan Dubnyk has outplayed Khabibulin but has lost his last two starts (including eight goals against), opening the door for the veteran.

Florida: Tomas Vokoun is still a member of the Panthers, to the chagrin of fantasy owners hoping for a change of scenery (Detroit anyone?). As it stands, he'll likely battle with his coach and split time with Scott Clemmensen. Florida moved defenseman Dennis Wideman at the deadline, but that might help its goalies numbers. Both netminders lost 2-1 decisions in the last week and there's no reason to expect that trend to change from here on out.

Los Angeles: The Kings goalies played forgettable hockey Monday, with the Jonathan's surrendering seven goals -- Bernier (1 goal on 3 shots) and Quick (6 goals on 24 shots) -- to the Red Wings. Los Angeles has scored 22 more goals than it's allowed (178 to 156) -- fourth-best in the West. Only the Predators and Bruins have yielded fewer goals, a tribute to the rock-solid play of Quick.

Minnesota: Niklas Backstrom has been money for the Wild lately, but he gave up three goals in little over one period in Wednesday's loss on Long Island. Backstrom, who's lost three straight after a fantastic February, could give way Thursday to Jose Theodore in the second of back-to-backs. Theodore has earned whatever starts he gets after a resurgent 2010-11.

Montreal: Carey Price returned to action Tuesday, stopping 40 shots in a 3-1 victory over Atlanta. The Canadiens are hoping that a week off re-energizes Price. The Montreal goalie, who has seen more shots (1664) than any netminder other than Cam Ward, holds the best goals-against average (2.39) and save percentage (.921), among the seven goalies who've faced the most shots.

New Jersey: Johan Hedberg won eight straight starts in February and then lost one. His reward? Well, he's back to riding the pine as Martin Brodeur's backup. Brodeur has won two games in a row and faces a weakened Pittsburgh squad Friday. Brodeur shut the Pens out in New Jersey the last time the two teams played and represents a solid play. Wouldn't it be something if the Devils end up in the playoffs?

New York Islanders : The Rangers took Al Montoya with the sixth overall pick in the 2004 draft - at least one New York team is getting value from him. Montoya has started six of the Isles' last seven contests and helped to beat the Wild, 4-1, Wednesday night with 34 saves. He figures to get the nod three times in the next four games - all of which are at home.

New York Rangers: Not only does Henrik Lundqvist have to be the King, he has to be the King, his court, and maybe even a jester after a season-ending injury to backup Martin Biron. Rookie Cam Talbot might make his NHL debut in the coming week as New York plays three games in four days, starting Friday. The Rangers have 17 games left on the docket and Lundqvist will likely start in 14 or 15 of them. He lost two homes starts in the last week, but fantasy owners know what to expect from the Swede.

Ottawa: Peter referred to the Sens' recent strong play as a "dead cat bounce" last week, even though pucks don't bounce high off the ice. Since then, Craig Anderson has helped to knock off the Flyers, 4-1, and allowed only one goal to the Bruins in a 1-0 defeat. Anderson might actually be worth a start, based upon matchups. Just don't let his start determine your fantasy season after six months of hard work.

Philadelphia: The Flyers made it to the Stanley Cup with Michael Leighton steering the ship last season. This year, Sergei Bobrovsky and Brian Boucher are reaping the benefits of a stacked and deep Philadelphia squad. Goalie Ron Hextall won the playoff MVP in a losing cause back in the 80s, but the Flyers' biggest question mark always surrounds its netminders. From a short-term fantasy perspective, the team plays three of its next four games at home against Toronto, Buffalo and Edmonton. Whichever goalie starts figures to pad his stats.

Phoenix: Coyotes goalies have had a rough stretch of four games, surrendering 20 goals (19, not including the shootout loss). Prior to that, Ilya Brzgalov rattled off nine consecutive victories. Bryzgalov might be the best goaltender the casual NHL fan has never heard of. The team plays only three times in the next seven days, however, and two of those games are against Detroit and Vancouver.  

Pittsburgh: Starter Marc-Andre Fleury lost his best defenseman, Brooks Orpik, back on Feb. 23 and hasn't allowed fewer than three goals ever since. The Flower posted his weakest peripherals since October last month, but a barrage of injuries certainly didn't help his cause. The Penguins finish travel to both New Jersey and Boston over the weekend. It might be wise to keep Fleury on the bench for those games.

San Jose: The Sharks are the hottest team in the NHL, going 16-2-1 over their last 19 contests. Antti Niemi, who battled Antero Niittmaki the first three months just to get on the ice, has 15 of those wins. In theory, Niemi fits the description of a sell-high candidate. Still, it's always easy to tell someone to sell the hottest goalie in the NHL than it is to actually do it.

St. Louis: Ben Bishop blew up like a grenade in Monday's 6-0 loss at Calgary. Bishop was thought to be a prospective heir apparent for the Blues several seasons ago, but that never materialized. St. Louis waived backup Ty Conklin during the past week. Jaroslav Halak is supposed to be near a return, but that's what the team said last week. Until Halak actually does make it back, it might be best to steer clear of the goalie situation in St. Louis.

Tampa Bay: When Dwayne Roloson is good, he's really good, and when he's bad, well, you can figure out the rest. Fortunately for the Lightning (and fantasy owners), Rollie the goalie has showed himself to be strong in the net more often than not. It seems like he's always battled another goalie for playing time, like a Manny Fernandez in Minnesota, but he's finally getting his due at age 41. Roloson has won three of his last four. Tampa Bay travels to Boston on Friday and then plays four at home.

Toronto: James Reimer has turned the Maple Leafs into a playoff contender. Whether the team actually makes it into the postseason remains to be seen, but the rookie goalie has given Toronto hope. That said Reimer and the Leafs play Philadelphia two times in its next four games and once against Chicago. In other words, it might be safer to consider alternative options for the young and improving Toronto squad.

Vancouver: The Canucks were resolute in their stance of keeping both Roberto Luongo and Cory Schneider at the trade deadline. Vancouver has yielded a .500 record since injuries began wiping out its defensive corps. Since February 7, the team hasn't put together a two-game winning streak. As the Canucks' health situation improves, so too will the team's win totals.

Washington: Semyon Varlamov is battling an injury, big shocker there. Michal Neuvirth has played surprisingly well in his stead. Without the backing of a supercharged Washington offense, the Caps have held opponents to fewer than three goals in four of five games. Of course the Rangers lit Neuvirth up for six scores, but he rebounded with 31-save performance the next night in a 3-2 win over the Islanders. Washington picked up a pair of defensively-responsible players in Jason Arnott and Marco Sturm at the deadline to go along with blueliner Dennis Wideman. Surprisingly, defense hasn't proved to be a challenge - the offense has never gotten untracked.

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Player News
Kris Letang
Pens' Letang At 100 Percent In Advance Of Camp
Kris Letang, D, PIT
9/16/2014
News: Kris Letang, who suffered a stroke nearly eight months ago, has been working out without any complications this summer and should be a full participant for the start of training camp, Josh Yohe of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reports.
Analysis: In addition to the stroke, Kris Letang was limited to 37 games last season due to a knee injury and an elbow infection. Though he's the ultimate health risk after missing 99 games over the last three seasons, but few blueliners possess as much skill offensively as Letang, who still accumulated 11 goals and 11 assists in limited action in 2013-14. Letang compiled 50 points in his last full season in 2010-11, and that peak could be in reach again if he can avoid any long-term health complications.

Derrick Pouliot
Pens' Pouliot Not Expected To Be Ready For Camp
Derrick Pouliot, D, PIT
9/16/2014
News: Penguins coach Mike Johnston said Tuesday that Derrick Pouliot (shoulder) likely won't be ready for training camp, Josh Yohe of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reports.
Analysis: Johnston said that Derrick Pouliot, one of the team's top prospects, would likely be able to take part in some skating at the start of camp, but he'll be held out of contact drills until further notice. The former No. 8 overall draft pick accumulated 17 goals and 53 assists over 58 games last season with the WHL's Portland Winterhawks.

Olli Maatta
Pens' Maatta To Receive Update Later In Week
Olli Maatta, D, PIT
9/16/2014
News: Olli Maatta could be cleared for physical contact Wednesday or Thursday, Josh Yohe of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reports.
Analysis: Olli Maatta was ruled out for four-to-six months after undergoing shoulder surgery in May, but there seems to be legitimate optimism that he might beat that timetable and be ready to go for the start of training camp. Even if that materializes, expect the Penguins to limit Maatta's involvement in the early going, with the hope of preparing him for a full slate of minutes for the regular-season opener. The 20-year-old flashed a ton of potential as a rookie last season, accruing nine goals and 20 assists over 78 games.

Anthony Mantha
Wings' Mantha Suffers Injury At Prospects Tourney
Anthony Mantha, RW, DET
9/16/2014
News: Anthony Mantha suffered an undisclosed injury during the NHL's tournament for prospects and will not be available for the Red Wings' finale against the Hurricanes, MLive.com's Brendan Savage reports.
Analysis: Red Wings GM Ken Holland didn't offer any specifics on the nature of the injury other than saying Anthony Mantha was "banged up," but it appears he'll still be ready to return to the ice when training camp commences Friday. The 20-year-old was having an outstanding tournament with five points in three games and should be given a chance to win a spot on the Red Wings' 23-man roster in camp, though it's more likely he opens 2014-15 at the AHL level.

Ryane Clowe
Clowe Looks Ready For Devils Camp
Ryane Clowe, LW, NJ
9/16/2014
News: Ryane Clower (concussion) underwent tests for post-concussion syndrome on Tuesday and should be ready for training camp.
Analysis: Devils GM Lou Lamoriello said the exams were "very positive" and expects that "everything is on track for him to be at camp." Ryane Clowe sustained several concussions last season while scattering, rather unevenly, 26 points over 43 games and expects to be in the lineup on Opening Day. Clowe will see some top-six minutes while in the lineup, but his inconsistency and propensity for injury do not make him the safest pick.

Josh Harding
Wild's Harding Succumbs To Ankle Injury
Josh Harding, G, MIN
9/16/2014
News: Josh Harding has been sidelined by an ankle injury, Michael Russo of the Minneapolis Star Tribune reports.
Analysis: Josh Harding was set to enter training camp at full health after missing the second half of last season due to a change in his medication for multiple sclerosis, but it appears the snake-bitten goalie has been dealt another setback. The team won't have an update on Harding's expected timetable until he visits with the team's orthopedic surgeon Wednesday, but it's generally believed that he will miss the beginning of training camp, if not longer. Harding was in the midst of a sensational season prior to succumbing to another complication from MS last December, and was thought to be a frontrunner to claim the No. 1 goalie job in camp. If he ends up missing the start of the regular season, either Darcy Kuemper or Niklas Backstrom would be called upon to assume starting duties.

Eric Gelinas
Gelinas Signs Before Devils Camp
Eric Gelinas, D, NJ
9/16/2014
News: Eric Gelinas signed a one-year, one-way contract worth $900,000 on Monday and will report to training camp.
Analysis: Getting Eric Gelinas, a restricted free agent, back under contract avoids a holdout by the 23-year old blue liner who snagged 29 points in a scattered 60-game campaign as a rookie one year earlier. The majority of Gelinas's points came before the All-Star break but he also saw himself shuttled between the NHL bench and Albany (AHL) in addition to having his ice time cut severely in some games. He played several games as a 13th forward and some as a seventh defensemen, seeing only power-play time. While Gelinas is under contract, he is, by no means, guaranteed a regular role on the team despite his considerable offensive upside. The team's coaching staff regularly made it known they want Gelinas to improve defensively before giving him a larger role on the team. Monitor his ice time in preseaon games but it's too early to go all-in on Gelinas considering the Devils, despite having an opening, had a tendency to play with his ice time, appearing noncommittal as to whether he would have a regular role on the team last season. Tread carefully.

Daniel Alfredsson
Daniel Alfredsson: Seeing Back Specialists
Daniel Alfredsson, RW, DET
9/16/2014
News: Daniel Alfredsson is visiting with back specialists and is not going to training camp with the Red Wings, Helene St. James of The Detroit Free Press reports.
Analysis: With Daniel Alfredsson's back ailing, it's looking more and more likely last year may have been his final season. Alfie has said he won't come back unless he's 100 percent, and although he wants to return to Detroit, it remains to be seen whether his body will let him.

Kevin Westgarth
Westgarth To Try Out With Oilers
Kevin Westgarth, RW, CGY
9/16/2014
News: Kevin Westgarth signed a professional tryout with the Oilers and will join the team for training camp, NHL.com's Aaron Vickers reports.
Analysis: Kevin Westgarth is nothing more than a checking-line pugilist, giving him value primarily in leagues that count penalty minutes. He'll first have to impress the Oilers in training camp before he gets the opportunity to reprise his enforcer role.

Danny DeKeyser
Red Wings' DeKeyser Signs Two-Year Deal
Danny DeKeyser, D, DET
9/16/2014
News: Danny DeKeyser singed a two-year, $4.38 million deal with the Red Wings on Tuesday, TSN's Aaron Ward reports.
Analysis: As expected, the Red Wings finally worked out a deal to bring the 24-year-old back to Detroit following a lengthy standoff. Danny DeKeyser appeared in 65 games for the Wings last season, registering four goals and 19 assists for 23 total points. He also posted a plus-10 rating and 30 penalty minutes.

 
 
 
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