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Shots on Goal: Starting to fall

by | Rotowire.com
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What is happening to starting goalies this season? Well, injuries and poor play is happening to many of them. If you're like this writer you were extremely bullish on Washington acquiring Tomas Vokoun. How's that working out for you? Then there's the case of Jaroslav Halak, another Czech goalie that we were handicapping to be a solid No. 2 Fantasy goalie, worthy of a seventh round selection in 12-team leagues that start two netminders. Suffice to say that there have been some significant developments league-wide that have turned goalie rankings upside down. It's sort of like what's happened in the NFL this season at quarterback. In September would you have thought that guys like Tyler Palko, Caleb Hanie, Matt Leinart and Vince Young would be starting games Week 12?

We're adding an extra bonus feature in this week's column. Why? Well, because we're good people. Actually the real reason is because we've found ourselves overly preoccupied with depth defensemen lately dues to the fact that Tobias Enstrom or Ryan Whitney is on virtually every one of this writer's roto squads this season. Thus, this week's theme - the replacements - encompasses both changes between the pipes and injury replacement opportunities for those needing some blue line help due to injuries to studs like Mike Green, Alex Goligoski, Chris Pronger, Andrei Markov, Tyler Myers, Tobias Enstrom, etc.

Buffalo

Jhonas Enroth continues to see all of the starts for Buffalo with Ryan Miller out at least another 10-14 days due to a concussion. Enroth's play has dipped a bit of late, with three goals or more allowed in three of his last four starts. Buffalo has significant injuries outside of the crease as well (Myers, Regehr, Ennis, Kaleta, Boyes, Stafford, Weber, McCormick) and this could be having a negative effect on Enroth's peripherals. If you are looking for a depth D-man, both Jordan Leopold and Marc-Andre Gragnani are worth a look. Leopold has five goals already after posting a career-high last season while Gragnani is getting the second highest amount of power-play time on the Sabres after Christian Ehrhoff.

Colorado

After seven straight losses that saw him post a 4.17 goals-against average and .847 save percentage, Semyon Varlamov finally won a November start on Saturday against Edmonton while stopping 31 of 33 shots (.939 save percentage). Jean-Sebastien Giguere is 2-2 in four November starts with a 1.75 goals-against average. Varlamov has 16 starts to JSG's seven and we like that ratio (70 percent of total starts going to Varlamov) to remain relatively consistent throughout the season.

Stefan Elliott, a superstar defenseman in junior hockey with 241 points in 282 games with a ridiculous plus-104 defensive rating, played over 19 minutes Saturday in his first NHL game and scored the game-winner vs. Edmonton. Pick him up ASAP if you need a defenseman, as he just may be this year's Kevin Shattenkirk.

Columbus

Steve Mason remains concussed while Curtis Sanford has been a huge surprise with his stellar play. Sometimes we get caught up in the promise of a blue chip prospect (like Mark Dekanich) and we ignore the steady veteran backup. Sanford played well for Vancouver in his last chance in the Big League, three years ago and he's starting to make us doubters reconsider our possible rush to judgment. The 32-year-old backup journeyman is 3-0-2 in six appearances with an insane 1.27 goals-against average and .950 save percentage. While he can't possibly maintain those stats, he is the No. 1 goalie in Columbus for the immediate future. Moreover, with Columbus finally starting to play some decent hockey, he's actually worthy of being used as a No. 2 or No. 3 Fantasy goalie these days. If you're thin on defense take a gander at Fedor Tyutin, who has been playing well of late (three points in last four games) and has a regular gig on the Jackets' first power play unit across from James Wisniewski. Another defenseman to consider is Nikita Nikitin, who has four assists in his last six games and is third on the Jackets in power play time amongst defensemen.

Dallas

Kari Lehtonen has a groin injury and you should immediately pick up Andrew Raycroft. While the extent of Lehtonen's injury remains unknown we do know that he's had numerous groin injuries over the course of his NHL career. Yes, Raycroft's stats this year are horrendous, but he's only seen the ice five times and teams often circle the wagons and rally around the backup when the No. 1 goes down with injury. Speaking of injuries, top defender Alex Goligoski has missed eight games already and likely won't be back until around Dec. 10. Nobody misses Goligoski more than Sheldon Souray, who has failed to register a point since Goligoski was injured Nov. 11 at Pittsburgh. Their other top defenseman, Stephane Robidas, has just one point since Goligoski went out.

Edmonton

While Nikolai Khabibulin is No. 1 in Edmonton, and clearly outplaying Devan Dubnyk, injuries are starting to mount. Not only is half of their starting top-six on defense injured - Cam Barker (ankle surgery), Corey Potter (sprained ankle), Andy Sutton (groin injury) - but no they've lost Taylor Hall to a shoulder injury. If you need some defense Tom Gilbert has really picked up his play over the last five games with five points, three on the power play, along with four PIMs and a plus-4 defensive rating.

Florida

This writer continues to be amazed at 35-year-old Jose Theodore. Theodore just keeps winning, and with Jacob Markstrom getting shelled Saturday and Scott Clemmensen battling soreness after just one start (albeit a shutout), Theodore seems safely entrenched as the No. 1 goalie on a competitive upstart Panthers team. As such we are adjusting our estimate for starts for Clemmensen from 25-30 starts to 15-20 starts.

Minnesota

Josh Harding got another chance to shine when Niklas Backstrom briefly left the team for personal reasons. Harding went 2-1 but lost his last effort, 4-2 to Edmonton. Backstrom, who is 3-0 in his last three starts, should get that start on Sunday when they host Calgary. On defense, with Marek Zidlicky out with a concussion, defenseman Jared Spurgeon is seeing an increase in power-play deployment. Spurgeon has three assists in his last six games, all on the power play. Moreover, he's averaged over 5 minutes with the man advantage over his past two games.

N.Y. Islanders

Patience is a virtue and Al Montoya owners have finally been rewarded for being virtuous. Montoya, a superior talent to Rick DiPietro, may have finally taken over as No. 1 on the Island. With Evgeni Nabokov out indefinitely and Rick D. the stiff that we know he is, Montoya actually started and won a game this weekend.

Philadelphia

Sergei Bobrovsky is getting more starts than we anticipated heading into the season. Bob has a 5-2-1 record but his 2.82 goals-against average needs to come down for him to be an effective No. 3 roto goalies. Similarly, Ilya Bryzgalov (8-5-2) has to bring down his 2.89 goals ag. They each have a .900 save percentage. What makes it harder to get that goals-against average down for both is the lack of depth on defense. When Chris Pronger is out, as he is from time to time, they are really thin and inexperienced on defense. Andreas Lilja is out indefinitely and they have had to bring up reinforcements from their AHL team (Marc-Andre Bourdon and Kevin Marshall). The situation is further exacerbated by the injury to promising defenseman Erik Gustafsson (wrist surgery), who's out until January.

St. Louis

Backup Brian Elliott continues to play outstanding hockey for new Blues coach Ken Hitchcock. Jaroslav Halak owner will have to wait until Elliott cools off before Halak returns to the No. 1 spot. As goalie starts are hard to come by, Halak owners should be targeting the likes of Raycroft or Sanford for the short term (assuming that Elliott is not available in their leagues).

Tampa Bay

Dwayne Roloson has taken a backseat to Mathieu Garon. Garon started and won both games in their home-and-home weekend series against Florida. Garon stopped 47 of 49 shots in the process -- a .959 save percentage. Pick up Garon if you have goalie starts to spare, as this is a legitimate time-share with Roloson for the foreseeable future and Garon has the current advantage.

Toronto

James Reimer has been practicing and should be back by mid-December, perhaps even earlier. Jonas Gustavsson has won three in a row, which has us astounded. He could make it four in a row Sunday at Anaheim but we still (stubbornly?) have little confidence in his long-term proficiency. While we continue to doubt the ability of Gustavsson as a No. 1 NHL goalie, we are coming around when it comes to Toronto as a team. The Leafs are a viable team for the 8th playoff seed if Reimer comes back before Christmas. They have more depth at forward than since they had Sundin, Thomas, Roberts, Tucker (aka Krusty the Clown). On defense, Mike Komisarek getting hurt was a blessing, as Cody Franson has all the tools, as does the kid Jake Gardiner. The Swede in goal, though, is a mirage. Franson may be worth considering if you're in dire need of blue line help, as he has three points in his last four games. Just don't expect many shots on goal because he's only got one in four games.

Vancouver

Roberto Luongo is on the bench due to an amazing run by backup goalie Cory Schneider. Initially it was a Luongo injury that pressed Schneider into service and he did not fare well in his first start while allowing five goals in a loss to Chicago. However, since that loss Schneider has gone 4-0 with a 0.74 goals-against average and .975 save percentage, including two shutouts and a fantastic 43-save effort at the Shark Tank. Schneider should get the next start, Tuesday against Columbus. Luongo and his owners will have to wait until Schneider cools down before Bobby Lou can get back between the pipes.

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Player News
Dainius Zubrus
Devils Release Veteran Winger Zubrus
Dainius Zubrus, RW, NJ
9:15 AM
News: The Devils terminated Dainius Zubrus' contract Wednesday, making him an unrestricted free agent, Frank Seravalli of TSN.ca reports.
Analysis: Dainius Zubrus had never been much of a top-flight offensive producer in his eight seasons in a Devils uniform, but he saw his scoring output completely fall off a cliff in 2014-15, as he netted just four goals and 10 points across 74 games. With the Devils looking to give some younger players an opportunity in their forward ranks and Zubrus' ice time likely to decline even further in the coming season, the team decided it wasn't worthwhile to keep him around at his $3.1 million cap hit. The 37-year-old could conceivably latch on in a depth role with another club, but no matter where he ultimately lands, an ascension to fantasy relevance probably isn't in the cards.

David Steckel
Ex-Duck Steckel Inks Deal With German Club
David Steckel, C, ANA
8:37 AM
News: David Steckel signed a contract Wednesday with the Nurnberg Ice Tigers of the German Elite League.
Analysis: The 33-year-old served as a depth forward for the Ducks at AHL Norfolk last season, producing seven goals and 23 points in 76 games. David Steckel is a veteran of 425 games, but considering his age and his impending move to Europe, we may have seen the last of him in North America.

Brooks Orpik
Caps' Orpik Undergoes Wrist Surgery
Brooks Orpik, D, WAS
7/28/2015
News: Brooks Orpik underwent a successful surgery on his wrist on Tuesday.
Analysis: Brooks Orpik is expected to resume full workout activities in approximately two weeks, and should be ready to go by the time the puck drops for the Capitals' regular season opener. It sounds as though the veteran defender isn't in danger of missing any time once the season gets underway, but the Capitals should provide an update on his status closer to the start of the regular season. Orpik doesn't offer much in the way of offensive upside, but led all defensemen with 306 hits and ranked fourth with 192 blocked shots.

Sven Baertschi
Baertschi Inks One-Year Deal With Canucks
Sven Baertschi, LW, VAN
7/28/2015
News: Sven Baertschi signed a one-year (one-way), $900,000 contract with the Canucks on Tuesday, Sportsnet's Irfaan Gaffar reports.
Analysis: Sven Baertschi played well with AHL Utica last season, registering 40 points (15 goals, 25 assists) in 51 games with the team. The 22-year old also suited up for 18 regular season games at the NHL level in 2014-15, tallying six points (two goals, four assists) in those contests. He will get a chance to compete for a roster spot with the big club in training camp. If Baertschi is able to lock down a roster spot with the Canucks in training camp, he will likely slot into a bottom-six role with the team.

Sean Couturier
Couturier Signs Six-Year Extension With Flyers
Sean Couturier, C, PHI
7/28/2015
News: Sean Couturier signed a six-year, $26 million contract extension with the Flyers on Tuesday, Sportsnet's Chris Johnston reports.
Analysis: Sean Couturier hasn't developed into the front-line talent that seemed to be his destiny after he recorded 27 points in 77 games as a 20-year-old, but he's been a steady, two-way player for the Flyers the last two years. He finished with 15 goals and 22 assists while suiting up in all 82 games in 2014-15, and should be back to serve as the team's third-line center once again.

Adam Clendening
Canucks Deal Clendening To Pittsburgh
Adam Clendening, D, PIT
7/28/2015
News: Adam Clendening was traded to the Penguins on Tuesday.
Analysis: The Canucks have agreed to send Adam Clendening, Nick Bonino and a 2016 second-round pick to Pittsburgh in exchange for Brandon Sutter and a conditional third-round pick. Clendening, 22, is coming off a season in which he appeared in 21 total NHL games -- 17 for the Canucks and four for the Blackhawks. The 2011 second-round pick cumulatively tallied one goal and three assists.

Nick Bonino
Canucks Send Bonino To Pittsburgh
Nick Bonino, C, PIT
7/28/2015
News: Nick Bonino was traded to the Penguins on Tuesday.
Analysis: The Canucks will send Nick Bonino, Adam Clendening, and a 2016 second-round pick to the Penguins in exchange for Brandon Sutter and a third-round pick. Bonino had 15 goals and 24 assists in 75 contests for Vancouver in 2015, and he tallied a goal and a pair of assists in six playoff games. He'll likely be plugged in as the Penguins' third-line center, assuming Sutter's old spot.

Brandon Sutter
Pens Trade Sutter To Canucks
Brandon Sutter, C, VAN
7/28/2015
News: Brandon Sutter was traded to the Canucks on Tuesday.
Analysis: The Penguins will send Brandon Sutter and a third-round pick to Vancouver in exchange for Nick Bonino, Adam Clendening, and a 2016 second-round pick. Sutter notched 33 points and 14 penalty minutes in 80 games for the Pens last season. In five playoff contests, Sutter recorded a goal and an assist to go with a minus-1 rating. He's expected to center the Canucks' second or third line in 2015-16.

Eric Fehr
Pens Sign Fehr To Three-Year Deal
Eric Fehr, RW, PIT
7/28/2015
News: Eric Fehr signed a three-year deal with the Penguins on Tuesday, NHL.com reports.
Analysis: The deal will keep Eric Fehr in Pittsburgh through the 2017-18 campaign and has an annual value of roughly $2 million. The 29-year-old spent last season with the Capitals, where he accrued 33 points (19 goals) to go with a plus-8 rating. Fehre underwent elbow surgery in early-June and was given an initial timetable of 4-to-6 months, so it's possible he won't be ready for the start of training camp.

Noah Hanifin
Hanifin To Get Chance At Cracking Canes' Roster
Noah Hanifin, D, CAR
7/27/2015
News: Carolina GM Ron Francis said that Noah Hanifin will receive consideration for opening the season with the parent club, the Raleigh News & Observer reports. "We don't want to force him [up to the NHL] if he's not ready," Francis said. "We'll give him time to develop. I'm certainly not ruling [making Carolina's opening roster] out, but we want to be careful and make sure we do what's right for Noah."
Analysis: Noah Hanifin, the fifth overall pick in June's NHL Entry Draft, made the surprise decision to sign an entry-level contract with the Hurricanes two weeks after being selected, thereby foregoing the remaining three years of his eligibility at Boston College. While an assignment of an 18-year-old defenseman to the NHL isn't unprecedented, Hanifin isn't quite on the same level as Florida's Aaron Ekblad, who achieved the rare "exceptional player" status during his time in the OHL before capturing the Calder Trophy last season. The 6-foot-3, 207-pound Hanifin profiles as a top-tier, two-way defenseman in the long run, but he still needs some further refinement, particularly on the offensive end. He should be the Canes' top defenseman before long, though it's more likely he'll spend most of 2015-16 developing at AHL Charlotte.

 
 
 
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