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Shots on Goal: Change can be very good

by | Rotowire.com
  •  

With the season more than 30 percent complete, goalie starts (and goalie wins) are becoming scarce out there. However, there are at least a trio of opportunities possibly coming up in Phoenix, Tampa Bay and, perhaps, Columbus. More on each team below.

The concussion issue has taken over the discussion in hockey these days. With the number of talented individuals missing (Sidney Crosby, Kris Letang, Chris Pronger, Jeff Skinner, Marc Staal, Al Montoya, Joni Pitkanen, Andy McDonald, Nathan Gerbe, Peter Mueller, etc.) is it any wonder? Ideas, some practical and some not, have been offered up. I have a three-pronged plan:

1. Soften up the shoulder pads. Its body armor right now.
2. Get rid of the trapezoid and let the goalies play the puck anywhere.
3. Introduce no-touch icing.

Oh, and forget about banishing fighting from the game. It's not going to happen. It is the season of giving so we'll try to provide a few nuggets for your roto stocking, like two IR suggestions if you're planning on making a roster move soon and you aren't using your IR spot and could use a defenseman -- Buffalo's Tyler Myers will be back in days and Calgary's Anton Babchuk in 10-14 days. Have a safe and happy holiday season.

Buffalo

It has not been a great year for Ryan Miller or the Sabres but they are hanging in the Eastern Conference standings despite the massive injury list. Moreover, both Brad Boyes and Tyler Myers should return to the lineup after Christmas. Boyes, who's been a huge disappointment this season for Fantasy players with a third line role and zero goals in 11 November games, may get a chance to redeem himself if he's given a second line center gig. The problem for Boyes in Buffalo is that he's the third best right wing on the team after Jason Pominville and Drew Stafford. Should he be moved to center he could prove roto-worthy again while playing with Stafford and one of Luke Adam or Tyler Ennis (assuming his ankle injury doesn't keep him out too long). With Nathan Gerbe (concussion symptoms, out indefinitely, Ville Leino (lower body, out indefinitely), Jochen Hecht (lower body, out indefinitley), and Ennis all hurt, top-six minutes and power-play minutes should be available to Boyes upon his expected return Dec. 26.

Chicago

Backup Ray Emery's five-game winning streak ended in Pittsburgh Tuesday with a 3-2 loss. Corey Crawford drew the next assignment, home to floundering Montreal on Wednesday, and won easily 5-1. The Hawks will now enjoy four days off before they play Monday at home to Columbus. That begins a five-day spell where they play three home games. It will be interesting to see who draws the Monday game. Emery owners will gladly take any start, except perhaps Friday's game against Detroit.

Colorado

Jean-Sebastien Giguere has temporarily taken over as top dog in the Colorado net. I'm calling it temporary because, despite his four-game winning streak where he's allowed just six goals in 248 minutes, there's no way that he can possibly maintain a 1.79 goals-against average and .934 save percentage. Thus, at some point he will get beat badly and Semyon Varlamov will get another chance to show his stuff. JSG owners should enjoy the ride while it lasts but be realistic about the lifespan of his current run. Owners of either goalie must also consider the tepid Colorado offense as another factor working against them. Even in the current four-game streak, they've only averaged 2.5 goals per game. Hence, JSG's margin of victory has been slim nightly, with each of the four wins decided by just a single goal.

Columbus

Curtis Sanford's 2.66 goals-against average isn't bad considering the team playing in front of him. However, the fact remains that Sanford is just 2-4-1 in seven December starts. What's worse is that he's allowed four goals or more in four of the seven starts. After missing a month of action Steve Mason is 1-2 in December with a 3.33 goals-against average. Splitting up Rick Nash and Jeff Carter has helped the offense as they've scored nine goals in their last two games. Unfortunately, they allowed six goals in each of those games and lost both. This team needs a shakeup and with GM Scott Howson apparently unwilling to fire coach Scott Arniel, a trade seems a strong possibility.

Dallas

If Richard Bachman were Cinderella, it would be nearing midnight, as Kari Lehtonen is back practicing with the team and hopes to return Dec. 31 vs. Columbus. Bachman, who stopped 34 of 37 shots Friday against Nashville, has gone 5-2 while starting the last seven games. Lehtonen owners have to be chomping at the bit, what with top defenseman Alex Goligoski back in the lineup and starting to heat up. Speaking of heating up, captain Brenden Morrow has awoken from a season-long slumber with four goals, four assists and 18 PIMs in eight December games.

Edmonton

Nikolai Khabibulin is 2-3 in December with a 2.38 goals-against average while Devan Dubnyk is 1-3 in December with a 3.48 goals-against average. The Oilers are still trying to find their identity. After a great start to the season injuries wracked their lineup and they're still searching for their identity.

Minnesota

Reality is catching up to Minnesota. Once the top team in the league's standings they have now lost six straight games. They simply do not have the best team in the league and need to play their sleepy trap game and get great goaltending in order to win. Niklas Backstrom and backup Josh Harding certainly do their part but it’s unrealistic to expect Backstrom to be a No. 1 Fantasy goalie with the Wild's unimpressive group of defensemen and forwards, especially when one considers the fact that three top-six forwards are out of the lineup: Mikko Koivu (expected back after Christmas) left wing Guillaume Latendresse (concussion symptoms again, out indefinitely), and top-six winger Devin Setoguchi (lower-body injury, out until January).

N.Y. Islanders

Al Montoya is out with a concussion and Evgeni Nabokov has lost the two starts since Montoya went down. We don't have a lot of confidence in Nabokov but he could be a useful Fantasy goalie if you spot start him and deploy him as no better than your third roto goalie. The recent return of veteran defenseman Mark Eaton can only help an Islanders defense that has been painful to watch at times this season.

Phoenix

No. 1 goalie Mike Smith is out with a groin injury and backup Jason LaBarbera has gone 1-1 with a 3.02 goals-against average so far in his place. The Coyotes are calling up Curtis McElhinney from the AHL and sending back down former Carolina goalie Justin Pogge. Smith isn't supposed to be out long but groin injuries can linger. Should Smith be out for an extended period of time management may consider trading for a goalie.

San Jose

If you're in need of goalie help you should strongly consider picking up Antero Niityymaki because the Sharks have called him up after a three-game conditioning stint in the AHL. There are a few cogent points to consider here: the Sharks have six games in 12 days between Dec. 26 and Jan. 7 then they play another five games between Jan. 10 and Jan. 17. They are going to play Niittymaki to showcase him for a trade. If he fares well he could be starting for Phoenix or Tampa Bay before the trade deadline. The Sharks cannot send down either Niittymaki or Thomas Greiss (4-4 with a 2.37 goals-against average and .918 save percentage) without exposing them to waivers where they could be claimed by another team. We don't expect them to carry three goalies for too long. Something will have to give and it’s worth it to grab Niittymaki and hold onto him until the situation plays itself out. Even if he stays in San Jose as the backup he'll have some value, if you can afford the roster space for a backup (I'm now holding four backups – Rask, Schneider, Emery, Niittymaki - in one experts league so I'll be looking/hoping for a resolution to this by late January or sooner).

St. Louis

OK, we're no longer calling Brian Elliott the backup goalie. Elliott started and lost 3-2 Tuesday at Colorado. There are two things significant about this. One, it was only the second time all season that Elliott's given up more than two goals in a start. Second, Blues coach Ken Hitchcock went right back to him the next game, Friday at Phoenix, where he responded with 24 saves on 26 shots in a Blues win. Look for Elliott and Jaroslav Halak to split the next two starts, as the Blues have back-to-back games Monday at home to Dallas then Tuesday at Detroit. How about Jason Arnott? He's been moved up to the third line and has scored three goals in his last four games. The 37-year-old is having a great December, especially for a non-top-six forward, with three goals and seven points (four on the power play) in nine games.

Tampa Bay

The Lightning could be in the market for a goalie. Would they bring back former Lightning goalie Antero Niittymaki? Could they pry Steve Mason from Columbus? Or is it time for GM Steve Yzerman to call up Dustin Tokarski from their AHL affiliate? The 22-year-old Tokarski is 11-7 in the AHL this season with a 2.50 goals-against average and a less than impressive .896 save percentage. Dwayne Roloson has been a huge disappointment while Mathieu Garon has been at least decent at times. Garon is 3-4-1 in December but he's allowed 4 goals or more in three of the eight starts. If Yzerman doesn't pull the trigger on a goalie trade, after the Christmas no-trade period, then he should strongly consider picking up a legitimate top-four defenseman for they are in short supply of them in Tampa Bay.

Vancouver

The window of opportunity for Cory Schneider to usurp Roberto Luongo has been firmly shut. Luongo has only allowed only eight goals combined over his past five starts. Moreover, he's 7-2-1 in December while allowing more than two goals in just three of those starts. The best us Schneider owners can hope for is one start every 10 days (barring an injury to Bobby Lou).

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Player News
Andre Benoit
Benoit Inks One-Year Deal With Blues
Andre Benoit, D, BUF
9:24 AM
News: Andre Benoit signed a one-year, two-way contract with the Blues on Monday.
Analysis: Andre Benoit experienced a large dip in offensive production in 2014-15, tallying a mere nine points after registering 28 points in 2013-14. However, that dip in production can largely be attributed to the fact that the 31-year-old defender played 20 fewer games in 2014-15, and was a member of the league's worst team in the Sabres. A fresh start with a new team may be just what the doctor ordered for Benoit, but don't expect him to surpass the numbers he posted in the 2013-14 campaign.

Shawn Matthias
Leafs Sign Matthias
Shawn Matthias, C, VAN
9:21 AM
News: Shawn Matthias signed a one-year deal with the Leafs on Monday, the Province reports.
Analysis: The deal is reportedly worth $2.3 million. Shawn Matthias notched 18 goals and nine assists in 78 games with the Canucks this past season, playing mostly on the team's third line. His fantasy upside with the Leafs thus hinges on where he'll slot in with his new team line-wise, as well as whether or not sees more power play action that he did with Vancouver. With the Canucks, Matthias was used sparingly with the man advantage.

Evgeny Kuznetsov
Caps' Kuznetsov Seeking Short-Term Extension
Evgeny Kuznetsov, C, WAS
12:48 AM
News: Evgeny Kuznetsov's agent said that his client and the Capitals are exploring a two to three year contract extension, Alex Prewitt of The Washington Post reports.
Analysis: Evgeny Kuznetsov remains a restricted free agent and his re-signing is a top priority for general manager Brian MacLellan and the Capitals. After a slow start to his sophomore campaign, Kuznetsov was a mainstay as the team's second-line center by season's end, finishing with 37 points in 80 regular season games, as well as five goals and seven points in 14 playoff games. With outstanding offensive skills, Kuznetsov figures to be a fixture on the Capitals for many years to come, but appears willing to accept a bridge deal rather than sign a long-term extension at this time. Keep an eye on the situation as it unfolds, but all signs point to Kuznetsov staying in DC for now.

Marcus Johansson
Caps' RFA Johansson Files For Salary Arbitration
Marcus Johansson, C, WAS
7/5/2015
News: Marcus Johansson filed for salary arbitration on Sunday, and will have his hearing heard during the arbitration period from July 20th to August 4th, Alex Prewitt of The Washington Post reports.
Analysis: If the case goes before the arbiter, Marcus Johansson will take a contract extension with a maximum of two years. While the filing is indicative of disagreement between Johansson's camp and the Capitals about a new contract, there is still a very good chance the two sides will get a deal done before the case is heard. A fixture in the Capitals top-six last season, Johansson has a career-high of 20 goals and 47 points in 82 games. The arrival of T.J. Oshie and Justin Williams may complicate Johansson's deployment in next season's lineup, but general manager Brian MacLellan has made it clear he wants to keep Johansson with the team beyond next season. Keep an eye on the situation as it unfolds.

Braden Holtby
Caps' RFA Holtby Files For Salary Arbitration
Braden Holtby, G, WAS
7/5/2015
News: Braden Holtby filed for salary arbitration on Sunday, and will have his hearing heard during the arbitration period from July 20th to August 4th, Alex Prewitt of The Washington Post reports.
Analysis: If he goes through arbitration, Braden Holtby will receive a contract with a maximum term of two years, the Capitals choice given that Holtby's camp chose to file for arbitration. An arbitration period certainly imposes a specific timeframe for the Capitals to work out a long-term extension for Holtby, who is coming off a career year in which he posted a 2.22 GAA and .923 save percentage en route to a 41-20-10 record over 73 games during the regular season. Rounding out a season worthy of Vezina consideration (although he was not a finalist for the award), Holtby turned in an outstanding post-season effort cut short by the New York Rangers in the Eastern Conference semi-finals, but not before winning six games with a 1.71 GAA and .944 save percentage. All signs point to a big pay day for Holtby who has emerged as one of the league's top goaltenders, and while the Capitals are unlikely to let him slip away, there does appear to be some roadblocks in getting a deal done at the moment.

Landon Ferraro
Red Wings Ink Ferraro To One-Year Deal
Landon Ferraro, C, DET
7/5/2015
News: Landon Ferraro signed a one-year, two-way contract with the Red Wings on Sunday, MLive.com's Ansar Khan reports.
Analysis: Landon Ferraro has appeared in seven games over the last two seasons for the Red Wings as an injury replacement, but has otherwise yet to earn a full-time role at the NHL level. Expect him to again see most of his action this season at AHL Grand Rapids, where he compiled 27 goals and 42 points in 70 games in 2014-15.

Nazem Kadri
Leafs Ink Kadri To One-Year Deal
Nazem Kadri, C, TOR
7/5/2015
News: Nazem Kadri signed a one-year contract with the Maple Leafs Sunday that will net him $4.1 million, James Mirtle of The Globe and Mail reports.
Analysis: Nazem Kadri skated in 73 games with the Maple Leafs last season, posting 39 points (18 goals, 21 assists) over that span. He'll have a good chance to crack the top six again in 2015-16, but that doesn't mean as much coming from a team that was near the bottom in goals per game played last season.

Jeff Tambellini
Lightning Ink Tambellini to One-Year Deal
Jeff Tambellini, LW, VAN
7/5/2015
News: Jeff Tambellini signed a one-year, two-way contract with the Lightning on Sunday.
Analysis: Jeff Tambellini spent the past five seasons playing in Switzerland, but has decided to attempt a comeback at the age of 31. He's played in 242 career NHL games, tallying 63 points and 27 goals. In his 2010-11 season with the Canucks, Tambellini recorded 113 hits, also posting nine goals and eight assists with the club over 62 games. He'll attempt to make the roster out of training camp, but could end up in the minors if he doesn't make the cut.

Dan Ellis
Ellis Inks Deal With Washington
Dan Ellis, G, WAS
7/4/2015
News: Dan Ellis signed a one-year, two-way contract with the Capitals on Saturday, Alex Prewitt of The Washington Post reports.
Analysis: The 35-year-old will provide Washington with additional goaltender depth at the AHL level, but likely won't get asked to make many NHL starts in 2015-16, as he'll probably slot in as the Caps' fourth string goaltender behind Braden Holtby, Philipp Grubauer, and Justin Peters. However, Dan Ellis was solid when called upon by the Panthers last season, going 4-3-1 with a 2.35 GAA and a .914 save percentage in eight games with Florida.

Jamie McBain
McBain Re-Signs With Kings
Jamie McBain, D, LA
7/4/2015
News: Jamie McBain re-signed Friday with the Kings on a one-year, two-way contract, Lisa Dillman of the Los Angeles Times reports.
Analysis: With Slava Voynov's status uncertain for 2015-16 following his jailing for domestic violence as well as an Achilles injury, Jamie McBain could have a shot at settling into a regular role on defense for the Kings. He provided better-than-expected results as a fill-in last season when injuries compromised the Kings' depth, contributing three goals and nine points in 26 games while seeing limited ice time.

 
 
 
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