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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
Ryan Ellis
Preds, Ellis Still At Odds Over New Contract
Ryan Ellis, D, NSH
9/21/2014
News: Preds GM David Poile addressed Ryan Ellis' contract situation Saturday, saying the main stumbling block continues to be money, according to the Tennessean. "Unfortunately at this time we have not agreed what they think and what we think is fair compensation," Poile said. "We want [Ellis]. We are not trading him, we really like him. We really like the way he played last year. It's just a disagreement on dollars."
Analysis: Ryan Ellis, who has missed the first two days of training camp so far, played in 80 games last season for and finished with 27 points - his highest full season total to date. And while there is still plenty of time left to get a deal done before the start of the season, the clock is ticking. Not only is he missing out on conditioning drills and scrimmages, the more Ellis misses of training camp, the greater the chances of some other defenseman impressing the coaching staff and grabbing a roster spot that might otherwise go to Ellis. Bottom line, we think Ellis will get signed by the start of the regular season, but what his role on the team will be is anybody's guess. He's a risky fantasy pick right now, until all of the above gets sorted out.

Jon Merrill
Devils' Merrill Misses Practice With Head Injury
Jon Merrill, D, NJ
9/21/2014
News: Jon Merrill missed the second day of Devils' training camp on Saturday due to a head injury he suffered after colliding with teammate Ruslan Fedotenko during Friday's practice, Rich Chere of NJ.com reports.
Analysis: Luckily for Jon Merrill, the Devils' first regular season game isn't until October 9th. While head injuries are never a good thing, the promising young defender should have ample time to get healthy before the regular season kicks off.

Jhonas Enroth
Sabres Coach Confident In Enroth
Jhonas Enroth, G, BUF
11:09 AM
News: Sabres head coach Ted Nolan believes Jhonas Enroth can be a starting goalie in the NHL, reports the Olean Times Herald.
Analysis: Jhonas Enroth will battle Michal Neuvirth for the starting job, but if one of them has the edge, it's Enroth. Despite his lack of wins the previous season, Enroth still had a respectable .911 save percentage on the league's worst team and made the Swedish national team for Sochi. He has been Ryan Miller's understudy for the past few seasons, but Neuvirth is also reunited with Arturs Irbe, his goaltending coach in Washington. Nolan will split starts between Enroth and Neuvirth for the time being. The Sabres have six exhibition games this season.

Tyler Bozak
Leafs' Bozak Dealing With Lower-Body Issue
Tyler Bozak, C, TOR
11:05 AM
News: Tyler Bozak is dealing with a lower-body injury, Terry Koshan of the Toronto Sun reports.
Analysis: Tyler Bozak reportedly skated in full equipment before the Leafs' practice Saturday, but didn't participate with the team. He and David Clarkson both suffered the injuries in pre-camp workouts, but both are believed to be minor injuries.

Matt Hackett
Sabres' Hackett Could Skate Soon
Matt Hackett, G, BUF
11:00 AM
News: Matt Hackett suffered an ACL injury on April 12 and could start skating soon, reports The Buffalo News.
Analysis: There is still no return date for Matt Hackett though he is expected to return midway through the season, perhaps in late December or early January. Hackett is coming off a tough season, losing the starting job in the AHL to Nathan Lieuwen. He is in a contract year and faces an uphill climb on a team deep with goaltending prospects. The 24-year-old goalie may not figure into the team's long-term plans. Jhonas Enroth and Michal Neuvirth are battling for the NHL job while Andrey Makarov and Lieuwen will handle the duties in the AHL.

David Clarkson
Leafs' Clarkson Dealing With Lower-Body Injury
David Clarkson, RW, TOR
10:52 AM
News: David Clarkson is dealing with a lower body injury, Terry Koshan of the Toronto Sun reports.
Analysis: David Clarkson joined Tyler Bozak as the two out for the practice, with both reportedly dealing with lower-body injuries. They both ocurred during pre-camp workouts, and coach Randy Carlyle believes the injury is minor.

Sidney Crosby
Pens' Crosby (Undisclosed) Held Out Saturday
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10:41 AM
News: Sidney Crosby (undisclosed) was held out of practice for precautionary reasons Saturday.
Analysis: Sidney Crosby was held out after reportedly having a good practice Friday. The star doesn't appear to be in danger of missing any regular season time barring a setback or another injury.

Alexander Wennberg
Jackets' Wennberg Already Impressing
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Ryan Murray
Jackets' Murray Has Lingering Knee Issue
Ryan Murray, D, CLB
9:12 AM
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Analysis: The Jackets aren't treating this as a major issue, but given Ryan Murray's history of lower body injuries so far in his brief NHL career this is worth keeping an eye on.

Corey Potter
Flames' Potter Still Recovering From Surgery
Corey Potter, D, BOS
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