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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
Jori Lehtera
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Max Pacioretty
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Brendan Gallagher
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News: Brendan Gallagher scored the game-winning goal in Sunday's series-clinching Game 6 win over the Senators.
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Carey Price
Habs' Price Perfect In Game 6 Win
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4/26/2015
News: Carey Price stopped all 43 shots he faced in Sunday's series-clinching Game 6 win over the Senators.
Analysis: Carey Price was sensational Sunday as he withstood a late Senators attack to help clinch the series and send the Habs into the second round. Aside from Game 5's five-goal outing, Price has continued his regular season excellence into the postseason as he's posted a 1.94 GAA and .939 save percentage through six games. He's as reliable as they come and figures to remain as one of the top, if not the very best, options for the duration of the playoffs.

Nick Leddy
Isles' Leddy An Assist Machine
Nick Leddy, D, NYI
4/26/2015
News: Nick Leddy was credited with two assists and five shot attempts in Saturday's Game 6 win over the Capitals.
Analysis: The blueliner has been an offensive force in the series for the Islanders, as Saturday marked his fourth straight game with an assist. Coach Jack Capuano rewarded Nick Leddy with 28:59 of ice time Saturday, his highest total of the season.

Craig Anderson
Sens' Anderson Allows Just One In Loss
Craig Anderson, G, OTT
4/26/2015
News: Craig Anderson stopped 18 of 19 shots Sunday but was on the wrong end of the series-ending Game 6 loss.
Analysis: Craig Anderson did all he could to keep the Sens' season alive after receiving the starting nod since Game 3 as he allowed just four total goals in those four games, but the offense in front of him couldn't provide any support Sunday. The 33-year-old finished the season at 14-13-8 with a 2.49 GAA and .923, but it remains to be seen how the club will approach their goaltending next season between Anderson and the soon-to-be restricted free agent Andrew Hammond.

Ryan Strome
Isles' Strome Assists In Win
Ryan Strome, C, NYI
4/26/2015
News: Ryan Strome gathered an assist in Saturday's Game 6 win over the Capitals.
Analysis: After kicking off the postseason with goals in the first two games of the series, Ryan Strome had been held off the score sheet for three contests in a row before breaking through again Saturday. He was skating on the top line Saturday, a role that could prove fruitful again in Game 7 next to a sizzling John Tavares.

Cal Clutterbuck
Isles' Clutterbuck Active In Win
Cal Clutterbuck, RW, NYI
4/26/2015
News: Cal Clutterbuck supplied an empty-net goal, seven hits, and 10 PIM in Saturday's Game 6 victory over the Capitals.
Analysis: The Islanders have gotten an impressive amount of production out of the fourth liner thus far in the series. While his huge PIM (26) and hit totals (37) were to be expected, Cal Clutterbuck's offensive production (two goals, one assist, 12 SOG) has been a welcome development. It shouldn't be counted on to continue, but the forward's physical presence could make a noticeable impact in Monday's Game 7.

Johnny Boychuk
Isles' Boychuk Gets First Point Of Playoffs
Johnny Boychuk, D, NYI
4/26/2015
News: Johnny Boychuk captured an assist, attempted four shots, and was credited with six blocks and four takeaways in Saturday's Game 6 win over the Capitals.
Analysis: The assist gave Johnny Boychuk his first point since Game 1, but it was his work in front of the Isles' net Saturday that kept the team's playoff hopes alive. The Capitals had a golden opportunity to tie the game with around five minutes remaining in the third period, but Jay Beagle's shot ricocheted off the crossbar behind the Isles' Jaroslav Halak before Boychuk came in to whisk the puck to safety under Halak's body. Plays like that are precisely why the Isles were willing to pony up $42 million to keep Boychuk off the free-agent market.

Jaroslav Halak
Isles, Halak Stave Off Elimination
Jaroslav Halak, G, NYI
4/26/2015
News: Jaroslav Halak denied 38 of 39 shots in Saturday's Game 6 victory over the Capitals.
Analysis: Jaroslav Halak was strong in goal from most of the day, but also benefited from a some fortunate luck at the tail end of the game. After teammate Nikolay Kulemin tallied the eventual game-winner about midway through the third period, Halak nearly let in the tying goal four minutes later from the Caps' Jay Beagle, whose shot attempt off a rebound elevated over the goalie and hit the crossbar before Isles defenseman Johnny Boychuk shuffled the puck to safety. Halak's .974 save percentage was his best mark of the series, and should give him some confidence heading into Monday's Game 7 in Washington.

 
 
 
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