Ice Chips: Slash Your Goalie in the Head
Insert obligatory Keith Ballard joke here.
In Anaheim, Jean-Sebastian Giguere’s fighting for his job as an NHL starter (and perhaps auditioning for a trade elsewhere depending on what the Ducks want to do with Jonas Hiller). Since November 23, he’s started five games for Anaheim with a record of 3-1-1. The Ducks are looking for anything to spark consistency right now (besides Corey Perry’s insane point-scoring streak), and they have equal half-confidence in Giguere and Hiller. Ride Giguere until the Ducks hit another snag, then don’t be surprised if Hiller plays for a few games.
Speaking of goaltending, how about that dynamic duo in Atlanta of (drum roll please) Ondrej Pavelec and Johan Hedberg? Pavelec has a save percentage of .920 and Hedberg is cruising along with a .930 mark. Not too bad, and things are bound to get interesting when Kari Lehtonen eventually gets back on the ice. Lehtonen’s still out indefinitely, and the speculation is that he could be dealt in another month. However, now’s the time to assess the situation. Pavelec is all the buzz in the NHL right now; when Lehtonen is on the mend, it’s time to analyze Pavelec to see if he’s a flash in the pan or a long-term solution — or if Lehtonen will get moved, similar to the Pascal Leclaire/Steve Mason situation from last year.
Sticking in Atlanta, it’s time to toot our own horn about Tobias Enstrom, who we mentioned in our draft kit despite the fact he had a mediocre sophomore year. With a solid 19 points in 25 games, Enstrom hasn’t hit any extended slumps this season and is a healthy +9. Now if he’d just shoot the puck more…
Have you been benching Devin Setoguchi since he returned from injury? If so, it’s time to start playing him again. With Setoguchi having put a few good few games under his belt, coach Todd McLellan has started shifting him around rather than keeping him on the fourth line to get his conditioning back. When Setoguchi is healthy, he’ll most certainly replace Manny Malhotra on San Jose’s second line, and McLellan may bump him back up with Joe Thornton and Dany Heatley if he wants Patrick Marleau on a separate line for depth.
Even though the Maple Leafs have played better since the arrival of Phil Kessel, there has to be concern for goaltender Jonas Gustavsson, who left a game this week due to his recurrent heart condition. Now Gustavsson’s going in for heart surgery, and while he may only be projected to be gone a week, the heart is one body part you don’t want to mess with. If the Leafs had any sense, they’d play this one extremely cautious, and that means giving Vesa Toskala more starts as he tries to prove that he’s NHL (and UFA contract) worthy.
Okay, so we’ve all heard about how Sidney Crosby’s been on a ridiculous tear lately. And I’m guessing that you won’t be able to steal Crosby away in your league. That’s fine, but don’t forget those who benefit by osmosis. Bill Guerin’s probably available in many leagues, and he’s probably worth picking up for a short-term fix while Crosby rides his surge.
In Detroit, the up-and-down Red Wings have gone with Jimmy Howard for several starts in a row. As Mike Babcock tries to right his ship, look for Howard to get a chance at playing a bigger role, as his play has evolved over the last few weeks. In general, he looks sharper and more confident, and you can’t blame a guy when the puck deflects in off his own teammates like they did against Edmonton.
It’s time to catch up on secondary stats. Pavel Kubina may not be Fantasy gold when it comes to goals and assists, but he has a reasonable 12 points in 24 games. More importantly, if you’re looking for +/- help, check out Kubina, who’s probably available on the waiver wire. He is second in the league in +/- and has shown time and again that he’s a reliable shut-down guy.
Need PIMs from a guy getting a regular shift? Go with the guy with the best name in the NHL: Tampa Bay’s Zenon Konopka, who is the only NHL player to break the 100 PIM mark so far — by about 30 PIMs, no less. Konopka won’t help elsewhere, as he’s only got two assists on the season. The best PIM/point combination so far? Vancouver blueliner Kevin Bieksa, with 12 points and 68 PIMs.
News & Notes
The Calgary Flames welcomed Rene Bourque back from injury this week while the Ducks lost Teemu Selanne and his power play goals to a broken hand late Thursday night. Rob Blake is back with the Sharks, which means Kent Huskins is bumped to the second power play unit. Even though Huskins has got plenty of power play time, he has zero (0, as in nada) power play points. Go figure. Alex Semin is back after a seven-game layoff, and we’ll see how the Caps fare without Washington’s other Alex for a few games. Anze Kopitar’s stats have nosedived recently, and his goal-scoring drought is getting ugly down in LA.