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Avery's future to be decided; Vrbata leaves Tampa

By Dave Lozo - NHL.com Staff Writer

Fantasy Forecast for Tuesday, Dec. 9

MONDAY'S ROUNDUP:

Sean Avery's future with the Dallas Stars could be decided Wednesday when co-GM Brett Hull meets with team owner Tom Hicks. If you've been reading quotes from Avery's teammates and from those in the organization, all signs point to bad things for the volatile forward. Avery currently is serving a six-game suspension and is eligible to return Dec. 16, unless the team decides to dish out further punishment.

Chances are Avery isn't a make-or-break fantasy player, but if you have categories for unfunny jokes and alienating teammates, it might be worth hanging on to him until the Stars decide his fate. ...

And the hits just keep on coming for the Tampa Bay Lightning. According to the St. Petersburg Times, Radim Vrbata requested to return home to the Czech Republic to finish the season. Vrbata's agent and Lightning GM Brian Lawton said Vrbata made the decision for personal reasons. Vrbata had just 3 goals and 3 assists in 18 games with the Lightning after signing a free-agent contract this offseason. He will be re-assigned to Tampa next season, so maybe you can find a reason to hold on to him in keeper leagues. Otherwise, drop Vrbata if you haven't already. ...

Before you run out to grab the Blues' B.J. Crombeen off the waiver wire after his hat trick against the Predators, be aware that he had just 3 goals in 32 career NHL games before Monday night. The most goals he's ever scored in a professional season, was 14 in 65 games with the Iowa Stars of the American Hockey League last season. While it's a nice story from a real-life perspective, we're dealing in fantasy, not reality, so don't trip over yourself in a rush to grab Crombeen. ...

Watch out for Blackhawks rookie sensation Kris Versteeg. The League levied a one-game suspension on the 22-year-old for instigating a fight Sunday in the final seconds of Chicago's 7-1 win against Phoenix. NHL rules call for an automatic one-game suspension for any player who instigates a fight in the final five minutes of a game. However, the League reviews all of these instances, and in some cases rescinds the suspensions. Be aware of this when setting your lineups this week, as if and when Versteeg serves the suspension remains cloudy. ...

Finally, some good news on the goaltender injury front. The Penguins' Marc-Andre Fleury practiced with teammates Monday for the first time since suffering a lower-body injury Nov. 15. Fleury wouldn't say when he expects to play again, but did say the injury is healed, and now it's just about improving his conditioning.

"It's just getting the timing back, getting in game shape," Fleury told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Stay tuned to NHL.com to find out when Fleury is activated by the Penguins. ...

More good goalie news is the case on Long Island, where coach Scott Gordon told Newsday that Rick DiPietro is close to taking part in his first practice. But don't expect DiPietro back in game action right away.

"It's not like you're going to rush him back in and feel like he has to get back in there," Gordon said. It's safe to keep Joey MacDonald active for now, but be on the lookout for DiPietro in the coming weeks. ...

Now we're just getting crazy with this good news. Nikolai Khabibulin could be between the pipes Wednesday for the Blackhawks when they face the Avalanche. Khabibulin has missed the past five games with a lower-body injury, but the Blackhawks just returned goalie Corey Crawford to the minors, a sign Khabibulin is ready to play. ...

Another goalie getting healthy is the Thrashers' Kari Lehtonen, who practiced Monday and, according to the Atlanta-Journal Constitution, looked sharp. However, Thrashers coach John Anderson said Lehtonen is still a couple weeks from returning. ...

Hopefully you didn't drop Canadiens goalie Jaroslav Halak in your league this week, because he's getting a rare start in place of Carey Price on Tuesday against the Flames. Halak is 2-2-1 with a 2.57 goals-against average and .914 save percentage this season. ...

Defenseman Mike Komisarek won't be in the lineup Tuesday night for the Canadiens, but he's targeting a return to the team by Christmas, according to the Montreal Gazette.

"That was the target and I think I'm on schedule,” said Komisarek, who has been sidelined since he suffered a shoulder injury Nov. 3 in a fight with Boston's Milan Lucic.

His month-long absence hasn't hurt his chance of making the 2009 All-Star Game. As of Tuesday morning, Komisarek is in second place among Eastern Conference defenseman with 532,016 votes. While it might seem silly for a player who has missed so much time to be close to an All-Star appearance, consider some of his competition is coming from   Penguins defenseman Sergei Gonchar (400,853 votes), who hasn't played a game this season and won't be back for at least another month. ...

After being forced to leave his previous game after having his head driven into the goalpost, Panthers goalie Craig Anderson was back Monday night, stopping 35 shots in a 4-3 overtime win against the Senators. ....

 
 
The Flyers' Joffrey Lupul just got a little boost in value. According to the Philadelphia Inquirer, Lupul will play on a line with the white-hot Jeff Carter and Scott Hartnell in an attempt to improve the Flyers' five-on-five play.

"I think Lupul adds a nice complement because he's got size and speed and can shoot to score," Flyers coach John Stevens said. Lupul (26 games, 8-5-13) hasn't been playing up to expectations this season, but being on a line with Carter only can help his numbers. ...

TUESDAY'S GAMES

N.Y. Islanders (10-15-2) at Philadelphia Flyers (13-7-6), 7 p.m. ET, VERSUS, TSN2 -- Though backup goaltender Antero Niittymaki made 35 saves against Carolina to improve to 4-1-2, Martin Biron likely will be back in net trying for his ninth consecutive victory against the Islanders. New York goalie Joey MacDonald stopped 33 shots while making his 17th straight start Monday, but fell to 10-12-2 on the season. He has struggled in his career against the Flyers, going 0-4-1 with a 3.56 GAA.
Calgary Flames (16-10-1) at Montreal Canadiens (15-6-5), 7:30 p.m. ET, RDS -- Montreal left wing Alex Tanguay is playing his first game against his former team, who traded him this summer. Montreal is 8-2-3 at home and hasn't lost in regulation at the Bell Centre since a 2-1 defeat to Philadelphia on Nov. 14, going 3-0-3 since. The Flames have won seven of their last nine games, including a 3-0 win on the road against the Rangers on Sunday.
Vancouver Canucks (15-10-3) at Nashville Predators (14-11-2), 8 p.m. ET -- Curtis Sanford likely will be in net for the Canucks. Sanford is 3-3-0 with a 3.14 goals-against average this season, and 2-3-0 with a 2.97 GAA against Nashville in his career. While Pekka Rinne is 6-1-0 with a 2.61 GAA for the Predators, Dan Ellis could be ready to make his first start since Nov. 29. The banged-up Ellis is 8-10-2 with a 3.06 GAA on the season and 1-3-0 with a 3.57 GAA against Vancouver.
Los Angeles Kings (11-11-4)  at Colorado Avalanche (13-13-1), 9:30 p.m. ET -- Peter Budaj, now a mainstay after a slow start for the Avalanche, won the first two meetings this season against the Kings with 26 and 27 saves, respectively. He is 5-1-1 with a 2.55 GAA in eight career games versus Los Angeles. Meanwhile, Jason LaBarbera is coming off a shutout and likely will be in net for Los Angeles.

RECENT INJURIES:

David Booth, LW, Florida: Is day-to-day with a left shoulder injury.
Philippe Boucher, D, Pittsburgh: Is day-to-day with an undisclosed injury.
Matt Carle, D, Philadelphia: Is day-to-day with a back injury.
Jonathan Cheechoo, RW, San Jose: Is day-to-day with an upper-body injury.
Derek Dorsett, RW, Columbus: Is out 3-5 weeks with a fractured finger.
Tim Gleason, D, Carolina: Is day-to-day with a lower-body injury.
Niklas Hagman, LW, Toronto: Is day-to-day with a minor concussion.
Olli Jokinen, C, Phoenix: Is day-to-day with an upper-body injury.
Patrick Kaleta, RW, Buffalo: Is out indefinitely with a neck injury.
Nikolai Khabibulin, G, Chicago: Is day-to-day with a lower-body injury.
Tom Poti, D, Washington: Is day-to-day with a groin injury.
Wayne Primeau, C, Calgary: Is day-to-day with a foot injury.
Joe Sakic, C, Colorado: Is out indefinitely with a back injury.
Mathieu Schneider, D, Atlanta: Is day-to-day with an upper-body injury.
Dennis Seidenberg, C, Carolina: Is day-to-day with a groin injury
Brian Sutherby, C, Anaheim: Is day-to-day with a groin injury.
Cam Ward, G, Carolina: Is out indefinitely with a lower-body injury.
Sergei Zubov, D, Dallas: Is day-to-day with a lower-body injury.

TRANSACTIONS:

Calgary Flames: Recalled left wing Warren Peters from Quad City of the American Hockey League.
Carolina Hurricanes: Placed goaltender Cam Ward on injured reserve; recalled defenseman Brett Carson from Albany of the American Hockey League.
Minnesota Wild: Assigned center Krys Kolanos to Houston of the American Hockey League.
Tampa Bay Lightning: Assigned defenseman Matt Smaby to Norfolk of the American Hockey League. Washington Capitals: Recalled center Alexandre Giroux from Hershey of the American Hockey League.

E-MAIL OF THE DAY:

(Unfortunately, Rocky is away on vacation this week and didn't leave anyone access to the fantasy mailbag vault. I wouldn't trust me with it, either. However, if you'd like to send me questions this week, e-mail me at dlozo@nhl.com.)

Dear Mr. Lozo,
First time, long time. I just want to say I love the podcasts with you and Rocky and you are both funny and knowledgeable. If I have a son, I plan on naming him after you. Anyway, I've lucked out this year, as I've been able to pick up Alex Auld, Dany Sabourin and Craig Anderson. I also have Marc-Andre Fleury. I know that eventually Fleury will come back, but I've been getting a lot of offers for my backups. If you had to trade just one of them, who would it be?
Thanks,
Vinny from Flushing


Obviously you can't trade Sabourin at this point, because no one is going to want a backup goalie who won't play once Fleury comes back. That leaves you with a decision between Auld and Anderson. Assuming whatever you're getting back for these goalies is the same player in each deal, my advice to you is trade Auld. I know he's given me no reason to doubt him thus far, but I just don't think he's going to hang on to that starting job for the entire season. Anderson's been unreal since stealing Tomas Vokoun's playing time and he just seems like the better bet going forward. That being said, if you were left with a combination of Fleury of Sabourin and either Auld or Anderson, you'll be in great shape. Trade these goalies while their value is at its highest and help your team in other areas.


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