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In the Cage: Head Cases -- Miller, Hiller and Reimer

By Justin Goldman - NHL.com Correspondent

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In the Cage: Head Cases -- Miller, Hiller and Reimer
This week's "In the Cage" looks at the returns of Ryan Miller and James Reimer and the struggles of Jonas Hiller, with advice on how fantasy owners should handle these goaltenders.
Every Monday during the season, goalie specialist and founder of The Goalie Guild Justin Goldman will provide you with an in-depth analysis of fantasy goaltenders in NHL.com's weekly segment: "In the Cage." From updated goalie rankings to guys you should keep a close eye on and much more, Goldman will be your fantasy goalie expert all season long.
 
Two starters that suffered head injuries earlier this season -- Ryan Miller and James Reimer -- are back between the pipes. A third starter, Jonas Hiller, recovered from his head issues (vertigo) over the summer, but went just 2-6-3 with a 3.54 goals-against average and a .895 save percentage in November.
 
So what should poolies expect from these "head cases" in terms of their fantasy value this month?
 

TOP 30 FANTASY GOALIES

These modified re-rankings are a projection of a goalie’s fantasy output for the entire season. Our rankings are based on volume categories like games played, wins, saves, and of course GAA and SP%. The plus or minus for each player is movement based on our most recent rankings from last week (NR means not ranked in previous rankings). It is important to note that our rankings reflect sheer fantasy value, not talent. A less-talented goalie could be ranked higher due to their team’s strong defense and offense.
*Please note that we are now removing goalies currently on IR from the weekly rankings

Removed: Devan Dubnyk, Oilers (30)
Players on IR: Kari Lehtonen
Miller: By missing just eight games (injured Nov. 12), Miller is less likely to struggle after his layoff. His focus and poise after he was run into by Jordan Tootoo last Saturday proved just how valuable he is to Buffalo's success. The 3-2 win (32 saves) over Nashville was not only a big confidence-booster, but it was the catalyst for a better December. His experience and leadership traits also lead us to believe Miller will likely have a higher fantasy value than Reimer or Hiller in December.
 
Reimer: By missing 18 games (injured Oct. 22), Reimer is more likely to struggle from an extended layoff. As talented and calm as he might be, it's tough for a goalie with little NHL experience to step right back into the mix and play at their best. Spending over a week in practice before the 4-1 loss to Boston was crucial for his physical and mental preparation, but the loss makes it even tougher to get back on track. Expect a few more games to pass before Reimer is playing with full confidence and precision again.
 
Hiller: Frustration boiled over after Sunday night's 5-3 loss to the Wild, as Hiller had some transparent quotes for the media about his team's play in their own zone. Suffice to say, nobody will be happier with the return of prized defenseman Lubomir Visnovsky than Hiller. Since the injury, the Ducks have won just one game (1-7-2), and after last night's loss, Hiller has allowed four or more goals in 10 games. We expect Hiller to deal with more ups and downs this month, but his overall numbers will be much better.
 
TRENDING UPWARD
 
Semyon Varlamov: After last night's 4-2 win over the red-hot Red Wings, Varlamov is now 4-2-0 in his last six starts. He has allowed two goals or less in all six of those games and, alongside Ryan O'Reilly, has been Colorado's best player. Furthermore, Varlamov is now 4-0 in shootouts this year, allowing just one goal on 11 attempts (a .909 save percentage). His confidence is back, he's moving with more precision than at any other point this season, and his teammates are finally starting to score on a more consistent basis.
 
Jaroslav Halak:
With Hitchcock at the helm, Halak went 3-1-2 in November, posting a 1.55 GAA and .938 save percentage. It took a few games for Halak to get on a roll last month, but one of his best efforts of the season came in the 4-3 shootout loss to Colorado last Friday. In his past two games, Halak has stopped 51 of 54 shots (1-0-1). It's not how many pucks he's stopping right now, however, but how he's stopping them; he's more focused, more confident, more prepared and more tactful in his technique than ever before.   
 
Roberto Luongo: Last night's 5-1 blowout win over Calgary was an important performance for Luongo, who was making his first start since Nov. 13. The only goal he allowed was a weak one from behind the goal line on Alex Tanguay, but he shut the door after that. He only had to make 21 saves, but he still made a statement that he's back, he's totally healthy, and he's ready to put all controversies to rest.
 
TRENDING DOWNWARD
 
Corey Crawford: With an alarming 3.27 GAA and .886 save percentage in November (6-5-0), Crawford is working as hard as possible to regain last season's consistency. Although no specific details have been revealed, Crawford was quoted as saying he's making some minor adjustments to his game. Minor adjustments are great to make during the summer, but if needed during the season, is a warning sign for poolies. Furthermore, the Blackhawks face the Coyotes, Islanders, Sharks and Wild in their next four games.    
 
Jhonas Enroth: With Miller wining in his dramatic return, Enroth's value has reverted to “backup” status. He won't be benched all month, but don't expect more than 4-5 starts in December. Enroth played admirably well in November, going 6-4-1 with a .922 save percentage and one shutout. But without the steady workload, his fantasy value is worth nothing more than your team's third or fourth goalie spot. It was also clear from watching his play that the number of “leaky” or questionable goals was on the rise.
 
Martin Brodeur: One day he's amazing, the next day he seems to be decaying. One period he's on fire, the next period he suffers a meltdown. This chaotic, volatile performance trend is not only frustrating, it's downright annoying. Brodeur was 5-5-0 with a 3.10 GAA and .886 save percentage in November, so you never really know what the next game might bring. Quality fantasy goalies are reliable and consistent, which used to be a staple of owning Brodeur. But it looks like those days are quickly fading.
 
KEEP AN EYE ON…
 
With Rick DiPietro injured again, keep an eye on the return of Evgeni Nabokov. After missing the last few weeks with an injury of his own, he practiced this morning with the Islanders. You should also keep an eye on Leland Irving, who was recalled this morning from Abbotsford to replace the injured Henrik Karlsson. Irving is 15-7-0 with a 2.30 GAA, a .913 save percentage and three shutouts with the Heat this season.
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