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In the Cage: Overcoming Howard's injury

By Justin Goldman - NHL.com Correspondent

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In the Cage: Overcoming Howard's injury
With Jimmy Howard out with a broken finger, Fantasy Insider Justin Goldman weighs in on whether to opt for Ty Conklin or Joey MacDonald.
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.
 
Since Jimmy Howard is on the shelf for at least a few weeks due to a broken index finger, many poolies are faced with the choice between Ty Conklin and Joey MacDonald as a potential replacement. So which one is likely to have more fantasy value during Howard’s absence?
 
On one side you have Conklin, who allowed three goals on just nine Oilers shots last Saturday night. His uninspiring play opened the door for Joey MacDonald to step in and stop 22 of 23 shots, a valiant effort in a 5-4 shootout loss. It has been a tough season for Conklin, who is just 3-5-0 with a 3.40 goals-against average and .878 save percentage. All nine of his starts this season have come on the road.
 

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

Players on IR: Jimmy Howard, Red Wings (3)
MacDonald, however, played nine times in January alone for Grand Rapids (AHL). Although he's designated as the clear-cut third-stringer for the Red Wings, he still brings a solid veteran presence, a calm demeanor, a well-rounded game, and the ability to perform well under pressure.
 
With this in mind, we feel MacDonald could surprise poolies by earning more points than Conklin. The main reason for this is overall playing consistency; Conklin has been riding the pine for a majority of the season, but MacDonald was 4-3-2 with a 2.29 GAA and .926 save percentage in January for Grand Rapids. So one goalie is in a rhythm, but the other is dealing with rust and inconsistency due to sporadic playing time.
 
Successful goaltending in Detroit is less about skill and more about being timely. The Red Wings only allow 27.2 shots per game (third-best in the League) and log 8.7 penalty minutes (second-best) per game, so Conklin and MacDonald likely will earn you solid fantasy points. But if they only face 25-27 shots a game and give up more than two goals, they might be doing you more harm than good.
 
If that’s the case, when two goalies are fairly equal in terms of their talent and experience, it's usually wise to take the one that's less rusty. 
 
TRENDING UPWARD
 
1. Devan Dubnyk: Currently 4-0-1 in his last five games, Dubnyk is expected to make a sixth straight start (for the first time in his NHL career) Monday against Toronto. He's even more valuable right now if your fantasy league counts shots as a category; he faced 45, 35, 33, 47, and 39 shots respectively over the past five games. During that stretch, he stopped 186 of 199 shots (.935 save percentage).   
 
2. James Reimer: Did you know Reimer is the first Leafs goalie to stop at least 49 shots for a shutout since the NHL started tracking shots over 50 years ago? Furthermore, he now has two shutouts in a row (74-74). The return of John-Michael Liles also boosts his rising value, and the team’s improved penalty killing. More importantly, Reimer appears to be over his head injury, and is fully confident once again.   
 
3. Niklas Backstrom: When Wild coach Mike Yeo challenged his goalies to step up coming out of the All-Star break, Backstrom definitely was listening. He earned a 37-save shutout in a 1-0 win in Colorado last Thursday, and then two days later he stopped 25 of 26 shots in a 2-1 shootout loss in Dallas. He'll likely start Tuesday in Columbus, where he holds a 9-3-1 lifetime record against the Blue Jackets.
 
TRENDING DOWNWARD
 
1. Jose Theodore: Although it's never fair for a goalie to lose value and opportunity due to an injury, it's an inevitable aspect of being a workhorse. In his only two games in January (0-1-1, .894 save percentage), Theodore appeared to have returned from his knee injury too early, and now the strong play of Scott Clemmensen has Theodore's value spiraling downward.     
 
2. Jonas Gustavsson: The goalie balance scales have shifted again in Toronto, and as Reimer looks to continue building off two straight shutouts, Gustavsson is forced to sit on the bench. It's a great situation for the Leafs to have two goalies playing well, but for poolies that just acquired Gustavsson before the All-Star break, they're feeling the squeeze knowing it might be another week before he plays again.           
 
3. Corey Crawford: With another week of inconsistency, Crawford's fantasy value continues to wane. He played well in a 3-2 overtime loss to Vancouver (30 saves on 33 shots) last Tuesday, but followed that by giving up five goals on 28 shots to Edmonton a few days later. As a result, Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville could give Ray Emery some starts during their next six games, all of which are on the road. 
 
KEEP AN EYE ON ...
 
Of all the goalies that could be moved at the NHL Trade Deadline, Blues prospect Ben Bishop is making the biggest buzz. His size (6-7, 215) and talent alone warrants plenty of interest from other teams, and combined with his accolades in the AHL All-Star Game (voted MVP) and AHL Skills Competition (best goalie) last weekend, his stock is soaring. Furthermore, he's set to become a Group VI unrestricted free agent, unless he can play in 15 more NHL games before the end of the season. So if a team does trade for him, the odds are high he could earn poolies some valuable fantasy points down the stretch.
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