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Fantasy Mailbag: Don?t overestimate Khabibulin

by Pete Jensen fantasy insider Pete Jensen has you covered all season long with the weekly Fantasy Hockey Mailbag. The most compelling questions posed each week will be answered in an effort to provide you with the best chance to succeed in your particular league.

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JAMES FROM CALGARY has Corey Crawford and Jonas Hiller occupying the crease for his fantasy team. Because of a mediocre start to the season for the Anaheim Ducks, he is considering dropping Hiller for Nikolai Khabibulin:

The only goalie in the League with 5-plus wins and no regulation losses is finally getting legitimate attention. At 38, Khabibulin (6-0-2, 0.98, .963, 2 SO) has been untouchable this season, and the Oilers have found confidence offensively as a result. He's a trendy pick-up these days (ownership hike in Yahoo! leagues from 57 to 71 percent this week), but don't drop a top-15 goalie like Hiller (4-4-3, 2.61, .904, 1 SO) for "The Bulin Wall" just yet.

Anaheim's offense has been inconsistent early on, but everyone's favorite hockey quote, "Ducks fly together," still applies to this team. When Teemu Selanne is out-racing 20-year-old's and Corey Perry is in MVP form, few can contend with this flock on both ends of the ice. Therefore, disposing Hiller a month into the season is ludicrous. But if Khabibulin is still available in your league, it's worth dropping your worst skater for him. Having a trio of Crawford (6-2-2, 2.33, 9.19), Hiller and Khabibulin gives you the depth to contend for a championship. You don't want to be left empty-handed if Khabibulin does his best Tim Thomas impression and somehow keeps this up.

ANDY FROM TORONTO is concerned that James Neal and Jason Pominville won't keep up their scorching point-production all season. He drew up two proposals in an effort to sell high on these forwards:

- Neal and Kevin Bieksa for Zach Parise and Kris Letang
- Pominville for Rick Nash

I'm not sure why your counterpart would agree to this deal, but if you can make it happen, don't hesitate. Neal (9 G, 4 A, minus-2, 5 PPP) has been a scoring machine this season, but asking for both Parise (5 G, 1 A, minus-3, 35 SOG) and Letang (1 G, 11 A, plus-5, 8 PIM, 14 hits, 33 SOG) makes this a one-sided swap in
Kris Letang
Defense - PIT
GOALS: 1 | ASST: 11 | PTS: 12
SOG: 33 | +/-: 5
your favor. While Neal leads all left wings in goals and shots, his struggles after last season's trade remain fresh in people's minds. Bieksa (3 A, minus-8, 23 PIM, 27 hits) has struggled to produce this year. Letang may be the strongest two-way defensemen in the game, and a healthy contract year for Parise should translate to a 40-goal season.

If you could acquire Nash straight up for Pominville, you would land the more reliable asset. Despite his team's rough start to the season, Nash (4 G, 6 A, minus-5, 3 PPP, 25 hits) is only a step behind Pominville (5 G, 10 A, plus-3, 6 PPP), who is unlikely to repeat his career-best 80-point showing in ‘07-08. Pominville's population has risen this season alongside Thomas Vanek on Buffalo's top line, but Nash is a premier scoring right wing regardless of how his team performs. Also, Nash's numbers will improve once Jeff Carter returns from injury.

MARCUS FROM VANCOUVER is looking to package Henrik Zetterberg, Brian Campbell and Brent Seabrook in a deal, and has an offer on the table where he could obtain Joe Pavelski, Shea Weber and P.K. Subban:

Adding Pavelski and Weber to your lineup seems too good to be true. Pavelski (8 G, 5 A, plus-4, 4 PPP) has more than filled the void left by Dany Heatley on San Jose's top line, and is beginning to sniff top-10 RW territory. Nashville signed Pekka Rinne to a long-term deal this week, signaling an effort to emphasize defense so that Weber (1 G, 4 A, plus-6, 12 PIM, 19 hits) will remain in his comfort zone. Subban (3 A, minus-4, 23 PIM in 12 games) is slumping to start the season, but he put up 14 goals and 124 PIMs as a rookie defenseman.

Henrik Zetterberg
Left Wing - DET
GOALS: 2 | ASST: 2 | PTS: 4
SOG: 48 | +/-: -6
Zetterberg (2 G, 2 A, minus-6, 48 SOG) was a preseason top-10 overall player, but has struggled to convert on his chances during the Red Wings' six-game slide. But Detroit's roster is too deep and Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk are too talented for this to continue much longer. Campbell (11 A, minus-2, 8 PPP) has revitalized his career with the Florida Panthers, reaching the halfway mark of his '10-11 assist total (22 in 65 games) in only 12 games. But the new season hasn't been kind to Campbell's former teammate, Seabrook (4 A, minus-2, 25 SOG), who has struggled fantasy-wise in ‘11-12. There's certainly potential in what you would surrender in this deal, but let's stay level-headed. You can't bluff on a chance to acquire two game-breakers for one.

HARRY FROM TORONTO is considering dropping Andrew Ladd because of his slow start, and is monitoring a pool of available forwards that includes David Krejci (owned in 64 percent of leagues), Ryan Callahan (66) and Ray Whitney (34):

Andrew Ladd has called three different cities home in as many seasons. After faring well during the Blackhawks' Stanley Cup run in '09-10, adapting to new systems on the fly has seen mixed results for Ladd (3
Ryan Callahan
Right Wing - NYR
GOALS: 5 | ASST: 1 | PTS: 6
SOG: 47 | +/-: -2
G, 1 A, 38 SOG in 12 games). While Ladd could emerge as a 30-goal guy for the Winnipeg Jets, who lack a bonafide scorer, now is good time to seek a free-agent spark.

Krejci (1 G, minus-6, 15 SOG) is a proven puck-distributor but has already missed three games to injury, as the Bruins are tied for the least points in the Eastern Conference entering Saturday. Krejci's fantasy value is strongly influenced by his team's success, so I would steer clear at this time. Callahan (5 G, 1 A, minus-2, 47 SOG, 24 hits) had a three-point outing in a win Monday against San Jose, and is an all-around fantasy asset. Whitney (5 G, 7 A, plus-2, 4 PPP) has discovered the fountain of youth in the desert early on this season. How about another Coyote? Radim Vrbata (5 G, 5 A, plus-4, 3 PPP, 38 SOG) has seven points in his last four games and is owned in only 20 percent of leagues. All things considered, Callahan is probably your best bet because his production touches on so many categories.

TOM FROM NOTTINGHAM, U.K. is in a deep league with six spots for d-men (Mike Green, James Wisniewski, Karl Alzner, Anton Babchuck, Deryk Engelland and Jeff Schultz) and two for goalies (Ilya Bryzgalov, Jose Theodore). He's considering a trade where he would receive Niklas Kronwall and Jean-Sebastien Giguere in exchange for Theodore:

Jose Theodore
Goalie - FLA
RECORD: 4-2-1
GAA: 2.56 | SVP: 0.913
I'm not convinced that Kronwall (1 G, 2 A, minus-6, 4 PIM, 14 hits, 2 PPP) provides your lineup with enough of a boost to justify giving up Theodore (4-2-1, 2.56, .913, 1 SO). Meanwhile, Giguere (2-1-0, 2.00, .924) has only played three games for Colorado as a backup to Semyon Varlamov. Kronwall may be a top-50 fantasy d-man, but losing Theodore would leave a noticeable gap in your roster, especially if Bryzgalov (5-4-1, 3.04, .887, 1 SO) continues his erratic play in Philly.

Engelland (plus-4), Schultz (plus-5), Babchuk (plus-3) and Alzner (plus-7) carry your weekly plus-minus output. Once Green (ankle) returns from injury and Wisniewski hits full stride as Columbus' power-play quarterback, it looks like your blue line will be just fine. But if you're set on bolstering your unit, I'd concentrate on getting more return for Theodore. Push for a trade to send Theodore for a player like John-Michael Liles or Sami Salo. Liles (1 G, 8 A, plus-6, 4 PPP) has found his niche in Toronto, and Salo (3 G, 5 A, plus-6, 5 PPP, 32 SOG) has accounted for some of Christian Ehrhoff's lost production. Whichever path you choose, just don't sell yourself short on Theodore, who remains a question mark moving forward but is picking up steam as a starter.

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