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Unbelievable goaltending powers Fantasy Saturday

by Matt Cubeta

Back to our usual busy Fantasy Saturdays. Unlike last week when there were just 10 games on the schedule, this Saturday featured all but two teams in action -- the Anaheim Ducks and the Washington Capitals. No doubt that you had to put a few players on the bench, I hope you chose wisely.

Last week I briefly talked about how the NHL trade deadline could have a critical impact on your fantasy squad. Less than 24 hours after my story was posted, the Calgary Flames got the party started. Dion Phaneuf is now in Toronto, Olli Jokinen is with the Rangers, and after Thursday night, Ilya Kovalchuk is officially a New Jersey Devil. That's a wild week of trades.

Tonight I am experimenting with a different format. I will find one unique player on each team and talk a little bit about their fantasy value. This week featured the big players that were traded as well as the fantastic goaltending on the night. Hope this helps:

GAME STAR: Roberto Luongo
Win, 41 saves
Pavol Demitra, C, VAN -- Playing in his 10th game of the season for the Canucks, Demitra finally found the back of the net. The veteran forward had just over 16 minutes of ice time and ended up scoring the game-winner in the shootout. Demitra used to be a reliable fantasy piece with the Blues, but it appears his days as a big scorer are behind him. Despite his near point-per-game career stats, stay away from Demitra and his four points this season.

Tuukka Rask, G, BOS -- Despite being given a 2-0 first-period lead, Rask and the Bruins lost in a shootout for the second consecutive game. The former first-round draft pick (by Toronto) stopped 29 of 31 shots and is doing his best to steal the starting goaltending duties from veteran Tim Thomas. While he hasn't won since Dec. 30, Rask does sport an outstanding 2.11 GAA for the B's. If you own Thomas, I would highly recommend grabbing Rask (20 starts as opposed to Thomas' 35), as a split is looking possible for the remainder of the season.

MTL 5, PIT 3
Brian Gionta
2 goals, 1 assist, -1, 3 SOG
Marc-Andre Fleury, G, PIT -- Like Thomas in Boston, Fleury has been an inconsistent fixture between the pipes in the fantasy community. Just when we thought he might be turning his season around, Fleury surrendered four goals on 28 shots before being replaced by Brent Johnson. He'll still get you some wins because of the team he plays for, but his 2.63 GAA is nothing to brag about -- be aware of his streakiness and sit him when he slumps.

Brian Gionta, RW, MON -- Boy do we miss the good 'ol days when he was putting up big numbers leading the Devils to Stanley Cup glory. Gionta's age (31) has clearly caught up to him in Montreal. Yes, he was the first star on Saturday afternoon with 2 goals and an assist, but after missing a lot of November and most of December, the 5-foot-7 winger we all loved has pretty much disappeared. He now has 29 points in 38 games and I would recommend trading him with hopes that someone will give you decent value because of his name.

LAK 4, DET 3
Michal Handzus
2 goals, 1 assist, +2, 3 SOG
Henrik Zetterberg, C, DET -- Odds are Z-Berg owners spent a first or second-round pick on the talented Red Wing on draft day. He has without a doubt disappointed. Zetterberg scored two goals in the opening period against the Kings, but then was shut down like the rest of his teammates. The Swedish center has 15 goals and 45 points on the season after putting up 92 points in '07-08 and 73 points last season. It appears another decline is coming unfortunately.

Alexander Frolov, LW, LAK -- After recording a goal and an assist (he also tied a season-high with six shots on goal) on Saturday, Frolov now has 13 goals and 23 helpers in 57 games. Despite the Kings' gigantic improvement this season, Fro has seen a huge drop-off in production. Last year he tallied 32 goals and 59 points; he clearly won't come close to those numbers this campaign and is only useful in deep leagues right now.

GAME STAR: Marty Turco
Win, SO, 34 saves
Keith Yandle, D, PHX -- Yandle was one of only five Coyotes players to have an even rating in Phoenix's 4-0 loss to the Stars. Yandle may have been a candidate as a replacement defenseman on Team USA, but because he was never considered before tryouts and his drug-testing was out of date, he could not be considered for the team. That doesn't mean he isn't a fantasy beast on the blue line. With 10 goals (tied for fifth in the NHL among D-men), 20 assists and a plus-10 rating, Yandle has emerged as one of fantasy's top defenseman this year.

Marty Turco, G, DAL -- Just when we thought Turco was losing his job to Alex Auld, the veteran netminder bounced back with his third consecutive solid start. On Saturday night, Turco turned aside all 34 Coyotes shots he faced for his third shutout of the season. Marty has allowed just three goals in his last three games and appears to have regained the starting job in Dallas.

GAME STAR: J-S Giguere
Win, SO, 30 saves
Jason Spezza, C, OTT -- Spezza had a rough game against the Leafs, finishing the night with a minus-2 rating and four shots on goal -- but then again, every Senator had a tough game on Saturday. The former No. 2 overall draft pick had his six-game goal-scoring streak snapped (eight games dating back to prior to his injury), but don't worry, Spezza should put up point-per-game numbers for the remainder of the season. He is as talented as they come and should be owned in all fantasy leagues.

Jean-Sebastien Giguere, G, TOR -- Two starts for Toronto, two shutouts. Giguere has found the fountain of youth with the Maple Leafs. He stopped 30 shots en route to his third shutout of the season. While the Leafs aren't as good as a team as the Ducks, his value is certainly more valuable now because he is a No. 1 goaltender. He won't get shutouts every night, but he can be used as a reliable fantasy netminder from this point on.

GAME STAR: Joni Pitkanen
1 goal, 1 assist, +1, 3 SOG, 2 PIMS
Jussi Jokinen, LW, CAR -- Jokinen has proved this season that he's more than just a shootout specialist. After netting his career-high 20th goal on Saturday night, Jokinen has become a force to reckon with in fantasy hockey. Jussi has 44 points on the season and is skating on the top line with Eric Staal. He is also a power-play specialist, with 17 of his points coming with the man advantage. Don't hesitate because he's on the Hurricanes; ride him as long as he remains on Staal's line.

Rick DiPietro, G, NYI -- As the Islanders continue to slide, so does the value of their former No. 1 overall draft pick. DiPietro stopped just 22 of 25 shots against the Hurricanes and lost his fourth straight start. While his 2.60 GAA isn't terrible and he carries a heavy amount of potential, I think you'd be smart to stay away from both DiPietro and Dwayne Roloson, as the Islanders appear to be headed for another cellar performance in the Eastern Conference.

GAME STAR: Henrik Lundqvist
Win, 41 saves
Ilya Kovalchuk, LW, NJD -- Kovalchuk's second game for the Devs wasn't as good as his first one (two assists), but it wasn't exactly his fault. Henrik Lundqvist turned aside 41 shots, including eight by the Russian sniper. Ilya is currently playing on the second line with Patrik Elias and Dainius Zubrus, but at times in the game, coach Jacques Lemaire, who's known for his frequent line changes, had Kovy skating with Zach Parise and Travis Zajac. Kovalchuk's fantasy value gets a boost now that he's with the powerhouse Devils; roll him with confidence.

Olli Jokinen, C, NYR -- Like Kovalchuk, Jokinen didn't shine on Saturday, but his previous game was extremely productive. He was a plus-1 with three shots on goal and 2 penalty minutes on Saturday, but on Thursday against the Caps, Olli scored a power play goal, added a power play assist and 6 penalty minutes. The veteran forward has been centering New York's second line with up-and-coming youngsters Brandon Dubinsky and Ryan Callahan. Jokinen clearly needed a change of scenery when he was in Calgary; let's hope Broadway is the right fit.


GAME STAR: Nik Antropov
3 assists, +1, 2 SOG
David Booth, LW, FLA -- Playing in his fourth game since returning from his concussion injury, Booth was unable to find the scoresheet -- he finished the game a minus-1 with three shots on goal. He is still not 100 percent, but with a pair of assists and 13 shots in those four games, Booth is slowly rounding into form. It was just a year ago when Booth recorded 31 goals and 29 assists; he is talented and works extremely hard, we just need to hope his head injury will finally fade away for good.

Niclas Bergfors, RW, ATL --
Bergfors, the centerpiece (from Atlanta's side) in the Kovalchuk deal, scored his first goal as a Thrasher in his second game since joining the team. The former first-rounder (No. 23) could be a worthy fantasy player in the future -- after all he is just 22 years old -- but leaving New Jersey for Atlanta certainly doesn't help your value. With 14 goals and 14 assists on the season, I have to believe you can find better forwards in free agency than stick with the young Swede.

GAME STAR: Andrej Meszaros
1 goal, +1, 3 SOG
Matt Stajan, C, CGY -- I believe Stajan possesses the most fantasy value of the four players dealt from Toronto in exchange for Dion Phaneuf. Stajan goes from a second line center with the Leafs to centering Jarome Iginla and Leafs teammate Niklas Hagman. He was held pointless on Saturday against the Lightning and has just one goal in four games with the Flames, but have no fear, he is a tremendous passer that will thrive with Iginla.

Steve Downie, RW, TBL -- There's nothing like being fantasy hockey's most productive pest. Downie is second in the NHL with 151 penalty minutes, but get this; he also has 11 goals and 19 assists after recording a helper on Saturday night. He is extremely comparable to the Rangers' Sean Avery, but he is definitely having the better season of the two. If your league counts penalty minutes, you should absolutely look to Downie -- it's hard to find players that produce points and get the penalty minutes he gets.

GAME STAR: Steve Mason
Win, SO, 28 saves
Thomas Vanek, LW, BUF -- After scoring 40 goals last season, Vanek is clearly having a down season. With just 17 goals and 37 points, the Austrian star has disappointed his owners in a big way. If you have Vanek, consider dealing him for forwards who don't have the popular name like Vanek -- players like Ryan Smyth, Mike Knuble and Loui Eriksson are all more valuable than Vanek and could probably be had.

Steve Mason, G, CBJ -- Probably the player I've talked more about in the last three months than anyone else. The roller-coaster season continued for Mason on Saturday night, this time in a good way. Mason stopped 28 shots and recorded his third shutout of the season. Tonight's performance followed his 2-1 victory over the Stars on Thursday night, in which Dallas scored in the final minute of the game to blow the shutout. I'm not saying Mason is back to last season's form, but he is certainly someone to keep an eye on.

GAME STAR: Patrick Sharp
1 goal, 1 assist, +2, 6 SOG
Patrick Sharp, LW/RW, CHI -- Sharp flies under the radar in Chicago because of all the stars on the Hawks, but don't be fooled, Sharp is a player. He had a goal and an assist on Saturday night and now has 17 goals and 28 assists in 58 games this season. Sharp is also a shots machine with 193. He receives top-six forward minutes and should be trusted in all fantasy formats.

Brad Boyes, RW, STL -- Boyes has flipped the switch this season in St. Louis. Known for his goal-scoring prowess, Boyes has just 10 goals after recording 43 and 33 the previous two seasons. He has taken on a new role for the Blues, playing more of a defensive-style game for new coach Davis Payne. You can probably afford to drop him in shallow leagues, and while I still think Boyes has the skill to score goals, he just isn't getting much of an opportunity these days in St. Louis.

GAME STAR: Dany Heatley
2 PPG's, 1 assist, even, 7 SOG, 2 PIMS
Dany Heatley, LW, SJS -- Obviously Heatley is owned in all fantasy hockey formats, but I felt the need to point out just how good he's been this season. The Sharks forward scored twice and added an assist on Saturday night, giving him 32 goals and 33 assists in 58 games. In a standard fantasy league, only Alex Ovechkin, Sidney Crosby, Henrik Sedin, Marian Gaborik and possibly teammates Patrick Marleau and Joe Thornton are more valuable forwards than Heatley in my eyes. You know what to do.

Patric Hornqvist, RW, NSH --
Hornqvist was kept off the scoresheet on Saturday night, but he remains the team leader in goals and points for the Predators. The NHL sophomore has 23 goals and 36 points and has come out of nowhere this season. He was a seventh-round draft pick by Nashville in 2005 and had just 2 goals and 5 assists in 28 games as a rookie last season. He also has eight power-play goals and can be useful in pretty much all fantasy leagues.

GAME STAR: Anton Khudobin
Win, 38 saves
Daniel Carcillo, LW, PHI -- I mentioned Downie and I mentioned Avery. Now it's time for the third most-popular pest in the NHL, Mr. Carcillo. The Flyers winger scored his eighth goal of the season against the Wild to give him a total of 14 points on the season; of course Carcillo also has a whopping 134 penalty minutes. If you don't have Downie or Avery, Carcillo is your next-best option for some point production to go along with the PIMS.

Anton Khudobin, G, MIN --
With starting goaltender Niklas Backstrom and backup Josh Harding both sidelined, Khudobin was given his first NHL start on Saturday night. The 23-year-old Russian rookie was unbelievable as he stopped 38 of 39 shots and earned his second win (he relieved the injured Harding on Thursday night and got the victory). Of course this run won't last long as Backstrom could be back as early as Wednesday, but Khudobin deserves some sort of applause for his terrific fill-in job.

GAME STAR: Craig Anderson
Win, SO, 20 saves
Jeff Deslauriers, G, EDM -- The Oilers goaltending situation is not exactly fantasy-worthy these days. Deslauriers actually put together a great performance on Saturday night stopping 39 of 41 shots, but the offense in front of him was unable to help him out. The 25-year old goalie has made four straight starts and will continue to be the starter in Edmonton with Nikolai Khabibulin out for the season.

Matt Duchene, C, COL --
The No. 3 pick in last June's NHL Entry Draft had an assist on Saturday night and leads all rookies with 18 goals and 39 points. If you're in a keeper league, you should absolutely target Duchene. He is a star in the making and his head seems to be in the right place with the Avalanche. Hopefully he will follow Stamkos' steps with a sophomore season like the Tampa center is putting together this season.

There are just two games on Super Bowl Sunday with the Boston Bruins, Montreal Canadiens and Pittsburgh Penguins all playing on back-to-back days. Here are a couple of suggestions for some potential production on Sunday:

Sergei Kostitsyn, LW, MON -- The talented winger has 1 goal, 2 assists and a plus-5 rating in his previous three games. He's receiving top-six forward minutes for the Habs, and with the B's struggling, he makes a decent play on Sunday.

Tomas Fleischmann, C, WSH -- If you're in need of assists, Fleischmann is your guy. He has a goal and nine helpers in his last nine games. He is also very helpful in leagues that count power-play points, as five of those nine assists have come with the man advantage -- by the way, the Caps have the best PP unit in the NHL.

Pittsburgh (Marc-Andre Fleury) at Washington (Jose Theodore), 12 p.m. ET
Boston (Tim Thomas) at Montreal (Carey Price), 3 p.m. ET


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