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The Daily Puck: Tough Goalie Decisions

John Toperzer

John has written for since 2003 and serves as the beat writer for the Pittsburgh Penguins and Pittsburgh Pirates. Hes worked for the Pirates for 17 years, written for the Penguins Web site as the first game-day editor, and rooted for the Steelers dating back to the Immaculate Reception.

The Daily Puck
by John Toperzer, RotoWire Writer

Around The Rink

*What do we make out of the goalie situation in Pittsburgh? The Pens are playing great with Brent Johnson and terribly with Marc-Andre Fleury. Should a starter keep his job because he represents the perceived future of the team or should the team simply focus on putting its best product on the ice?

*File this story under "Takes One to Know One." The Arnold Schwarzenegger sound-alike Bobby Holik has gained notoriety of late with his outspoken thoughts regarding Ilya Kovalchuk's crazy contract. If anyone knows about bloated contracts, Holik does. Holik once went from an underappreciated gritty winger in New Jersey to fat-cat lazy NHLer, whose bloated five-year, $45 million contract was the result of the Rangers overpaying a player within the framework of the old CBA. The Rangers ended up buying out the last two years of the deal, paying Holik two-thirds of his salary NOT to play for them. How fitting. Sounds a lot like someone else's deal, doesn't it?

*Alexandre Burrows debuted Tuesday night and was outscored by Roberto Luongo, one assist to none.

*What's next for the New Jersey Devils? Teams either rally around each other after a big loss like Zach Parise, or they fall apart. More importantly for fantasy owners, do the Devils become a fantasy wasteland or does somebody take over the work load? New Jersey could concentrate on defense, as it's done for the past two decades, but does it have the types of defenders to get the job done? Anton Volchenkov coming back will be a huge lift, but Andy Greene is an offense-first player and rookies like Matt Taormina and Oliver Magnan still have much to learn.

Ilya Kovalchuk likely relishes the chance to show his stuff and become the main offensive force. His numbers might actually start looking more Kovalchuk-like. Travis Zajac? He always seems to feed off of Parise, can he feed off of the others or step up himself? Jason Arnott serves in a complementary capacity at this point in his career. Does he have enough left in the tank to take on a bigger role? His current minus-9 rating is the first negative rating he's had since 19997-98 (full season).

The Devils have plenty of name faces whose shelf-life freshness appears to be on borrowed time, guys like Patrik Elias, Jamie Langenbrunner, and the aforementioned Arnott. I took a chance on rookie Alexander Vasyunov in the competitive RotoWire keeper league, but he's nothing more than a wait-and-see prospect at this point.     

*In case you've missed it, blueliners Andrei Markov and Brian Campbell are back. Play ‘em before they get hurt again.


Niklas Backstrom - It's early, but 2009-10 is looking like the outlier season for Backstrom as the Minnesota netminder. Backstrom stumbled through an ineffective and injury-riddled season last year, compiling a 2.72 GAA and .903 save percentage for a team that was supposed to feature a new-found explosive offense. That didn't happen. Fast forward to Tuesday night, with Backstrom and the Wild shutting out San Jose. His 1.88 GAA and .938 save percentage totals aren't sustainable, but they are more in line with the marks of his first three NHL seasons.

Duncan Keith - Yeah, that buy low window has closed in a hurry. He was actually offered up in an "experts" league I'm in, but I was afraid to ask what the owner might want. My bad. Keith leads all defenders with 12 points (1, 11) in 14 contests, with nine of those points coming in the last four games alone.


Niklas Hjalmarrson - Not only does he have a minus-9 rating playing for the ‘Hawks, but he doesn't even have one point. Here's to hoping the return of Brian Campbell helps to turn his season around.

Marc-Edouard Vlasic - It's easy picking on blueliners with no points and a minus-5 rating in 10 games, but whatever happened to Vlasic's offensive potential?   

Recommended Pickup

Kevin Bieksa - Okay, so he picked up all three of his season's points - three assists - Tuesday night. But Bieksa is likely on a fair number of waiver wires and he's offered a solid mix of points and penalties (when healthy) over the past few seasons. 

Projected Starting Goalies

Boston (Tim Thomas) at Buffalo (Patrick Lalime), 7:00 p.m.
Islanders (Rick DiPietro) at Carolina (Cam Ward), 7:00 p.m.
Toronto (Jonas Gustavsson) at Washington (Michal Neurvirth), 7:00 p.m.
Atlanta (Ondrej Pavelec) at Florida (Tomas Vokoun), 7:30 p.m.
New Jersey (Martin Brodeur) at Chicago (Marty Turco), 8:30 p.m.
Pittsburgh (Brent Johnson) at Dallas (Kari Lehtonen), 8:30 p.m.
Detroit (Jimmy Howard) at Calgary (Miikka Kiprusoff), 9:30 p.m.
Nashville (Pekka Rinne) at Phoenix (Ilya Bryzgalov), 10:00 p.m.
Tampa Bay (Dan Ellis) at Anaheim (Jonas Hiller), 10:00 p.m.

For more up-to-date info, check out our Projected Goalies Grid

Recent Injury News for Teams Playing Wednesday

Boston vs. Buffalo


Marc Savard - Skating, out indefinitely, he's due to give an update in the next couple days.
Marco Sturm - Skating and out indefinitely, like Savard. Knee problems or concussions? Take your pick. 
Johnny Boychuk - Out for about the next three weeks while recovering from broken arm.


Jason Pominville - Coming back Wednesday. Who needs to pass neuro-psych tests, anyhow?
Ryan Miller - Questionable Wednesday, check for game-day updates, Patrick Lalime looks likely to start.
Nathan Gerbe - Out indefinitely after taking a slap shot off the jaw from teammate Tyler Myers.

Islanders vs. Carolina


Michael Grabner - Set to return from groin injury Wednesday. 
Kyle Okposo - No new news on Okposo, still shooting for a December return from shoulder surgery.
Milan Jurcina - Out 2-4 weeks with a hamstring injury.
Andrew MacDonald - Out 2-4 weeks with a broken hand.
Mark Streit - No new news on Streit, still hoping for a late-season return from shoulder surgery.


Joni Pitkanen - Questionable Wednesday after sustaining upper-body injury during Monday's game.

Toronto vs. Washington


Dion Phaneuf - Sustained deep cut during Tuesday's tilt and not expected to play Wednesday.
Colby Armstrong - Out for about another month after injuring tendon in hand.


Marcus Johansson - Out Wednesday with lingering hip injury, close to returning.
Tom Poti - Left practice early Tuesday and not likely to suit up against Toronto on Wednesday.
Tyler Sloan - Took part in full practice Tuesday and looks good to go Wednesday.
Semyon Varlamov - Expected to re-join practice Wednesday for the first time in nine days.

Atlanta vs. Florida


Bryan Little - Out with a concussion Wednesday and is expected to miss at least two more contests.
Freddy Meyer - Placed on injured reserve retroactively to Oct. 23 with lower-body injury.


Stephen Weiss - Unlikely to play Wednesday after undergoing oral surgery, ankle issues, too.

New Jersey vs. Chicago

New Jersey

Zach Parise - Out three months with right knee injury.
Brian Rolston - Out another month while recovering from sports hernia surgery.
Anton Volchenkov - Out Wednesday, but may start earning paycheck with a Friday return.
Matthew Corrente - Could return in 7-10 days from broken hand.
Jacob Josefson - Out 6-8 weeks with hand injury that will require surgery.


Marian Hossa - Skated Tuesday sans contact and hopes to return sometime next week.
Dave Bolland - Out for at least a couple games with an upper-body injury, placed on IR.

Pittsburgh vs. Dallas


Kris Letang - Questionable Wednesday with wrist injury, probably 60/40 that he'll play.
Zbynek Michalek - Set to see his first action in weeks after sustaining early season shoulder injury.
Jordan Staal - Out indefinitely with broken hand, at least his foot infection will get extra time to heal.
Evgeni Malkin - Knee bruise, will play Wednesday. Malkin needs to play in middle, instead of wing.    


None reported, now that Jere Lehtinen is not on the roster.

Detroit vs. Calgary


Jimmy Howard - Returned to practice Monday, starting Wednesday, could play 3-out-of-4 days.
Chris Osgood - Out Wednesday with groin injury - at least he's won a couple games this year.
Brian Rafalski - Nov. 8 looms as a possible return date for the defenseman.


Raitis Ivanans - Skating for the first time since suffering concussion in opener, close to returning.
Daymond Langkow - Shut down Tuesday after experiencing lower-body numbness, not close.

Nashville vs. Phoenix


Francis Bouillon - Day-to-day with upper body injury, questionable for Wednesday's game.
Martin Erat - Out for three-game road trip beginning Wednesday, back acting up again.
Marcel Goc - Practiced Monday and is expected travel with team on road trip, questionable for Weds.
Matthew Lombardi—Still listed as week-to-week with concussion.
Ryan Suter - Out for at least three more games with a leg injury, not traveling on road trip.


Derek Morris - The well-traveled defenseman is expected to play Wednesday.

Tampa Bay vs. Anaheim

Tampa Bay

Victor Hedman - X-rays were negative on his left foot. His status Wednesday is questionable.
Dominic Moore - Practiced Tuesday but out Wednesday, still recovering from groin injury.
Matt Smaby - Day-to-day with an ankle injury, could return Wednesday.
Simon Gagne - Out Wednesday, no timetable for return though eligible to come off IR on Friday.


Kyle Chipchura - Out at least Wednesday and Friday with concussion.
Matt Beleskey - Has missed last two games with concussion, questionable for Wednesday.
Joffrey Lupul - May start skating in the next week, targeting a return sometime after U.S. Thanksgiving.
Andy Sutton - Still sidelined with broken thumb, but timetable could have him back in 2-3 weeks.
Dan Sexton - Out another couple weeks with broken nose.