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Sunday, November 30, 2008
Canucks' top prospect debuts in goal


Cory Schneider finally earned his chance, but the Canucks didn't help him much.

Schneider, who's arguably Vancouver's top prospect, will need to make the transition to the NHL if Roberto Luongo is sidelined for any extended period of time with his "week-to-week" groin injury. In his debut between the pipes, Schneider flashed some of the skills that helped him rack up a 10-1 record in the AHL this season before his call-up, with some enormous kick saves and one glove save in particular on Mike Cammalleri that looked like a sure goal. However, Vancouver offered little offensive support and some poor defense, which allowed Calgary to skate to a 3-1 win.

Schneider has been picked up in only 2.7 percent of ESPN.com leagues, likely thanks to a belief that Luongo won't be gone all that long. I'll stress that groin injuries are the trickiest of all injuries in the NHL. Luongo could be back in a week or won't be back for months. We just don't know. If this turns into a "months" deal, Schneider will have quite a bit of value in fantasy leagues.

Not all nights will go as poorly for the 22-year old Boston College product. The Nucks managed to fire only 18 shots at the other end of the ice, which never makes it promising for a goaltender to get a win, and he had no chance at all on the Daymond Langkow or Matthew Lombardi goals. (One was caused by a tip, the other because of a defensive lapse.) Had a couple of bounces gone the other way, Schneider's debut would seem a lot rosier.

I know it may seem as if I am pushing Schneider on you, but it is much better to be safe than sorry. If Luongo's injury turns out to be absolutely minor, all you have to do is sacrifice a roster spot to Schneider for another week or two. The payoff to having Schneider should Luongo miss more than just a couple of weeks is well worth the roster spot.

Ice chips

Cristobal Huet isn't capitalizing on his chance to shine as the main Hawks goaltender while Nikolai Khabibulin is sidelined with a leg or groin injury. He allowed four goals on 27 shots in Chicago's 5-2 loss to Los Angeles. A couple of the goals were toughies, but a couple weren't. He has stopped 43 of 47 total shots in back-to-back nights on the West Coast, and Huet should get a chance to shine as the Hawks return home from a long road trip. … Erik Ersberg, meanwhile, bounced back from a rough outing on Tuesday by stopping 22 of 24 shots and earning his sixth win in 11 tries. He still looks to be a solid No. 2 choice in net. … David Perron had 2 assists and was plus-2 even though his Blues dropped a 4-2 decision to Edmonton. Don't forget that the first-round pick of the 2007 NHL draft was touted as having some of the softest hands. He has 13 assists so far this season, and as a rookie last year, he finished with 14. Perron also has hustled as a two-way player, as evidenced by his team-leading plus-16 last season and plus-6 so far this season. He's definitely underrated in deep leagues. … The lines in Montreal are finally being shaken up, as coach Guy Carbonneau has received almost no production from his supposed top unit of Tomas Plekanec, Andrei Kostitsyn and Alexei Kovalev. Kostitsyn was the big winner Saturday, as he had a goal and assist and played all-around good hockey on a line with his brother, Sergei Kostitsyn, and rugged center Maxim Lapierre. But Andrei definitely had more opportunities, as he still earned first power-play unit duties, while Sergei sat out the third after taking his third minor penalty of the game. I've been advocating a Kostitsyn line since the preseason with hopes that both brothers can find their form. Watch closely how this plays out, especially when Alex Tanguay returns and forces another line shake-up. … Drew Stafford followed up a three-point night against Pittsburgh by notching an assist in the Sabres' 3-2 loss to Montreal while skating with Derek Roy and Thomas Vanek for most of the game. Stafford is a physical presence who has a knack for scoring, but he disappointed after earning a chance on that same top line to begin the season. If he can stick with this opportunity, he could erase the poor memories of those who took a chance on him at the draft table this year. Pay attention to his next couple of box scores before acting, though. … In his third game back from hernia surgery, Freddy Meyer had 2 goals and an assist in the Islanders' 4-2 win over Ottawa. Meyer has proven to be fantasy-relevant in the past, although you have to go back to the 2005-06 season to find instances of his productivity. He had 27 points in 57 games as a member of the Flyers. If given some responsibility on the Islanders' blue line, he could offer similar production this season. For now, just monitor his ice time. … Manny Fernandez didn't allow a shot past him cleanly as he filled in for a sick Tim Thomas in Boston's 4-1 thumping of the powerhouse Red Wings. He did allow a goal, but it was a pass that bounced off Marc Savard's skate. Fernandez didn't record a shutout, of course, but for evaluation purposes, Fernandez played a heck of a game. He'll have to keep playing like that if he wants to steal time from Thomas, though. … Ty Conklin will face a setback in his battle for more playing time after allowing three goals on nine shots before being pulled for Chris Osgood. … Is anyone else loving Rick Nash's November production? Fifteen points in 13 games make you forget about his October goal drought. … Rookie Steve Mason has elevated himself to must-own status after recording another shutout. The Columbus netminder turned aside 26 shots as the Blue Jackets downed Alex Ovechkin and the Capitals 3-0. The 20-year-old rookie is 5-2-1 with two shutouts for a team that is 10-10-3. … Some guy named Sidney Crosby (you may have heard of him) recorded a hat trick in Pittsburgh's 4-1 drubbing of New Jersey. It was actually a four-point outing for Crosby that brought him into second place behind teammate Evgeni Malkin for the NHL scoring lead. … Consider arming yourself with Mikael Tellqvist as an option in deep leagues after the No. 1 goalie in Phoenix, Ilya Bryzgalov, got an embarrassing yank after allowing two goals on two shots. That benching was followed by a tongue-lashing from coach Wayne Gretzky, who told The Associated Press, "Bryzgalov has just not played at the level we need him to play at. There was no reason to keep him in. … Two shots, two goals. And the second goal, the guy scored from stands. It's as simple as that." Tellqvist allowed just one goal in relief and has started or finished four of the Coyotes' past five games.

Sean Allen is a fantasy baseball and hockey analyst for ESPN.com. You can e-mail him here.