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Thursday, January 1, 2009
Jackets' Mason continues to deliver

Rookie Steve Mason ended 2008 with a bang, and his owners are hoping 2009 continues on the same note. Mason stopped 27 shots to become the first goalie in Columbus' history to post shutouts in three consecutive games, leading the Blue Jackets to a 2-0 win over Anaheim. His shutout streak now sits at a franchise-record 182 minutes, 8 seconds. In the process, Mason has lowered his NHL-leading goals-against average to 1.69.

"The guys played great in front of myself and made it real easy," Mason told AP reporters after the game. "You try not to pay attention to it and think about a shutout because you don't want to jinx it. It was nice to get, but obviously the most important thing is the win. And right now I'm just trying to get as many wins as I can."

Miraculously, he is still available in nearly a quarter of ESPN leagues. That becomes more astounding when you realize he is tied for first in the NHL with five shutouts, despite spending a portion of the early season in the minors. For those of you who can, take a trip to that waiver wire and pick up Mason. Even if you don't need a goalie, you can create some depth at the position and use it to make trades to improve other weaknesses on your team. For those of you who missed the boat with Columbus' new man in net, there are a few other goalies we have high hopes for in 2009.

I will admit that fellow columnist Sean Allen has been on the Antero Niittymaki bandwagon for quite some time now, but it's finally safe to say that the time is right for the rest of us to hop on board. Martin Biron has been downright awful at times this season, and Niittymaki has far superior numbers and is available in nearly 70 percent of ESPN leagues. I feel confident in saying that the 28-year-old Finn will see the more of the Flyers' starts in 2009 than Biron.

Unless Erik Ersberg can prove he is capable of being a starting goalie in the NHL (very unlikely), the Los Angeles Kings will get a good look at Jonathan Quick in 2009. When Kings president and general manager Dean Lombardi traded away Jason LaBarbera, he surely didn't do it just to gain Vancouver's seventh-round draft pick. He did it to create space for Quick to become an everyday player for the time being. The 22-year-old has been impressive already for L.A., posting a goals-against average of less than 2.00. Quick is an athletic butterfly goalie and is playing behind a defensive corps that allows the fewest shots per game in the NHL. He's available in nearly every ESPN league and should thrive in the role of starter.

If you are desperate and need to look deeper, consider Justin Pogge just for a minute. Pogge has been wearing the label of the Leafs' goalie of the future for quite some time now and looked impressive in his first NHL start earlier this season. Now that Curtis Joseph has collected win No. 450 on his career, expect the Leafs to part ways with him sooner rather than later, leaving Pogge as the backup. At worst, the Leafs would work Pogge into regular rotation with Vesa Toskala. The best-case scenario for prospective Pogge owners would be if Leafs GM Brian Burke tests out his intestinal fortitude by trading Toskala for prospects and draft picks and lets Pogge handle the starter's load for the first time.

Ice Chips...

The Boston Bruins have officially placed Patrice Bergeron on injured reserve. He is still suffering from the aftereffects of a concussion. There is no timetable for his return. ... Philadelphia forward Simon Gagne will miss the next seven to 10 days with a sore shoulder. He was hit by Vancouver defenseman Kevin Bieksa only 15 seconds into the Flyers' recent win over the Canucks. ... Mark Streit could very well be one of the best offseason free-agent signings of 2008. The Islanders defenseman had a goal and an assist on New Year's Eve to bump his point total to 30 in 38 games. ... It's surprising that Christian Ehrhoff's ownership numbers remain as high as they do. He was a healthy scratch earlier in the week in Dallas and is a minus-6 in his past six games. He hasn't scored in 17 games. ... Brent Burns had a fantastic night, and his owners must hope it's a sign of things to come in 2009. He had two assists and scored the game-winning overtime goal to give the Wild the victory over San Jose. ... Peter Mueller is quickly erasing any memories of his 21-game goal drought. He scored twice on New Year's Eve, giving him three goals in his past three games. ... Phoenix backup Mikael Tellqvist was pressed into action, as Ilya Bryzgalov was forced to the bench with a sore back. The Coyotes have called up Josh Tordjman from the AHL to serve on an emergency basis. ... Ilya Kovalchuk may finally be able to get his game back on track. He scored on Wednesday night to end the longest goal-less streak of his career at nine games. ... Sergei Samsonov is quite clearly a second-half player and may soon become a hot commodity in fantasy circles. He scored two goals in a win over Atlanta and added an assist. Last year he didn't score his first goal until January, and we all know he went on a tear to end the season with 14. ... What would you say if I told you a player on pace for more than 40 goals was probably sitting on your waiver wire? Loui Eriksson scored twice on Wednesday night to push his total for the year to 20 goals. The Dallas winger is available in about half of ESPN leagues. ... The Associated Press reports that Martin Brodeur is working out off ice as he continues to rehab from surgery to reattach a torn tendon in his left arm. He is on schedule to return in February. ... Jarome Iginla and Michael Cammalleri have become quite the productive pair. Each had two goals and three assists to lead the Flames to a New Year's Eve victory in the battle of Alberta. Iginla has 45 points and Cammalleri 34 this season.