In the Crease: No rush to get DiPietro

It's been over a year since Rick DiPietro last took the ice for the New York Islanders, and barring an unforeseen setback, it would appear he'll make his "triumphant" return this weekend. But do you want any part of this return? Maybe more importantly, will this affect Dwayne Roloson, who is quietly having a productive season (currently No. 20 among goalies on the Player Rater)?

There are some red flags with DiPietro, as I'm sure anyone with even a casual interest in the NHL knows. For instance, over the past two calendar years, he's had surgeries on both hips and both knees. Hips and knees tend to be important joints for goaltending, if I understand it correctly. DiPietro had his best statistical season from a fantasy perspective in 2006-07, the campaign after putting his signature on a 15-year deal that had some questioning the sanity of team owner Charles Wang and general manager Garth Snow, but had one columnist referring to him at the time as "the next Michael Jordan of the goal net." DiPietro had another pretty full season in 2007-08 -- 63 starts, a 2.82 goals-against average and .902 save percentage -- before the real injury troubles began. We don't have a lot of historical data on a goalie who is reasonably young (Rick won't turn 29 until this upcoming September) returning on four surgically repaired hips and knees, so it's tough to say if he'll be back to his NHL career averages (2.79 GAA and .905 SV percent) or whether he'll put up similar numbers to his recent four-game rehab stint with the AHL's Bridgeport Sound Tigers (3.31 GAA and .883 SV percent).

Even if DiPietro does come back in form similar to his most recent healthy season, will the financial considerations be enough to force the team's hand in starting him over Roloson? Will this lead the team to move Martin Biron, effectively guaranteeing him a two-man time-share at worst? Those are two big questions without answers right now. DiPietro is currently unowned in 93.9 percent of ESPN.com leagues, and it should remain that way. Let him prove he's back in shape before taking a chance on him in the free-agent pool.

Roloson's owners should keep an eye on the situation, but I wouldn't be too concerned. I'm not sold on DiPietro re-capturing some of that 2006-07 mojo right away (if at all). Roloson might lose some starts here and there, but I think the team will go with his steady hand in net, especially since it still has legitimate hopes of making the playoffs. I see him getting another 23-28 starts in the Isles' 38 remaining games, which should put him near where he finished last season. If Roloson maintains the ratios and picks up just 12 more wins, he'll equal his 2008-09 performance, which paced him at the No. 20 spot among goalies for the season.

Rising and falling

Stud backups: Because of the Winter Olympics, there are a ton of games crammed in during January, meaning teams will be facing a slew of games on consecutive nights. This is great news for deep-leaguers or other folks who have some of the stud backup goaltenders on the roster. I'm not talking about the time-share guys, though, because while their workload will increase some, they've already been getting a fair amount of time. Rather, this is the time when you should try giving guys like Tuukka Rask, Antti Niemi, Yann Danis or Ty Conklin a whirl, or even Patrick Lalime if you're feeling really frisky.

Cristobal Huet, Chicago Blackhawks (up four spots): Although it sometimes appears the tandem of Huet and Antii Niemi is threatening to return the "Time-shares" section below, Huet has been a master of his domain over the past 10 starts. In spite of a couple of hiccups along the way, he's posted two shutouts. While ESPN standard scoring doesn't count shutouts as a category, it does count the 47 saves on 47 shots in those two games. While the time-share might begin to concern me -- and I'd like to look into coach Joel Quenneville's own Cristobal for some guidance as to how long this will continue -- I still consider Huet to be at the tail end of that No. 1 fantasy 'tender echelon.

Top 40 Goalies

Note: Tim Kavanagh's top 40 goalies are ranked for their expected performance in ESPN Standard Leagues from this point on, not on the statistics that have already been accrued. ESPN standard stats include wins, goals-against average and save percentage. Last week's ranking is indicated in parentheses.

1. Ryan Miller, Buf (1)
2. Martin Brodeur, NJ (2)
3. Ilya Bryzgalov, Pho (3)
4. Roberto Luongo, Van (4)
5. Miikka Kiprusoff, Cgy (6)
6. Evgeni Nabokov, SJ (5)
7. Craig Anderson, Col (7)
8. Tim Thomas, Bos (8)
9. Henrik Lundqvist, NYR (13)
10. Cristobal Huet, Chi (14)
11. Marc-Andre Fleury, Pit (9)
12. Tomas Vokoun, Fla (11)
13. Niklas Backstrom, Min (12)
14. Jimmy Howard, Det (17)
15. Pekka Rinne, Nsh (10)
16. Carey Price, Mon (19)
17. Jaroslav Halak, Mon (20)
18. Semyon Varlamov, Was (16)
19. Jonathan Quick, LA (25)
20. Chris Mason, StL (18)
21. Steve Mason, Cls (22)
22. Jonas Hiller, Ana (21)
23. Marty Turco, Dal (15)
24. Ray Emery, Phi (24)
25. Tuukka Rask, Bos (23)
26. Dan Ellis, Nsh (32)
27. Pascal Leclaire, Ott (26)
28. Antti Niemi, Chi (27)
29. Jonas Gustavsson, Tor (28)
30. Dwayne Roloson, NYI (31)
31. Cam Ward, Car (37)
32. Ty Conklin, StL (36)
33. Michael Leighton, Phi (33)
34. Michal Neuvirth, Was (40)
35. Antero Niittymaki, TB (30)
36. Jean-Sebastien Giguere, Ana (29)
37. Jeff Deslauriers, Edm (34)
38. Johan Hedberg, Atl (35)
39. Mike Smith, TB (NR)
40. Mathieu Garon, Cls (39)

Marc-Andre Fleury, Pittsburgh Penguins (down two spots): The Penguins are in a bit of a slump generally, and MAF has been in a personal slump as well. Starting with the game in which he got to watch Martin Brodeur break the career shutouts record, the Flower has given up 22 goals in six starts, and he only played half of that game against Brodeur and the New Jersey Devils. Of the 12 remaining games in January, six are against teams with G-SD (goal-scoring dysfunction, for which there is no little blue pill), and this could be a nice slate of games for a turnaround.

Jean-Sebastien Giguere, Anaheim Ducks (down seven spots): It's really just fond memories keeping Jiggy on anyone's radar at this point, as the time-share seems to have closed operations and the Ducks' offensive free fall continues. Giguere's starts have become much less frequent -- we'll see if he benefits from the cramped January schedule as mentioned above -- and he's been unlucky in drawing the San Jose Sharks and Chicago Blackhawks for his latest two, allowing five goals apiece to two of the league's powerhouses. If you haven't dropped him already, feel free to do so. He can start to stage his comeback on the waiver wire while you get some production out of someone else, or just leave the slot empty because you'd almost be better off doing that.


Jose Theodore (23.4 percent), Michal Neuvirth (1.9 percent) and Semyon Varlamov (90.7 percent), Washington Capitals: Last week it looked as though Varlamov was ready to return to action for the Caps, but he suffered what The Washington Post called a "minor setback" during a rehab start with the Hershey Bears on Sunday. Groin injuries are tricky, especially for goaltenders, and with the Caps all but assured of a playoff berth they'll want Varlamov healthy for a run this spring. In other words, don't expect him to be rushed back into the lineup. As for the other two, I wrote last week that Neuvirth is the one to own. The rookie bounced back from allowing five goals against the San Jose Sharks by allowing just two goals each in performances against the Los Angeles Kings and Montreal Canadiens, winning the latter. Theodore has been circling the drain, and Thursday's potential start against the recently woeful Ottawa Senators (18 goals in the last eight games) could be his last chance: "If he's not at the top of his game, these two kids [Varlamov and Neuvirth] are going to push him out," Caps coach Bruce Boudreau told the Post. Even if he's not "pushed out," he can ruin your week with one bad performance, so best to go with Neuvirth while Varlamov recovers.

Pekka Rinne (97.2 percent) and Dan Ellis (5.2 percent), Nashville Predators: In the weeks before last Thursday's column, both Rinne and Ellis had been pretty sloppy, neither one able to emerge as the Predators' clear No. 1. But if the three games since are any indication, this is a very important battle moving forward. Ellis has only surrendered three goals total in his two starts (with a .954 save percentage in those two), while Rinne allowed just one goal to the sinking Ducks on 26 shots. An interesting factor in play in Nashville: earlier this week, Predators coach Barry Trotz suggested to The (Nashville) Tennessean that the time-share is going to continue unabated. First he joked that "I could close my eyes and get the quarter out and flip it and both could do a good job," then he detailed a more conservative strategy: "We'll look at teams we're playing and who's had success against certain teams." What does that mean for fantasy owners? Ellis is vastly under-owned right now; his stats are similar to Rinne's, and it seems he'll continue to get starts. If you're in a league that doesn't allow daily lineup changes, check out Sean Allen's Fantasy Forecaster every week and cross-reference it with each man's splits against the opponents on the docket. During next week's road trip through western Canada, for example, Rinne put up the better numbers against the Vancouver Canucks while Ellis was superior against the Edmonton Oilers and Calgary Flames.

Ray Emery (71.6 percent), Michael Leighton (5.3 percent) and Brian Boucher (5.0 percent), Philadelphia Flyers: Leighton has been a great addition for the Flyers, whose season was in a full tailspin before his arrival. Over the past week, Leighton backstopped the overtime loss to the Boston Bruins in the Winter Classic (allowing just two goals on 26 shots, that's a quality start!), and holding the Toronto Maple Leafs to two goals while getting the win Wednesday. Boucher has become a bit of an afterthought, and here's hoping none of you were unfortunate enough to start him Sunday when he allowed five goals in relief of an oddly shaky Leighton. It looks like Leighton will be the handcuff to own when Ray Emery returns, which could be quite soon. The Philadelphia Inquirer said Thursday that Emery will travel with the team for the game against the Pittsburgh Penguins, meaning he could be ahead of his recovery timeline. Emery's pre-injury performance was stellar: nine quality starts out of 14 total starts and a .924 save percentage. If he really is back to health -- questionable, since he hid the injury for weeks -- he is a stellar buy-low candidate in trade, or a pickup in 28.4 percent of leagues.

Carey Price (91.7 percent) and Jaroslav Halak (30.6 percent), Montreal Canadiens: Allan Walsh, agent for Halak, recently told the Montreal Gazette that Habs GM Bob Gainey has "an embarrassment of riches in goal." It's not embarrassing given the superior stats being put up by other gents around the league, but both 'tenders were pretty stellar in December: Halak won six of nine starts, finishing with a 2.66 GAA and .933 save percentage for the month, while Price won three of eight starts, with ratios of 2.25 and .926, respectively. Price has gotten both starts of the 2010 calendar year: one good (one goal allowed on 30 shots in a tough-luck loss to the Buffalo Sabres) and one bad (four goals allowed in on 43 shots to the Caps). Bottom line here: There's a ceiling on both unless one of them is traded, but Halak's ownership percentage is vastly too low. He's outperformed Price in all three of the ESPN standard categories, and head coach Jacques Martin has been starting his guys in bunches instead of the flip-flopping done elsewhere. Thus, during certain weeks Halak should be universally started, but he can't start for your team if he's on the waiver wire.

Tim Kavanagh is a fantasy hockey analyst for ESPN.com.