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Fantasy Hockey Goalies: Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen gives Sabres a chance

By Jason Chen, RotoWire

Special to Yahoo Sports

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Buffalo Sabres goaltender Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen (1)
Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen looks like the real deal for the Sabres. (AP Photo/Stacy Bengs)

Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen, Sabres (2-3-2, .927 Sv%, 2.54 GAA)

At this rate, and given Don Granato's vote of confidence, it doesn't seem like Luukkonen will ever go back to the minors. Craig Anderson and the other veteran goalies were just stopgaps anyway, but Luukkonen's excellent play this season has earned him a job with the big club. He's giving the Sabres a chance to win every night, and though they still don't win many games, they've showcased a lot of young talent and future upside.

Malcolm Subban gets the benefit of the doubt because he's more experienced, and he'll likely be 1A to Luukkonen's 1B simply because of seniority, but there's no doubt who gives them a better chance of winning. Sabres goalies tend to be shunned in fantasy hockey, but in the right matchup, Luukkonen could provide a surprisingly good source of saves and maybe the occasional win.

Their upcoming games include San Jose, two against Detroit, Ottawa and home dates against Dallas and Philadelphia.

Spencer Knight, Panthers (7-4-2, .896 Sv%, 3.39 GAA)

After a brief sojourn to the AHL, Knight is once again back with the big club and served as the backup Tuesday against Calgary. The Panthers have deemed Jonas Johansson to be their No. 3, and they'll be able to carry three goalies with relative ease now that the taxi squad has been re-introduced. Knight's still no threat to take the starting job from Sergei Bobrovsky, but Knight's fantasy value has recovered a little since his demotion and he'll once again be a factor for the remainder of the season.

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While Knight's individual numbers aren't good, the Panthers' brilliant offense can still get him a few wins. Knight's not worth rostering in standard leagues because his playing time might be sparse, though he should be a popular waiver-wire target when he does because he's still capable of putting in the occasional otherworldly performance like he did against Tampa Bay when he made 39 saves.

Semyon Varlamov, Islanders (2-5-1, .910 Sv%, 2.77 GAA)

Varlamov and Ilya Sorokin have both notched wins since the holiday break, which means the battle for the starting job remains ongoing. Sorokin seemed to have the upper hand, and he still might with a superior save percentage (.925), but Varlamov has allowed just two goals in his last two starts despite facing 78 shots. It's been a confounding situation to figure out, but on the bright side, the Isles don't have a single regular in COVID protocol — knock on wood — and will get an extended breakthrough on Jan. 13 when they start playing 10 of their next 11 games at home. Varlamov's fantasy value really dipped early on, but things are starting to look a little brighter for the Isles, and both him and Sorokin are both worth rostering, most preferably as a tandem.

Honorable Mention: John Gibson, Ducks; Linus Ullmark and Jeremy Swayman, Bruins; Darcy Kuemper, Avalanche; Sergei Bobrovsky, Panthers; Juuse Saros, Predators; Igor Shesterkin and Alexandar Georgiev, Rangers; Felix Sandstrom, Flyers; Jack Campbell, Maple Leafs; Thatcher Demko and Jaroslav Halak, Canucks

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Mike Smith and Mikko Koskinen, Oilers (Combined: 14-8-2, .899 Sv%, 3.33 GAA)

Smith is injured again after he allowed 10 goals in his last two games, and Koskinen might as well be roadkill after Dave Tippett threw him under the bus following a 4-0 loss to the Rangers. That's six consecutive losses for Koskinen, two straight for Smith and four in a row for the Oilers. Their struggles aren't that surprising, but the Oilers have fallen off the top perch alarmingly fast, and they risk losing even more games if Connor McDavid has to be placed in COVID protocol.

None of the Oilers' goalies were expected to be good, but they were expected to at least keep the damage to a minimum so their offense can win games. They're not stopping pucks and their forwards aren't putting them in, which plummets their fantasy value. The Oilers are the only playoff-bound team to not have a goalie really worth rostering; that may change quickly if Stuart Skinner somehow gets hot again, or if Ken Holland extricates himself from cap hell and pulls off a trade, but neither are long-term solutions. It's a situation to watch because it's an enviable situation for any goalie to play behind a potentially high-octane offense, but figuring out who that might be is a headache.

Cam Talbot, Wild (Past 4 starts: 0-3-1, .855 Sv%, 5.29 GAA)

Talbot's Winter Classic was definitely not a highlight, and after getting pulled at the second intermission, is now on the shelf with a lower-body injury and is already expected to miss Thursday's game. It interrupts an otherwise pretty productive season from Talbot, who sports a 15-8-1 record and leaves the Wild in a tough spot as they try to snap their five-game losing streak. This is the worst the Wild have looked all season, and it puts the spotlight immediately on Kaapo Kahkonen, who has a .906 Sv% in eight games this season.

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There have been no further updates to the extent of Talbot's injury, but being ruled out Thursday well ahead of time means the Wild are either being cautious, or the injury could be pretty severe. Even if it takes the Wild a little time to get back on track — they're already reaching into their war chest by calling up top prospects Marco Rossi and Matthew Boldy from the farm club — Kahkonen may be worth rostering as an insurance policy against Talbot, and even if Kahkonen's peripheral stats aren't good, he should be able to grab a few wins.

Dishonorable Mention: Collin Delia, Blackhawks; Elvis Merzlikins and Joonas Korpisalo, Blue Jackets; Martin Jones, Flyers; James Reimer, Sharks; Philipp Grubauer and Chris Driedger, Kraken; all Lightning backups