NHL Skinny: Cheechoo Train Rolling

Matt Romig
Yahoo Sports

GOALIE HOT SEAT
BOSTON BRUINS RED HOT
1st Chair: Hannu Toivonen
2nd Chair: Andrew Raycroft
Skinny: The fact that Toivonen started Sunday wasn't a surprise. When the announcement was made did catch some off guard, however. According to the Boston Herald, coach Mike Sullivan broke form Saturday by naming his starter the day before a game. For Toivonen, it was his fourth start in five games. And he was good Sunday, stopping 30 of 32 shots – including all 15 he faced in the second period – to help Boston earn a point. Raycroft, who has only one win since Oct. 22, will probably be watching from the bench again Thursday when the Bruins face Minnesota.
COLORADO AVALANCHE RED HOT
1st Chair: Vitaly Kolesnik
2nd Chair: David Aebischer
Skinny: Kolesnick will start his fourth straight game Monday, the Rocky Mountain News reports. He lost Saturday, but coach Joel Quenneville came away impressed by his goalie's 31-save effort. Aebischer was a healthy scratch Friday as the Avs are carrying three goalies for the time being. That won't continue for long. After Monday's Ottawa tilt, Colorado is off until Saturday. That will give the club a chance to work things out, and there's a chance all three may be out of the picture. According to the Denver Post, the Avalanche have been linked to trade talks involving Florida's Roberto Luongo and Anaheim's Jean-Sebastien Giguere.
NEW YORK RANGERS RED HOT
1st Chair: Henrik Lundqvist
2nd Chair: Kevin Weekes
Skinny: Lundqvist has 12 wins and ranks in the top five in both save percentage (.928) and goals-against average (2.07). He carried the Rangers while Weekes was sidelined with a bruised ankle. The one thing he doesn't carry is a No. 1 label. "I really am trying to look at it a game at a time," coach Tom Renney told Newsday. "I don't know if we have a No. 1 guy." Weekes is back in the picture, having returned Saturday in a 5-4 overtime win at St. Louis. Keep plugging Lundqvist into your lineup, but keep an eye on Weekes if he returns to his November form.
ATLANTA THRASHERS RED HOT
1st Chair: Mike Dunham
2nd Chair: Kari Lehtonen
Skinny: Let's forget who is starting right now for the moment. (For you sticklers for detail: it's Michael Garnett, and he lost his sixth game in seven starts Sunday.) According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Lehtonen will have his first full practice with the team on Dec. 19. General manager Don Waddell told the AJC that Dunham was slightly farther along in his rehabilitation. Keep Lehtonen on your radar. As of Sunday, he was available in 65 percent of Yahoo! leagues. Before the season started he was considered a serious Calder contender.
BUFFALO SABRES HOT
1st Chair: Martin Biron
2nd Chair: Ryan Miller
Skinny: Both Buffalo goalies won Sunday. Biron beat Minnesota to set a franchise record with his 10th straight win. He has a .918 save percentage during the streak and in seven of those games he allowed two or fewer goals. Miller stopped 20 of 21 shots for Rochester of the AHL in the second game of a conditioning assignment. Both can't start in Buffalo, of course, which poses a problem. Coach Lindy Ruff could employ a Roloson-Fernandez type rotation, but he generally prefers to ride a hot hand. Remember that Miller started the first 10 games without a break.
PITTSBURGH PENGUINS HOT
1st Chair: Marc-Andre Fleury
2nd Chair: Jocelyn Thibault
Skinny: Fleury made 23 saves Saturday to earn his first win since Nov. 16. Though far from spectacular, the 21-year-old has allowed more than three goals only once in eight starts. Thibault, on the other hand, has yielded four or more eight times in 10 starts. He had a shot Thursday when Fleury was sidelined by an intestinal ailment, but five shots escaped him in a 5-0 home loss to Minnesota. Fleury is a free agent to watch if Pittsburgh can ever get its offense energized.
LOS ANGELES KINGS HOT
1st Chair: Mathieu Garon
2nd Chair: Jason LaBarbera
Skinny: Still no official declaration here. Garon stopped 35 shots Saturday in a 3-1 win over Florida. He's playing more lately, but coach Andy Murray still won't commit to a single netminder. "We've got two No. 1 goalies and one is playing more than the other guy right now," Murray told the Los Angeles Daily News. LaBarbera has made only one start in December. He allowed five goals to Ottawa in his only start and has been touched for four or more goals in each of his past four outings.
EDMONTON OILERS HOT
1st Chair: Michael Morrison
2nd Chair: Jussi Markkanen, Ty Conklin
Skinny: According to a report in the Edmonton Sun, Conklin will start Tuesday at New Jersey. Conklin, who hasn't played an NHL game since Oct. 21, stopped 32 of 34 shots Saturday in his final AHL conditioning start. Nobody wants to carry three goalies for an extended period, but the Oilers are willing to do just that as the goalie situation works itself out. If Conkin starts Tuesday, it will be one start for each goalie over the past three games.
ST. LOUIS BLUES HOT
1st Chair: Patrick Lalime
2nd Chair: Curtis Sanford
Skinny: Lalime wasn't particularly good Saturday in a 5-4 overtime loss to the Rangers. Sunday the St. Louis Post-Dispatch speculated that Lalime may be traded or waived any minute. If the Blues and Lalime do part ways, look for Sanford to take over. He was 2-4 with a 3.35 goals-against average in a recent stretch of six consecutive starts.
MINNESOTA WILD WARM
1st Chair: Manny Fernandez
2nd Chair: Dwayne Roloson
Skinny: Both goalies have started three games in December. Roloson's run of hard luck continued Sunday in a 3-2 loss to Buffalo. Minnesota hasn't scored more than three goals in support of Roloson since Oct. 12. In his past 10 defeats, the Wild have scored a combined 18 goals. He deserves better than three wins after carrying a .927 save percentage into the holiday season.
DETROIT RED WINGS WARM
1st Chair: Chris Osgood
2nd Chair: Manny Legace
Skinny: Legace doesn't plan on rushing back this time, the Detroit Free Press reports. He is expected to begin facing live shots in practice by the end of the week, but no timetable has been set for his return to game action. He already hurried back from injury once, but faced just nine shots before re-injuring his knee on Nov. 25. Osgood started back-to-back games to close the week, both wins. Coach Mike Babcock called Friday's 28-save effort Osgood's best of the season.
CAROLINA HURRICANES LUKEWARM
1st Chair: Martin Gerber
2nd Chair: Cam Ward
Skinny: The Hurricanes concluded their West Coast road trip with three games in five days. Gerber started four of five games on the trip, including the past three, cementing his stranglehold on the No. 1 job in Carolina. Though San Jose would beat him four times Saturday, Gerber has been solid. He has 35 saves in each of the past three games. Ward faces an uphill battle to regain coach Peter Laviolette's confidence.
There's plenty of upheaval in the fantasy ranks these days. Goalie controversies have surfaced in Colorado and Boston, among other locales. Trade winds are blowing, too. Will Roberto Luongo finish the season in Florida? Does Todd Bertuzzi really want out of Vancouver? Olaf Kolzig? Keith Tkachuk? There are a lot of rumors out there. And how about the San Jose Sharks? The team that has never had a 100-point scorer now has two players on pace to reach the century mark. Here's a quick update on the latest fantasy developments around the league:

WEEKEND UPDATE: Need-to-know info from the past few days

For two months, Toronto coach Pat Quinn scoffed at the notion of pairing Eric Lindros on a line with Mats Sundin. Quinn loves to mix and match, but even as he constantly juggled lines, Sundin and Lindros remained apart. That all changed Saturday – at least for one period. The Leafs were sleepwalking through their third straight loss when Quinn sent Lindros out with his captain. Results were intriguing. Lindros, who had just four points in his previous nine games, hit Sundin with a stretch pass that led to Toronto's lone third-period goal. It remains to be seen if this line remains intact, but if it does it will boost the value of all involved, including left wing Darcy Tucker, who has seven goals in his past nine games.

The tinkering might not end there for Quinn and the Maple Leafs. According to the Toronto Star, Quinn has been experimenting with breaking up his top defense pairing of Bryan McCabe and Tomas Kaberle. This would no doubt be a huge blow for Kaberle, who had 11 assists in 14 November games, production that was certainly related to the presence of McCabe. Alexander Khavanov has been practicing with McCabe. That should boost his value, but he left Saturday's game with a knee injury that could force him to miss some action. This is a fantasy development to keep an eye on, assuming you can keep up with Quinn's changes.

Why have more that 99 percent of Roberto Luongo owners retained the services of the struggling goalie? This is, after all, a guy who has won precisely three of his past 17 starts. That means if you have been inserting Luongo into your lineup regularly since Oct. 25, you're just as likely to see him yanked as you are to see him mobbed by teammates after a victory. He doesn't rank in the top 10 in any goalie category. Unless you count shots against, that is. In that category he blows away the competition. Luongo has faced 909 shots in 27 starts. The next busiest goalie is Toronto's Ed Belfour, who has been peppered with 737 shots in 24 games.

So why is Luongo regarded as the next Dominik Hasek when his stats scream Marc Denis? The first reason is talent. Luongo has plenty of it. Even as the losses and shots against pile up, he has maintained a respectable .908 save percentage. That's better than fellow Team Canada candidates Martin Brodeur (.893) and Ed Belfour (.989). The second incentive is trade. Newsday columnist Alan Hahn all but declared Luongo an ex-Panther Saturday. Colorado and Vancouver are two playoff hopefuls that would love to upgrade in net. Wouldn't fantasy owners love to see Luongo between the pipes for the Canucks? This will be an interesting story to follow, as the fate of several goalies may be tied to any deals involving this netminder.

Joe Thornton keeps putting the puck on winger Jonathan Cheechoo's stick. Cheechoo keeps finding the net, allowing the Thornton-Cheechoo-Scott Thornton line to claim The Skinny's line of the week honors. Before the big trade, Cheechoo had one goal in 12 games. His shot didn't get any better when Thornton got to town. His scoring chances did. The right wing has time and again found himself in perfect position to score and with room to shoot, thanks to his center's playmaking skills. Cheechoo beat Martin Gerber twice Saturday, his fourth and fifth goals since the trade. He has five goals and two assists in five games as Thornton's winger.

BARGAIN BIN: Top players available in 50 percent of Yahoo! leagues

  • Petr Prucha, C, NYR
    As long as Prucha remains on New York's top power-play unit with Jaromir Jagr, he belongs in fantasy lineups. His goal Saturday was his seventh in five games. Four of those tallies have come on the power play where despite his size – Prucha is listed at just 5-foot-10, 160 pounds – the rookie is becoming very comfortable in front of the net. As of Sunday, he remained available in more than 90 percent of Yahoo! leagues.

MARKET MOVERS: Charting player values

Ronald Petrovicky, RW, Atl – His team mired in a losing streak, coach Bob Hartley shuffled his lines and put Petrovicky on his top line with Marc Savard and Ilya Kovalchuk. Petrovicky had a hat trick Friday and an assist in Sunday's overtime loss.

Mark Parrish, RW, NYI – Coach Steve Stirling admitted last week that he was considering moving Parrish up to the sizzling Mike York line. A third-line forward when he's not on special teams, Parish has four goals and five assists in his past seven games.

Mike York, LW, NYI – Speaking of York, he extended his point streak to four games with an assist Saturday. He has four goals and four assists in those games, including three points on the power play.

Brandon Bochenski, RW, Ott – For now general manager John Muckler says he won't pull off any trades in the wake of Martin Havlat's injury. Standing pat is a vote of confidence for Bochenski, who recorded four goals and two assists in his first three games after Havlat was sidelined.

Jason Pominville, RW, Buf – He's averaging a point per game in seven contests since Taylor Pyatt's wrist injury prompted his promotion from the AHL. He had 19 goals in 18 games with Rochester before getting the call. The rookie has spent time manning the point on Buffalo's power play.

Chris Mason, G, Nas – Starter Tomas Vokoun will miss two weeks with a sprained knee. Mason, who won three of his first four starts this season, will take over. Nashville has a favorable schedule this week with Columbus, Chicago and Florida – all struggling teams – on the horizon.

Patrick Sharp, C, Chi – The Blackhawks acquired Sharp from Philadelphia last week with designs on making him the team's No. 2 center behind Mark Bell. In his second game with Chicago, Sharp assisted on two goals in more than 17 minutes of ice time. He was only getting about 7-9 minutes per game with Philly.

Keith Tkachuk, LW, Stl – In four December games, Tkachuk has six goals and six assists. Defenseman Eric Weinrich also came to life with four assists in two games.

Mike Johnson, RW, Pho – With a goal Sunday at Boston, Johnson now has five goals in three games and points in six straight overall.

Jeff Carter, C, Phi – Simon Gagne is out for two weeks, so at least for now Carter finds himself on the Flyers' top line with Peter Forsberg and Mike Knuble. Though he didn't score, he played well.

Vaclav Prospal, C, Tam – Saturday's game was his 11th straight without a goal, and the forward was held without a shot on goal for the third time in five games.

Luc Robitaille, LW, LA – Robitaille barely touched the ice on special teams Saturday, and his even-strength time is dwindling as well. He has just one point in his past 11 games.