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NHL Skinny: Fine Line

Matt Romig
Yahoo Sports

GOALIE HOT SEAT
BOSTON BRUINS RED HOT
1st Chair: Tim Thomas
2nd Chair: Hannu Toivonen, Andrew Raycroft, Craig Anderson
Skinny: Raycroft stopped 20 of the 23 shots he faced Saturday in his first start since Jan. 12. No fantasy impact, however, as the game marked the beginning of his conditioning assignment with Providence of the AHL. On the parent club, Thomas saw his three-start win streak snapped Saturday, but he was spectacular at times in stopping 47 of 51 shots. So what happens when everyone is healthy? "Whoever is playing [well] will play," GM Mike O'Connell told the Providence Journal. That leaves open the possibility that Thomas, a 31-year-old journeyman who owns a .923 save percentage in 11 career starts, will keep his job. Don't rule out a trade involving Raycroft.
EDMONTON OILERS RED HOT
1st Chair: Michael Morrison
2nd Chair: Ty Conklin, Jussi Markkanen
Skinny: Oilers GM Kevin Lowe isn't done dealing. "Today we took care of one (need)," Lowe told the Edmonton Sun after acquiring defensemen Dick Tarnstrom and Jaroslav Spacek in separate deals. "We still have to address another one." That other need, of course, is goaltending. Morrison has started four of six, winning three. His work has been solid, but he's on borrowed time.
CHICAGO BLACKHAWKS HOT
1st Chair: Adam Munro
2nd Chair: Corey Crawford
Skinny: Crawford will start at least one of Chicago's six remaining games before the Olympic break, the Chicago Tribune reports. The 21-year-old rookie would then return to Norfolk of the American Hockey League, assuming starting Nikolai Khabibulin is healthy enough to come back at that time. The plan leaves the bulk of the work until then in the hands of Munro, who blanked Calgary Thursday for his first-career shutout.
PHOENIX COYOTES HOT
1st Chair: Curtis Joseph
2nd Chair: Brian Boucher
Skinny: Coach Wayne Gretzky may have thrown this goalie job open for competition, but so far it's been a one-man audition. Joseph started again Sunday, marking the sixth time he's gotten the call in seven games. His play has been improved of late, but he has still seen a sharp decline in his fantasy production since November. In his lone start since Jan. 16, Boucher allowed three goals in a loss at Minnesota.
ANAHEIM MIGHTY DUCKS WARM
1st Chair: Jean-Sebastien Giguere
2nd Chair: Ilya Bryzgalov
Skinny: Too bad those penalty minutes don't count for goalies. Giguere had himself quite a little meltdown Wednesday, picking up three minor penalties and a misconduct late in a 6-3 loss to Edmonton. His cooling-off period allowed Bryzgalov to start back-to-back games for the first time since early December. The rookie responded by shutting out San Jose and beating Los Angeles on the road. Take a look at the season numbers – Bryzgalov's are better. Coach Randy Carlyle hasn't ruled out a third-straight start for the backup.
TAMPA BAY LIGHTNING WARM
1st Chair: John Grahame
2nd Chair: Sean Burke
Skinny: Just a few weeks removed from a heated battle to save his job, Grahame is suddenly one of the hottest goalies in fantasy hockey. He blanked New Jersey for 62 minutes Thursday to record his third shutout of the month. No need to pull the plug on Burke just yet, however. He also got in on the act last week, recording his first shutout of the season in a 6-0 win Saturday. With a stretch of five games in eight days just around the corner, both goalies figure to get their share of work.
ST. LOUIS BLUES LUKEWARM
1st Chair: Curtis Sanford
2nd Chair: Chris Beckford-Tseu, Patrick Lalime?
Skinny: Sanford is pretty much running unopposed at this point. Jason Bacashihua is on the IR, and Blues coach Mike Kitchen told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that current backup Beckford-Tseu "probably won't start a game." Lalime continues to play well – he has allowed two or fewer goals in seven of nine starts – but there are no immediate plans to recall him from the AHL.
LOS ANGELES KINGS LUKEWARM
1st Chair: Mathieu Garon
2nd Chair: Jason LaBarbera
Skinny: Garon has been terrible of late. Pulled Saturday after allowing five goals in a little more than one period, Garon has yielded at least four goals in four of six starts. Twice he was pulled and replaced by LaBarbera. Remember that coach Andy Murray employed a simple every-other-game rotation early in the season. Don't rule out a return to that plan if Garon doesn't get his act together.
Just two full weeks until the Olympic break, folks. Look at it as a two-week vacation from the part-time job that is managing your fantasy team. Just don't tune out from hockey entirely. You don't want to miss the Olympic tournament. It's great hockey and a different level of passion when some of these NHL stars are representing their countries. Until then, we should have an exciting few weeks as the rumor mill heats up. Let's take a quick look at the weekend behind us.

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

Sidney Crosby the mentor? This wasn't how things were supposed to go in Pittsburgh this season – but then again not much has gone right for the Penguins. The days of playing alongside veterans like Mario Lemieux and Ziggy Palffy are over for Crosby. The student has become the teacher. Crosby is just 18 years old, but already he is considered the front-runner for the team's captaincy in 2006-07. And with 55 career games under his belt, he's the "elder statesman" on Pittsburgh's top line which, for now, consists of Crosby, Colby Armstrong and Jani Rita. Armstrong has played 17 games. Rita is a veteran of 37 lifetime starts.

Rita is the latest addition. He was acquired Thursday in the trade that sent Dick Tarnstrom to the Oilers. The 1999 first-round draft pick had his best offensive season as a professional in 2002-03 when he scored 48 points in 64 games with Hamilton of the AHL. He hasn't had much time to mesh with his new teammates, but Crosby came away from Saturday's game impressed with the winger's speed. As with all things relating to the Penguins, you have to take a wait-and-see approach with this new line. The youngsters may flourish, or this forward combo could wind up on the scrap heap.

Michael Nylander has hardly struggled since coach Tom Renney moved him off New York's top line. The center has done quiet well, in fact. Entering play Saturday, Nylander had recorded 16 points and a plus-12 rating in 14 games. So what can we expect now that Renney's latest lineup shuffle has Nylander back on the No. 1 line with Jaromir Jagr and Martin Straka? If Saturday's result is any indication the answer is: more of the same – and then some. Nylander assisted on two goals – one by Jagr – in the 7-1 win over Pittsburgh. Expect at least a point per game, not bad for a guy available in more than half of Yahoo! leagues.

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

  • Justin Williams, RW, Car
    Williams leads all fantasy right wings with 15 assists over the past month. That'll happen, of course, when you line up alongside one of the NHL's most dynamic young goal scorers in Eric Staal. Williams has at least one point in five of six games (2 goals, 8 assists). He's showing no signs of slowing down despite having already surpassed is previous career-high point total.

MARKET MOVERS: Charting player values

Corey Perry, RW, Ana – This kid proved he can score during a 34-point binge in 19 games with Portland of the AHL earlier this season. He's back with Anaheim now and under orders to shoot the puck more. Saturday he checked in with two goals and an assist in a 6-2 win over the Kings.

David Vyborny, RW, Cls – The hot streak continues. Vyborny scored twice Saturday and has seven points in his past three games. It's the continuation of a fantastic fantasy month that already includes a five-game point streak.

Niklas Kronwall, D, Det – According to the Detroit Free Press, Kronwall will begin a conditioning assignment with Grand Rapids of the AHL on Feb. 4. A gifted offensive defenseman, Kronwall could make a solid post-Olympic sleeper if his ailing knee will allow it.

Cristobal Huet, G, Mon – He started back-to-back games, beating Philadelphia on the road and then putting up a solid fight with 37 saves in Thursday's 3-0 loss at Ottawa. Trade rumors have begun to swirl around Montreal starter Jose Theodore.

Mark Recchi, LW, Pit – On a four-game point streak, Recchi has four goals and four assists in the past week.

Dick Tarnstrom, D, Edm – While not quite a Sergei Gonchar-level bust, Tarnstrom has disappointed coming off a 52-point season in 2003-04. The move to Edmonton should be a positive one for this offensive defenseman.

Sergei Samsonov, LW, Bos – He has just one goal and five points in his past 12 games. Samsonov played on a line with Wayne Primeau and P.J. Axelsson Saturday.

Dan Boyle, D, TB – Careful if this name comes across your team page in a trade offer. The season numbers still look good, but he's poised to finish January with only two points in the books.

Ed Belfour, G, Tor – Belfour lasted just 26 minutes in his last start. Dating back to early January, he has allowed four or more goals in six straight starts.