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NHL Skinny: Fixing the pipes

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GOALIE HOT SEAT
TAMPA BAY LIGHTNING RED HOT
1st Chair: Karri Ramo
2nd Chair: Johan Holmqvist
Skinny: According to the St. Petersburg Times, coach John Tortorella has made it clear that Ramo will get the bulk of starts the remainder of the season. That's good news if you rolled the dice on Ramo, as the youngster has struggled lately. Getting a win in his first career start at Madison Square Garden was a good sign.
OTTAWA SENATORS RED HOT
1st Chair: Martin Gerber
2nd Chair: Ray Emery
Skinny: You want intensity in practice, Mr. Paddock? You got it. Emery dropped the gloves and fought teammate Brian McGrattan in practice Monday. Another unnecessary distraction? That's hard to say. McGrattan and Emery are friends and the rest of the Sens seemed to laugh it off. It remains to be seen if Emery makes a third-straight start Thursday.
CAROLINA HURRICANES RED HOT
1st Chair: Michael Leighton
2nd Chair: Cam Ward
Skinny: Leighton, who led the AHL with five shutouts and ranked second with a .928 save percentage, was recalled last week and immediately started back-to-back games for the Hurricanes. The move was prompted by poor play from Ward and John Grahame, who was shipped to Albany. GM Jim Rutherford said Leighton will "get his chance."
MINNESOTA WILD HOT
1st Chair: Niklas Backstrom
2nd Chair: Josh Harding
Skinny: Backstrom has started four of five with mixed results. Gone, it seems, are the days when the Minnesota goalie could go a month without allowing more than two goals in a game. In his most recent stretch, he's allowed 15 goals in his last five starts, winning three.
NASHVILLE PREDATORS HOT
1st Chair: Dan Ellis
2nd Chair: Chris Mason
Skinny: The 65-percent owned Ellis won three straight starts, allowing three total goals in the process, before losing Monday in Anaheim. Mason got the start Tuesday and blanked Los Angeles. He needs to string together games like that now.
EDMONTON OILERS WARM
1st Chair: Mathieu Garon
2nd Chair: Dwayne Roloson
Skinny: Garon has won three of four in January with solid supporting numbers (2.17 GAA, .930 save percentage, 1 shutout). Roloson has yet to play in 2008 after slogging through December with a 3.58 goals-against.
BOSTON BRUINS WARM
1st Chair: Tim Thomas
2nd Chair: Alex Auld
Skinny: Thomas has returned to form by allowing only six total goals in his last four starts. Only a 1-0 loss to Carolina Tuesday prevented a clean sweep.
ATLANTA THRASHERS WARM
1st Chair: Kari Lehtonen
2nd Chair: Johan Hedberg
Skinny: Hedberg stopped 37 of 39 shots in a 6-2 win over Buffalo Sunday. It was Moose's second start in three games after an extended stint on the bench. Lehtonen's last two starts were pretty rough. Every point matters, of course, with Atlanta currently on the outside looking in in the playoff race.
MONTREAL CANADIENS LUKEWARM
1st Chair: Cristobal Huet
2nd Chair: Carey Price
Skinny: Price was sent to Hamilton of the AHL Tuesday. He's a near lock to return to Montreal at some point this season, but for now you can start Huet with confidence. Halak was recalled to fulfill backup duties.
DETROIT RED WINGS LUKEWARM
1st Chair: Dominik Hasek
2nd Chair: Chris Osgood
Skinny: This isn't so much a battle as a rotation. Things turned in Osgood's favor last week as he started three of five, allowing a total of four goals. Hasek got his second shutout Saturday and is doing just fine.
January always feels like a bit of a fantasy dead spot. By now, the season's surprises (Mike Green) and disappointments (Patrick Marleau) have made themselves known. The chaos of the trade deadline is still more than a month away. And late-season call-ups are still toiling away in the minors. That's not the reason the Skinny landed a few days late this week. At least for the remainder of January, this column will appear on Wednesdays, so adjust your social calendars accordingly. On to the updates …

WEEKEND UPDATE: Need-to-know info from the past few days
Things to do ASAP: Back in early December I recommended – if you had the roster flexibility, that is – signing Teemu Selanne and storing him on your bench until mid-January, when he was likely to make a decision on his status for 2008. Well, here we are in early January and the Teemu buzz is building. We don't yet know what his final decision will be. What we do know, however, is that he's on a five-day-a-week skating program and he intends to make a decision within two weeks. Do retired athletes who get this close to a comeback ever stay retired? I'm sure it's happened, but there are three factors here that make a Selanne return look like a lock. One, Scott Niedermayer came back. Two, the Ducks are desperate for secondary scoring. Three, Anaheim remains a legitimate Stanley Cup contender. I wouldn't see Selanne making a comeback with, say, Colorado. Not that he'd be welcome back there, anyway. As of Sunday, for what it's worth, Teemu was available in about 80 percent of Yahoo! leagues. I wouldn't expect a 40-goal pace upon his return, but No. 2 RW numbers are in reach.

Also, some interesting goalie developments have made some No. 1 or potential No. 1 guys available via free agency. It's never all that easy to acquire a No. 1, so when you can get one without haggling over trade terms, consider yourself lucky. In Edmonton, Mathieu Garon has won three of four, including a Monday shutout. Available in 35 percent of leagues, he's pushed Dwayne Roloson into a backup role and could see a spike in value if the Oilers can stay healthy (Sheldon Souray) or if they make a trade-deadline splash. Other widely available guys with No. 1 potential: Dan Ellis, Ty Conklin, Michael Leighton and Antero Niittymaki.

Forget what I said about: After two weeks of banging pots and pans trying to get the world to sign Karri Ramo, I have to downgrade my enthusiasm to a cautious endorsement. Ramo has struggled of late. But so have all the other goalies at coach John Tortorella's disposal.

One-timers: Martin Havlat (83 percent owned) returned to the Blackhawks lineup Sunday and was held pointless by Detroit. … The Washington Post reports that Chris Clark scrimmaged with Washington Monday. He played on a line with Nicklas Backstrom and Alex Ovechkin and may return during the Caps' five-game homestand. … Islanders GM Garth Snow wouldn't commit to bringing Kyle Okposo to the NHL this season, but told Newsday that "it's a possibility." … Mark Recchi has 14 points in 15 games as a member of the Thrashers. … Florida's reconfigured No. 1 line has Olli Jokinen centering Richard Zednik and Brett MacLean.

BARGAIN BIN: Top player available in 50 percent of Yahoo! leagues
Erik Johnson, D, Stl – Projected over a full 82-game season, Johnson's current scoring pace translates to 47 points. For reference, only 19 defensemen finished the 2006-07 season with more than 45 points. The biggest obstacle for Johnson earlier this season was ice time, but with Steve Wagner demoted to the minors, the days of the healthy scratch may be behind Johnson. Pure coincidence, but Johnson picked up three assists against Columbus three days after the Wagner transaction.

MARKET MOVERS: Charting player values

Steve Bernier, RW, SJ – The 3-percent owned Sharks forward has been thriving on Joe Thornton's right wing. In his last five games, Bernier has three goals, three assists and is a plus-5.

J.P. Dumont, RW, Nas – Only about 50-percent owned, Dumont is scoring in 100 percent of games lately. His pretty power-play tally against the Kings Tuesday extended his goal-scoring streak to six games. He has points in 10 of 12.

Mark Parrish, RW, Min – The good news: Parrish has scored Minnesota's last three goals. The bad: That production is spread over three games. While the Wild may be struggling as a whole, Parrish has goals in four straight and points in six in a row.

Colin Stuart, LW, Atl – That end-to-end rush against Buffalo Saturday raised some eyebrows. So have four points and a plus-6 in six games this season. Curious, since the fifth-round draft pick had six points in 29 games at the AHL level so far this season. That promotion to Marian Hossa's line probably didn't hurt.

Casey Borer, D, Car – Desperate for a reliable puck-mover on the blueline, the Hurricanes are giving Borer a shot. The rookie picked up his first two points on Jan. 4 in his second NHL game.

Kyle Wanvig, RW, TB – He made his season debut Saturday on Brad Richard's line as coach John Tortorella is simply desperate for production there. Wanvig led Tampa Bay's AHL affiliate with 36 points and seven power-play goals. Huge reach here, but if you see his name turn up in scoring summaries, take note.

P.J. Axelsson, LW, Bos – If you're in a 20-team league or your configuration requires you to start three left wings, then it's worth noting that Alexsson has four goals and two assists in his last seven games. Owners in traditional leagues: Take a pass.

Alexander Radulov, RW, Nas – Hard to definitively say the wait is over, as it looked like the wait was over toward the end of last season, particularly the playoffs. That said, Radulov's ice time is up and his production is through the roof: 5 goals, 4 assists and a plus-8 in his last seven games.

Marek Svatos, RW, Col – Presumably, someone has to score goals for the injury-depleted Avalanche. Lately it's been Svatos, who now leads Colorado in goals after going on a six-goals-in-eight-games binge.

Brandon Bochenski, RW, Ana – If Selanne doesn't return, it could be Bochenski that supplies some secondary scoring punch. Sorry Bobby Ryan owners. Bochenski, you may remember, had 11 points in 11 February games last year and 22 points in 27 games in Feburary and March.

Sandis Ozolinsh, D, SJ – He's been a healthy scratch lately for the Sharks, who have displayed renewed confidence lately in Matt Carle.

Nik Antropov, C, Tor – His cold streak reached nine games Saturday. No points and a minus-4 haven't helped fantasy owners much.

Mathieu Schneider, D, Ana – More than a few fantasy owners probably wish it was Schneider, and not Andy McDonald, traded to make room for Scott Niedermayer's salary. Schneider finally recorded an assist Monday to snap out of a seven-game drought.

Yahoo! Friends and Family League
Bada Byng caused a mini-stir by dropping Alexander Frolov right around the time the Kings left wing was piling up eight points in three games. With Rick Nash and Jason Blake already at the position, there was some depth there. But still? McLarney remains in first place, proving there's more than one way to reach the top. Our league leader has six moves on the season while the second place team – the Maingot entry from Rotowire – has made 56 add-drops. Churn, baby, churn.

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