NHL Skinny: Frigid Phoenix

Matt Romig
1st Chair: Johan Holmqvist
2nd Chair: Marc Denis
Skinny: Coach John Tortorella called the final 20 minutes of Denis' 3-2 win over Buffalo Saturday "the best I have seen Marc play this year." It was Denis' fourth win in his last six starts, but his 13-save third period against Buffalo wasn't enough to earn him a start Monday. Holmqvist backstopped Tampa Bay's 4-3 win over the Islanders.
1st Chair: Peter Budaj
2nd Chair: Jose Theodore
Skinny: Budaj followed one of his worst starts of the season with one of his best. He was yanked from Thursday's loss against Calgary, but then rebounded to steal two points at Anaheim. Budaj made 38 saves to keep the game tied 2-2 after a scoreless overtime period, then saved the final three shootout attempts he faced to earn the extra point. The fact that Budaj even started that game tells you all you need to know about just how out of favor Theodore has fallen.
1st Chair: Curtis Joseph
2nd Chair: Mikael Tellqvist
Skinny: The Arizona Republic is calling the situation a "friendly rivalry." For fantasy owners, it's a bit of a mess trying to figure out who to start from night to night. Joseph started and lost Saturday against San Jose, but should start Monday against St. Louis. Tellqvist has won three of four, but is coming off a loss.
1st Chair: Barry Brust
2nd Chair: Yutaka Fukufuji, Robert Esche?
Skinny: Dan Cloutier had hip surgery and is probably out for the season. Mathieu Garon is week-to-week with a broken finger. Jason LaBarbera is trapped in waivers purgatory. That leaves Brust and Fukufuji in charge, unless the Kings can swing a deal for a goalie. Rumors surfaced last week that they may be close to acquiring Esche from the Flyers.
1st Chair: Antero Niittymaki
2nd Chair: Robert Esche, Michael Leighton
Skinny: The Flyers are carrying three goalies – for now. Leighton was claimed off waivers from Nashville, probably to set the stage for dealing Esche before the trade deadline. According to the Philadelphia Inquirer, two teams have expressed interest in Esche, with more expected to inquire by the end of February. With Niittymaki winless in his last 13 starts, how long until Leighton gets an extended look?
1st Chair: Ed Belfour
2nd Chair: Alex Auld
Skinny: It's never a good thing when a coach has to make a point of stating he hasn't lost confidence in a goaltender. At least when Jacques Martin stood up for Auld, he backed it up by starting him in three of the last five games. He lost two of three, of course, so Belfour doesn't have too much to worry about right now.
1st Chair: Fredrik Norrena
2nd Chair: Ty Conklin
Skinny: Norrena could be wearing down a bit after appearing in 20 of 21 games. To his credit he's not using fatigue as an excuse for recent struggles, but coach Ken Hitchcock is hinting we might start seeing more of Conklin. "(Norrena's fatigue) is something we need to address," Hitchcock told the Columbus Dispatch.
1st Chair: Tomas Vokoun
2nd Chair: Chris Mason
Skinny: Vokoun won his first two starts after returning from the IR, the second victory coming via shutout. Coach Barry Trotz had said he wants to keep both goalies active, and true to his word started Mason Saturday against Nashville. It remains to be seen what kind of rotation Trotz will employ, but we'll get an idea in the coming days as Nashville plays four times in six nights.
1st Chair: Andrew Raycroft
2nd Chair: Jean-Sebastien Aubin
Skinny: For the second straight Saturday, home fans let Raycroft have it after a disappointing loss. Once again, a teammate spoke up to defend Razor. This time it was captain Mats Sudin, who felt compelled to remind fans that all five Vancouver goals were scored on the power play, one a 5-on-3.

The worst cold snap in more than 15 years swept through the Phoenix area over the weekend. This has nothing to do with your fantasy league – though it should be noted that the Coyotes, after winning six straight on the road, returned home and managed only two goals in back-to-back losses – but it goes a long way toward explaining why, as I finish this week's Skinny, I'm just now regaining feeling in my extremities. See, it seemed like a good weekend to get away for some golf and NHL hockey.

OK, maybe not so much. Golf turned into a four-hour test of wills and the hockey game … well, as least the San Jose Sharks showed up. It could have been worse, I guess. Some 37,000 runners woke up the next morning to 29-degree weather at the start of the Rock 'n' Roll Marathon. I wasn't one of them. A few notes on the Sharks-Coyotes game kicks off the latest weekend recap:

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

On the Sharks' side of things, Ryane Clowe scored his seventh and eighth goals in his last five games. He added an assist playing primarily on a line with Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau. Hard not to issue a short-term add recommendation here. Clowe was part of San Jose's No. 1 power-play unit and, like teammate Jonathan Cheechoo did last season, is displaying a knack for finding a soft spot in opposing defenses. When you skate with Thornton, shooting room almost always equals a scoring chance … Mark Bell had one decent scoring chance, but actually saw his ice time diminish after scoring his first goal in 13 games Thursday. He played fewer than 10 minutes on a line with Mike Grier and Curtis Brown. Bell is owned in 54 percent of Yahoo! leagues. Clowe in 2.7 percent. Hmmmm.

Fresh off his wake-up-call stint at Worcester, defenseman Matt Carle scored a goal in 16:25 of ice time. He's available in about 60 percent of Yahoo! leagues and you will want him on your team down the stretch. He had two assists and was a plus-1 in his three-game AHL stint … Steve Bernier has three points in four games at Worcester, but he remained behind when Carle was recalled … Important note: goalie Vesa Toskala started as coach Ron Wilson deviated from his every-other-game rotation for just the second time this season. Wilson attributed the change-up to a lack of practice time for Evgeni Nabokov, but it should be noted that Nabby has allowed three first-period goals in each of his last three starts. Keep an eye on this situation.

I've heard Shane Doan described as a second or third-line wing miscast as a premier forward and team captain. I'm not so sure I agree. Every time I watch the Coyotes play, Doan strikes me as one of those omnipresent guys who seems to be involved in every scoring chance and physical skirmish. If anything, it's linemate Ladislav Nagy who tends to disappear for stretches. This wasn't Doan's best night, but he still managed a goal – it was his ninth in 11 games – and six shots in the 4-1 defeat. … Owen Nolan wasn't a factor, which was disappointing given his recent resurgence. I was hoping to see Nolan circa 1999-2000 … Jeremy Roenick was a healthy scratch.

One-timers: Ric Jackman is doing just fine filling in for Chris Pronger on the Anaheim blueline. He has four assists in three games and the Ducks are still waiting for him to show off his heavy shot in game action. … Florida defenseman Ruslan Salei took five shots Saturday but couldn't snap a 12-game pointless streak.

BARGAIN BIN: Top player available in 50 percent of Yahoo! leagues
Chris Kelly, C, Ott – Kelly is just a fill-in on Ottawa's top line. Or is he? Coach Bryan Murray has hinted that he may keep the Daniel Alfredsson-Kelly-Dany Heatley line together even when Jason Spezza is ready to return. How likely is that to happen? Hard to say. Murray may just have been thinking out loud. But for now just add Kelly and worry about Spezza's return when it happens. For the record, Ottawa's Band-Aid centerman has three goals and eight assists in his last five games. He's a plus-12 since the Spezza injury.

MARKET MOVERS: Charting player values

Michel Ouellet, RW, Pit – Coach Michel Therrien's latest line assignments have Ouellet and Jordan Staal skating on Evgeni Malkin's wings. I've warned against getting too comfortable with Therrien's pairings as they are ever-changing, but this latest shift has really sparked Ouellet. He had his first three-point night of the season Saturday, recording three helpers at Philadelphia.

Andrew Brunette, LW, Col – Insert your favorite "hot brunette" joke here. In his last 20 games, Brunette has eight goals, 13 assists and 11 points on the power play. His ownership figures are up, but he remains a free agent in about 15 percent of leagues.

Stepehn Weiss, C, Fla – Weiss followed up a three-point night Thursday with a hat trick Saturday against Washington. Fellow center Nathan Horton was benched for the third period of Thursday's loss.

Konstantin Pushkarev, RW, LA – Pushkarev, a 2003 second-round draft pick, has points in three straight and has been logging top-line minutes with Dustin Brown and Anze Kopitar.

Patrick Eaves, RW, Ott – After accounting for three points in all of December, Eaves has five goals and four assists in his first seven games of 2007. Left wing Antoine Vermette also has three points in two games since returning to the lineup.

Alexander Steen, C, Tor – No points Saturday despite six shots on goal. That ended a four-game point streak that saw him pile up five goals and four assists.

Tomas Holmstrom, LW, Det – Holmstrom has never been a 60-point scorer in the NHL, but he's usually good for a binge or two. Let's just hope this one hasn't reached its end. Holmstrom has nine goals and four assists in Detroit's last 11 games.

J.P. Dumont, RW, Nas – During his six-game point streak, Dumont has a goal and seven assists.

Marty Turco, G, Dal – In his last six decisions, Turco is 1-4-1 with a 3.68 goals against and a .852 save percentage. We all know he won't go away, but coach Dave Tippett has shown he's willing to shut him down and let Mike Smith start for a stretch.

Brad Boyes, C/RW, Bos – Boyes was a minus-8 during an eight-game pointless streak heading into Monday's game. Coach Dave Lewis has hinted that lineup changes are on the way if the team doesn't turn things around.

Alexander Radulov, RW, Nas – Radulov was a healthy scratch Saturday. The kid needs more minutes, not fewer. This could be a wake-up call, however.

Ryan Malone, LW, Pit – Let's make it nine straight without a point. Note to self: Remove all Malone endorsements from column archive.

Yahoo! Friends and Family League
Not much doing in the league standings. A few of the players claimed off waivers by the experts last week: Keith Tkachuk, Mike Commodore, Brendan Witt and Lawrence Nycholat.