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NHL Skinny: Halfway home

Matt Romig
Yahoo Sports

GOALIE HOT SEAT

FLORIDA PANTHERS RED HOT
1st Chair: Tomas Vokoun
2nd Chair: Craig Anderson
Skinny: Vokoun's current three-game winning streak includes career victory No. 200. The fact that it's his longest such streak of the year – he previously had back-to-back wins only once – tells you everything you need to know about how he got here in the first place. Anderson hasn't started since that wild 6-5 overtime loss in Montreal on Jan. 4.


COLORADO AVALANCHE RED HOT
1st Chair: Andrew Raycroft
2nd Chair: Peter Budaj
Skinny: Looks like we'll see Raycroft make his fourth straight start Tuesday. He'll be looking to extend a personal-best winning streak to eight games. In his last three Raycroft has stopped 86 of 91 shots (.945) while posting a 1.66 GAA. For Budaj there's a trend developing. Last year he made 24 of his 30 starts from Oct. through Dec. before giving way to Jose Theodore.


NASHVILLE PREDATORS RED HOT
1st Chair: Dan Ellis
2nd Chair: Pekka Rinne
Skinny: Ellis played well Sunday (30 saves on 32 shots) but failed to earn a victory for his fourth straight start. He has two wins since Nov. 23. Right now Rinne is the guy putting up No. 1 numbers (1.67 GAA, .943 save pct. in January). Check goaliepost.com early Tuesday to see who gets the nod against the Maple Leafs.


LOS ANGELES KINGS RED HOT
1st Chair: Jon Quick
2nd Chair: Erik Ersberg
Skinny: The takeaway from coach Terry Murray's weekend comments on the Kings' goalie situation can be summed up in one quote, "Both goalies will keep playing." Sometimes, they'll both play in the same game. Quick had a rough go Saturday (5 allowed on 28 shots), but played well in relief of Ersberg on Monday, stopping all 15 shots he faced.


OTTAWA SENATORS RED HOT
1st Chair: Brian Elliott
2nd Chair: Alex Auld, Martin Gerber
Skinny: Mentioned in the intro, Elliott will get a second straight start on Tuesday. If the rookie can stick there's a good chance Gerber gets waived. Tuesday will be his second straight game watching from the press box.


ANAHEIM DUCKS HOT
1st Chair: Jean-Sebastien Giguere
2nd Chair: Jonas Hiller
Skinny: Giguere owners can't win. When he does notch a W – he beat New Jersey on Sunday for his first win in nearly a month – the victory comes with so-so supporting numbers (3 goals allowed on 21 shots). We'll continue to point to J.S. as a second-half guy, but Hiller (1.95 GAA in January) remains a necessary handcuff during this rough patch.


CHICAGO BLACKHAWKS HOT
1st Chair: Nikolai Khabibulin
2nd Chair: Cristobal Huet
Skinny: Khabibulin has started three of five and his January totals are stellar (2-1, 1.54, .954). Huet hasn't been quite a sharp (1 shutout, 2 hiccups), but with Chicago playing five times in the next eight days, we expect the timeshare to continue.


VANCOUVER CANUCKS WARM
1st Chair: Jason LaBarbera
2nd Chair: Roberto Luongo
Skinny: They're pretty excited in Vancouver after Luongo had an "outstanding" practice on Sunday. Smart money seems to be on a Thursday return. LaBarbera was a nice short-term add for those owners who rolled the dice, but he's looking at maybe one more start before the franchise returns. It looks like Curtis Sanford will be traded.


PHILADELPHIA FLYERS LUKEWARM
1st Chair: Martin Biron
2nd Chair: Antero Niittymaki
Skinny: Biron timed a hot January start (3-1, 1.68, .947) with an injury to his backup to put a strangle hold on the No. 1 job in Philly. We're not ready to turn the burner off entirely, but this is as secure as Biron has looked since opening night.


DETROIT RED WINGS LUKEWARM
1st Chair: Ty Conklin
2nd Chair: Chris Osgood
Skinny: Conklin has two shutouts in his four-game win streak. He's won seven of his last nine starts. Osgood's January numbers were looking downright palatable until Monday's 49-shot Dallas barrage resulted in a 5-4 overtime loss. Three more road games in four nights are coming up, so both should remain active.


NEW JERSEY DEVILS LUKEWARM
1st Chair: Scott Clemmensen
2nd Chair: Kevin Weekes
Skinny: Probably just a speed bump, but we like to be ahead of these things before they develop into a full-blown traffic snarl. Clemmensen has allowed at least three goals in four straight, losing the last three, and he was pulled Thursday for the first time since taking over as No. 1. Weekes was strong in a 5-1 win in Los Angeles on Saturday and there was some chatter that he might get the start Sunday in Anaheim.


The NHL's final two stragglers will reach the halfway point of their schedules this week. It's fitting that Ottawa is lagging behind the rest of the league. The Sens play game No. 41 on Tuesday. Can't draw any parallels with Chicago. Rocky Wirtz's club will be last to the midway mark, but you can't accuse the Blackhawks of being left behind. The occasion seems like a decent time for an expert's audit, so in the absence of any kind of clever introduction this week I'll start with an update on where I stand.

In the Yahoo! Friends and Family league I stand sixth out of 12 despite ranking in the top three in four of five offensive categories. The drag, obviously, has been the goalie categories. Jean-Sebastien Giguere (2nd round) has underachieved and Pascal Leclaire (7th) flat-out vanished. The emergence of Steve Mason provided a perfect example of why you never let a legitimate challenge to your No. 1 or 2 go unaddressed. I was too slow to act there – a mistake, and one someone with near 24/7 roster access shouldn't make. I've made a few reaches (Quick, Raycroft, Elliott), but this is a fix that may require a trade, and even with a Marleau or Malkin to dangle, it won't be easy.

My favorite league is a 12-teamer with 20-man starting rosters (18 skaters, 2 goalies), but honestly in my second year I still haven't fully adjusted to the depth. I'm eighth there without any obvious categories or positions of weakness. It's just top-to-bottom mediocrity. Leclaire is a blight on that roster, too. Finally, I rank second out of 14 in the internal Yahoo! Sports league. Overall, I'm mildly disappointed, but I think a deal or two could turn my year around. Stay tuned (I know you're interested).

On to matters that might directly impact your rosters:

Weekend UpdateNeed-to-know info from the past few days

We discussed Columbus rookie Nikita Filatov briefly in the blog last week. Puck Daddy had a getting-to-know-you chat with the Russian after the World Junior Championships. Oh, and the 18-year-old snuck in a hat trick Saturday. So he's not exactly flying under the radar right now. That said, even after the media barrage Filatov is still owned in just 11 percent of Yahoo! leagues.

Most of last week's advisories remain in place. Saturday's hat trick against Minnesota came in fewer than 10 minutes of ice time. He scored his first NHL goal in 9:10 of work. Coach Ken Hitchcock has yet to give the rookie 10 minutes in any single game and Filatov is not a significant factor on the power play. All that said, the combo of Filatov (3 goals), Jake Voracek (3 assists) and Michael Peca (2 helpers) was electric Saturday. Given Hitchcock's history with rookies, I'm still not cutting loose a valuable asset to give Filatov a tryout, but if I've got a spare part to discard, then I'd rather have the next step take place on my roster. At the very least make a point to monitor the ice time Tuesday against Colorado.

The Senators are going to use the next few games to determine exactly what they've got in rookie goalie Brian Elliott. The move is partially a reward for Elliott, who went 10-1-1 in his last 12 starts for Binghamton. It's also equal parts a realization that the team knows what it has with Martin Gerber and Alex Auld and it's just not good enough. Elliott's first start of the season and second of his NHL career resulted, predictably, in a loss, but the rookie was solid in stopping 25 of 27 shots. Ottawa has already announced that Elliott will start Tuesday against Carolina.

Three years ago this would be front-page news in fantasy circles, akin to a closer change in the Bronx or a shift at QB in New England. But that was back when Ottawa was leading the NHL with 312 goals. The Sens rank dead last this year and are on pace to score fewer than 200. You could make a strong case for avoiding this goalie mess altogether. Then again, starting goalies aren't huddled in the free agent pool waiting for work in most fantasy leagues, so it's tough to overlook a possible coup in any city. And the Blue Jackets don't exactly pile up the goals and they've made a star of Steve Mason. So if I'm a Gerber/Auld owner, I'm grabbing Elliott for insurance. If I'm desperate for goalie help – and lord knows I am – then I'm giving Elliott an audition. Wish him luck.

One-timers: Rick Nash has been placed on the IR, but there's a chance he could play Friday. Don't get too attached to your injury call-up. … Healthy scratches over the weekend: Caps center Michael Nylander and Tampa Bay rookie Steven Stamkos. … The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that we might not see center Andy McDonald until after the All-Star break. … Boston is choosing its words carefully, but it appears goalie Manny Fernandez is dealing with an injury. … Steve Sullivan did return Saturday, but didn't play Sunday as Nashville held him out as a precaution. Right wing is a deep enough position that you can let him feel things out on the waiver wire, but keep an eye out for a spike in ice time or production. …

BARGAIN BIN: Top players available in 50 percent of Yahoo! leagues
Wojtek Wolski, LW, Col (41-percent owned) – Part of validating a statistical hot streak is passing the eye test, and all indications are that Wolski looks like a completely different player since transitioning from left wing to center for the Avs. So the four goals and two assists (plus-3, 1 PPG) in three games feel like numbers we can buy into. Those who follow the Avs closely say Wolski, a center in juniors, is a changed man even in the locker room. The move to center won't strip wing eligibility, so plug him in with confidence as a LW2.

MARKET MOVERS: Charting player values

Ville Peltonen, LW, Fla – We'll place the left wing here to represent Florida's CPR line. Center Gregory Campbell (2 goals, 4 assists in 3 gamaes) actually got the national acclaim as the NHL's third star of the week. Peltonen (3 goals, 2 assists) has a little more value due to position scarcity and Radek Dvorak (1 goal, 3 assists) even has some deep-league relevance. Each is owned in around one percent of Yahoo! leagues.

David Backes, RW, Stl – He's this year's Daniel Carcillo, which makes him a nice fallback for fantasy owners who gambled and failed on the Phoenix forward. Backes enjoyed a two-point night Friday, giving him seven goals in 12 games for the Blues. Add that to 113 penalty minutes in 41 games and you've got a nice points/PIM package.

Bobby Ryan, RW, Ana – We're happy to see the ownership figure reach 50 percent, but we'll find a place for the rookie (16 points in 12 games, nine power-play points) in this space until he approaches universal acceptance. He's that good.

Ryan Potulny, C, Edm – Here's one of those advisories you can gloss over in all but the deepest of leagues. Potulny won't become one of the 24 best centers in the fantasy game, but he could make a difference if you're starting three of four pivots in your format. Recalled over the weekend, the 24-year-old picked up two assists in his Edmonton debut. He had been leading the Oilers' AHL affiliate in scoring, albeit with only 31 points in 36 games.

David Booth, LW, Fla – A stock watch holdover from last week, Booth is now riding an eight-game win streak. Sprinkle in a few minor penalties and some power-play production and you've got yourself a decent LW2 over the last month-plus.

Todd White, C, Atl – If you need assists and can absorb his gentlemanly play in the PIM department, White is your guy. Take a look at the game log.

Marek Zidlicky, D, Min – Nothing spectacular here, but he's a top-50 defenseman over the last month, which is tough to ignore when the player has 40-45 point upside. Zidlicky (51-percent owned) will likely finish with better totals than your D4.

Drew Stafford, RW, Buf – The 17 points in 17 games coupled with the first-round pedigree are enough to get my attention.

Phil Kessel, RW, Bos – No laughing matter, it looks like it could be a month before we see Kessel in a Boston uniform. He's dealing with a bout of mononucleosis.

Pavol Demitra, LW, Van – These things can go either way, but at least short-term Demitra's stay in coach Alain Vigneault's doghouse will play out on Vancouver's fourth line.

Yahoo! Friends and Family League update
The Eagle has landed … in second place. A leader or co-leader for the better part of a month, Eagleson gave way to Rotowire's Peter Maingot this week. Our new leader got strong weeks from Ryan Getzlaf, Bobby Ryan, Chris Pronger and Ty Conklin. No ducking that charge. Recent moves involved Robert Lang, Wolski, Ryan Malone, Brian Elliott, Brendan Shanahan and Andrei Kostitsyn.