NHL Skinny: The Heat is back on

Matt Romig
Yahoo! SportsFebruary 7, 2008
1st Chair: Ray Emery
2nd Chair: Martin Gerber
Skinny: In the win-and-stay-in game, Emery gets the next try after Gerber came up short in a 4-3 loss to Montreal Tuesday. Pretty simple equation going forward, though with Emery it's win-and-show-up-on-time-and-stay-in. And don't fight teammates. Actually, that part is ok if he wins.
1st Chair: Antero Niittymaki
2nd Chair: Martin Biron
Skinny: Coach John Stevens is sticking to a rotation. Shutouts can often change things, but Stevens went with Niittymaki Tuesday against Atlanta despite the 3-0 win Biron backstopped against Anaheim Saturday. Probably didn't hurt that Niittymaki came in 7-0 lifetime vs. the Thrashers. Biron starts Wednesday against Washington.
1st Chair: Johan Holmqvist
2nd Chair: Karri Ramo
Skinny: Holmqvist picked up his fourth straight road win Tuesday and even extended a shutout streak to almost 130 minutes. Ramo had played fairly well in back-to-back starts. You have to figure Tampa still wants to give him a good luck down the stretch as they sort out their long-term goalie plan.
1st Chair: Patrick Lalime
2nd Chair: Nikolai Khabibulin
Skinny: Let's get it straight from the source, as coach Denis Savard told the Chicago Sun-Times the following: "… I'm going to start Patty [tonight] because he's done well against Edmonton, Khabby against Calgary [on Thursday] because he's done well against Calgary and then go back to Patty in Vancouver [on Sunday]. Then we'll see where we go from there.'' So there you have it.
1st Chair: Ty Conklin
2nd Chair: Marc-Andre Fleury
Skinny: Sunday's Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported that Fleury could return to game action as early as Thursday against the Islanders. It appears he'll almost certainly be ready to go during the Pens' four-game homestand. It's safe to say Conklin picked the wrong time to squander a 3-1 third-period lead against the Devils. He's been the loser in five of his last seven appearances.
1st Chair: Dominik Hasek
2nd Chair: Chris Osgood
Skinny: The rotation goes on as Hasek and Osgood have alternated the last six starts. Osgood has one regulation loss in his last nine tries and Hasek has a five-game winning streak. Only questions here is when does Mike Babcock stop worrying about keeping both guys fresh and start concerning himself with getting his playoff guy (Hasek) in rhythm.
1st Chair: Chris Mason
2nd Chair: Dan Ellis
Skinny: Mason capped a string of four starts in five games with a shutout of Carolina Tuesday. You can't really fault Ellis for slipping in this battle, as he's allowed two or fewer goals in seven of his last eight starts.
1st Chair: Niklas Backstrom
2nd Chair: Josh Harding
Skinny: Backstrom's four-game win streak ended in heartbreaking fashion against Detroit Tuesday. With Harding shaking off the flu, there shouldn't be a change in goal Thursday against Dallas.
1st Chair: Kari Lehtonen
2nd Chair: Johan Hedberg
Skinny: Just don't ever start Lehtonen against Flyers goalie Antero Niittymaki. To the best of Lehtonen's recollection, he hasn't defeated his countryman since he was 15 and both were playing juniors in Finland. Hedberg is coming off a win but has otherwise been so-so since the calendar turned.
1st Chair: Cristobal Huet
2nd Chair: Carey Price
Skinny: Huet has started 13 straight and shouldn't have much to worry about, but it's noteworthy that Price was recalled this week. One has to wonder what good it would do for Price's development to simply throw on the baseball cap and watch games when he could be getting regular work in the AHL.

The Skinny is back in action after a week off to process the impact of the All-Star skills challenge on the keeper league value of Eastern Conference forwards. My initial conclusion: No impact. As a fantasy owner I find myself in contention in two experts leagues and a distant 13th out of 15 in another. Shame, too, as I view that league (15 teams deep starting three players per forward position and four defensemen) as the best test of fantasy knowledge. What does that say about this column? Let's just move on …

MID-WEEK UPDATE: Need-to-know info from the past few days
Things to do ASAP: Ottawa took forever to place Dany Heatley on the IR. So after weeks of forcing you to store the injured wing on your bench, they finally made the move and allowed you to sign a replacement. Roster harmony restored. Well, it's time to shuffle pieces around again. Heatley's fast-track recovery appears to be complete and the Ottawa Citizen is reporting that the two-time 50-goal scorer is probable for Thursday's game against Florida. The Heatley-Jason Spezza-Daniel Alfredsson line was reunited at practice Tuesday, though it appears Alfie might not go until Saturday. As most of you know, if your roster is full and you don't have another player eligible for the IR, you can't activate and start your IR player on the same day. You'd have to drop an active player, which would create a roster opening for the following day. In other words: If you have Heatley on the IR today and you want to start him tomorrow, you'd better make the arrangements before midnight Wednesday.

In case you missed it, Teemu Selanne played 18 minutes for the Ducks Tuesday, registering an assist and skating the bulk of his shifts on a line with Todd Bertuzzi and Doug Weight. Bertuzzi picked up an assist, his first point in five games. Weight scored a goal to snap a nine-game point drought. Selanne (available in 15 percent of Yahoo! leagues) admitted being gassed in the third period. Chris Kunitz, Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry skated together and failed to register a point. Coach Randy Carlyle could well shift Selanne around, but it's obvious his immediate impact is finally giving Anaheim some secondary scoring. Keep an eye on Weight (available in just about every Yahoo! league) and there could be an Andy McDonald-effect on his production.

Forget what I said about: Nothing dispensed in the last seven days means nothing to retract.

One-timers: The Detroit News reports that Wings defenseman Niklas Kronwall is still a couple of weeks away from returning to the lineup. … Jose Theodore should be back in the Colorado net Wednesday. … Florida center Brett McLean picked up five points Tuesday, three on the power play. … J.P. Dumont scored the game-winning goal for Nashville Tuesday, needing just one game to rebound from the end of this 16-game point streak. … Leafs defenseman Bryan McCabe could return to the Toronto lineup Saturday.

BARGAIN BIN: Top player available in 50 percent of Yahoo! leagues
Peter Mueller, C, Pho – Count me among the many fantasy owners who tracked Mueller's progress like this: "I'm ok at center, I'm ok at center, I'm ok at center – ok I give in, oops, too late." Mueller is actually available in about 88 percent of Yahoo! leagues, but you'll likely find him snapped up in deeper and more active leagues. The training wheels are off this 2006 first-round draft pick and the results are startling: 10 goals, 8 assists and seven power-play points in his last 15 games. Sure would look nice on my roster in that roster spot vacated by Shawn Horcoff.

MARKET MOVERS: Charting player values

Fredrik Norrena, G, Cls – He'll get at least two starts (at Phoenix and San Jose) as starter Pascal Laclaire rests a sprained neck.

Milan Lucic, LW, Bos – He's here to represent his entire line. Lucic (six points in five games) has teamed with Glen Metropolit (point-per-game in last four) and Chuck Kobasew (five-game point streak) to give the B's a much-needed offensive boost.

T.J. Hensick, C, Col – His immediate future, at least as a key member of Colorado's power play, is a bit cloudy with the returns of Paul Stastny and Marek Svatos just around the corner. That said, Hensick is in the Avs' future plans and he's managed four goals in his last two games despite receiving no more than 10 minutes and change in ice time in either game.

Sam Gagner, C, Edm – There's a void to fill with Shawn Horcoff lost for the season, and Gagner could be one of the beneficiaries of more top-line duty. He hit the ground running Monday with a goal and an assist against Calgary.

Cory Murphy, D, Fla – Murphy, available in about 90 percent of Yahoo! leagues, got back in the swing of things with a goal and two assists Tuesday. Despite five games without a point upon his return from shoulder weirdness, his 82-game pace remains solid: 46 points, 46 penalty minutes.

Brian Boyle, C, LA – In two career NHL games, the 2003 first-round draft pick has two goals and an assist. He's also a plus-3, which makes him one of three Kings with better than an even plus-minus. Well, give him time in that category.

Erik Fehr, RW, Was – He made his 2007-08 debut Tuesday and was slated for top-line duty with Alexander Ovechkin and Niklas Backstrom. Fehr didn't record a point in almost 17 minutes of ice time, but rest assured he'll be a top-six forward for as long as he's with the parent club.

Mark Streit, D, Mon – I got laughed down when in my Big Board mailbag I suggested drafting Streit ahead of Andrei Markov. It wasn't a criticism of Markov as much as an endorsement for the versatile Streit, who mixing in forward and defense play has 16 points in his last 15 games. You can't have Markov for free, but Streit remains available in about 16 percent of leagues.

Jonathan Cheechoo, RW, SJ – A free agent now in about 30 percent of Yahoo! leagues, Cheechoo has begun his traditional second-half surge with six goals in his last eight games. San Jose's current No. 1 line configuration: Milan Michalek-Joe Thornton-Cheechoo.

Yahoo! Friends and Family League
The loss of Shawn Horcoff means I'm currently giving T.J. Hensick a test drive at center. I thought center was the deepest position in fantasy? Other recent voluntary transactions involved Pierre-Marc Bouchard, Ruslan Salei, Mike Komisarek, Paul Martin and Kevin Bieksa.