It's not quite the 1994 New York Rangers and they're not chanting "Matteo! Matteo! Matteo!" on the streets of Campbell, Calif., but history was made Monday night when I finally won my first Friends and Family league title. Rather embarrassed it took this long. After all, I invented (or at least I credit myself, Al Gore-sytle, with inventing) the Skinny format and I've been at the fantasy analysis business here at Yahoo! since back when Brandon Funston was still dodging Eric Karabell's flailing arms at ESPN. It has been a long fight, but I finallly got it done with a 106-72 win over Funston in the football championship game. And before you give me the "I could take these guys" speech, remember that you're dealing with committed fantasy professionals who have 24-hour Internet access. I'm convinced some of the Rotowire guys hire admins to monitor the waiver wire while they sleep. How else do you explain free agent gems disappearing faster than you can say Bfyuglien? Anyway, it's good to have football in the rear-view mirror. Hockey now has my full attention. OK, there's my hoop team in contention, but you know what I mean. Here's hoping you all enjoy a happy and healthy holiday. On to the Skinny …
WEEKEND UPDATE: Need-to-know info from the past few days
Things to do Monday: Sign Karri Ramo. "I can really stop these pucks," Ramo told the St. Petersberg Times after turning away 31 of 32 shots against Toronto Thursday in his first NHL start. Great quote. And he was right. Two nights later Ramo stopped 32 of 34 Carolina shots before the Hurricanes struck for two empty-net goals in a 4-1 win. As of Sunday Ramo was available about 95 percent of Yahoo! leagues. Frankly if you own "starter" Johan Holmqvist, you have no excuse for not signing Ramo. I personally picked up the young Fin in both my experts leagues. Tampa Bay has been touting Ramo as NHL-ready since last season. Only an injury prevented him from making a serious run at the No. 1 job straight out of camp.
There's no guarantee he'll hold the job. This is, after all, the Lightning goal we're talking about. But coach John Tortorella sure sounds like a guy who hopes he's found an answer. "He's getting thrown right into the fire," Tortorella told the Times. "But we're that high on him, we feel he can give us a chance. That's what we're looking for in our goaltending. We're not looking to be spectacular. Ramo is going to get a chance at this. We need to see what he's about." So should you.
One more thing for your to-do list: With Daniel Carcillo (88 percent owned) out 6-to-8 weeks, owners looking to maintain their PIM fix should turn to Sean Avery (40 percent owned and back in the New York lineup) or Aaron Voros (8 percent owned and probably the best long-term option of the three).
Forget what I said about: Pittsburgh center Tyler Kennedy is pointless in four straight games after a brief flirtation on Sidney Crosby's right wing. I'm so frustrated with coach Michel Therrien's constant line shuffling that I'm not going to mention that Erik Christiansen has two goals and four points in his last three games. I won't do it. … An upward market mover in back-to-back weeks, Phoenix winger Radim Vrbata went pointless in three straight, recording only three shots in the process.
One-timers: According to the San Jose Mercury News, Jonathan Cheechoo practiced on Joe Thornton's right wing Sunday and will return to the lineup Wednesday in Los Angeles. … In related news, rookie Devin Setoguchi (2 points in last 15 games) is expected to be a healthy scratch. … Islanders right wing Miroslav Satan recorded career point No. 666 Saturday, and surprisingly the world moved on. The "achievement" actually has some fantasy relevance as Satan has a six-game point streak (3 goals, 3 helpers). … Flyers wing Simon Gagne may return to the lineup in the next four days. … Jason Ward scored goals in back-to-back games and the Tampa Tribune hinted that some first-line time might be in his future.
BARGAIN BIN: Top player available in 50 percent of Yahoo! leagues
Lee Stempniak, RW, Stl. – Stempniak began to play himself onto the fantasy radar last year during a sophomore campaign that featured a seven-game point streak and four goals in his final six games. After opening this season with five points in five games, however, the 24-year-old fell off the map. Through 22 games, the pride of West Seneca, New York had only one goal. Then something clicked, it appears. Stempniak – "I just feel a lot more comfortable with the puck," he told the Post-Dispatch – now has six goals and 10 points in his last 11 games. Add him now as an injury plug-in or a No. 3 right wing in deeper leagues, and keep him on your radar in more traditional formats.
MARKET MOVERS: Charting player values
Richard Park, RW, NYI – Saying he's "probably our best forward all season long," Islanders coach Ted Nolan moved Park to left wing on New York's top line (with Bill Guerin and Mike Comrie) for Friday's game against Pittsburgh. Park scored the next night and has a modest run of three goals in his last six games.
Patrick Marleau, C, SJ – Just a hunch, but coach Ron Wilson had the Heavyweight Line back together in practice Sunday. Marleau has been at his best the last few seasons while paired with Milan Michalek and Steve Bernier. This could be the spark. Curtis Brown, by the way, skated on Joe Thornton's left wing Sunday.
Mike Riberio, C, Dal – Few are hotter if you're scoring at home. In his last eight games Ribeiro has eight goals and seven assists and has four points on the power play. Linemate Antti Miettinen (1.4 percent owned) has 11 points in eight December games.
Daniel Cleary, RW, Det – He filled in on Detroit's top line Saturday, though whether you can still call it a top line when Henrik Zetterberg and Tomas Holmstrom are absent can be debated. Still, Cleary had two points and has multi-point games in half of his last six starts. Start him while he's hot.
Scott Walker, RW, Car – Walker has a four-game point streak (2 goals, 2 assists) and a spot on Carolina's top line with Rod Brind'Amour and Cory Stillman. It was the worst kind of promotion, as he's filling in for Justin Williams who is expected to miss the remainder of the regular season with a torn ACL.
Ty Conklin, G, Pit – Pittsburgh Post-Gazette sportswriter Shelly Anderson reports that coach Michel Therrien didn't seem too bowled over by Conklin's start Sunday against Boston. Still, it's worth noting that Conklin is responsible for the Pens' last two wins. Marc-Andre Fleury, by the way, could return in about a month.
Brent Seabrook, D, Chi – With two goals Sunday, he now has three goals and an assist in his last three games. The Blackhawks have four defense-eligible players with at least five goals.
Sergei Kostitsyn, LW, Mon – We'll keep him here to represent brother Andrei. Sergei has points in three straight and Andrei has nine points in 11 December games.
Dustin Byfuglien, D, Chi – Since announcing his presence with a hat trick on Nov. 30, Byfuglien has seven points in 10 games while ping-ponging between forward and defense. Considering what normally passes for "production" out of a No. 4 fantasy d-guy, it's amazing Byfuglien is still available in 40 percent of leagues.
Mark Recchi, RW, Atl – Recchi was brought in to boost the Atlanta power play and in seven games in a Thrashers uniform has five points on the power play. How often does a mid-season acquisition deliver exactly as promised? Never? Eight points overall in those seven games for Recchi.
Martin Havlat, RW, Chi – Havlat left Saturday's game with a groin injury and was scratched Sunday in Edmonton. With Havlat this sort of thing is priced in, but this is just a heads up in case a finally fed-up owner threw a trade offer your way.
Rick Nash, LW, Cls – Here's hoping two days off does the trick. Nash was scoreless Sunday for a seventh straight game. He did play better, though, recording six shots on goal. He's still banged up from that Dec. 5 cross check.
Daniel Carcillo, LW, Pho – The Phoenix agitator will be out 6-to-8 weeks with a sprained knee, according to the Arizona Republic. Carcillo was taken down from behind by Jeremy Roenick during a multiple-player scrap on Dec. 20. Not trying to run your team for you, but if I'm a Carcillo owner I'm dropping him and adding Aaron Voros.
David Legwand, C, Nas – He's 60 percent owned and, according to GM David Poile, should be 100 percent embarrassed. "David Legwand has one goal in (18) games. That's embarrassing. It should be embarrassing to him."
Yahoo! Friends and Family League
McLarney leads again, with Bada Byng just a single point behind. Team Romig has slipped to seventh – did I mention the F&F football title? – but only three points separates third from seventh. I desperately need Karri Ramo to grab and hold the Tampa No. 1 job as Martin Biron, Chris Mason and Dwayne Roloson have all underachieved of late. Also added league-wide since my last transmission: Brent Seabrook, Dustin Penner, Rob Blake, Aaron Voros and others.