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NHL Skinny: An Old New King

Matt Romig
Yahoo Sports

GOALIE HOT SEAT
PHOENIX COYOTES RED HOT
1st Chair: Mikael Tellqvist
2nd Chair: Curtis Joseph
Skinny: Gutsy win by Tellqvist Saturday. He allowed goals on two of the first three shots he faced and later took a puck to the throat, but persevered to earn his ninth win in 15 starts with the Coyotes. He hasn't been officially anointed the No. 1 in Phoenix, but we're swapping chairs this week as fantasy-wise he's clearly the more valuable option.
LOS ANGELES KINGS RED HOT
1st Chair: Sean Burke
2nd Chair: Mathieu Garon
Skinny: Coach Marc Crawford told the Los Angeles Times that Garon would not practice until after the All-Star break and his earliest possible return would be on Jan. 30. That leaves Burke only two guaranteed starts to prove he deserves a longer look as the featured guy here.
PHILADELPHIA FLYERS RED HOT
1st Chair: Antero Niittymaki
2nd Chair: Robert Esche, Michael Leighton
Skinny: Esche won't be heading to Los Angeles, so it still remains to be seen how the Flyers resolve their three-goalie conundrum. Niittymaki got three straight starts, playing well in one of them, but still entered the break with a 15-start losing streak dating back to Dec. 1. Leighton has yet to see game action since being claimed via waivers from Nashville.
FLORIDA PANTHERS HOT
1st Chair: Ed Belfour
2nd Chair: Alex Auld
Skinny: Coach Jacques Martin said Auld needs to "get back to basics" after getting pulled from his last start Jan. 18 against Toronto. It's clich, but Auld certainly needs to recharge the batteries during the All-Star break.
NASHVILLE PREDATORS HOT
1st Chair: Tomas Vokoun
2nd Chair: Chris Mason
Skinny: "Tomas is the No. 1 goalie, plain and simple," coach Barry Trotz told the Tennessean as the NHL All-Star break arrived. That proclamation came after Mason started back-to-back games, both Nashville wins. Vokoun has been up-and-down since returning from the IR and Mason has been a rock. We'll take Trotz at his word for now, but Mason, quite obviously, is still a factor.
TAMPA BAY LIGHTNING HOT
1st Chair: Johan Holmqvist
2nd Chair: Marc Denis
Skinny: Holmqvist could be a victim of his own success if his strong play in net translates into a playoff push. The Lightning could be buyers or sellers depending on how they fare over the next 2-3 weeks. If club officials decide the team has legitimate Stanley Cup aspirations, an upgrade in goal would certainly be on the wish list. Holmqvist is working on a five-game win streak.
COLORADO AVALANCHE WARM
1st Chair: Peter Budaj
2nd Chair: Jose Theodore
Skinny: Let's face it, if his name didn't still carry some weight in fantasy circles, Theodore's "challenge" to Budaj's job wouldn't even register as hot-seat worthy. Budaj has started 11 straight games. Theodore hasn't started since Dec. 27. Not much of a battle.
COLUMBUS BLUE JACKETS WARM
1st Chair: Fredrik Norrena
2nd Chair: Ty Conklin
Skinny: Norrena was pulled from back-to-back starts, but rebounded to shut down the Red Wings in his final start before the All-Star break. Conklin could see more frequent action over the next few months as coach Ken Hitchcock is concerned about fatigue.
TORONTO MAPLE LEAFS WARM
1st Chair: Andrew Raycroft
2nd Chair: Jean-Sebastien Aubin
Skinny: After taking considerable abuse from the home fans last weekend, Raycroft hit the road and won back-to-back starts. Then came an 8-2 pounding at the hands of the Penguins. Not a great start to sleep on, but at least Razor was only responsible for five of the eight goals. Aubin wasn't much better in relief.
It'll be about a week until Super Bowl hype kicks into full gear, so of course the National Hockey League goes dark for five days. Gary Bettman and Co. never miss a chance to dodge the spotlight. Not much to keep an eye on in the next few days, so take some time to reconnect with your normal life while the Center Ice package sits on idle. We'll pick things up again next week with a summary of what went down Friday-Sunday. Until then, here's the All-Star break version of the NHL Skinny:

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

According to teammate Craig Conroy, newly acquired goaltender Sean Burke didn't arrive in Los Angeles expecting to perform miracles for the Kings. Honestly, nobody was expecting any. Burke is a 17-year veteran who hasn't been a full-timer in the league since 2000-01. His last game action came in April when he backstopped the Tampa Bay Lightning's playoff-exiting 3-0 loss at the hands of Ottawa. Both Burke and John Grahame were included in the Lightning's 2006-07 plans, as the club viewed spotty goalie play as an obstacle to another deep playoff run.

So if not miracles, then what? Well for one thing, the Kings expect Burke to play games – maybe even finish some. Burke, claimed via waivers Wednesday, was immediately inserted into Los Angeles' starting lineup Saturday. He even looked pretty darn good. That is, until leaving due to dehydration in the third period. Fantasy owners in desperate need of a regular starter should take note. Burke will play plenty until Mathieu Garon returns from a broken finger.

It looks to be official: Bryan Murray will not be breaking up the Dany Heatley-Chris Kelly-Daniel Alfredsson line when center Jason Spezza returns from the IR. This from the Ottawa Citizen, which also adds what we already know about every line in the NHL – it's not set in stone. At least for now this means that Kelly has a chance to remain hot. He has 11 points and 10 penalty minutes in his last eight games – Ottawa won seven of those. That bodes well for his short-term fantasy fortune.

Spezza, according to the Citizen, will center the team's No. 2 line with Mike Fisher and Antoine Vermette on his wings. This doesn't make Spezza waiver-wire worthy, but certainly represents a hit to his value. Vermette will be given a chance to make a splash. Reality here says Ottawa is just two losses in three games away from returning Spezza to his home on the team's featured line. But until then, milk what you can from Kelly, who remains available in more than 90 percent of Yahoo! leagues. He'll probably outscore your No. 2 center over the next 2-3 weeks.

One-timer: Wild goalie Manny Fernandez suffered a sprained knee in Saturday's loss to Dallas, and his return date is uncertain. Rookie Niklas Backstrom will start those games that Fernandez misses.

BARGAIN BIN: Top player available in 50 percent of Yahoo! leagues
Niklas Kronwall, D, Det – Word out of Detroit is that he won't miss any time due to the nose injury he suffered Saturday against Colorado. Now that Joni Pitkanen has his goal, the scoreless defenseman spotlight falls on Detroit's young rearguard. Even if he doesn't get that goal anytime soon, you're looking at a solid No. 4 defense option who had points in six of 10 games entering the break.

MARKET MOVERS: Charting player values

Michel Ouellet, RW, Pit – Happy to include Ouellet here for a second consecutive week rather than printing a retraction. It's been that kind of year for Pittsburgh wingers. Ouellet has two goals and seven assists in his last five games and shows no signs of slowing – yet.

David Legwand, C, Nas – A Bargain Bin candidate as a player available in more than 50 percent of Yahoo! leagues, Legwand is finally justifying that lofty selection in the 1998 draft. He used a hat trick Saturday to become the franchise's all-time leading goal scorer and has seven goals and seven assists in his last nine games.

Zbynek Michalek, D, Pho – Given a choice, I'd rather own this Phoenix rearguard than brother and Sharks winger Milan Michalek. Ten points in 14 games won't blow you away, but that's three more than Milan has produced in the same stretch, and squeezing points out of a defenseman takes much more effort.

Hannu Toivonen, G, Bos – Toivonen played pretty well while making back-to-back starts for the first time since the opening month of the season. If Boston can't make a legitimate playoff push with veteran Tim Thomas in net, it may well decide to give the younger Toivonen a longer look.

Daniel Paille, LW, Buf – Maybe one for the future stars files, but Paille so impressed Lindy Ruff in his role as second-line left wing that the coach decided to keep him there after Paul Gaustad's return. Paille had seven points in his first 10 games with the Sabres.

Kristian Huselius, LW, Cal – He's a big reason why the Flames have won six of eight with Jarome Iginla on the shelf. Huselius has five goals and five assists during his seven-game point streak.

Cam Barker, D, Chi – Barker, the third overall pick in the 2004 entry draft, scored a goal for the Blackhawks in just his second NHL game on Jan. 14. Since then he's gone three games without a point and is a minus-6. Such is life with young defensemen.

Paul Stastny, C, Col – Already a slam dunk acquisition in keeper leagues, Stastny is starting to produce like a legit No. 2 fantasy center. A four-point night in Edmonton kicked off a stretch of 16 points in 14 games.

Mike Knuble, RW, Phi – Who knows what will happen after the All-Star break, but at least for now Knuble suffers a downgrade as coach John Stevens replaced him on the top line with Sami Kapanen. Upgrade Kapanen as long as he remains on the Peter Forsberg-Simon Gagne line.

Brad Boyes, C/RW, Bos – Make that 12 straight without a point and a minus-12 over that span.

Alexei Zhitnik, D, Phi – A plus-13 when he was dealt from the Islanders to the Flyers, Zhitnik is now a minus-1. That's a minus-14 in 16 games. Think a trade out of Philly would help Joni Pitkanen?

Yahoo! Friends and Family League
Wayne Gretzky-favorite Travis Roche is signed by RotoWire's Kensik. With four goals and five assists in his last 12 games, Roche is worthy of a No. 3 or 4 defense slot on your team. Party appears to be over for Ruslan Salei, who was cut loose.