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NHL Skinny: Surging Senators

Matt Romig
Yahoo Sports

GOALIE HOT SEAT
TAMPA BAY LIGHTNING RED HOT
1st Chair: Johan Holmqvist
2nd Chair: Marc Denis
Skinny: Holmqvist has started three straight, beating Montreal Saturday while incredibly facing only 13 shots in 60 minutes. Good finish to what was otherwise an unremarkable month. Denis has stopped 90 percent of the shots he's faced only once in his last 16 appearances. Now that's remarkable. Starting to look like Grahame-Burke all over again for Tampa.
COLORADO AVALANCHE RED HOT
1st Chair: Peter Budaj
2nd Chair: Jose Theodore
Skinny: From the gee-thanks-coach files we find the following vote of confidence issued by Joel Quenneville: "I don't think you want to write off anybody." He's talking about Theodore, who has started only five of Colorado's last 13 games. Theodore was pulled 42 minutes into his last start, and Budaj got the start (and win) Monday despite dropping back-to-back decisions to the Blues.
PHOENIX COYOTES RED HOT
1st Chair: Curtis Joseph
2nd Chair: Mikael Tellqvist
Skinny: Coach Wayne Gretzky told the Arizona Republic that Joseph will get "ample opportunities" to play. The coach also says that if you win and play well, you'll stay in net. Neither comment explains why Tellqvist got the start Monday, two days after Joseph blanked the Sharks for his second straight win over San Jose. Since Tellqvist made this first start for the 'Yotes, he holds a 9-5 start edge over Cujo.
LOS ANGELES KINGS HOT
1st Chair: Mathieu Garon
2nd Chair: Dan Cloutier
Skinny: With Cloutier on the IR with knee and hip injuries, Garon gets a chance to grab hold of the No. 1 role. There's probably no shortage of Kings fans who feel the opportunity is overdue. General manager Dean Lombardi called Cloutier's mental state "a huge issue." The GM would not rule out a minor-league stint to help get Cloutier's head straight.
TORONTO MAPLE LEAFS HOT
1st Chair: Andrew Raycroft
2nd Chair: Jean-Sebastien Aubin
Skinny: Aubin hasn't won since Nov. 11, but despite the dry spell, coach Paul Maurice has opened up this job for competition. Maurice says he's "looking for a guy to get hot," and whoever that is will start for a while. Aubin started Friday, but allowed four goals in a loss to the Penguins. Raycroft finished the month of December with a 3.52 goals-against average, but got 2007 off to a stellar start Monday.
PHILADELPHIA FLYERS HOT
1st Chair: Antero Niittymaki
2nd Chair: Robert Esche
Skinny: Niittymaki declared himself pain-free after a second cortisone injection to ease discomfort in his left hip, but was unable to start Sunday. Instead Esche answered the call, and the result was back-to-back wins for the first time since April. Though he appeared in only three games, Esche finished the month with a .937 save percentage.
ST. LOUIS BLUES WARM
1st Chair: Manny Legace
2nd Chair: Jason Bacashihua
Skinny: The Blues are surging under new coach Andy Murray, and Legace is suddenly a viable fantasy option again. In his last six starts, Legace has allowed only eight goals while winning five games and dropping one on the road in OT.
COLUMBUS BLUE JACKETS LUKEWARM
1st Chair: Fredrik Norrena
2nd Chair: Ty Conklin
Skinny: Norrena won more than half of his 12 December starts, but his supporting numbers (3.11 GAA, .895 save percentage) were far from fantasy-friendly. Still, with Columbus playing well, he's a viable fantasy option who is available in more than half of leagues. Conklin has been recalled as Pascal Leclaire will miss six weeks after knee surgery.
Happy New Year, everyone. Since I have once again resolved to rededicate myself to good works, I begin 2007 with a public service announcement. One of the most common questions that lands in my inbox relates to starting goalies. Specifically: Is there a site that lists probable starters on a daily basis? Well, the honest answer is "no." They hold things pretty close to the vest in the National Hockey League, which is how a high-ankle sprain can be categorized as a "lower-body injury" and the "flu" can be anything from a severe cold to a concussion.

Having said that, go ahead and bookmark goaliepost.com. If there are online, broadcast or print media reports relating to starters, they'll probably land there. Just advisories, of course, but if you own both parties of a timeshare, it's a good resource for deciding who to start and who to sit. Good luck in 2007.

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

Goalie rotations are not for everyone. The every-other-game thing has worked well for San Jose this season. Los Angeles tried it last year and ditched the arrangement a few weeks into the season. Of course, success or failure has a lot to do with the quality of goalies at your disposal. Which brings us to Nashville, which has a red-hot goalie with four shutouts in 24 starts and a franchise goalie nearing a return to action. So what happens to Chris Mason (the red-hot guy) when Tomas Vokoun (the franchise guy with the bum thumb) comes back?

"I think when Tomas comes back we'll do a little bit of rotating for a while," coach Barry Trotz told the Tennessean. Now Trotz isn't committing to an even split of remaining starts, but it's clear he wants to keep both goalies involved. The plan makes perfect sense. Both goalies have posted No. 1 numbers this year, and Vokoun has missed significant time in each of the last two seasons. The problem, of course, is that goalies like to play. Mason is on a roll, and part of that success may be related to the rhythm of making 18 straight starts. Fantasy-wise this is primarily an advisory. Both players are owned in more than 85 percent of Yahoo! leagues. If anything, if you own Mason or Vokoun, it might be wise to over-pay for the other on the trade market before Vokoun comes back.

With their centers dropping like flies (or Anaheim defensemen), there is temporary value to be had on the Ottawa roster. Centerman Chris Kelly played 20 minutes Monday. He was held off the scoresheet, but enjoyed a three-point night as Ottawa's No. 1 center Saturday at Toronto. Patrick Eaves logged more power-play minutes than any Ottawa forward not named Heatley or Alfredsson Monday and picked up an assist in the overtime loss to the Thrashers. Finally, the Senators dealt for Mike Comrie Tuesday. The former Coyotes center immediately recorded two assists in a win over Buffalo. The party's over when Jason Spezza and Mike Fisher return from injuries (whenever that may be), but until then keep an eye on Ottawa's fill-ins.
One-timers: Colorado rookie center Paul Stastny has nine points in his last 10 games. … Atlanta has recalled right wing Darren Haydar, who had to put his AHL-record 36-game point streak on hold to join the Thrashers. … Winger Marian Gaborik (groin) could return to game action by the end of the week, according to the Minneapolis Star Tribune

BARGAIN BIN: Top player available in 50 percent of Yahoo! leagues

  • Cory Stillman, LW, Car – Training camp is just about over for Stillman, who missed four months of action after shoulder surgery. The breaking-in games weren't too bad, as Stillman tallied eight points in his first seven games back. But Stillman really arrived in the last two games. Despite not recording a point, he combined for 12 shots against the Flyers and Ducks. He had a total of 15 shots in the previous eight contests.

MARKET MOVERS: Charting player values

Wojtek Wolski, LW, Col – Fantasy owners understandably soured on this draft-day sleeper after he tallied just two goals in a 17-game stretch that extended deep into November. But with Milan Hejduk and Marek Svatos struggling of late, Wolski has been a breath of fresh air. After scoring two goals Monday, the rookie has six goals and two assists in his last five games.

Zbynek Michalek, D, Pho – Not much production five-on-five lately, but who cares when your defenseman tallies six power-play points in a four-game stretch? Phoenix is actually winning games of late, so he might just keep this up.

Shane O'Brien, D, Ana – O'Brien logged over 20 minutes of ice time Friday, primarily as Scott Niedermayer's defense partner. With Francois Beauchemin (and now Chris Pronger) on the shelf for at least a month, O'Brien will see more ice time (he was a 12-minute guy before the injury) and more special teams time.

Shane Doan, RW, Pho – Way too early to call it a resurgence, but Doan has goals in four of his last five games and eight points in his last three games thanks to Friday's five-point outburst vs. San Jose.

Kevin Bieksa, D, Van – With two assists Saturday, Bieksa now has four goals, six assists and 20 penalty minutes in his last 10 games. One reason for the boost in production: increased ice time. Bieksa played nearly 30 minutes in Wednesday's overtime win.

Sergei Fedorov, C, Cls – He's a free agent in more than 60 percent of Yahoo! leagues, but is performing like a No. 1 fantasy center. In his last 13 games, Fedorov has eight goals, eight assists and eight power-play points.

Owen Nolan, RW, Pho – Last week's watch recommendation may soon give way to pull-the-trigger-now advice. Nolan has 11 points in his last 11 games and has doubled his season power-play output in the last four games alone. He'll also benefit if the Coyotes deal any combination of Shane Doan, Ladislav Nagy or Mike Comrie for prospects.

Ilya Bryzgalov, G, Ana – He's close to returning, which could give him a good 2-3 weeks of unopposed action with Jean-Sebastien Giguere on the mend. It remains to be seen just how valuable this post is now that Anaheim's blueline has been decimated by injuries. PLAYERS ON THE DECLINE

Steve Bernier, RW, SJ – Bernier was one of three healthy scratches in Sunday's win over Dallas, joining forward Mark Bell and defenseman Matt Carle in the press box. Scott Parker's injury could put one forward back in the lineup, but clearly none of the three are favorites of Ron Wilson these days.

Ryan Malone, LW, Pit – Yet another short-lived fantasy run for a Sidney Crosby linemate. Malone is pointless in three straight and five of his last six and as of last week was no longer on Sid the Kid's wing. Seems like Erik Christiansen is the sniper du jour for the Pens.

Petr Sykora, RW, Edm – He's a minus-6 in his last three games, all Edmonton losses. Coach Craig MacTavish juggled lines a bit, and at least at practice Sykora was demoted to a line with Joffrey Lupul and Marty Reasoner.

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A blockbuster trade is under review as the No. 1 player on my fantasy Big Board, Sidney Crosby, is on the move. The specifics: FantasyGuru sends Crosby, Duncan Keith and David Aebischer to Rotowire-Kenny in exchange for Patrice Bergeron, John-Michael Liles and Dan Boyle. Who do you think is getting the better end of that deal?