NHL Skinny: Phoenix Rising

Matt Romig
Yahoo! Sports

GOALIE HOT SEAT

NASHVILLE PREDATORS RED HOT
1st Chair: Tomas Vokoun
2nd Chair: Chris Mason
Skinny: "That's a good story," Vokoun told the Tennessean after hearing the tale of Wally Pipp for the first time. Is there a parallel? Well, Mason was outstanding in his 21 consecutive starts, winning 14 and keeping the Preds near the top of the Western Conference. But coach Barry Trotz said that Vokoun is the team's No. 1 goalie when healthy, and with an anticipated Tuesday return that means a changing of the guard. Mason remains a viable fantasy No. 3 and certainly shouldn't be cut loose short-term.

TAMPA BAY LIGHTNING RED HOT
1st Chair: Johan Holmqvist
2nd Chair: Marc Denis
Skinny: Holmqvist made it a perfect 10-for-10 on shootout saves Saturday, stopping both Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin in a 3-2 win over Pittsburgh. Denis had started the previous two games for Tampa Bay, splitting a pair of road decisions. Still plenty of trade rumors here, so both men could find themselves out of the first chair by late February.

COLORADO AVALANCHE RED HOT
1st Chair: Peter Budaj
2nd Chair: Jose Theodore
Skinny: Budaj has yet to sit in 2007. He's still waiting on his first loss, too. In three starts since the calendar turned, Budaj is 3-0 with a 1.95 goals-against and a .927 save percentage. Coach Joel Quenneville says Budaj has earned the right to keep playing, but continues to insist the team hasn't given up on Theodore.

PHOENIX COYOTES RED HOT
1st Chair: Curtis Joseph
2nd Chair: Mikael Tellqvist
Skinny: If Wayne Gretzky's boys continue their torrid pace of late, this might once again be a battle that matters in fantasy leagues. After Tellqvist started 9 of 14 games, Joseph has rebounded to start three of five, all wins. Both goalies are hot of late, so expect both to see plenty of action. Tellqvist hasn't lost in regulation in four starts and is available in almost 90 percent of Yahoo! leagues.

LOS ANGELES KINGS HOT
1st Chair: Mathieu Garon
2nd Chair: Dan Cloutier
Skinny: Garon stopped the final 27 shots he faced Saturday, allowing the Kings to climb out of a 2-0 hole to defeat the Red Wings. Los Angeles is now 4-2 since Cloutier went down with knee and hip injuries. One of those wins was a shutout by Garon, who has won five of his last six starts. A minor league stint is still a possibility for Cloutier.

PHILADELPHIA FLYERS HOT
1st Chair: Antero Niittymaki
2nd Chair: Robert Esche
Skinny: Flyers coach John Stevens let his team have it after Sunday's 6-1 loss to the Senators. Though Niitymaki made 37 saves in the defeat, he was not spared. Don't be surprised if Esche gets the start Tuesday at Washington. Esch has won three of his last five starts, all coming on the road. Niittymaki is winless in his last 11 starts.

COLUMBUS BLUE JACKETS WARM
1st Chair: Fredrik Norrena
2nd Chair: Ty Conklin
Skinny: Hard to fault Norrena for the five power-play goals allowed against the Sharks Saturday, one coming courtesy of an officials' blunder. Still, feel good stories have a way of souring, and Norrena has been up and down in his first extended stint as a No. 1 goalie.

TORONTO MAPLE LEAFS LUKEWARM
1st Chair: Andrew Raycroft
2nd Chair: Jean-Sebastien Aubin
Skinny: The heat appears to be off Raycroft, who has started three straight after coach Paul Maurice declared the job open for competition. Perhaps most telling, several Maple Leafs players stood up for Razor after he was booed by the home crowd in Saturday's 4-3 loss to the Sens. Forward Matt Stajan went as far as calling those responsible for the jeering, "stupid."

GOALIE HOT SEAT

NASHVILLE PREDATORS RED HOT
1st Chair: Tomas Vokoun
2nd Chair: Chris Mason
Skinny: "That's a good story," Vokoun told the Tennessean after hearing the tale of Wally Pipp for the first time. Is there a parallel? Well, Mason was outstanding in his 21 consecutive starts, winning 14 and keeping the Preds near the top of the Western Conference. But coach Barry Trotz said that Vokoun is the team's No. 1 goalie when healthy, and with an anticipated Tuesday return that means a changing of the guard. Mason remains a viable fantasy No. 3 and certainly shouldn't be cut loose short-term.

TAMPA BAY LIGHTNING RED HOT
1st Chair: Johan Holmqvist
2nd Chair: Marc Denis
Skinny: Holmqvist made it a perfect 10-for-10 on shootout saves Saturday, stopping both Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin in a 3-2 win over Pittsburgh. Denis had started the previous two games for Tampa Bay, splitting a pair of road decisions. Still plenty of trade rumors here, so both men could find themselves out of the first chair by late February.

COLORADO AVALANCHE RED HOT
1st Chair: Peter Budaj
2nd Chair: Jose Theodore
Skinny: Budaj has yet to sit in 2007. He's still waiting on his first loss, too. In three starts since the calendar turned, Budaj is 3-0 with a 1.95 goals-against and a .927 save percentage. Coach Joel Quenneville says Budaj has earned the right to keep playing, but continues to insist the team hasn't given up on Theodore.

PHOENIX COYOTES RED HOT
1st Chair: Curtis Joseph
2nd Chair: Mikael Tellqvist
Skinny: If Wayne Gretzky's boys continue their torrid pace of late, this might once again be a battle that matters in fantasy leagues. After Tellqvist started 9 of 14 games, Joseph has rebounded to start three of five, all wins. Both goalies are hot of late, so expect both to see plenty of action. Tellqvist hasn't lost in regulation in four starts and is available in almost 90 percent of Yahoo! leagues.

LOS ANGELES KINGS HOT
1st Chair: Mathieu Garon
2nd Chair: Dan Cloutier
Skinny: Garon stopped the final 27 shots he faced Saturday, allowing the Kings to climb out of a 2-0 hole to defeat the Red Wings. Los Angeles is now 4-2 since Cloutier went down with knee and hip injuries. One of those wins was a shutout by Garon, who has won five of his last six starts. A minor league stint is still a possibility for Cloutier.

PHILADELPHIA FLYERS HOT
1st Chair: Antero Niittymaki
2nd Chair: Robert Esche
Skinny: Flyers coach John Stevens let his team have it after Sunday's 6-1 loss to the Senators. Though Niitymaki made 37 saves in the defeat, he was not spared. Don't be surprised if Esche gets the start Tuesday at Washington. Esch has won three of his last five starts, all coming on the road. Niittymaki is winless in his last 11 starts.

COLUMBUS BLUE JACKETS WARM
1st Chair: Fredrik Norrena
2nd Chair: Ty Conklin
Skinny: Hard to fault Norrena for the five power-play goals allowed against the Sharks Saturday, one coming courtesy of an officials' blunder. Still, feel good stories have a way of souring, and Norrena has been up and down in his first extended stint as a No. 1 goalie.

TORONTO MAPLE LEAFS LUKEWARM
1st Chair: Andrew Raycroft
2nd Chair: Jean-Sebastien Aubin
Skinny: The heat appears to be off Raycroft, who has started three straight after coach Paul Maurice declared the job open for competition. Perhaps most telling, several Maple Leafs players stood up for Razor after he was booed by the home crowd in Saturday's 4-3 loss to the Sens. Forward Matt Stajan went as far as calling those responsible for the jeering, "stupid."

All but four NHL teams have reached the halfway point of their season. Good time for a fantasy progress report. As any regular reader knows probably all too well, I've made a point of highlighting my first-place standing in the Yahoo! Friends and Family league. Snagging Evgeni Nabokov, J.S. Giguere and Ilya Bryzgalov has paid huge dividends. On the flipside of that, I'm paying the price for waiting seven rounds to draft my No. 1 goalie in the TalentedMrRoto.com ICE Experts league (also hosted by Yahoo!). I'm sitting in 9th place out of 12 there, thanks in no small part to Jose Theodore, my supposed No. 1 on draft day. It's too early to give up or cash your chips, of course, so let's grind on with another weekly update:

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

Thanks to everyone who emailed to promote an alternative to goaliepost.com when it comes to speculation on starting goalies. Yes, the folks at hockeyinformer.com do a good job of staying on top of daily goalie developments. They give a predicted starter for each team each night, and their accuracy percentage is a nice touch. Between goaliepost and hockeyinformer, you shouldn't get burned too often if you're trying to squeeze three goalies with games scheduled into two active roster slots.

One-timers: Rookie defenseman Kyle Cumiskey should see more ice time now that John-Michael Liles is sidelined a month with a broken foot. Cumiskey scored his first NHL goal Saturday in 14 minutes of ice time. … So far, so good for center Petr Nedved in Edmonton. Skating between Petr Sykora and Ales Hemsky, Nedved has points in both of his games in an Oilers uniform this season. … Tony Amonte is skating on Calgary's No. 1 scoring line while Jarome Iginla's knee is on the mend. … With the Maple Leafs thin up front, expect a few more productive games from Alexander Steen and Matthew Stajan.

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

  • Owen Nolan, RW, Pho – Owen Nolan is succeeding where Brett Hull failed. A former 40-goal scorer in the supposed twilight of his career, Nolan has embraced his role with the Coyotes and is flourishing in it. In his last 14 games, the right wing has five goals, nine assists, eight penalty minutes and a plus-8 rating. He's still not getting too much time on the Phoenix power play, but that could change if the team decides to deal Shane Doan and/or Ladislav Nagy before the trade deadline.

MARKET MOVERS: Charting player values

Ryan Clowe, RW, SJ – Primarily a grinder at the NHL level, Clowe does have some history of scoring as a professional. He led the Sharks' AHL affiliate with 27 goals in 2004-05 and was nearly a point-per-game scorer at the same level last season. So it's worth noting that Clowe has six goals in four games and is, at least for now, playing like the power forward the club was hoping Steve Bernier would be.

Joni Pitkanen, D, Phi – The Oilers appear to be working pretty hard to obtain Philadelphia's third-year rearguard. That would help, but all is not lost if he remains a Flyer. He's a modest plus-3 in his last six games (an ugly minus-19 on the season). With a flat or slightly better plus/minus, those 21 assists and 46 penalty minutes sure look a lot better.

Pavol Demitra, RW, Min – Demitra has frequently looked lost without his buddy and countryman Marian Gaborik in the lineup. After starting the season with eight points in six games, Demitra was held off the scoresheet in more than half the 27 games he played while Gaborik was on the shelf. Good news: Gaborik finally returned to the lineup Saturday.

Dustin Byfuglien, D, Chi – Probably more of a future factor here. Just 21 years old, Byfuglien was recalled by Chicago over the weekend and recorded an assist Sunday against Phoenix. He scored 23 points in 28 games at Norfolk of the AHL and showed some promise as a late-season call-up a year ago.

Jeff Carter, C, Phi – Not a bad run for a guy who barely registers on the ownership scale (5.10 percent). Though he was blanked Sunday, Carter has two goals, five assists and 10 penalty minutes in his last nine games.

Kevin Bieksa, D, Van – A holdover in this space from last week, Bieksa was at it again over the weekend. He played 30 minutes in Sunday's overtime win over Florida and with an assist landed on the scoresheet for the eighth time in 10 games.

Lawrence Nycholat, D, Was – Speaking of minutes, Nycholat logged more of them than any other Washington skater in Saturday's win. The career minor leaguer has six points in eight games after recording three goals and 25 assists in 28 games with Hershey of the AHL.

Ed Belfour, G, Fla – What has been a pretty even timeshare with Alex Auld is starting to tip in favor of Belfour, who has earned points in seven of his last eight starts. He's available in more than half of Yahoo! leagues and has fairly favorable splits since Dec. 1.

Marc Andre-Fleury, G, Pit – It's been 12 games since Fleury has faced 35 shots. Pittsburgh's netminder was subject to seven such barrages in his first 21 starts.

Alexei Yashin, C, NYI – According to Newsday, Yashin left the arena Saturday without addressing the media. This after coach Ted Nolan benched him for all but 37 seconds of the second period. Oh, and he's scoreless in six games. Might be time to put his gaudy season numbers on the trading block.

Daniel Cleary, RW, Det – With no points in five games and a minus-3 rating, Cleary and his linemates have drawn the ire of coach Mike Babcock. Linemate Robert Lang is scoreless in four straight.

Tim Thomas, G, Bos – Boston's blueline is dinged up, which is likely a factor in Thomas' recent struggles. He's allowed five or more goals in six of his last 15 starts. Hannu Toivonen could mount a challenge if he gets his game together at Providence.

Yahoo! Friends and Family League
Reaction was mixed to last week's trade involving Sidney Crosby, who was moved for a package that includee John-Michael Liles and Dan Boyle. A surprising number of fantasy owners looked past the star power and acknowledged that getting two productive defensemen in exchange for a center, a position with vastly greater depth, is a good idea. That was before the Liles injury, of course.

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