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Injuries, movements, rumors and newsmakers... 
Fischer, Khabibulin, Brodeur...

Sobering sight in Motown; goalie buzz heats up in Colorado; Khabibulin shakes off the rust; Brodeur nagged by knee; Luongo rumors heating up; Oil take a shine to Syvret; waiver action continues; and more...

Backup Peter Budaj made his third start in four games Monday, and played well, in a 3-2 shootout loss to the Flames. This could lead to more action since starter David Aebischer (0-2-0, 5.41 GAA, .782 SP in last 3 GP ) has been shaky lately. It's also fueled rumors that the Avs are interested in Florida goalie Roberto Luongo. With kingpins Joe Sakic and Rob Blake facing pay cuts next season, a potential deal seems plausible and GM Pierre Lacroix is known for swinging big trades, but it's too early to stick a fork in Colorado's goalie tandem just yet.

Goalie Nikolai Khabibulin is starting to earn his paycheck after a rough start to the season. Khabibulin, who signed with Chicago for $6.75-million per season, has won his last three starts and provided pivotal saves as the Hawks claw their way back toward the .500 mark. Overall, the club has won five of six games since losing 9-1 to the Stars on November 4. Khabibulin is expected to again start Tuesday in Vancouver.

GM Mike Barnett shot down rumors suggesting that center Mike Ricci was on the block. Once the 'Yotes acquired pivot Dave Scatchard last week, speculation began to spread that another centerman--specifically Ricci--would be moved. For now, the Coyotes are content to go with a fivesome down the middle: Petr Nedved, Mike Comrie, Ricci, Scatchard, and Jamie Lundmark.

After struggling to regain his form, goalie Martin Brodeur revealed that his knee is not quite 100 percent yet. Brodeur (3-2-0, 3.40 GAA) in five starts since coming back from sprained ACL, is lacking his trademark quickness in the crease and is having problems handling rebounds. For now, Brodeur seems content play through the pain, but watch for backup Scott Clemmensen to get a few more starts.

Regular Shean Donovan was a healthy scratch for the first time this season as the Flames elected to play 11 forwards and seven defensemen Monday against Colorado. The right wing has just one assist in 22 games this season after notching 42 points (18-24) in 2003-04. Donovan is earning $627,000 this season.

Rookie Andrew Ladd, selected fourth overall in 2004, made his NHL debut in Carolina's 5-2 loss the Lightning Sunday. The burly left wing played 14:06 and threw his weight around like a seasoned vet but was held pointless. Rookie Cam Ward made his first start since November 3, as red-hot starter Martin Gerber, (9-3-0, 2.13 GAA .931 SP) was given the night off. ... Defenseman Niclas Wallin requires surgery to repair nerve damage from a lacerated wrist and is expected to miss two-four weeks.

Forward Shawn Bates will miss four-five weeks with a strained hamstring. Bates, one of the Isles' hottest players with eight goals in the past seven games, suffered the injury in a collision with Florida's Martin Gelinas late in Saturday's 5-2 win over the Panthers. Rookie Jeremy Colliton has been recalled from the minors.

Left wing Luc Robitaille could return to the Kings this week after sitting out with a fractured ankle diagnosed November 1. He originally suffered the injury October 11. Robitaille will travel with the Kings to St. Louis and Nashville, and told a local paper he expects to be ready to play.

After constantly tinkering with his lines, head coach Pat Quinn finally appears satisfied with the pairing of left wing Alexei Ponikarovsky, center Jason Allison and right wing Nikolai Antropov. The trio has struck for 10 points in two games and Quinn--who favors big, physical forwards--hinted that he intends to stick with them for a while.

Last week's deal that sent towering rearguard Alexei Semenov to Florida speaks to rookie Danny Syvret's standing with the club. After four years in the system, the Oilers felt Semenov had stagnated and took a shine to Syvret's mobility and versatility. Pending the return of Cory Cross (knee, indefinite), the 2005 CHL Defenseman of the Year now finds himself among Edmonton's top six defensemen, and figures to see more ice-time.

With the Panthers mired in an 11-game losing skid, many are watching for GM Mike Keenan to start working the phones. A precursor to the wheeling and dealing may have begun as the Panthers waived veteran rearguard Alexander Karpovtsev with the likely intention of clearing his $760,000 price tag from the books. Of course, the acquisition of defenseman Alexei Semenov helped make "Potsie" expendable. Stay tuned.

No strangers to the happenings in Columbus and Florida, the Pens have reportedly waived forwards Rico Fata and Konstantin Koltsov along with minor-league defenceman Robert Scuderi. Fata and Koltsov both feature tremendous wheels, but neither has shown any legitimate offensive upside so they became expendable to the frugal Pens. The surprising emergence of rookies forwards Erik Christensen and Maxime Talbot didn't help their cause.

Shock and alarm gripped Joe Louis Arena Monday as 25-year-old defenseman Jiri Fischer collapsed on the Detroit bench from a heart seizure. The 6-5, 225 pound defenseman was resuscitated by a team physician and is stable condition in hospital. In 2002, Fischer was diagnosed with a minor heart condition that caused to miss a few days of training camp. Monday's game against Nashville came to a halt and will be re-scheduled.

Third line center Bryan Smolinski will miss Tuesday's tilt with Carolina to rest a tender shoulder; Denis Hamel has been recalled from Binghampton to fill-in. He'll skate on the fourth line with rookie center Chris Kelly and enforcer Brian McGrattan while Vaclav Varada moves into Smolinski's slot on the third line. Smolinski's expected back Friday against the Islanders.

The slumping Sharks demoted rookies Ryan Clowe and Steve Bernier to minors as the club continues to battle scoring woes. Clowe, a left-winger, survived the final training camp cuts but saw his role diminish when the Sharks were forced rely more heavily on veterans for offense. Right wing Bernier, San Jose's first round pick in 2003, was caught in the same scenario. Both will be better served by playing in the minors--at least for now. Watch for enforcer Scott Parker to re-join club shortly.

According to reports in Minnesota, Marc Chouinard (shoulder) is confident he'll be able to return Wednesday against Edmonton. The lanky center has missed six games so far. ... The saga of 2003 first-rounder Brent Burns continues. It appears that the winger-turned-defenseman-turned-winger will remain at forward for now. "He's starting to play much better up front," head coach Jacques Lemaire told a Minnesota paper. "He's starting to be a presence on the ice. He skates with the puck, uses his body, hits at times. I think he's starting to feel comfortable."