There have been at least as many injuries this season as any other, but that isn't the only reason some little-known goalies are appearing on NHL lineup cards.

When the expansion draft is held in June, every team must make one goalie available. But to be eligible, a goalie must have 60 minutes of NHL experience. It can be a full game (assuming he isn't pulled for a sixth skater with time running down) or any partial appearances adding up to an hour of ice time.

So teams will be trying to get many of their minor league goalies into NHL games so as to have flexibility when it comes time to choose the ones they won't protect.

"You have to get yourself in a position to keep from losing a player you want," Pat Quinn, the Vancouver Canucks' president, general manager and coach, said. "Of the positions we have to fill, the most difficult may be goalie."

For example, Montreal's Patrick Roy is injured, and J.C. Bergeron and Andre Racicot have been the backups. Yet, the Canadiens managed to get Frederic Chabot in for two games recently.

The Bruins' regulars, Andy Moog and Reggie Lemelin, are hobbled, but that gave them the chance to use Norm Foster and Matt Delguidice, neither of whom had played in the NHL before.

"We might have done it later on, but we wouldn't have done it at this point," Boston General Manager Harry Sinden said of getting his goalies the required 60 minutes. The Bruins are in first place and -- with Quebec at the bottom of the Adams Division -- are virtually assured of a playoff spot. But what about a team that needs every point to make the playoffs?

"I don't think a team in that situation will do it," Winnipeg General Manager Mike Smith said. "You can always trade for a goalie who is eligible in June."

That is one scenario that may eventually apply to the Washington Capitals. Don Beaupre, Mike Liut, Jim Hrivnak and Olie Kolzig all have played enough minutes. Shawn Simpson is the only other goalie at issue, but he has never appeared in an NHL game.

If you compiled a depth chart, which is what it all amounts to, Simpson would be on the bottom and the one the Capitals probably would want to make available. But General Manager David Poile said he didn't think the team would use Simpson just to get him 60 minutes.

Fuhr Closer, but . . .

Edmonton's Grant Fuhr moved a bit closer to playing this week when NHL President John Ziegler said he could return as of Feb. 18. Fuhr has been practicing with the Oilers, but will almost surely play for their Cape Breton farm team before taking the ice for the Oilers.

But if he does, it might not be for long. He's missed most of two seasons and, in that time, the Oilers have won a Stanley Cup with Bill Ranford in goal.

"It will be pretty hard to go past" Ranford, Detroit Coach Bryan Murray commented. Oilers General Manager Glen Sather has said he would trade anybody if he thought it would help win a Cup. The trading deadline (for players to be eligible for the playoffs) is March 5.

One trade that won't occur until June -- if at all -- involves the No. 1 pick. Minnesota's recent success (4-2-1 in its last seven) probably means Quebec or Toronto will finish last overall. Toronto wouldn't have the pick, anyway, because the Maple Leafs traded it to New Jersey last season. Eric Lindros seems to be the consensus first choice.

Quebec General Manager Pierre Page said this week he might deal that pick for the right price, and such a move would make some sense. Because they've been awful for several years, the Nordiques have had some high draft picks. But they are a young team. A veteran star might provide more help sooner without damaging the future.

If they have the first pick, it means Quebec will have finished dead last for the third straight year. Even though Page was hired only last summer, folks in Quebec City are tiring of the building-for-the-future argument. So one rumor that has floated out of Quebec City has the Nordiques sending the No. 1 pick to Pittsburgh for Mario Lemieux.

It makes some sense for the Penguins. Although Lindros will command big money, it isn't likely to be the $2.3 million per season Lemieux makes, and the difference would help the Penguins re-sign Mark Recchi, John Cullen and Kevin Stevens. Lemieux seems to enjoy living in Pittsburgh, but the Montreal native would be near-royalty in Quebec City.

"But," Rangers Coach Roger Neilson said, "what about Lemieux's back? One hit and he could be done."

Mullen Has Surgery

Penguins right wing Joey Mullen is expected to miss the rest of the season after undergoing surgery to remove a herniated disk. He has 17 goals and 22 assists in 47 games, but hasn't played since Jan. 17. . . .

In Vancouver's 3-3 tie with the Rangers Jan. 31, the Canucks had 62 shots on goal, the most by any team this season. "I called a timeout and it didn't do a bit of good," Neilson said of the third period when the Canucks scored twice. "It seemed like Mike {Richter} made 100 saves." . . .

Signing free agents (and winning, of course) is good for one's popularity. Almost half of those responding to a St. Louis Post-Dispatch questionnaire about what to call a new arena suggested naming it for Blues owner Mike Shanahan.