NHL Skinny: Pluck Tkachuk

Matt Romig
Yahoo! Sports
GOALIE HOT SEAT
PHOENIX COYOTES HOT
1st Chair: Mikael Tellqvist
2nd Chair: Curtis Joseph
Skinny: Pretty much a toss-up here, but we'll give the edge to Tellqvist, as Phoenix would love to trade Joseph to a playoff contender looking for some veteran insurance in goal. Not much value to be found anyway, as the Coyotes play Dallas, San Jose and Anaheim a total of seven times in March.
NASHVILLE PREDATORS HOT
1st Chair: Tomas Vokoun
2nd Chair: Chris Mason
Skinny: Mason got the nod Sunday to break Vokoun's string of four straight starts. Coach Barry Trotz has shifted gears too many times to count here, but he seems to be getting Vokoun ready to carry the load in the playoffs. We'll probably see Mason again early next month when Nashville plays three road games in four days March 3-6.
COLORADO AVALANCHE HOT
1st Chair: Peter Budaj
2nd Chair: Jose Theodore
Skinny: Budaj's bloated 3.79 February goals-against average would have him ticketed for a spot on the bench on most clubs. He gets a break in Colorado, however, as Theodore is giving up nearly five goals per game for the month. First man to step up gets entrusted with the Avs' desperate playoff push.
LOS ANGELES KINGS HOT
1st Chair: Sean Burke
2nd Chair: Mathieu Garon
Skinny: The Kings' goalies split the last four starts, with Burke winning twice and Garon picking up a pair of hard-luck losses. With no shot at making the playoffs, coach Marc Crawford doesn't have to worry about prepping a goalie for the postseason. Look for both guys to get plenty of action down the stretch. The Kings are one of several teams rumored to be interested in Buffalo's Martin Biron.
COLUMBUS BLUE JACKETS WARM
1st Chair: Fredrik Norrena
2nd Chair: Pascal Leclaire, Ty Conklin
Skinny: Leclaire is back on the shelf, sidelined this time for at least two weeks and possibly the entire season by a knee issue. Norrena appeared in 21 of 22 games the last time Leclaire was hurt, but this time coach Ken Hitchcock plans a different approach. The Columbus Dispatch says Hitchcock plans to monitor Norrena's "energy level" closely. Translated: Don't expect many starts on back-to-back nights.
PHILADELPHIA FLYERS WARM
1st Chair: Antero Niittymaki
2nd Chair: Robert Esche, Michael Leighton
Skinny: The Flyers started all three goalies over the past five games. Niittymaki earned three points in three starts and was predictably OK. Esche lasted just 22 minutes in his start at Buffalo. Leighton wasn't very good Saturday against Toronto. Bottom line: If you own any of these guys, you're probably not reading this column.
OTTAWA SENATORS WARM
1st Chair: Ray Emery
2nd Chair: Martin Gerber
Skinny: Gerber posted some good numbers during Emery's three-game suspension. He won all three starts and for the month has impressive stats: 2.14 goals-against, .925 save percentage. Coach Bryan Murray waited until the last minute to name Emery his starter for the Feb. 22 brawl game against Ottawa.

Thanks to everyone who took the time to write in with suggestions for improving the Yahoo! default scoring format. Truly an overwhelming response. For those of you who missed it, the debate centers around the future of the game-winning goals category. While a few of you wrote in to defend GWG's, it appears that most readers agree its time has passed. Remember, we're not considering removing the category as a scoring option, just stripping it out of the default scoring settings for public leagues.

I was particularly impressed by how many of you gave a nod to the more subtle contributions players make by suggesting faceoff percentage and blocked shots as replacement categories. Both have their merits. Many of you requested that we explore ways to incorporate the shootout into fantasy scoring, and we'll do just that. If anyone wants to discuss this further during the offseason, feel free to email me then. Unfortunately given the volume of replies that came in over the past two weeks, I was only able to tally suggestions. There was no way to write back to everyone. Thanks again and on to the recap:

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

As of Sunday morning, Keith Tkachuk remained available in about 25 percent of Yahoo! leagues. That total may have spiked a bit after the deal that landed him in Atlanta was announced, but a quick scan of the waiver wire is still recommended. Tkachuk will bring left wing eligibility with him to the Thrashers locker room, but according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, he's expected to center Ilya Kovalchuk's line beginning Monday against Boston. Not a bad place to be in fantasy circles. And let's face it, Kovalchuk is underachieving this season. Tkachuk has been a streaky player over the last several seasons, with many of those hot streaks directly coinciding with returns from injury. If he views this as yet another fresh start, this could signal a boost for both player's short-term fortunes.

Don't overlook the other new face in Atlanta's lineup. Defenseman Alexei Zhitnik, acquired Saturday in a deal with the Flyers, is expected to step right in as the quarterback for the Thrashers power-play. More than 40 NHL players have at least 10 power-play helpers this season, but Atlanta's team leader is Greg de Vries with eight. No Atlanta defenseman is owned in more than 35 percent of Yahoo! leagues. In other words: there's a need there. Zhitnik has struggled this year, but given the possible upside here is probably worth a tryout as a No. 4 defenseman.

Don't count out Montreal goalie David Aebischer just yet. According to the Toronto Star, Aebischer will start Monday against Toronto. Sure AHL call-up Jaroslav Halak has started four straight and might need a rest, but coach Guy Carbonneau sure sounds like a guy ready to hand the reigns to a veteran. "He was our top goaltender at the start of the season," Carbonneau told the Star, referring to Aebischer. "We're going to need him in top form if we're going to be successful till the end of the season." The coach went on to praise Halak, who won three of four starts, but pointed out the experience edge held by Monday's starter. Aebischer, for what it's worth, is available in about 25 percent of Yahoo! leagues. Halak has 95 percent availability. As Monday's game is the first of what could be several must-wins, it's a must-watch for Aebischer owners. Pick up Halak as insurance should he falter.

One-timers: Pittsburgh goalie Jocelyn Thibeault got a second straight start Sunday. Coach Michel Therrien has been critical of Marc-Andre Fleury's play of late, but is likely just sending a message with this temporary benching. … Washington coach Glen Hanlon is considering several options to replace Chris Clark on his top line. Among the candidates: Donald Brashear, Richard Zednik, Alexander Semin and call-up Tomas Fleischmann. … Montreal defenseman Mark Streit's second three-game point streak of the month is still alive.

BARGAIN BIN: Top player available in 50 percent of Yahoo! leagues
Paul Stastny, C, Col – Among centers, Stastny ranks fifth in goals (8), ninth in assists (12) and second in power-play points (10) over the last month. The substance-over-style pivot will take a 12-game point streak into Tuesday's game against Columbus. Still available in about 60 percent of Yahoo! leagues, he makes a solid No. 2 center option and is a big reason why Milan Hejduk is climbing the right wing rankings.

MARKET MOVERS: Charting player values

Mark Bell, LW, SJ – A four-game point streak is a sign of life. Spending time on the Sharks' first power-play unit with Joe Thornton and Jonathan Cheechoo is a show of confidence from coach Ron Wilson. There are worse points-PIM options out there.

Drew Stafford, RW, Buf – In his latest go-around with the Sabres, this 2004 first-round draft pick has five points in four games. He pushed 20 minutes of ice time Saturday and finished the home-and-home against Ottawa with four assists and, surprise of surprises, a fighting major.

Alexandre Picard, D, Phi – Sure, five of the points came in one game, but it's still worth noting that Picard has nine points in 12 games and is a plus-1 over that span.

Anson Carter, RW, Car – Carter traded fourth-line duty in Columbus for a spot alongside Eric Staal and Ray Whitney in Carolina. No points on the scoresheet Saturday, but fantasy owners itching for a return of his Sedin-days productivity should keep a close eye on the next five games.

Johan Franzen, C, Det – Digging deep for value here, but Frazen has taken up Dan Cleary's spot at left wing on Detroit's No. 2 line. He snapped off a team-high six shots in Saturday's loss at Nashville. Cleary is out 3-4 weeks.

Nathan Horton, C, Fla – Wasn't he asking out of Florida just yesterday? Might not want to go anywhere real soon after posting multi-point efforts in five of his last eight games. Linemates Martin Gelinas (7 points/last 7 games) and Stephen Weiss (6 points/last 4) are also widely available.

Marc-Andre Bergeron, D, NYI – He's on a modest point-per-game pace in three appearances since being acquired to invigorate a struggling Islanders power play. Sixteen of his 25 points with Edmonton came on special teams.

Keith Ballard, D, Pho – Coach Wayne Gretzky has experimented with using Ballard up front on the power play, but with Ed Jovanovski likely gone for the season, the second-year defenseman needs to step up his play on the blueline. So far, so good, as Ballard has five points in his last six games.

Bryan Berard, D, Cls – He joined Nikolai Zherdev in the press box as a healthy scratch Saturday. Zherdev was back Sunday, recording an assist, but Berard sat again. Let's hope this gets him going – or moving out of town.

Ryane Clowe, RW, SJ – The dip in production is not shocking considering the Sharks' offensive woes of late, but what is concerning is the diminishing ice time with Joe Thornton. Wait to see how things shake out post-deadline, post-road trip before cutting him loose.

Yahoo! Friends and Family League
Looks like a five-horse race to the finish. Rotowire's Maingot adds Mike Smith, Jaroslav Halak and Alexei Zhitnik hoping to make a push out of third place.