Take a break, folks. The Skinny will. When Daniel Sedin beat Manny Fernandez in overtime Sunday night, the NHL officially reached the Olympic break. No games. No trades. No shootouts. Sure there's plenty to watch in Turin, but the next time games will matter in fantasy leagues will be February 28. The Skinny will weigh in if anything dramatic happens during the break – not sure if an Owen Nolan signing will qualify – but barring any breaking news, we'll catch up again on March 6. Enjoy the time off.
WEEKEND UPDATE: Need-to-know info from the past few days
St. Louis occupies the basement in the Western Conference. It recently traded its top two scorers. Its preseason No. 1 goalie just returned from a two-month exile in the AHL. A fantasy wasteland, right? Not so fast. Ignore the suddenly red-hot Blues at your own peril. It makes no sense, really, when you consider the amount of production and veteran leadership that left town when Mike Sillinger and Doug Weight were traded in separate deals. But there's spirit left in these St. Louis Blues. Who knew? Sunday's win – a see-saw affair that ended in a shootout – was its fourth in five games.
So who matters fantasy-wise? The first order of business should be to check the availability of Keith Tkachuk. A free agent in about 20 percent of Yahoo! leagues, he had a two-point night Sunday to extend his totals since returning to the lineup to three goals and five assists in six games. He'll produce when healthy. Just as hot has been center Petr Cajanek, who has parlayed more ice time into an impressive nine points in a seven-game run. He's a freebie in more than 90 percent of leagues. Also not to be overlooked: winger Lee Stempniak has six goals in seven games; defenseman Dennis Wideman is offensively gifted enough to make coach Mike Kitchen's shootout lineup; and Scott Young has five power-play points in five games.
Ottawa has been anything but a wasteland in 2005-06. Until, that is, its top line's production suddenly dried up. Given how they've dominated fantasy hockey this season, the recent slumps are startling. Dany Heatley (1 goal in 5 games), Jason Spezza (1 assist in 5 games) and Daniel Alfredsson (0 points in 5 games) all hit the wall just before the Olympic break. "We're in a slump, no question," Alfredsson told the Ottawa Sun after a 2-1 loss Thursday. Really? And Rick Tocchet may be "in a little hot water."
This is one of those dry spells you just have to ride out. It should be noted that all three of these players recorded point streaks of 10 or more games earlier this season. Things can turn in a hurry. Of course, coach Bryan Murray isn't taking anything for granted. He shook up the team's top line for Saturday's game, replacing Alfredsson with right wing Patrick Eaves. The rookie made an impact, assisting on a second-period goal that held up as the game-winner. This is likely a short-term change, but keep an eye on things here as a long-term promotion would no doubt boost Eaves' value.
BARGAIN BIN: Top players available in 50 percent of Yahoo! leagues
- Keith Ballard, D, Pho
Phoenix is a mess right now, no doubt about it. But one bright spot of late has been defenseman Keith Ballard, who over the past month has piled up more assists than any defenseman not named Sergei Gonchar. Sunday he was second on the team with 25:04 minutes of ice time and was in on several scoring chances in an overtime loss to the Sharks.
MARKET MOVERS: Charting player values
Sergei Gonchar, D, Pit – Don't look now, but Gonchar is a top 10 fantasy defenseman over the past month. He returned from a concussion with a four-point night Saturday, his third multi-point effort in four games.
Brad Boyes, C, Bos – Boyes had a career-best three assists in Boston's 6-5 loss to the Lightning Saturday. The rookie center has points in 12 of his past 13 games (5 goals, 13 assists).
Daniel Briere, C, Buf – He tried like heck to come back early, but the Sabres talked Briere (hernia) into waiting until after the break to return to the lineup. Before suffering the injury, the center had 23 points in 24 games.
Pierre Turgeon, C. Col – Ditto for Turgeon, who had hoped to beat the break but will instead return in late February. He was a point-per-game center for Colorado prior to suffering a shoulder injury.
Jon Sim, RW, Fla – Sim hits the break riding a four-game goal scoring streak. He had a goal and an assist at Buffalo Saturday, four nights after torching Washington with three goals and a helper.
Chris Gratton, C, Fla – Sim's center is also finding his stride just in time to shut things down. In his past four games, Gratton has four goals and six assists.
David Vyborny, RW, Cls – He's so hot lately that he managed to score Wednesday on a deflection off his chin. Though he was held scoreless Saturday, the young winger has 13 points in his past nine games.
Christian Ehrhoff, D, SJ – Overall it's been a disappointing season for this second-year blue-liner. But things are getting better, and Sunday Ehrhoff assisted on a goal in his fourth straight game. He has been particularly effective on the power play.
Michal Rozsival, D, NYR – A surprise fantasy contributor lately, Rozsival has six points and a plus-10 rating in eight games since January 28.
Shane Doan, RW, Pho – Though he had an assist Sunday, the Phoenix captain has just two points in five February games. Coach Wayne Gretzky had him skating with the team's fourth line in practice Monday.