Tuesday’s are typically busy days on the ice in the NHL and tonight is no different. Today’s NHL Game Breakdown will analyze all seven games on the schedule and highlight some of the best and, in some cases, worst fantasy options.
New York Islanders @ Carolina Hurricanes
Vegas Line: No line posted
The Islanders swept a home-and-home series against the Hurricanes to open the 2014-15 season, but these two teams haven’t met since. Both teams were in action last night (and forced to travel for tonight’s game) with Carolina winning 6-3 in Ottawa and the Islanders losing in heartbreaking fashion to their cross-town rival, the New York Rangers.
While I am expecting the Islanders to bounce back tonight and grab two points, it’s worth noting that Carolina has allowed just 2.21 goals against per game at home this year. The Islanders top scoring line of Lee, Tavares and Bailey garners most of the fantasy attention (and are all strong plays tonight), but their second line has been rolling lately as well and is one of the most underrated lines in the NHL. On that line, Frans Nielson centers former first round pick Ryan Strome as well as Mikhail Grabovski. Despite a 25 goal season last year and undeniable offensive talent, Nielson still seems to fly under the fantasy radar in most cases. Travis Hamonic has taken the reigns of point spot on the top power-play unit and hasn’t looked back; picking up eight assists in eight games this month.
Carolina exploded for six goals (three on the power-play) last night, and with New York sporting the league’s worst penalty kill, the best targets from Carolina reside on the team’s power-play. Defenseman Justin Faulk leads this team in both total points as well as power-play points this season and is the safest player to target here. Offensively, Eric Staal has been rather quiet lately but, at $5,400, he’s worthy of GPP consideration. Jeff Skinner’s offensive talents have never been in question and the 22 year old has now scored goals in three straight games after lighting the lamp 33 times last season.Players to Target:
- John Tavares
- Frans Nielson
- Justin Faulk
Columbus Blue Jackets @ Philadelphia Flyers
Vegas Line: PHI (-155), O/U 5.5
These two teams will square off for the second time in five days, with the Blue Jackets escaping with a 4-3 OT victory on Friday night. This is the fifth and final time these teams will see each other this season, with Columbus winning three of the prior four meetings. Nonetheless, our friends in Vegas have marked Philadelphia as -155 ML favorites and I tend to agree.
Coach Richards seemed content on fighting fire-power with fire-power on Friday night as he routinely deployed his top forward line of Hartnell/Johansen/Foligno against the Voracek and Giroux line for Philadelphia. Oddly enough, this resulted in rather quiet offensive outings from both sides. As they sputtered, it was both teams’ second lines that lit up the scoreboard and it has been the Calvert/Dubinsky/Atkinson line responsible for much of Columbus’ offense lately as they’ve combined for 13 points over the last five games. However, considering Philly’s atrocious league worst penalty kill coupled with Foligno and Johansen’s success on the power-play, Columbus’ top forward line looks to be in a very nice spot. One the blue-line, James Wisniewski has tallied a point in four straight games and it’s him and both Jack Johnson and Kevin Connauton that occupy all of the minutes on the point of the Columbus power-play.
Both Voracek and Giroux have been uncharacteristically ineffective lately, but how long can that last? Wayne Simmonds joins that dangerous duo on the teams’ top power-play unit and scored a pair of goals and added an assist against the Blue Jackets in that last meeting and has now picked up at least one point in each of the last four games. Mark Streit is your best bet on defense here, but Michael Del Zotto is gaining momentum and routinely seeing nearly 25 minutes of ice-time. With Columbus allowing nearly three goals per game on the road, I’m expecting to hear the Philadelphia horn several times.Players to Target:
- Claude Giroux
- Nick Foligno
- Wayne Simmonds
Buffalo Sabres @ New Jersey Devils
Vegas Line: NYD (-225), O/U 5
Of all the games to broadcast on National TV tonight, NBC picked this one? What?!? Why?!? New Jersey has lost four straight games and is averaging just 18.6 shots on goal over their last eight games. Meanwhile, Buffalo has won just three of their last 25 games and, after the Evander Kane trade, has figuratively thrown in the towel on their train wreck of a season. The Devils jumped all over the Sabres in their only previous meeting this season, scoring three first period goals and cruising to a 4-1 victory.
Picking on Buffalo has been a recipe for fantasy success all season, so even the offensively anemic New Jersey Devils are in play tonight. Buffalo has allowed a league worst (by a wide margin) 4.08 goals per game on the road this season and are now without the services of their best defender, Tyler Myers (who was part of the Evander Kane deal). Only three teams in the NHL have scored fewer goals than New Jersey in 5 on 5 situations, so the best fantasy options come from the Devils power-play. Michael Cammalleri leads the team with seven power-play goals and is probably their most dangerous offensive weapon. Joining him on the top power-play unit are Scott Gomez, Jaromir Jagr and Steve Bernier. On the blue-line, Marek Zidlicky is the most appealing fantasy option and routinely logs 20+ minutes of ice-time.
Despite picking up a loss in three straight games, Cory Schneider has played very well lately. He’s been terrific all season at the Prudential Center where he owns a 1.87 GAA and .931 SV%. Schneider has also posted an impressive 1.70 GAA and .946 SV% in seven starts since the All-Star break and is a top tier cash game option in this favorable matchup.Players to Target:
- Cory Schneider
- Michael Cammalleri
- Jaromir Jagr
Washington Capitals @ Pittsburgh Penguins
Vegas Line: PIT (-150), O/U 5.5
The red hot Alex Ovechkin invades the CONSOL Energy Center to do battle with Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and the Pittsburgh Penguin. Hey NBC… This is the game you should be broadcasting!
Pittsburgh has been very tough at home, but the Capitals just hung a five spot on the Ducks in Anaheim and simply have too much fire power to ignore. Breaking down their fantasy potential is fairly easy; target Ovechkin and anyone with exposure to him. Coach Johnson will likely do everything he can to get Brandon Sutter’s top notch defense out there against Ovie, but Ovechkin has managed to light the lamp in both prior meetings against Pittsburgh this season and his 16 power-play goals leads the NHL. With the Penguins being the second most penalized team in the NHL, grabbing some exposure to the Washington Power-play seems logical. Joining Ovechkin on the top power-play unit (and the one you want to focus on) is his partner-in-crime Nicklas Backstrom as well as the much more affordable options of Marcus Johansson, Troy Brouwer and Mike Green.
As for Pittsburgh, their top two forward lines (as well as Kris Letang) are pretty much matchup proof and can be rostered with confidence, especially on home ice. With that said, Washington has shutout the Penguins in both prior meetings this season so I’m not going to get too carried away here. Coach Johnson rather unexpectedly moved Evgeni Malkin off of the #1 power-play unit on Sunday against Chicago which may hurt the value of the top power-play just slightly, but also opens the door for the young Derrick Pouliot to get some playing time on the point of that dangerous #1 power-play unit. It would be rather shocking to see the Penguins shut out a third time by the Capitals, so don’t let those prior meetings carry too much weight in your decision making.Players to Target:
- Sidney Crosby
- Alex Ovechkin
- David Perron
Florida Panthers @ Toronto Maple Leafs
Vegas Line: TOR (-115), O/U 5.5
This is another game with little fantasy appeal. Despite dropping three straight games, Florida has played solid defense lately and have outshot their opponents in each game during their current losing streak. The Panthers dominated the Maple Leafs right after Christmas in their only prior meeting this year, winning 6-4 and firing twice as many shots on goal as Toronto (34 vs 17). With that said they’ve dropped five of their last six road games and lack a true identity on offense. However, with Toronto trading away two of their better defensive weapons this week, there are some opportunities here. Nick Bjugstad leads them team with 20 goals and 35 points and Aaron Ekblad continues to be a reliable producer on the blue-line.
For all of their recent offensive struggles, the Toronto Maple Leafs are averaging 3.50 goals per game at home, which oddly enough ranks them 2nd in the NHL behind only the New York Islanders. Also going in their favor is the suspension of Florida defenseman Dmitry Kulikov for his hit on Tyler Seguin. Phil Kessel, James van Riemsdyk and Tyler Bozak have been reunited on the top line, and while Gerard Gallant will do his best to utilize Dave Bolland’s stellar defense to slow them down, they’re still the most offensively gifted line the Maple Leafs have. If you’re looking for a contrarian GPP play, then give their second forward line (Panik, Winnik, Kadri) a look as they’ve looked to have more energy lately. With Cody Franson gone and Dion Phaneuf sidelined, Morgan Reilly is going to be asked to play big minutes and is slated for extended minutes on the point of the team’s #1 power-play unit.Players to Target:
- Aaron Ekblad
- Phil Kessel
- Daniel Winnik
Dallas Stars @ St. Louis Blues
Vegas Line: STL (-190), O/U 5.5
This is the third meeting of the season between these two teams; with each team winning a 4-3 game on their opponent’s home ice. However, considering the Tyler Seguin injury, it’s simply hard to envision Dallas escaping the Gateway City with two points tonight. The Blue’s have rattled off three straight wins and now own an impressive 21-5-2 record at the Scottrade Center.
While it’s impossible for Dallas to replace Tyler Seguin, they do have the luxury of moving the very talented Jason Spezza onto their top scoring line to feed sniper Jamie Benn. The downside to that move is that it leaves the Stars very thin on their other forward lines and also pretty much ensures that group a full dose of the defensively sound David Backes line. Defensively, John Klingberg continues to log huge minutes and has firmly grabbed hold of the point spot on the team’s top power-play unit. With the Blues owning just the league’s 19th ranked penalty kill, he’s a viable GPP target.
On the flip side of this one are the highly favored St. Louis Blues. St. Louis enters this game averaging 3.32 goals per game on home ice and Dallas has really struggled on the road where they’ve allowed 3.30 goals per game. The Blues have three very capable scoring lines, but with the Backes/Steen/Oshie line looking to shut down the Stars only true offensive threats, the S.T.L. line (Schwartz, Tarasenko, Lehtera) is my preferred target. Dallas has simply had no answer for Tarasenko thus far as he’s lit them up for four goals and an assist in the two prior meetings. With Kevin Shattenkirk still M.I.A, Alex Pietrangelo is locked into huge minutes and will man the point of the team’s top power-play unit. Brian Elliot will be between the pipes for the Blues and is a rock solid option as he sports a 10-3-1 record with a 1.94 GAA and .929 SV%.Players to Target:
- Vladimir Tarasenko
- Brian Elliot
- Alex Steen
San Jose Sharks @ Nashville Predators
Vegas Line: NSH (-160), O/U 5
The Sharks defeated the Predators 2-0 at the Shark Tank back in December when these two teams met the only previous time this season, but they’ll be hard-pressed to leave the Music City with two points this time around. After winning five straight games, the Predators looked poised to win their first President’s trophy this season. They sports a very impressive 24-3-1 record at the Bridgestone Arena and will unveil their “new toys” Cody Franson and Mike Santorelli tonight against the Sharks.
The Sharks enter tonight’s game having dropped four of their last five games while allowing 21 goals in the process. Nashville is as defensively sound as any team in the NHL and there’s very little reason to believe the Sharks will get things turned around here. Their top six forwards (as well as Brent Burns) are all talented enough to warrant a look in GPP’s, but there are much better options for cash games, especially considering Pekka Rinne stands in their way.
Considering San Jose’s recent defensive lapses, there are several attractive fantasy options on the Nashville bench. With Franson now in the mix, Nashville has four workhorse defensemen who are all capable of producing offensively as well. Weber and Josi are the more established duo, but Franson and Seth Jones are immensely talented and quickly developing. All four players see plenty of run with the man advantage and are very solid options tonight against the Sharks mediocre penalty kill. Up front, Nashville now has three very capable scoring lines which is great for Peter Laviolette, but sort of a headache for daily fantasy players.Players to Target:
- Roman Josi
- Pekka Rinne
- Filip Forsberg
Best of luck tonight!
JMBWngFn (@JBritt2 on Twitter)