With last night’s unfriendly fantasy slate behind us, the NHL serves up a nice nine game slate this evening. Aside from the St. Louis Blues (@ Buffalo), Vegas is expecting nearly all of these games to be quite competitive. Here are my top picks for tonight.
Semyon Varlamov – Colorado Avalanche – In cash games, it’s probably a wise investment to simply pay up the $9,400 for Brian Elliott (or $7,500 if Jake Allen gets the nod), but the Sabres likely won’t be firing too many shots on net so the upside there is a bit limited. If you’re looking for GPP upside, Varlamov is a great option. He’s posted a very solid 9-4-1 record with a 2.11 GAA and .934 SV% in his 14 home starts this season and is 7-2-2 with a 1.98 GAA and .942 SV% over his last 11 games. While the rivalry with the Detroit Red Wings is nowhere near as heated as it was in the late 90’s, the Avalanche will still be fired up for this one and they’ve had Detroit’s number in their recent meetings.
Others: Jonathan Quick, Ryan Miller, Pekka Rinne
Claude Giroux – Philadelphia Flyers – This is a game I’m going to want some exposure to (on both sides) but my favorite choice here is Mr. Giroux. This is the perfect storm of the player who leads the NHL in power-play points (25) taking on the team owning the League’s worst penalty kill (72.7%). Giroux has thrived at the Wells Fargo Center this season, posting 7 goals and 22 assists in 25 home games. He lit the lamp against the Islanders in their last meeting and torched them for one goal and five assists in their four meetings last season.
Eric Staal – Carolina Hurricanes – The 2014-15 season has not been one of Staal’s most memorable seasons, but he looks to be salvaging this with some strong play down the stretch. In the 16 games since Christmas, Staal has racked up 9 goals and added 4 assists and he now owns 11 goals and 9 assists in 23 road games this season. He scored against the Coyotes in their only other meeting this season and, as the cornerstone of the team’s top power-play unit, should have success again tonight against the Coyotes 27th ranked penalty kill.
Others: Nicklas Backstrom, John Tavares, Tyler Seguin, David Backes, Brock Nelson, Henrik Sedin, Paul Stastny, Anders Lee
Vladimir Tarasenko – St. Louis Blues – Let’s face it; you’re going to need some exposure to the St. Louis Blues tonight. The Sabres are the worst team in the NHL (and probably ever) according to Corsi, are allowing 3.55 goals against per game this season, and have dropped 18 of their last 20 games. Both of St. Louis’ top two lines tonight are in play, but Tarasenko is my favorite choice here. He’s now scored goals in back-to-back games and picked up a pair of assists against the Sabres in St. Louis’ 6-1 beat down of Buffalo back November. Buffalo will have no answer for his combination of size, speed and puck handling ability and he still sports a reasonable asking price ($6,800).
Daniel Sedin – Vancouver Canucks – After losing a tough game in Calgary last night, the Sharks head to Vancouver tonight to take on a Canucks team that has beaten them in both prior meetings this season. Sedin picked up an assist in each of those victories and brings a three game point streak into tonight’s matchup. While his ceiling may not be quite as high as it once was, he’s still consistently producing at nearly a point-per-game pace and sports a very reasonable $5,700 price tag. Sedin leads the Canucks with 17 power-play points this season which could bode well for him if the Shark’s tired legs force them into the penalty box.
Others: Alex Steen, Alex Ovechkin, Jaden Schwartz, T. J. Oshie, Jakub Voracek, Shane Doan, Wayne Simmonds
Oliver Ekman-Larsson – Arizona Coyotes – While the Coyotes may be out of the playoff picture, it certainly hasn’t had anything to do with the play of OEL on their blue-line. The 23 year defenseman has scored goals in back-to-back games and has now picked up three goals and an assists in the five games since his first All-Star appearance. With rumors flying that he’s potentially on the trading block, the Coyotes will look to showcase his skills in order to justify the King’s ransom they’ll be asking in return. The Hurricanes have dropped three straight games to fall back into the cellar of the Metropolitan Division and have been much less effective defensively away from Raleigh this season. Ekman-Larsson is averaging over 25 minutes of ice-time per game this year and his 4:07 per game on the power-play is the 4th highest average in the NHL.
Alex Pietrangelo – St. Louis Blues – With Kevin Shattenkirk out of the lineup the last two games, Coach Hitchcock has leaned heavily on Pietrangelo. In those two contests, Pietrangelo has logged an average of 29:45 of ice-time… and ice-time versus Buffalo is fantasy gold. He has taken Shattenkirk’s place on the point of the teams #1 power-play unit where Shattenkirk had led all defenseman in the NHL with 24 power-play points prior to his injury. With Buffalo owning the 29th ranked penalty kill in the NHL this season (and just generally being terrible), Pietrangelo’s $5,000 asking price looks like a bargain.
Others: Mark Steit, Roman Josi, Keith Yandle, Victor Hedman, Mike Green, Alex Edler, Nick Leddy, Jay Bouwmeester
Best of luck tonight!
JMBWngFn (@JBritt2 on Twitter)