By Benjamin Zweiman
Unfortunately, the Bruins' potent offense and the Panthers' cheap forward options won't be available for Yahoo's main contests because of an early 1 p.m. EST start time Saturday, but not to fret, there are another nine games to consider. The two most appealing have a very different feel to them.
The NHL-leading Stars travel to St. Louis to take on Jake Allen and the Blues, in a game that should feature a lot of goals with players like Tyler Seguin, Jamie Benn and Vladimir Tarasenko squaring off. With high-profile names and a goaltending matchup that offers much to be desired, this game should be heavily played with lineups featuring stacks of players from each side. Target this contest if you're primarily playing cash games.
If you like taking risks and tournaments are for you, the Coyotes-Hurricanes matchup should have a lot of poor defensive play along with a dismal goaltending matchup. You aren't going to find many fantasy studs on either team, but that only gives you more value to work with as players will undoubtedly be cheaper. Victor Rask ($18) and Max Domi ($16) are a couple of cheap options who have a lot of appeal in a game that should eclipse eight goals combined.
Antti Raanta, NYR at CGY ($32) -
The last time the Rangers faced the Flames, Raanta made 22 saves in a 4-1 victory. Henrik Lundqvist is in net Friday against the Oilers, and coach Alain Vigneault has always gone to Raanta in the second game of a back-to-back since the first week of the season. At 4-2-0 with a 1.48 GAA and .945 save percentage, Raanta is one of the most reliable backup goaltenders in the league. Calgary is on a four-game winning streak, but hasn't played a quality defensive team like the Rangers during that stretch.
Goalie to Avoid:
Mike Condon, MON vs. OTT ($26) -
It's been a while since Condon's incredible streak at the beginning of the season, when he won four straight starts when Carey Price was injured. Well, Price is still injured and Condon has come back to earth, allowing three goals in each of his last three starts. The Senators still have one of the best offenses in the league and the way Condon's playing should only help them. The low price only means that a lot of lineups will be on Condon, so he only really makes sense in cash games anyway.
Joe Pavelski, SJ vs. MIN ($23) -
With Devan Dubnyk out, the Wild likely will be forced to start Darcy Kuemper on back-to-back nights, unless Mike Yeo feels comfortable rolling with Niklas Backstrom. This gives the Sharks a very good chance of putting up 3-4 goals, and Pavelski has been the most consistent scorer for San Jose. The Sharks are in danger of dropping their fifth straight game Saturday, so expect a big performance from the captain in a game his team must have.
Center to Avoid:
Nicklas Backstrom, WSH at TB ($24) -
There might not be a center as hot as Backstrom is now. He's on a seven-game point streak where he's scored two goals with six assists. The last time these two teams met, Andrei Vasilevskiy was in net instead of Ben Bishop, who has been pretty stingy lately. Bishop has allowed a goal or less in five of his last seven starts at Amelie Arena. Backstrom will be a trendy pick in most competitions and the chances of him reaching tournament value are pretty slim in this one.
Milan Lucic, LA at BUF ($20) -
The Sabres have been swiss cheese lately, allowing 13 goals in their last three games. Lucic is skating on a line with Tyler Toffoli and Jeff Carter, who is on a seven-game points streak. The gritty winger is also building a streak of his own with three goals and four points in his last three games. Toffoli has been ice cold and will cost you an extra dollar. Marian Gaborik hasn't been much of a threat this season, so Lucic offers the best value of the Kings' top-six fowards against Buffalo.
Valeri Nichushkin, DAL at STL ($16) -
Jake Allen has already been confirmed in net for the Blues on Saturday, and he's allowed eight goals in his last three starts. Now he'll be tasked with stopping the Stars, perhaps the best offensive team in the NHL. Nichushkin is coming off a three-point performance against the Hurricanes and has two goals and seven points in his last five games, which has landed him a spot on the top line with Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin. Nichushkin is definitely going to be highly owned in almost all competitions, so perhaps rolling with him in cash games makes a bit more sense, but don't let that discourage you from how valuable he could be in a tournament lineup.
Wings to Avoid:
Johnny Gaudreau, CGY vs. NYR ($24) -
Gaudreau has been very good on the Flames' recent homestand, scoring five goals and seven points in four games. The teams Calgary faced over that stretch are the Sabres, Bruins, Sharks and Stars, all of which rank in the lower half of the league in goals against. The Rangers rank first in goals against this season and Gaudreau likely will have a tough time matching up against wingers like Chris Kreider and Kevin Hayes. There are plenty of lower-priced wingers who have a much better matchup than Gaudreau does.
Alex Ovechkin, WSH at TB ($34) -
Ovechkin isn't as hot as his center, but it's still Ovechkin, so fading him is always risky. But the Capitals-Lightning game features two of the top goaltenders in the league, not to mention two of the better defensive teams, so scoring may be scarce. It's also tough to justify taking Ovechkin when Benn is $2 cheaper and offers a higher ceiling against Jake Allen and the Blues.
Brent Burns, SJ vs. MIN ($26) -
If you're willing to pay up on defense, Burns is the chalk play of the day. Before posting just a shot in Wednesday's loss to the Oilers, Burns had back-to-back games with seven shots on goal. His playing time has seen an uptick over the last three games, which always bodes well when you're paying so much for a blueliner. As a power-play specialist, Burns has a great matchup against the Wild's 27th-ranked penalty kill.
Oliver Ekman-Larsson, ARI vs. CAR ($16) -
A cheaper option than Brent Burns would be OEL, who has seen his salary take a free fall over the course of the season. The Coyotes really need to start stringing together some wins as they enter Friday on a five-game skid, so Carolina should be the perfect remedy if they don't get it done against the Wild. Despite his down year, Ekman-Larsson is still tied for 14th among defensemen in scoring with 18 points. The Hurricanes have allowed four or more goals in five of their last six games.
Defensemen to Avoid:
Ryan McDonagh, NYR at CGY ($22) -
The Rangers captain seems overpriced for his offensive production, which is just 12 points in 29 games this season entering Friday. If you took away McDonagh's outburst of 24 fantasy points last Sunday against the Senators, he'd have a grand total of 8.0 fantasy points in his last six games. Sure, the Flames will offer him plenty of opportunities to get SOGs, but he only has five of those over the same six-game stretch. Unless McDonagh posts a multi-point game or blocks 5-6 shots, there's no way he's worth it.
John Carlson, WSH at TB ($28) -
By now you're sensing a trend surrounding the Capitals-Lightning game. But this time you aren't really taking much of a risk by fading Carlson from your lineups. Ovechkin and Backstrom have been posting points and are priced relatively high. Carlson is second highest behind Erik Karlsson's $31 among defensemen Saturday, which is absurd considering he hasn't scored a goal since Nov. 21 and only has three assists in his last five games. Paying that much salary for a guy with little offensive upside would be foolish in tournaments.
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