By Sasha Yodashkin
Saturday’s eight-game slate offers a solid mix of intriguing top-tier battles and exploitable mismatches. Blackhawks, Blues and Oilers players all make for strong selections against a trio of bottom-10 defenses, but it’s important to pick the right guys from those teams to maximize value.
Jake Allen, STL at ARI ($34): Allen is 4-1-0 with seven goals allowed over his past five starts despite playing four of those contests on the road and battling three teams solidly in playoff position. Notching yet another victory away from the Scottrade Center shouldn’t be difficult against a Coyotes team that has scored only 2.37 goals per game this season. Some might be scared off after seeing Arizona has won three of its past four, but that stat shouldn’t serve as a deterrent considering all three of those victories came against opponents currently sitting outside the playoff picture and the Coyotes had dropped six of their previous eight prior to that uptick in performance.
Goalie to Avoid
Carey Price, MON at OTT ($35): Price simply isn’t worth his, erm, price against this red-hot rival. Senators goalie Craig Anderson might be ready to return from his lower-body injury, and alternative Mike Condon is no slouch himself with a 2.49 GAA and .914 save percentage in 38 appearances. Couple the opposition’s proficiency in net with an improving offense that has managed 2.88 goals per game in a 6-1-1 stretch since being buffed at the trade deadline, and you get a tough matchup for a goalie who has allowed 10 goals in three regular season meetings with the Senators since the start of the 2014-15 campaign.
Connor McDavid, EDM vs. VAN ($35): McDavid is as automatic as it gets against inferior competition. Starting with his last battle against the Canucks on Dec. 31, the talented center has gotten on the scoresheet in all 11 of his matchups with teams sitting below the 75-point mark while averaging 14.1 fantasy points per game over that span. He’ll be motivated to contribute for both personal and team-wide reasons, as the third-place Oilers are separated from both second and fourth in the Pacific Division by just one point while McDavid is tied with Brad Marchand atop the league scoring race. He won’t come cheap, but you’re all but guaranteed to get what you pay for with a possibility of much more.
Center to Avoid
Joe Pavelski, SJ vs. ANH ($27): Power-play production is a big part of Pavelski’s game, as one-third of his 63 points have come in such situations. However, he’s unlikely to find success with the extra man Saturday because the Ducks boast the league’s third-stingiest penalty kill at 85.1 percent. Paying top dollar for a player with a less-than-ideal matchup is tough to justify, even if John Gibson’s (lower body) absence from Anaheim’s net makes Pavelski a tempting play.
David Perron, STL at ARI ($14): Perron’s role on the second line and second power-play unit makes him a steal at just $2 above the minimum against a porous Coyotes defense that has surrendered 3.17 goals per game. He has 24 points in 35 road games compared to just 13 in 35 home contests, eclipsing the away output of every teammate not named Vladimir Tarasenko. The lineup flexibility granted by utilizing this low-risk, high-reward winger is too tempting to pass up in a slate with a variety of appealing upper-tier options.
Craig Smith, NSH at CAR ($12): Smith is due to break through, and it’s best to have him in your lineup when he does instead of waiting for his price to start rising. The embattled winger has seen his ice time rise in consecutive games while skating on the second line, but he is still in the midst of a 21-game goal drought despite attempting a healthy 50 shots in that stretch. Given that the three-time 20-goal scorer’s career shooting percentage is 9.0 percent, it’s fair to expect him to snap this skid soon, and the matchup with a Carolina team that has allowed 2.82 goals per game is as good a time as any to do so.
Wings to Avoid
Zach Parise, MIN vs. NYR ($21): Parise has been held off the scoresheet in five of his past six games and has failed to put more than two shots on net in any of the past eight, yet he remains the most expensive Wild winger. Getting back on track won’t be easy even with Henrik Lundqvist (hip) sidelined for the Rangers, as backup Antti Raanta has a stellar 2.30 GAA and .921 save percentage.
Jordan Eberle, EDM vs. VAN ($19): Eberle’s pair of power-play assists Thursday against Boston will have some owners excited heading into this matchup with an inferior Canucks team, but he’s unlikely to repeat that feat after going his previous 20 games without contributing with the extra man. He’s still toiling on the second power-play unit and second line completely separated from McDavid, and Eberle’s 19 points in the past 40 games after a hot start to the season show that his play has suffered as a result.
Johnny Oduya, CHI at TOR ($12): Oduya has averaged 8.3 fantasy points per contest in four games since rejoining the Blackhawks while already topping 21:20 of ice time on two occasions after reaching that mark only twice in 37 appearances with the Stars. Chicago’s thin blue line offers the minimum-price defenseman more opportunities, and his familiarity with the system has allowed him to jump up into the offense without hesitation. Saturday’s matchup with a Maple Leafs team that has surrendered 2.87 goals per game offers Oduya a golden opportunity to get on the scoresheet once again, while his affordability lets you maximize spending elsewhere.
Alex Pietrangelo, STL at ARI ($19): It’s amazing that Pietrangelo is still as affordable as he is given how easily he has piled up power-play points since Kevin Shattenkirk got shipped to Washington. In 10 games without having to compete with Shattenkirk for top point man duties, Pietrangelo has racked up one goal, seven assists and five power-play points along with 23 shots and an average of 8.8 fantasy points per contest. Expect that success to continue against a 27th-ranked Coyotes penalty kill that has conceded on 22.3 percent of opposing opportunities.
Defensemen to Avoid
Erik Karlsson, OTT vs. MON ($30): Karlsson’s offensive ability from the blue line is outclassed only by Brent Burns, but spending big on him just doesn’t make sense given the multitude of high-skill options facing much softer competition. While Price has had his struggles against the Senators, it’s still not smart to challenge a netminder who has held five of his past six opponents to one or fewer goals.
P.K. Subban, NSH at CAR ($21): The one thing Carolina does well is kill penalties, so it doesn’t make much sense to challenge them with an offensive defenseman who has accrued 15 of his 35 points with the extra man. Subban’s 17 points in the past 17 games make him tempting even against the Hurricanes’ fifth-ranked penalty kill, but that production is unsustainable given that he scored just 18 points in his first 37 games with Nashville and is on pace to see a decline in production for the third consecutive campaign.
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