It’s a relatively light Saturday before the NHL ramps it up before the Christmas break. The Flames, Wild and Islanders are playing the second half of their back-to-back, while the Penguins and Sabres are finishing off their home-and-home series. The Kings and Panthers will be the only teams playing both days over the weekend, so expect to see a lot of backups in action.
Here’s your fantasy rundown for the weekend.
Senators at Predators (1:30 p.m. ET)
With both Cam Talbot and Anton Forsberg splitting the last four games, it wouldn’t be surprising to see some sort of timeshare until the Sens snap out of their funk. Note Claude Giroux’s five points in his past nine games all came in two contests, but according to moneypuck.com, he’s been a key catalyst for their offense. His line with Tim Stutzle and Brady Tkachuk has the highest expected goals percentage (65.6 percent), while Shane Pinto’s new line with Drake Batherson and Alex DeBrincat has suffered a little bit (47.5 percent).
The Preds have a weird schedule coming up where no road trip will last longer than two games until 2023 and in two instances (Dec. 12 vs. St. Louis and Dec. 21 vs. Chicago) will play a single road game before returning home. Juuso Parssinen has cooled off considerably with a six-game drought after scoring five points in his first four games, but he’s still their top center now while John Hynes keeps tinkering with his combos.
Red Wings at Stars (2 p.m. ET)
This is the last game for the Stars’ five-game homestand, and they’ve been playing well; one loss was in a shootout and another was falling victim to a 44-save shutout against Matt Murray. Meanwhile, this is the fourth and last road game for the Wings’ road trip, having gone 2-1-0 with the lone loss coming with Alex Nedeljkovic in net. Jamie Benn has cooled off but Wings rookie Jonatan Berggren is riding a three-game point streak. Berggren’s a bit of a power-play specialist, but his ice time continues to tick up and now has nine points in 13 games this season. He’s worth a speculative add or as a one-game streaming option.
Panthers at Lightning (4:30 p.m. ET)
This is the marquee matchup of the day and their second meeting of the season after the Lightning were victorious in overtime on Oct. 21. The Panthers have not beaten their in-state rival in Tampa Bay since Oct. 19, 2021, having lost seven of their previous eight meetings overall including the playoffs. Interesting that the Panthers have elected to stick with Sam Bennett on their top line with Matthew Tkachuk, leaving Aleksander Barkov with Sam Reinhart and Eetu Luostarinen on the second line. Note Reinhart is on pace to eclipse 200 shots this season – 239 to be exact – even though his career high is 188.
Since returning to the lineup, Anthony Cirelli has scored three assists in three games with 12 shots on goal and 15 faceoff wins. The Panthers are probably hoping to have Spencer Knight (illness) back in net, since Sergei Bobrovsky’s career numbers against the Lightning just aren’t very good: 9-10-3/.883/3.47. The Lightning should have the edge in this matchup once again.
Sabres at Penguins (7 p.m. ET)
Tage Thompson has been a beast, and there are zero regrets about that big extension he signed. His play has also elevated the production of streaky linemate Jeff Skinner, but don’t forget about Dylan Cozens, too, who is in the midst of a breakout season with 27 points in 27 games and seems to have formed a really fantastic second line with rookies Jack Quinn and JJ Peterka, though they were held off the scoresheet Friday. Cozens is firmly on the radar for keeper leagues, while Quinn and Peterka are less so due to the risk of a sophomore slump and other such pitfalls for younger, less experienced players. Skinner is as streaky as they come and generally unreliable in head-to-head leagues unless he gets hot. He’s also facing a hearing Saturday for cross-checking Jake Guentzel Friday night.
After scoring a hat trick against the Blues, Kasperi Kapanen has followed that up with mediocre results once again. He registered just one shot in 10:43 against the Blue Jackets but at least kept up his physical play with five hits. Against the Sabres, he played just 12:49, including 1:42 on the power play. Tristan Jarry is back on track and has not lost in regulation since Nov. 5, going 7-0-2 with one shutout since. Considering how explosive the Sabres’ offense can be and Casey DeSmith’s so-so play this season, he’s not an advisable streaming option.
Flames at Maple Leafs (7 p.m. ET)
Both Matt Murray and Ilya Samsonov are coming off shutout performances, but based on the rotation, it looks like Murray will get the start. Meanwhile, the Flames’ goaltending situation is surprisingly controversial. Dan Vladar has started five of their past seven games and won four straight, and it’s telling that Darryl Sutter opted to save him for a key Saturday night game and started Jacob Markstrom against the lottery-bound Jackets instead, which ended up being another loss.
This will be Nazem Kadri’s first game against his former team as a Flame, and he’s generally played very well in these revenge games. He’s scored six points in four games against the Leafs in his career, and his scoring is picking up again with five points in four games in December after scoring only six points in 15 games in November.
Kings at Canadiens (7 p.m. ET)
This could be a high-scoring game since both teams have young elite scoring talent and mixed-bag goaltending. The Habs have won two consecutive games in regulation just once this season, though they’ve shown some more resiliency lately with a 4-2 win in Seattle to cap off their four-game road trip after blowing a four-goal first-period lead against the Canucks the night before.
For the Kings, Arthur Kaliyev is playing on the top line with Anze Kopitar but still doesn’t get a lot of playing time. Gabe Vilardi still skates in that spot occasionally, but his scoring has dropped off dramatically with six points in his past 17 games even though he scored 13 points in 11 games in October.
Hurricanes at Islanders (7:30 p.m. ET)
Carolina’s Sebastian Aho (not the Islanders’ Sebastian Aho) is not going to play, and it’s Paul Stastny who was tasked with centering the top line between Martin Necas and Seth Jarvis (read: stream Stastny). The Canes are good, but their depth has been tested at various points this season, partly because Jesperi Kotkaniemi has yet to come close to providing any value to his big extension. The idea is that Kotkaniemi will be worth the $4.82-million price tag down the road, but with a paltry five points in 26 games, and only Necas and Andrei Svechnikov scoring double-digit goals in their current lineup, it’s little wonder they’ve had some trouble scoring.
The Islanders, meanwhile, have a matchup advantage now with Mathew Barzal and Brock Nelson down the middle. It’s the first time since 2017-18 when they had two centers who were producing near a point-per-game pace, and Ilya Sorokin is one of the league’s best.
Wild at Canucks (10 p.m. ET)
The Canucks have not beaten the Wild during the season since Jan. 12, 2020, and they’ve lost six in a row since then, including two in overtime and once in a shootout. The games are close, and it’s probably going to be a high-scoring affair. The Wild are playing the second half of their back-to-back and the Canucks can’t defend, but they have plenty of scoring talent, and Marc-Andre Fleury has allowed three goals in five straight games despite winning three of them.
Avalanche at Blues (3 p.m. ET)
Remember, the Blues were the only team to beat the Avs multiple times on the road last playoffs, and part of the reason was Jordan Binnington’s excellent goaltending. Thomas Greiss might get the nod, and it’s not a bad option for a streaming start because the Avs have such a depleted lineup, but note Greiss’ season numbers (3-4-0/.899/3.69) aren’t particularly good, either.
The sexy pickup for the Avs right now is Alex Newhook, who scored two goals against the Flyers, but even with increased ice time, his production has been rather sparse. J.T. Compher is still the better fantasy option because he’s more reliable, and with C/RW eligibility, he’s fantastic in roto leagues due to the massive amount of faceoff wins he can accumulate. On the road, the Avs will also be unable to dictate the line matchups.
Kings at Blue Jackets (6 p.m. ET)
Elvis Merzlikins replaced Joonas Korpisalo (lower body) to begin the second period of Friday’s 3-1 victory over the Flames after Korpisalo was pulled for precautionary reasons. Look for Merzlikins to get the start, giving him his fourth straight appearance. Korpisalo looked like he was ready to grab a bigger part of the timeshare with Merzlikins’ injury and a string of good performances, but it’s Merzlikins’ net. Patrik Laine has added another scoring element to their attack, and with a back-to-back set for the Kings, it’s likely we will see both Jonathan Quick and Pheonix Copley in action.
Kraken at Panthers (6 p.m. ET)
The Panthers won 5-1 the last time the two teams met, and it might be the same story again. After a surprising winning streak, the Kraken have lost three straight and have been outscored 13-4. Philipp Grubauer’s return seems to have busted the Kraken’s rhythm because their goaltending is once again struggling to stop pucks. The Kraken’s offense is improved, and that might be their only saving grace.
Flyers at Coyotes (7 p.m. ET)
We’ll see if the Coyotes can keep the mojo going after a surprising 4-3 win against the Bruins on Friday. The Flyers battled hard but lost in overtime in Vegas on Friday, giving them 14 losses since Nov. 10. They scratched Tony DeAngelo in that game for the sake of better team defense, but the result was just one goal scored against the Knights. It’s unsure if DeAngelo will draw back into the lineup, but the obvious candidate to come out is Cam York, who played 17:54 in his season debut and didn’t even get a chance to show his wares since the Flyers didn’t get any power plays. The Flyers lack offensive punch, and even when Carter Hart plays well, they just can’t seem to provide enough goal support. The two teams generally play very hard, which means the game will be close, but there’s no doubt both teams are headed toward the lottery and lack quality streaming options among forwards.
Capitals at Jets (7 p.m. ET)
Look for Charlie Lindgren to get the reins again if Darcy Kuemper misses his fourth straight game. The Caps’ long-term bet on Lindgren is paying off right now, and there’s no need to rush Kuemper back. After going three games without a goal, his second-longest such streak this season, Alex Ovechkin has scored three goals in his past two games and now sits just four shy of reaching 800 – a milestone only Gordie Howe and Wayne Gretzky have achieved. Ovechkin has typically shredded the Jets, scoring 50 goals in just 69 games (!) in his career.
On the Jets side, Josh Morrissey is on a four-game assist streak and now has 30 (!) points in 25 games this season, ranking fourth among defensemen in the league. His shooting percentage is currently much higher than his career average (11.9 percent versus 6.0 percent), but part of the big spike in offensive production is his efficiency on the power play. He already has 10 helpers with the man advantage this season, one shy of his career high, and he’s also seven points shy of matching his career high set last season.
Bruins at Golden Knights (8 p.m. ET)
This is a rematch of Monday’s game where the Knights were victorious, 4-3 in a shootout, and the Bruins might be at a disadvantage playing on the road and coming off a loss against the Coyotes. The Knights had a close shave against the Flyers but managed to stave them off in overtime, 2-1. This time, however, expect Linus Ullmark to draw the start while the Knights will likely go with Logan Thompson yet again. This will be the final meeting between the two teams unless they meet each other in the Stanley Cup final.
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