In the first game since the block-buster trade that sent Ryan Johansen to Nashville for the young Seth Jones, the Blue Jackets will look to turn the page on the first half of the season and simply focus on their long-term growth as a hockey franchise. Columbus enters action tonight as the worst team in the NHL and have posted just an 8-14-0 record on the road this season. While the matchup against Carolina is not a terrifying one, it’s hard to get too excited about anyone here. However, Johansens departure does open the door for the under-priced Brandon Dubinsky to jump onto the top line alongside Boone Jenner and Cam Atkinson. Dubinsky has dished out four assists over the last three games and showed plenty of offensive upside down the stretch last season (24 points in 28 games after the All-Star break). John Tortorella pretty much viewed Johansen as a distraction since taking over behind the bench for Columbus, and he’s likely hoping for a case of “addition by subtraction” going forward. While the move to Columbus may not be ideal for Seth Jones, he does inherit a dramatically increased role with his new team. It looks like he’ll immediately join Ryan Murray on the point of the #1 power-play unit and the former 4th overall pick has already picked up two assists in two meetings against Carolina this season. With all that said, no team in the NHL is allowing fewer shots on goal per game than the Carolina Hurricanes, so don’t get carried away.
The Hurricanes have managed just three total goals during their current three game losing streak, but should be excited to open up a home-and-home series against the cellar dwelling Columbus Blue Jackets tonight in Raleigh. While Seth Jonesshould help sure-up the Blue Jackets defensive struggles over the long haul, the Blue Jackets have still allowed a league worst 3.17 goals against per game this season which clearly gives the ‘Canes a much needed fantasy boost tonight. Justin Faulk has cooled off lately, but still leads the Hurricanes with 30 points this season and is an elite option on the blue-line. Eric Staal continues to headline the top forward line alongside Kris Versteeg and Elias Lindholm and will likely draw the most attention, but both Jeff Skinner and Jordan Staal have been coming on offensively lately and are worth a look as well.
Boston Bruins at New Jersey Devils – 07:00 PM EST
The Bruins were edged out by the Metropolitan leading Washington Capitals on Tuesday night and have now dropped five of their last six games. They’ll once again be without the services of the suspended Brad Marchand tonight as they head to Prudential Center to battle the New Jersey Devils. Boston escaped with a 2-1 shootout victory the only other time these two teams met this season and will be eager to start a five game road trip out on the right foot. While New Jersey’s extremely slow pace ruins some of the fantasy appeal from Boston tonight, Patrice Bergeron continues to be an offensive force that shouldn’t be ignored. Bergeron has racked up 37 points in 38 games this season and has only been held of the scoresheet six times over his last 25 games. He’s slated to be joined by Loui Eriksson and David Pastrnak on the very dangerous top forward line. On defense, Torey Krug continues to hold the reigns as the point-man on the #1 power-play unit (that owns a league best 28.4% conversion rate) and has picked up three assists over the last three games. Alternatively, big man Zdeno Chara still routinely logs north of 25 minutes of playing time per game and his size/power combination will be tough for this Devils team to matchup against.
With their leading scorer Michael Cammalleri watching from the press box, the Devils have looked absolutely lifeless in the offensive end the last two games (scoring just one goal in the process). Not only are they the slowest paced team in the NHL(89.2 CP60), but they also average fewer shots on goal per game than any other team in the league as well (24.8 SOG/G). While Brad Marchand absence from the Boston lineup is at least a small bonus, there’s just not much to like from the Devils tonight from a fantasy perspective. With Cammalleri likely out once again, the weight of the scoring falls on both Travis Zajacand Kyle Palmieri on the top forward line. Palmieri has posted 30 points in 41 games this season and looks to be playing his best hockey of the season right now, but he’ll likely be shadowed all over the ice by the pestering defense of Patrice Bergeronand is therefore a marginal cash game play at best tonight. The New Jersey blue-line has been a bit of a wasteland all season for fantasy production and things don’t look much different tonight. Andy Greene and Damon Severson both soak up nearly all of the available power-play minutes, so they’re at least options as GPP fliers.
Buffalo Sabres at Chicago Blackhawks – 08:30 PM EST
The Sabres head to the Mad House on Madison tonight having dropped five straight games and are an easy fade for me tonight in cash games against the suddenly surging defending Stanley Cup champs. With that said, their top line of Evander Kane, Ryan O’Reilly and Sam Reinhart has proven to be very dangerous at times and, with their ownership percentages likely extremely low, they’re intriguing GPP targets. However, with the top line likely drawing the Hossa/Toews treatment from Coach Queneville, Jack Eichel emerges as my favorite play here tonight. Eichel has posted two goals and four assists over the last four games and picked up an assist against Chicago in their only previous meeting. On defense, Rasmus Ristolainencontinues to show why he was drafted 8th overall in 2013 as he’s off to the best start of his young career with 26 points in 40 games.
If you like the chalk, you’ll like the Blackhawks tonight. Patrick Kane is not only leading the scoring race in the NHL at the half-way point, but the Buffalo native will also have the extra motivation of taking on his home-town team tonight. Kane scored a goal against Buffalo in their first meeting this season and has racked up two goals and eight assists during his five game point streak. He’s joined by the under priced combo of Artemi Panarin and Artem Anisimov both at even strength and on the #1 power-play unit and all three are excellent options this evening. Panarin has scored a pair of goals in back-to-back games and looks like the front-runner for the Calder Trophy this season. While that line will draw most of my attention, it’s definitely not wise to ignore Toews, Hossa and Shaw on the the top line and #2 power-play unit. On defense, Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook are rock solid cash game options tonight with GPP upside. Fade Chicago in your cash games at your own risk.
Nashville Predators at Colorado Avalanche – 09:00 PM EST
Despite outshooting the Winnipeg Jets 44-18 on Tuesday, the Predators fell 4-1 and have now lost three of their last four games. In a bold move to add some danger to their forward unit, the Predators used their defensive depth to acquire Ryan Johansen from the Columbus Blue Jackets. Johansen posted a career high 71 points in 82 games last season and was desperate for a fresh start after falling into the doghouse in Columbus. He’ll immediately join up with sniper James Neal and Colin Wilson on the top line which gives all three players a terrific fantasy boost. Solving Semyon Varlamov isn’t always easy, but the Avalanche have been a disaster this season by Corsi standards and I’m expecting some sense of urgency from the Predators offense tonight. Johansen’s arrival shifts the playmaking Mike Ribeiro down to center the very talented Filip Forsberg on the second line and the unheralded Mike Fisher still holds a prominent role as the center of the #2 power-play unit. Both Shea Weber and Roman Josi already log about as many minutes as physically possible and are terrific options tonight, but they should be somewhat uneffected by the Seth Jones trade. Ryan Ellis, on the other hand, should see his workload increase. The former first round pick is often overlooked but he’s quietly racked up 17 points on the young season and picked up a pair of assists against this Colorado team in their only other meeting this season.
Don’t look now, but Patrick Roy finally has this Colorado team playing inspired hockey. After playing a terrific game against the Kings on Monday night (a 4-1 win) they came back from a 3-1 deficit to edge the St. Louis blues in overtime on Wednesday. Colorado has posted a 11-4-2 record since the beginning of December and did defeat this Nashville team in their only previous meeting this season. Roy’s decision to split up his “big three” looks to be paying dividends lately as Colorado has shown a much more balanced scoring attack. Nathan Mackinnon and Matt Duchene are joined by Andreas Martinsen on the top line and are the top options. Both Duchene and Mackinnon have posted 34 points through 41 games this season and log big minutes with the man advantage. With Nashville owning the league’s second worst penalty kill, they both look like very fine options. Gabriel Landeskog and Jarome Iginla also ooze offensive upside and see a healthy dose of power-play time, making them fine options as well. On defense, Erik Johnson will continue to watch from the press-box, which solidifies Tyson Barrie as a top option on the blue-line. Barrie has scored two goals and added four assists over the last four games and has somewhat quietly racked up 28 points through 37 games this season.
Tampa Bay Lightning at Edmonton Oilers – 09:00 PM EST
After emerging as the Eastern Conference Champions last season, expectations entering this season were very high for John Cooper and the Tampa Bay Lightning. However, they’ve sludged their way to an uninspiring 19-17-4 record this season and have plenty of off-ice distractions surrounding both Steven Stamkos and the young Jonathan Drouin. While Tampa Bay failed to take advantage of a fine matchup against the Flames on Tuesday, they’re met with another plus matchup tonight against the Edmonton Oilers. With both Tyler Johnson and Ondrej Palat both back in the mix, the Lightning once again boast two very solid forward lines that deserve your attention. Steven Stamkos headlines the top line alongside Vladislav Namestnikov and Valtteri Filppula, with Palat and Johnson being joined by sniper Nikita Kucherov on the “second” line. Edmonton has allowed an ugly 2.98 GA/G this season and, with Edmonton willing to open things up offensively, all six guys look like fine options this evening. On defense, both Anton Stralman and Victor Hedman have shown plenty of offensive upside at times this season and both see plenty of time on the point of the Tampa power-play. Stralman has been putting up the more inspiring offensive numbers lately and should find plenty of scoring opportunities against the Oilers very mediocre penalty kill.
Edmonton has been violently inconsistent lately, and after dropping seven out of eight games to close out the month of December, they’ve started off 2016 with two straight wins. While they have plenty of shortcomings in the defensive end, there’s no denying this team’s potential for offensive firepower. While Tampa Bay has allowed just 2.38 goals per game this season, this does presume to be a very fast-paced game with the potential for fantasy goodness. Taylor Hall leads the charge for the Oilers and has racked up 41 points in 41 games. He’s slated to skate alongside talented rookie Leon Draisaitl and Teddy Purcell on the top line and with 11 goals and 17 assists in just 20 home games, Hall is a top tier option in all formats. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Jordan Eberle team up to form a very formidable secondary scoring line and look like fine GPPtargets as they’re almost certainly going to be widely overlooked tonight.
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As an athlete in his younger years, Shane Kilgore developed a deep understanding of what it takes for a player to produce at the top of their game. Using that knowledge and an obsessive research habit has led to player picks and insights that many other writers would miss. As a daily fantasy sports player, Shane uses those picks and insights to win! Follow Shane on Twitter @Lineupzone