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The Week Ahead

Merry Christmas!

by Michael Finewax
Updated On: October 4, 2018, 4:04 pm ET

Merry Christmas!  The NHL celebrates the holiday season by being dark on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday but is back in action with nine games on each of Saturday and Sunday.

 

We are getting close to the halfway mark of the season, so whether you are looking to contend this season or packing it in and waiting for 2016-17, there is still plenty to know for the upcoming week.

 

Editor's Note: This is your chance to try FanDuel risk free! Sign up today and if you lose your first contest, you’ll be refunded the entry fee up to $10. Play now.

 

Don’t forget, for everything NHL, check out Rotoworld's Player News, and follow @Rotoworld_ HK and @mfinewaxhockey on Twitter.

 

 

Now to The Week Ahead.

 

WEEK OF DECEMBER 21-27

 

4 Games – Dallas, St. Louis

 

3 Games – Anaheim, Arizona, Boston, Carolina, Columbus, Edmonton, Minnesota, Montreal, Pittsburgh, Toronto, Winnipeg

 

2 Games - Calgary, Chicago, Colorado, Detroit, Florida, Los Angeles, Nashville, New Jersey, New York Islanders, Ottawa, Philadelphia, Tampa Bay, Vancouver, Washington

 

1 Game – Buffalo, New York Rangers, San Jose

 

Columbus, Montreal, St. Louis and Toronto play all three games on the road.

 

Minnesota plays three games at home.

 

 

INJURIES

 

Mike Smith is out eight-ten weeks after surgery for a core muscle injury. (Click here to see the rest of the injury list.)

 

Note: A tired team is one that has played the day or night before and is going against a team that did not play the previous day or night. The reverse is true for a rested team.

 

ANAHEIM

 

Games this week

@ New York Islanders, @ New York Rangers, vs. Philadelphia

 

Rested Team: None

Tired Team: @ New York Rangers (Tuesday)

 

Notes

The Ducks placed Anton Khudobin on waivers (which he passed through) and sent him to the minors so the goaltending duo the rest of the way will be John Gibson and Frederik Andersen. They likely will split the net although Gibson has had eight straight starts. Jiri Sekac (ankle) returned to the lineup Thursday for the first time since November 1. He started alongside Ryan Kesler and Jakob Silfverberg on the Ducks second line. It’s hard to believe but Ryan Getzlaf has only one goal in 26 games this season. Not that Ryan Kesler is much better as he has only three in 29 contests. Nate Thompson received a three game suspension for his illegal check to the head on Justin Faulk.

 

ARIZONA

 

Games this week

vs. Toronto, vs. Los Angeles, @ Colorado

 

Rested Team: vs. Toronto (Tuesday)

Tired Team: @ Colorado (Sunday)

 

Notes

Mike Smith is out of action for the next eight-ten weeks as he had successful surgery for a core muscle injury. I guess it sure beats unsuccessful surgery. Look for Anders Lindback to get the first shot in goal and if he is unable to get the job done, Louis Domingue will get the next opportunity. Martin Hanzal has five goals and 20 points in 25 games with 24 penalty minutes but as per usual, injuries have hampered his season as he has missed three games in a row with a lower body injury. He was having trouble before that as Hanzal was a minus-seven with only one assist in his previous five games. Arizona dealt Lucas Lessio to Montreal for Christian Thomas.

 

BOSTON

 

Games this week

vs. St. Louis, vs. Buffalo @ Ottawa

Rested Team: vs. St. Louis (Tuesday)

Tired Team: @ Ottawa (Sunday)

 

Notes

David Pastrnak has been out of action since October 31 with a foot injury but could return this week. The Bruins first round pick in 2014 has a lot of upside and should probably be looked at in deeper leagues and definitely is worth taking a chance on if available in keeper pools. Loui Eriksson has continued his fine season as he has 11 goals and 26 points in 30 games. Patrice Bergeron is on a six game scoring streak and has 30 points in 30 games. Tuukka Rask is starting to get hot and is now 12-7-3 with a 2.44 GAA and a .917 save percentage. He got off to a horrible start as every Rask owner can attest to but his play of late makes him a number one goalie play as he is a top-ten netminder.

 

BUFFALO

 

Games this week

@ Boston

 

Rested Team: None

Tired Team: None

 

Notes

The Sabres play only one game this week so bench all your Buffalo players if you can with the exception of Rasmus Ristolainen and Ryan O'Reilly. Chad Johnson has been quite good of late as he has allowed only one goal in his last two games while stopping 76 shots. He is now 9-9-1 with a 2.33 GAA to go with a .918 save percentage. Robin Lehner has not played since opening night when he suffered a high-ankle injury. It was thought he would miss six-ten weeks but it has been 10 weeks already and he is not considered close to returning.  Ristolainen has six points in his last five games.

 

CALGARY

 

Games this week

vs. Winnipeg, vs. Edmonton

 

Rested Team: vs. Winnipeg (Tuesday), vs. Edmonton (Sunday)  

Tired Team: None

 

Notes

The Flames only play twice this week but both games are at home and against tired teams. Dougie Hamilton is starting to heat up after a poor start as he has a goal and four assists in his last six games. Michael Frolik suffered an upper body injury Tuesday and is out indefinitely for now. Dennis Wideman still has not found the back of the net this season in 31 games after scoring 15 last year. The Calgary blueline was thought to be a strength offensively this season but certainly has struggled, led by Mark Giordano who has six goals and 12 points in 31 games after scoring 11 goals and 48 points in 61 games last in 2014-15.

 

CAROLINA

 

Games this week

vs. Washington, vs. New Jersey, @ Chicago

 

Rested Team: vs. Washington (Monday)

Tired Team: @ Chicago (Sunday)

 

Notes

Phil Di Guiseppe is hot has he has two goals and five points in his last four games. Justin Faulk was named the third star of the week as he had three goals and six points in three games. Elias Lindholm started the season with only two goals in his first 20 games but has been hot ever since with two goals and 11 points in his last 11 games. Victor Rask has been great this season with nine goals and 22 points in 31 matches including 10 points on the power play. Jeff Skinner is having a Cy Young season with 14 goals and only three assists. He leads the Hurricanes in goals as he is two ahead of Faulk. I don’t think the Hurricanes can sign Eric Staal as he has only five goals and 18 points. He is likely looking for a big contract and I do not think the Hurricanes will offer him one.

 

CHICAGO

 

Games this week

@ Dallas, vs. Carolina

 

Rested Team: @ Dallas (Tuesday), vs. Carolina (Sunday)

Tired Team: None

 

Notes

The streak is over! Patrick Kane’s 26 game points streak came to an end this past week. Just to show you how impressive the record of Wayne Gretzky’s is, he had a 51 game streak. Kane’s streak was longer than any since the early 1990’s and still he just made is barely past the 50 percent mark of The Great One. Corey Crawford has been on quite a roll of late as he has five of his last six and has given up only four goals on 182 shots. That’s outstanding! Teuvo Teravainen certainly enjoys playing alongside Jonathan Toews as Teravainen had a couple of goals and an assist Thursday. With Marian Hossa, the trio had three goals and six assists in a 4-0 win.

 

COLORADO

 

Games this week

vs. Toronto, vs. Arizona  

 

Rested Team: vs. Arizona (Sunday)

Tired Team: None

 

Notes

Gabriel Landeskog returned to action after a two game absence due to back issues this past week and scored a goal and three points in two games. The talented winger has eight goals and 24 points with 32 penalty minutes in 28 games, making him a must start in all fantasy pools.  The Avalanche sent Mikko Rantanen to the World U20 Championships. The highly regarded youngster was drafted 10th overall in 2015 and has 21 points in 17 AHL games. He will make quite an impact eventually in the NHL and should be taken in keeper pools as soon as he plays in the big leagues. Matt Duchene and Nathan MacKinnon lead the Avs in points with 28.

 

COLUMBUS

 

Games this week

@ Pittsburgh, @ Tampa Bay, @ Florida  

 

Rested Team: None

Tired Team: @ Florida (Sunday)

 

Notes

The Blue Jackets made Ryan Johansen a healthy scratch on Thursday due to mistakes he had been making and he was taking a good approach to it by taking all the blame. Look for him to return with gusto. Johansen has six goals and 22 points in 31 games so he is well behind his pace of last season when he garnered 26 goals and 71 points in a full season. Nick Foligno has picked up a point in each of his last three games and now has 18 points in 34 contests, also well behind his pace of last season with he had 73 points in 79 matches. No wonder the Blue Jackets are floundering at the bottom of the NHL standings.

  

DALLAS

 

Games this week

@ Minnesota, vs. Chicago, @ St. Louis, vs. St. Louis

 

Rested Team: None

Tired Team: vs. Chicago (Tuesday)

 

Notes

The Stars play a pair of back-to-back games this week including two with the Blues so look for Antoine Roussel to pick up some penalty minutes if there are any fisticuffs with St. Louis. Antti Niemi and Kari Lehtonen should share the net this week with each playing twice. The Stars changed up their lines once again as Cody Eakin is now playing alongside Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn while Valeri Nichushkin is with Patrick Sharp and Jason Spezza. Pick up Eakin in the short term. Jason Demers is having a nice season and likely wasn’t drafted. The defenseman has four goals and 12 points with a plus-14 rating that leads the Stars.

 

DETROIT

 

Games this week

vs. New Jersey, @ Nashville

 

Rested Team: None   

Tired Team: None

 

Notes

Pavel Datsyuk has struggled since returning from off-season ankle surgery as he has only eight points in 16 games this season but finally feels that he has caught up to everyone and should start to get points closer to a point-a-game quickly. Darren Helm is playing on his line and thriving with three goals and five points in his last six games. He has three goals and eight points in 27 games so his fantasy value is spiking right now. Mike Green has only one goal in 25 games this season as the Detroit rearguards have only 10 all season in 31 games. They need better production as Niklas Kronwall leads the way in points with 13 and that’s not great for your offensive leader.

 

EDMONTON

 

 Games this week

vs. Winnipeg, @ Vancouver, @ Calgary

 

Rested Team: None

Tired Team: @ Calgary (Sunday)

Notes    

Justin Schultz has never been a favorite of mine as far as fantasy hockey is concerned and this season has been his worst to date as he has only three points in 19 games thus far. His plus/minus has never been good and if he is not scoring on the power play, then his fantasy value is zero. Cam Talbot has really struggled in goal for the Oilers who thought they were solving their netminding needs during the off-season when they dealt for him from the Rangers. Anders Nilsson has definitely taken over the reins as the top goaltender. Jordan Eberle is heating up as he had five goals and eight points in six games before the Oilers were shutout on Thursday. 

 

FLORIDA

 

Games this week

 vs. Ottawa, vs. Columbus

 

Rested Team: vs. Columbus (Sunday)

Tired Team: None

 

Notes

Brandon Pirri is getting hot as he has a five game scoring streak in which he has two goals and seven points. He has only six goals and 15 points in 31 games so he got off to a horrible start. He was drafted in many pools as he managed 22 goals (but only two assists) in 49 games last season, but was likely dropped in most pools with his less than stellar start. Aaron Ekblad is another Panther who is starting to get hot or at least warm, as he has three goals and five points in his last six games with a plus-seven rating which gives the young defenseman good overall stats with seven goals, 15 points and a plus-nine rating in 31 contests.   

 

LOS ANGELES

 

Games this week

vs. San Jose, @ Arizona

 

Rested Team: None

Tired Team: None

 

Notes

Matt Greene was placed on long-term injured reserve after undergoing surgery on his shoulder December 3. He was originally injured on October 13 so don’t expect him back so quickly. Anze Kopitar is starting to pile up points as he is on a four game scoring streak and has two goals and nine points in his last nine games. Jonathan Quick struggled in Ottawa on Monday, giving up five goals but he has been very good otherwise, including a 45 save performance in white washing the Montreal Canadiens Thursday. Quick is 17-8-1 this season with a 2.19 GAA and a .920 save percentage and should be considered a top-five netminder in fantasy hockey.

 

MINNESOTA

 

Games this week

vs. Dallas, vs. Montreal, vs. Pittsburgh  

 

Rested Team: None

Tired Team: None

 

Notes

Devan Dubnyk finally returned to action on Thursday after missing 12 days with a groin injury and backstopped the Wild to a 5-2 win over the Rangers. Mikko Koivu has eight points in his last three games and now has 28 in 30 contests. Jarret Stoll played his first game as a member of the Minnesota Wild Thursday after being claimed on waivers from the Rangers. He has only one goal and three points in 30 games and while he is a good bottom six forward, his fantasy value is negligible. After going six games without a point, Thomas Vanek has a goal and five points in his last two matches. He has 11 goals and 24 points this season with four goals and eight points on the power play.  

 

MONTREAL

           

Games this week

@ Nashville, @ Minnesota, @ Washington

 

Rested Team: None

Tired Team: None

 

Notes

Max Pacioretty has been slumping of late with only one point in his last seven games. Mike Condon is 9-6-3 this season but has dropped his last four contests. His 2.21 GAA is still good but his save percentage of .911 has dropped his fantasy value. Tomas Plekanec has not found the back of the net in 17 consecutive games but at least he has 11 assists in that time frame. Zack Kassian has been sent to the AHL after clearing waivers. He missed the start of the season as he underwent treatment in the Substance Abuse/Behavioral Health program.  Dale Weise continues his surprising 2015-16 season as he has 10 goals and 18 points in 33 games although he did go 11 games without finding the back of the net before scoring Tuesday.

 

 NASHVILLE

 

Games this week

vs. Montreal, vs. Detroit

 

Rested Team: None

Tired Team: None

 

Notes

Pekka Rinne has won only twice in his last 12 starts as the Predators continue to slide down the standings. Colin Wilson returned to action on Thursday after missing four games with a lower body injury. Mike Fisher (lower body) is not yet ready to return but is back skating. Roman Josi leads the Predators with 23 points, three ahead of fellow defenseman Shea Weber as well as forwards Filip Forsberg and James Neal. Only Neal has double digit goals as he has 12. Mike Ribeiro had a great season last year but has only three goals and 16 points in 32 games although he does have 44 penalty minutes.

 

NEW JERSEY

 

Games this week

@ Detroit, @ Carolina

 

Rested Team: None

Tired Team: None

 

Notes

 The Devils activated Tuomo Ruutu from the injured reserve list after missing almost two months with a foot injury. He used to have a lot of fantasy value as he could score a bit while picking up 100-plus penalty minutes but he can do none of that any more. Travis Zajac should be back in the lineup from his upper body injury this week if not sooner. I really liked Adam Larsson before the start of the season but with only a goal and six points in 32 games, he has not exactly been a fantasy gem. His 44 penalty minutes and plus-five rating help but most will look at his point total and think otherwise.

 

NEW YORK ISLANDERS

 

Games this week

vs. Anaheim, vs. Toronto

 

Rested Team: None

Tired Team: None

 

Notes

Brock Nelson has three goals and an assist in his last five games and with 11 goals and 19 points in 33 games he should be in someone’s fantasy lineup. It doesn’t hurt that he is playing alongside Kyle Okposo and John Tavares on the top line. Thomas Greiss has played quite well of late, allowing only three goals in his last three games while stopping 86 shots. He is 9-4-2 with a 2.03 GAA and a .933 save percentage, while fellow netminder Jaroslav Halak is 9-5-2 with a 2.16 GAA and a .920 save percentage. The Islanders are getting great goaltending and that is so important once the playoffs roll around.

 

NEW YORK RANGERS

 

Games this week

vs. Anaheim

 

Rested Team: vs. Anaheim (Tuesday)

Tired Team: None    

 

Notes

The Rangers play only once this week, so if you have better options on your bench, use them. Henrik Lundqvist has continued to struggle of late as he has given up 11 goals in the last three games and has not played a full game in two of the three. Nevertheless, he is still 15-7-3 with a 2.23 GAA and a .930 save percentage. Antti Raanta was removed from Thursday’s game after getting hit in the face by the puck. Derek Stepan (ribs) should be available this week. Dan Girardi is day-to-day with a knee injury. Keith Yandle has 16 assists in 33 games but only one goal. Mats Zuccarello leads the Rangers in points with 27, three ahead of Derick Brassard and four more than Rick Nash.

 

OTTAWA     

 

Games this week

@ Florida, vs. Boston   

 

Rested Team: vs. Boston (Sunday)

Tired Team: None

 

Notes

The Senators put Mika Zibanejad on a line with Mike Hoffman and Bobby Ryan and it sure paid off on Monday with Zibanejad scoring once and assisting on two others. He has five goals and 20 points in 31 games this season. Ryan is having a terrific season with 10 goals and 30 points in 32 games and while he is not on a pace for a 30 goal season, something he did four times in Anaheim but not in the last three seasons, he is on schedule to set a personal best in points as he once had 71 in 2010-11. Jean-Gabriel Pageau has eight goals this season but only three assists. Chris Neil has 81 penalty minutes in 32 games but only a goal and two assists. He is capable of a lot more.

 

PHILADELPHIA

 

Games this week

vs. St, Louis, @ Anaheim

 

Rested Team: None

Tired Team: None

 

Notes

Wayne Simmonds has 23 of his 65 penalty minutes in his last four games. He is a minus-11 but his seven goals and 17 points are attractive to most poolies. Sam Gagner missed 10 games with a concussion. He is now fine but was a healthy scratch on Thursday. Michael Raffl has three points in four games after picking up just four in his first 28. Jakub Voracek doubled his goal count on Tuesday. He now has two. He was drafted high in most drafts as he finished tied for fourth in scoring last season in the NHL but he has been less than good this season (considering where he was drafted) for poolies as he only has 20 points in 32 games. He moved to the left wing and possible that helped his cause on Tuesday as he also chipped in with two assists.

 

PITTSBURGH

 

Games this week

vs. Columbus, @ Minnesota, @ Winnipeg

 

Rested Team: None

Tired Team: @ Winnipeg (Sunday)

 

Notes

Keep an eye on Matt Murray as the goaltender has been sensational over the last season-plus in the AHL. Marc-Andre Fleury went down with a concussion and while Jeff Zatkoff started on Wednesday, the Penguins may hand the reins over to Murray. Murray was 12-4 this season before his recall with a 1.84 GAA and a .938 save percentage. He was even better last season as he was 25-10-3 with a 1.58 GAA and a .941 save percentage. And that was as a rookie. Needless to say, if Fleury is out long-term, do not be surprised if Murray takes over as the top netminder. Trevor Daley made his debut with the Penguins Wednesday after being traded from Chicago. He has only six assists in 30 games this season.

 

ST. LOUIS

 

Games this week

@ Philadelphia, @ Boston, vs. Dallas, @ Dallas

 

Rested Team: None

Tired Team: @ Boston (Tuesday)

 

Notes

The Blues play four times this week, both being back-to-back. Look for Brian Elliott to play once with Jake Allen getting the other three starts. St. Louis also plays the Dallas Stars in a home-and-home series so do not be surprised if David Backes picks up some penalty minutes if there are any altercations. Troy Brouwer scored Tuesday to halt a nine game pointless drought. He has 14 points in 33 games. Vladimir Tarasenko notched his 20th goal of the season on Thursday and now has 33 points in 32 games. He is one of the NHL’s rising stars and should have gone very high in fantasy drafts this season. It didn’t take long for Magnus Paajarvi to lose his spot on the first line as Alexander Steen is now alongside Tarasenko and Paul Stastny.

    

SAN JOSE

 

Games this week

@ Los Angeles

 

Rested Team: None

Tired Team: None

 

Notes

The Sharks only play once this week so bench all your San Jose players if you have better alternatives. Patrick Marleau is having a surprisingly good season (especially in my view) as he has 13 goals and 25 points in 31 games.  Defenseman Brent Burns is one better with 11 goals and 26 points this season. Martin Jones has been very good for the Sharks as they acquired him in the off-season from Boston. He is 14-10-1 this season with a 2.31 GAA and a .918 save percentage and is the undisputed number one goalie with the Sharks at this time. Joe Thornton is struggling this season with only four goals and 18 points in 31 games. It may be over for Thornton as far as being a fantasy force is concerned although lately he has mainly been just an assist guy.

 

TAMPA BAY

 

Games this week

vs. Vancouver, vs. Columbus

 

Rested team: None

Tired Team: None

 

Notes

Ondrej Palat has a lower body injury and could be back this week. He has been hurt a lot this season and has played in only 18 games. He was a fantasy stud last season with 16 goals, 47 assists and a plus-31 rating. The Lightning sent Andrei Vasilevskiy to the minors on Thursday after recalling him on Sunday. He is one of the top young goaltenders in hockey and don’t be too concerned about his lack of NHL action this season. He is going to be a real good one. In the meantime, the Lightning recalled Kristers Gudlevskis to sit on the bench while Ben Bishop starts. Nikita Kucherov has been hot of late with six goals in his last six games. His problem is that linemates from last season Palat and Tyler Johnson have spent too much time in the infirmary with injuries this season.

 

TORONTO

 

Games this week

@ Colorado, @ Arizona, @ New York Islanders  

 

Rested team: None

Tired Team: @ Arizona (Tuesday)

 

Notes

The Maple Leafs are on the road this week although most will return home for the three day Christmas break. You have to feel bad for Jonathan Bernier as he had three straight shutouts in the minors before one mediocre outing and then gave up five in his first start back in the Maple Leafs cage. He could get another start as James Reimer may not be ready to return from a groin injury while Garret Sparks will miss at least three games after injuring his lower body on Thursday. Leo Komarov is fourth in the NHL in hits with 140 and his 11 goals this season certainly adds to his fantasy value if you play the hits category. Nick Spaling will be out for a while with a suspected shoulder injury.

 

VANCOUVER

 

Games this week

@ Tampa Bay, vs. Edmonton

 

Rested Team: None

Tired Team: None  

 

Notes

Ryan Miller is having a tough season as he is 9-11-6 with a 2.70 GAA and a .910 save percentage. At the age of 35 he certainly is trending downward in his fantasy value. Henrik Sedin was injured Thursday with a lower body injury and is now day-to-day. It looks like you should reserve him for now but you are certainly better off waiting until Sunday in weekly transaction pools before making any decisions. Daniel Sedin is having another fine season with 14 goals and 34 points while Derek Dorsett has 104 penalty minutes to go with two goals and six points. Radim Vrbata continues to struggle as he has gone pointless in eight of his last nine games. Fortunately for his fantasy owners, Vrbata did get a hat trick in the only game he managed a point.

 

WASHINGTON

 

Games this week

@ Carolina, vs. Montreal

 

Rested team: None

Tired Team: @ Carolina (Monday)

 

Notes

Whereas Ryan Miller is entering the final stages of his career, Washington’s Braden Holtby has been outstanding. He is 20-4-1 with an amazing 1.83 GAA and a .935 save percentage. Rotoworld’s Brian Rosenbaum has long liked the Caps netminder (four years ago) and he has been great in the last two seasons. Despite missing training camp and the first three games of the season, Nicklas Backstrom trails only Evgeny Kuznetsov in points as he is one in arrears of the Russian. Alex Ovechkin is usually the team leader and while he does lead in goals with 14, he is three behind Ovechkin. Tom Wilson has 75 penalty minutes but will not be suspended for a hit on Curtis Lazar as his match penalty was rescinded by the NHL.

 

WINNIPEG

 

Games this week

@ Edmonton, @ Calgary, vs. Pittsburgh

 

Rested team: vs. Pittsburgh (Sunday)

Tired Team: @ Calgary (Tuesday)

 

Notes

It looks like Connor Hellebuyck is the number one goalie for now in Winnipeg as he will start his fourth straight game on Friday. He is 4-2-0 this season with a 2.16 GAA and a .924 save percentage. Take him for sure if you need a goalie. The Jets sent Adam Lowry to the minors but it should just be over the Christmas break. Blake Wheeler is struggling to score goals as he has only two in his last 14 games. Mark Scheifele has four goals and eight points in his last six games to give him 12 goals and 21 points with a plus-10 rating this season. The 22-year-old should be on someone’s roster in all but the shallowest of pools.

Michael Finewax

Michael Finewax is entering his 15th season as the Senior Hockey Writer and Editor for Rotoworld. You can follow him on Twitter @mfinewaxhockey.