Welcome to one of the strangest stretches of the season, schedule-wise. Since members of American clubs didn’t care to be out of country on Thanksgiving Eve (understandably so) and only a handful of U.S. rinks were available otherwise – where linked teams would have ended up playing too many games this week altogether – everyone just got the night off Tuesday. Then, with the holiday itself clear of all NHL action, we’re now left with a whopping 14-game slate Wednesday, and another 15 contests on Friday. All before matters settle down for eight contests on Saturday, and another five on Sunday.
Plenty of food for fantasy thought here, as the feast-or-famine swing to end the work week means matchups matter more than ever. Who you decide to play/sit could very well make or break your fantasy week as a whole. Then, the weekend’s lighter schedule, following a jam-packed Friday, shines a brighter light on key streamers, in leagues that allow for such moves. Here’s looking at you, quality back-up netminders, where the match-up weighs in your favor.
Otherwise, here are just a few other noteworthy schedule highlights, viewed through our own fantasy lens:
Carolina’s stint at home versus the Oilers, Lightning, and Blue Jackets – with a day off in between – should appeal to fantasy managers with all brands of Hurricane skaters. While all three opposing teams rank in the bottom-six in goals-allowed, Rod Brind’Amour’s charges are 5-1-0 at PNC Arena.
The soaring Jets are coasting through Florida, with stops in Tampa and Sunrise, before landing in Nashville on Sunday. We could see plenty of scoring all around in these three tilts. Play your favorite Winnipeg skaters, while giving the goaltending a moment’s thought. Especially versus the Lightning and Panthers.
The Blackhawks could be in for a productive week, beginning with a visit in Columbus, before hosting the Maple Leafs – off since Sweden – on Friday and Blues on Saturday. Beyond Connor Bedard and Seth Jones, forward Philipp Kurashev – Bedard’s linemate – merits extra thought in deeper leagues. He’s producing at present.
The Sabres – including JJ Peterka, who remains under-rostered in ESPN.com leagues – sport a solid opportunity to climb the standings with games against Washington, a freshly-banged up Penguins club, and the Devils, who have allowed more goals than 29 other teams in the league. That match-up in New Jersey appeals even more if Nico Hischier and Timo Meier remain out of the lineup on Saturday.
A bit ornery after losing to the Predators on Monday, the Avalanche host the Canucks Wednesday before playing a back-to-back Friday/Saturday against the Wild and Flames, respectively. Please make sure Valeri Nichushkin is active for all three. And all your other preferred Colorado skaters.
Lawson Crouse, F, Arizona Coyotes: Leading his club in shots on net and hits these past couple of weeks, the second-line winger also has eight goals to show for his 10 games in November altogether. Including one versus the Blues in St. Louis – who the Coyotes host again Wednesday – back on Nov. 9. This 26-year-old always merits rostering when running hot, especially in fantasy leagues that reward goals at a premium.
Pavel Zacha, F, Boston Bruins As far as I’m concerned, Zacha is this year’s “David Krejci”, in that fantasy managers are too slow to warm to his fantasy charms. Number one of which is his slot on a Bruins’ top line with Brad Marchand and Krejci. His recent run of seven goals and six assists in a dozen games? Also attractive.
Jordan Eberle, F, Seattle Kraken: Since returning from a minor leg injury, the top-line winger has two goals and four assists in four games (plus-four). A nice turnaround for the veteran after a less impressive start to 2023-24.
Lucas Raymond, F, Detroit Red Wings The Gothenburg native had a solid time in his homeland, scoring against both the Senators and Leafs, following up last week’s goal versus the Blue Jackets in Detroit. That makes three straight. Skating on a top line with Alex DeBrincat and Dylan Larkin, the 21-year-old is also seeing a recent uptick in minutes. The Red Wings host the Devils – who, again, rank fourth from the bottom in surrendering goals this season – Wednesday before visiting Boston Friday, and returning home to welcome the Wild on Sunday.
Aaron Ekblad, D, Florida Panthers: Through two healthy games back, Ekblad has nine shots on net, five blocked-shots, and three hits. Just wait until he starts scoring. Toss the Panthers defenseman onto your fantasy roster while you still can – he won’t be widely available for long. Also, know that Aleksander Barkov isn’t expected to miss much time after suffering a minor knee injury last week in Anaheim. Wednesday’s tilt with the Bruins is a no-go, but perhaps not Saturday’s battle with the Jets.
Bryan Rust, F, Pittsburgh Penguins: The latest word out of Pittsburgh is that Rust is out day-to-day with a lower-body injury. Admittedly, not the worst news. But couple that with Rickard Rakell’s projected long-term absence, and Mike Sullivan has two huge holes to fill at right wing on his top two lines. We’ll get a better sense of who falls where when the Penguins host the Rangers on Wednesday.
Pheonix Copley, G, Los Angeles Kings: Off through the meat of the week, the Kings visit the (now) plodding Ducks Friday before hosting the equally beatable Canadiens on Saturday. Look for Copley to make it two victories in a row after he played superbly in Monday’s 4-1 victory over the Coyotes.
Sam Montembeault, G, Montreal Canadiens: I would stream Montembeault if he earns the start against the Sharks in San Jose on Friday. He’s been the better of Montreal’s two netminders of late. But not in Los Angeles the following night, if that’s how the goaltending schedule unfolds in sunny California. No, merci.