Fantasy hockey weekend watch – Goalies to start or sit this weekend

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With NHL rosters frozen solid, the countdown is on to the league’s three-day holiday break. Which means you only have two days – a matter of hours really – to capitalize as best possible in wrapping up your own pre-Christmas fantasy run. What better present to gift yourself than a bonanza of fantasy points between now and early Sunday? With only four Friday games preceding a bursting 14-contest slate on Saturday, making the right lineup decisions will be crucial, as usual. The only difference this round is you’ll have nearly half a week to stew over the results until returning to competition next Wednesday.

While every team plays at least once in the span of 29-ish hours, four clubs are engaged in back-to-back action. Like the Rangers, who could fill the opposition’s net often when both the Oilers and Sabres come to town. Play your New York skaters. Same goes for the Bruins, who visit Winnipeg Friday before landing in Minnesota on Saturday. It’s worth knowing that Pavel Zacha is back, centering a top line with Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak. Rostered in only 25% of ESPN.com leagues, Zacha registered two assists and three shots while skating more than 21 minutes versus the Wild on Tuesday.

The Red Wings could make a fair bit of fantasy hay versus the Flyers Friday before facing the Devils Saturday. Skating on a line with Alex DeBrincat and Andrew Copp, winger Patrick Kane has a goal and three assists in his past pair of contests. In fact, we could see a fair bit of scoring from both sides in those two affairs. Elsewhere, the Blackhawks visit the Blues after hosting the Canadiens Friday. Following a successful turn against Colorado on Tuesday, Ryan Donato appears to be sticking on Connor Bedard’s wing in place of Philipp Kurashev. I like Donato a whole lot as a fantasy streamer in that spot.


Resources: Goalie depth chart | Daily lines | Projections | Play for free | Player rater | Most added/dropped | Mock draft lobby | How to watch on ESPN+


Stock Up

Nikolaj Ehlers, F, Winnipeg Jets: Skating on a (somewhat) fresh top line with Mark Scheifele and Gabriel Vilardi while Kyle Connor recuperates, Ehlers has four goals and five assists in four games. Yet remains unspoken for in more than half of ESPN.com fantasy leagues. Puzzling. Equally perplexing is how/why Vilardi remains widely available while performing to an even higher fantasy standard.

Matt Duchene, F, Dallas Stars: With five goals and four assists in five games, Duchene is averaging 3.46 fantasy points/contest in ESPN.com standard leagues. Grab him now if able.

Dakota Joshua, F, Vancouver Canucks: Members of that Canucks’ third line are having some fun these days, aren’t they? Including the 27-year-old, who’s erupted for four goals and a pair of assists in five contests (plus-six). If needing a stop gap, consider giving Joshua a fantasy whirl in deeper leagues. At least until he cools off once more.

Max Pacioretty, F, Washington Capitals: Recovering from his latest Achilles injury, Pacioretty could make his Washington debut as early as Dec.27, when the Capitals visit the Rangers. There are poorer dark horses to target – an eventual staple in the Caps’ top-six and on the power play – if your fantasy squad is floundering. When able to play to his potential, the 35-year-old is a legit shot-happy, goal-scoring machine. History tells us he could also last half a period before falling hurt once more. There lies the risk. But the veteran sniper is going to give it another go – that much we know.

Jacob Markstrom, G, Calgary Flames: So much for worrying about how that busted finger might hamper the Flames No. 1; Markstrom has been nearly perfect since returning to action, allowing just the one goal in Monday’s win over Florida, before shutting out the Ducks in Anaheim on Thursday. While I’m slightly less enthusiastic about starting him against the Kings Saturday – even though L.A. hasn’t been as productive of late – the veteran netminder appears to be trending in the right direction. And he’s available in more than half of ESPN.com fantasy leagues.

Stock Down

Leo Carlsson, F, Anaheim Ducks: Judging from the way Carlsson (knee?) had to be helped off the ice after colliding with Flames defender Mackenzie Weegar Thursday, one might expect the rookie to miss significant time. It didn’t look good. We’ll learn more ahead of Saturday’s tilt with Seattle. Center Mason McTavish – just recovered himself from an upper-body injury – appears a candidate to sub in on the Ducks’ top line in the meanwhile.

Connor Brown, F, Edmonton Oilers The Oilers forward played fewer than 10 minutes Tuesday, sat as a healthy scratch Thursday, and hasn’t registered a single point since November.

Ilya Samsonov, G, Toronto Maple Leafs Give the Maple Leafs’ netminder his due – he’s nothing if not self-aware. “It’s tough right now, the last couple of games it’s real tough,” Samsonov said after Thursday’s disastrous outing in Buffalo. “I need to figure out everything in my head. It’s not about technique, it’s not about nothing, just in the head.” Hopefully he figures matters out soon. But please don’t start him until then.

Stuart Skinner, G, Edmonton Oilers Not against the Rangers in New York Friday. No thank you. Not in light of how Skinner has struggled of late.

Streamer Specials

Nicholas Paul, F, Tampa Bay Lightning: Since shifting to a forward line with Nikita Kucherov and Brayden Point, Paul has two goals and four assists to show for two games. So that’s working out well enough. Skating on Tampa’s top power play – not a new thing – is also helpful. The Lightning visit the Capitals on Saturday.

Ryan Donato, F, Chicago Blackhawks: See above.

Joey Daccord, G, Seattle Kraken: If stuck for a workable goaltending option Saturday, consider streaming Daccord in Anaheim. Seattle’s current No. 1 has been superb of late, rocking it out in four of his past five games. This week’s lesser performance in Dallas serving as the one exception.

Alex Nedeljkovic, G, Pittsburgh Penguins: Unless you believe new coach Jacques Martin cures all that ails before Saturday, consider starting Pittsburgh’s better netminder (right now) against an Ottawa squad that can’t seem to hold a lead at present.



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