Here is the Puck Daddy Viewing Guide: Spotlighting five things to watch for during tonight's slate of games. Make sure to stop back here for the nightly Three Stars when the games are finished.
Create-a-Caption: "Matt Beleskey #39 of the Anaheim Ducks slides into the goal during the game against the Minnesota Wild on December 11, 2013."
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Preview: Columbus Blue Jackets at New York Rangers, 7 p.m. ET
Preview: Montreal Canadiens at Philadelphia Flyers, 7 p.m. ET
Preview: Buffalo Sabres at Ottawa Senators, 7 p.m. ET
Preview: Detroit Red Wings at Tampa Bay Lightning, 7:30 p.m. ET
Preview: Toronto Maple Leafs at St. Louis Blues, 8 p.m. ET
Preview: Dallas Stars at Nashville Predators, 8 p.m. ET
Preview: Colorado Avalanche at Winnipeg Jets, 8 p.m. ET
Preview: Carolina Hurricanes at Calgary Flames, 9 p.m. ET
Preview: New York Islanders at Phoenix Coyotes, 9 p.m. ET
Preview: Boston Bruins at Edmonton Oilers, 9:30 p.m. ET
Preview: Minnesota Wild at San Jose Sharks, 9:30 p.m. ET
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Five things to know about tonight's NHL games ...
1. Rick Nash faces Columbus. Hey, did you know Nash used to play for Columbus? Thursday night marks the first the greatest Blue Jacket ever will face his former club.
2. Avs out of the top eight? A loss to the Winnipeg Jets tonight, coupled with a Phoenix Coyotes win versus the Islanders, would leave the Avalanche 9th in the Western Conference at the end of the evening. Amazing how quickly things can change in the NHL. Keep an eye on Patrick Roy tonight if this happens. He was hot after the Avs dropped their last game to the Coyotes. He could be fuming if tonight goes poorly.
3. The Brian Burke era begins. Sure, he's only the "interim" GM, but Brian Burke's running the ship right now in Calgary. His first move was sending Sven Baertschi down to the AHL. Will that little shot across the bow light a fire under the rest of the Flames versus Carolina?
4. Someone is losing three straight. The Red Wings and Lightning have both lost two in a row coming into Thursday night's contest.
5. Sharks face fifth straight loss. Tough to imagine the team that stormed out of the game dropping five in a row, but that's the number the losing skid will hit if the Sharks can't come out ahead of the Minnesota Wild. Working in their favour: they're 11-1-1 against the Wild at home, and that's where this one is.
Bold Prediction: I picked the Islanders to lose their eleventh straight and then they came back and beat the Sharks. My confidence is shot. So I'm going to make a safer bet this time around and predict a shootout in the Senators game. They've ended three straight with one of those.
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Dobber checks in every Thursday to force-feed you the latest fantasy hockey trends. The founder of DobberHockey.com and a columnist for The Hockey News website, he long ago immersed himself into this rollercoaster world and is unable to escape.
After seeing Cam Atkinson break out with a four-point effort Tuesday, I was quick to recommend him as a waiver pickup. Generally, the young, unproven skilled guys will get their points in clusters. And Atkinson is showing a lot of chemistry with Brandon Dubinsky and Matt Calvert. But it wasn't just the potential offense that led to the recommendation. It's also because the downside isn't so bad. At the very worst, Atkinson gets you zero points in the next two weeks and you drop him. But during those two weeks, he'll still provide you shots on goal. What's been under the radar with Atkinson is the fact that he is 22nd (as of Wednesday) in the league in shots on goal with 96.
Here are some other potential SOG help, looking at the leaders over the last three weeks, courtesy of Frozen Pool:
These fellas are wielding a hot stick. Take that into consideration when you go after them in trade talks...
Taylor Hall, Edmonton Oilers (4-5-3-8, plus-2, 2 PIM, 23 SOG) - Hall is seeing 20:47 of ice time per game this season, which is a big bump on his career average of around 18:30. The Oilers are 7-3-1 in the last 11 games and seem to be turning it around, which bodes well for Hall's plus/minus.
Alex Ovechkin, Washington Capitals (48 goals, last 50 games) - With a 26-9 record, Ovechkin would win the Cy Young Award for sure. Here we go again - the old OV8 is back and walking away with the Rocket Richard Trophy. This one is not going to be close. With Steven Stamkos out, I'll be shocked if any player is within 10 goals of Ovechkin come April.
Kevin Shattenkirk, St. Louis Blues (4-2-4-6, minus-1, 0 PIM, 13 SOG, and 3 PPPts) - Careful with this guy when it comes to the second half - last year Shattenkirk had 19 points in 24 games and then 4 points in 24 games. In 2011-12 he had 20 in 35 and then 23 in 46 (just one of the gems you'll find in my upcoming Midseason Fantasy Guide).
Marc-Andre Fleury, Pittsburgh Penguins (4-1-0, 1.40 GAA, 0.951 SV%) - Would hypnosis work? Maybe in April and May fool Fleury into thinking it's November and December? If the Penguins can make it happen, then the Cup is theirs.
Somebody wake these guys up – their fantasy owners are counting on them...
P.K. Subban, Montreal Canadiens (4-0-0-0, minus-3, 2 PIM, 7 SOG) - Team Canada's power-play quarterback (if they know what's good for them) rarely has a week like this. Usually if Subban hits a bit of a slump he's still good for penalty minutes and shots on goal. But in this instance, he's been statistically horrible through and through. That's okay P.K., get it out of your system now before the Olympics.
Ryan Suter, Minnesota Wild (9-0-1-1, minus-2, 6 PIM, 9 SOG) - Between November 30 and December 8 (five games), Suter managed just one shot on goal! Even Clayton Stoner topped that. Suter's getting upwards of 30 minutes of ice time per game, for only one shot to hit the net over the course of five games is baffling.
Matt Moulson, Buffalo Sabres (14-2-3-5, minus-2, 6 PIM, 30 SOG) - Remarkable that 92% of suckers fantasy leagues in Yahoo! still own this guy, while a productive Reilly Smith is owned in 9%. Moulson started off hot after his trade to Buffalo, but has since cooled. As long as he remains in Buffalo, his numbers will be modest at best.
Antti Niemi, San Jose Sharks (0-2-1, 2.94 GAA, 0.881 SV%) - The Sharks play 11 of their next 18 on the road, so Niemi loses a bit of that home-ice advantage. San Jose is 10-1-3 at home, and 9-5-3 away from SAP Center.
Mostly short-term grabs here, but as always some potential steals...
Martin Jones, Los Angeles Kings (3-0-0, 0.33 GAA, 0.988 SV%) – In four starts, Jones has allowed three goals. Not a bad debut. But it lends credence to the "system" backers in the coaching system vs. goaltender talent debate. After all, Jones, Frederik Andersen, Antti Raanta and Marek Mazanec each made surprisingly great debuts on teams with strong defensive systems while Florida's hotshot prospect Jacob Markstrom struggled. But we don't care about that debate - the bottom line for us poolies is that the numbers kick ass.
Antti Raanta (4-0-1, 2.06 GAA, 0.933 SV%) – Speak of the Devil! Raanta really is following in countryman Antti Niemi's footsteps in terms of career progress, as well as numbers that are eerily similar. With Corey Crawford out for three weeks, Raanta is your guy. He's looking at another eight or nine starts, most of which will likely fall in the "W" category.
Ryan Spooner, Boston Bruins (4-0-3-3, plus-2, 2 PIM, 5 SOG) – The 21-year-old is back with Boston as a replacement for the injured Loui Eriksson. The 12:56 of ice time Tuesday was the highest of his four NHL games. There is nothing more that the American League can teach him - just 80 career AHL games and he already has 80 points. It's just a matter of the B's finding room for him.
Damien Brunner, New Jersey Devils (1-2-0-2, even, 2 PIM, 3 SOG) – Just going by the one game since he had just one assist in the 17 games before Tuesday. But Brunner is streaky and if he's found the zone again, then he should be good for a five- or six-game run.
Ryan Garbutt, Dallas Stars (6-3-4-7, plus-3, 6 PIM, 20 SOG) – Garbutt had 15 points in 73 career NHL games and now seven in his last six. So obviously this isn't going to last, but Garbutt also helps in penalty minutes and hits, so even when the points dry up he'll help in other areas.
Ondrej Palat, Tampa Bay Lightning (3-1-3-4, plus-3, 0 PIM, 9 SOG) –Palat is playing on a line with Tyler Johnson and Martin St. Louis and given their combined eight points last game, I'd guess that the line will remain together for the near future. Palat led the AHL playoffs in scoring in the spring with 26 points in 18 games.
Dylan Olsen, Florida Panthers (4-2-3-5, plus-4, 0 PIM, 6 SOG) – Acquired in the deal that sent Kris Versteeg to the Blackhawks, Olsen was NHL-ready but had a tough time cracking a deep Chicago lineup. In Florida, no such problems exist. Hell, he could play wing if he wanted. If you need a defenseman, you could do worse than Olsen. Just be prepared to drop him again in a week or two, because his production is not sustainable given his skill set - he's more of a two-way guy and doesn't have a history at the pro level of producing big numbers.
Also - with Jimmy Howard out anywhere from one to…10? A dozen? Two dozen?... games (vague, I know), Petr Mrazek may be a decent pickup and stash on the bench in the event of a Jonas Gustavsson injury. That has been known to happen, you know.
Also II - Toronto's Jake Gardiner is on a four-game points streak and is owned in just 7% of leagues.
Here's where I'll fire off a few names of players who may be at the very beginning of a nice little run. Just a gut feeling, but worth looking into and/or taking a chance on:
Michael Raffl, Philadelphia; Cody Franson, Toronto; Nick Bjugstad, Florida; Michael Kostka, Chicago (only Chicago could scratch a guy the game after he gets two points); Troy Brouwer, Washington.
Sarah Connors of SB Nation's Stanley Cup of Chowder drops knowledge about the Bruins and how they've been getting it done with depth.
Who among this group isn't one of the ten best players ever?
Oilers wrap up a five game home stand tonight with the Bruins. Here are the projected lines and pairings.
Andrew Ference faces off against his former club
A faceless, nameless story about Sam Gagner
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