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Who to Start and Who to Sit in Week 9 Fantasy Hockey

Jason Chen sets the stage with your best bets for your fantasy hockey matchups this week, including why you should look into a pair of California-based teams.
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It’s a very busy week as the holiday season ramps up, and the Ducks lead the way with an uncharacteristic five-game schedule. All of their games will be on the road, and to make things worse, travel won’t be that easy; they have back-to-backs on Monday and Tuesday with 400 miles between D.C. and Buffalo, and then another 600 miles between Pittsburgh and St. Louis.

No team plays fewer than three games, and the Bruins, Hurricanes, Panthers, Wild and Lightning join the Ducks as the only teams to not have a single game at home.

Legend:
P% = season points percentage
Opp. P% = opponents’ season points percentage
Diff. = difference between P% and Opp. P%
Green is good. Red is bad. All advanced stats courtesy naturalstatrick.com.

Week 9

START

Anaheim Ducks

It doesn’t happen very often. The Ducks have the rare honor of playing five games in Week 9, which includes back-to-back games on Monday and Tuesday, and then Saturday and Sunday. They’re the ideal team to target for fantasy managers looking for quantity, and there’s sneaky value with Sam Steel (0% rostered in Yahoo leagues), who continues to fill in for Ryan Getzlaf on the top line. Trevor Zegras between Sonny Milano and Rickard Rakell also continues to roll, operating at a 63.33 5v5 CF%, according to naturalstattrick.com, and combining for 11 points in their past two games.

It also means, potentially, at least two starts for Anthony Stolarz, who has been one of the best backups this season. You do wonder, however, if the Ducks can provide enough goal support over such a tough stretch of games. The Caps, Jackets, Pens and the Blues tend to be difficult to score on, though obviously a lot of that will also depend on the quality of their goaltending.

San Jose Sharks and Vegas Golden Knights

They’re lumped into the same group because both play all three of their games at home in Week 9, and despite the negative value in points percentage against their respective opponents, the matchups aren’t nearly as bad as they seem.

San Jose has won five of their past eight, and they’ve done a pretty good job of limiting goals this season, ranked ninth in goals against per game and third on the penalty kill. Calgary is the worrisome matchup, but both Minnesota and Dallas are much better at home than on the road, and while all three teams still have a distinctive advantage over San Jose, fantasy managers shouldn’t really shy away from the matchups as they usually would. Timo Meier remains a must-start in all formats no matter the opponent.

Vegas will also play Minnesota and Dallas, so the same theory applies, but the additional upside will come from playing host to Philadelphia on Friday. The return of William Karlsson basically now gives Vegas a healthy top-six (Jack Eichel notwithstanding), and they have not lost more than two consecutive games since they lost four straight at the beginning of the season. Scoring is not a problem; since Max Pacioretty’s return, the Knights are averaging 4.75 goals per game, second-best in the league behind the Leafs, a big improvement after ranking 12th and averaging 3.15 goals per game in the prior games.

St. Louis Blues

Jordan Binnington was placed in COVID-19 protocol on Dec. 2, which means he’s slated to miss the entire week, leaving goalie duties to Ville Husso and Charlie Lindgren, who may make his season debut during their weekend back-to-back. The Blues are one of two teams to play all four of their games at home in Week 9, and other than a Tuesday matchup against the Panthers, it shouldn’t be a big challenge beating the Wings, Habs and Ducks. This is also a chance for Husso, who has allowed 13 goals in his past four starts (1-2-1) but includes a 48-save performance against the Panthers, a chance to see if he can earn more playing time. If he can, the Blues will be much more comfortable going to Husso when Binnington struggles – which can be quite often – which could further increase Husso’s fantasy value.

Mathieu Joseph, C/RW, Gabriel Fortier, LW, and Taylor Raddysh, RW, Lightning

Joseph returned to the lineup on Sunday and scored two points in a 7-1 drubbing of the Flyers following a three-game absence due to injury, and Fortier’s the newest Lightning farmhand to get a shot with the top-six with Nikita Kucherov and Brayden Point injured. Raddysh has now scored a goal in two straight games, and he’s on an intriguing rookie line with Boris Katchouk and Ross Colton, though his playing time remains limited.

The Lightning have only three games in Week 9, but also have the second-highest difference in points percentage relative to their opponents, thanks to matchups against the Habs and Sens. There could be plenty of value and should be targeted in deep leagues, especially with such a packed week of games.

Justus Annunen, G, Avalanche

Annunen’s only appearance so far this season was coming in relief for Jonas Johansson against Ottawa, and he made 17 saves on 19 shots in an overtime loss. The Avs’ goaltending situation is in flux, but there’s a chance Annunen gets his first start if Darcy Kuemper (day-to-day) and Pavel Francouz (AHL conditioning stint) aren’t ready to go.

There doesn’t seem to be much reason to trust Jonas Johansson, who now has a .879 Sv% and 3.91 GAA this season, and the Avs might flirt with the idea of starting Annunen on Monday against the struggling Flyers just to give him an extra look. The Rangers will likely be without Igor Shesterkin in their matchup on Wednesday, which might give the Avs a better chance of winning than usual even if their goaltending remains weak, and on Friday they’ll host the Red Wings, who will be playing the second half of a back-to-back.

AVOID

Vancouver Canucks

It’s tempting because the Canucks are one of two teams to play four games in Week 9, and cleaning house with a new interim GM and new coach in Bruce Boudreau should bring some positive momentum. Perhaps Boudreau can unlock this team’s offensive potential, but it’ll also likely take him some time to do so, being expected to coach his first time even though the Canucks have yet to make an official announcement as of Sunday evening. The opponents won’t be easy; the Kings, Bruins, Jets and Canes’ combined points percentage of .600 makes them the seventh-toughest set of opponents in Week 9.

There is, however, some sneaky value in Vasily Podkolzin, who has looked pretty good for most of the season and last played on the second line with J.T. Miller and Brock Boeser while getting a few looks on the power play. He scored their lone goal off a net-front tip Saturday against Pittsburgh. 

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