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Who to Start and Who to Sit in Fantasy Hockey (Week of Jan. 10)

The NHL schedule has been a bit of a mess the past few weeks, and this week will be no different. Jason Chen gets you up to date on how you should tackle this week's fantasy hockey action.
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How long can the league keep postponing games due to attendance restrictions? At some point, the league will have to decide whether finishing the season is more important than gate revenue. They are inextricably linked, but there’s no saying what further restrictions local and federal governments may impose and for how long.

The league expects to make up some games during the Olympics, but those games have yet to be re-scheduled, and already three games on Monday have been postponed. 

As many as six teams so far are slated to play just one game in Week 13, with Ottawa’s schedule needing further re-jigging after their Monday matchup against Edmonton was moved to Saturday to replace the postponed Ottawa-Winnipeg matchup.

That means there are three games each on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, with eight on Tuesday, 11 on Thursday and 13 on Saturday. Fantasy managers planning ahead may want to focus on maximizing their roster on Friday before the weekend, as there is only one game on Sunday now that the Edmonton-Winnipeg game has been postponed.

Week 13

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.

Start

Colorado Avalanche and Boston Bruins

The Avs and B’s rank first and second on the schedule matrix, so their value is obvious. But what’s most appealing about their Week 13 matchups, other than they’re two of four teams to play a league-high four games, is their relative ease.

For the Avs, it includes a back-to-back Monday and Tuesday, but only the road game in Nashville should pose a challenge. Friday and Saturday is also a back-to-back, but it’s a home-and-home series against Arizona and the Avs should take that one easily. The Avs’ opponents' points percentage of 0.436 is the lowest among teams facing at least two teams. Logan O’Connor, who is playing on the second line with Nazem Kadri and André Burakovsky, Alex Newhook, who has a goal and six shots in his past three games and centers the third line, and Bowen Byram, who had a two-point effort against the Jets, should be the immediate targets.

For the B’s, two home dates against the Habs and Flyers should provide a boon for their offense. Craig Smith continues to skate on the top line though he hasn’t done much in that role, and David Pastrnak remains on a separate line for now. However, with Charlie McAvoy out with a lower-body injury, look for Matt Grzelcyk, Mike Reilly and Brandon Carlo to get increased roles, especially Grzelcyk and Reilly on the power play.

Tampa Bay Lightning

The Lightning were supposed to play four games, but after Monday’s game against the Devils was postponed, it gives them an extra day of rest and no longer have to play back-to-back. A road date against the Sabres shouldn’t be difficult, then it’s hosting the Canucks and Stars at home, both of whom have not been very good on the road. The Canucks and Stars definitely have some positive momentum, but the holiday break and a few cases of COVID may have disrupted the Canucks’ rhythm, and the Stars remain Jekyll at home (13-3-1) but Hyde on the road (4-10-1).

Ondřej Palát has been dominant since December, scoring 17 points in 16 games, and should get a chance to keep up his current pace now that Nikita Kucherov is back. The Lightning are now almost close to full strength – Colton Ross is in COVID protocol – but it also now shows a clearer hierarchy. Mathieu Joseph and Taylor Raddysh’s roles have decreased as a result, but it’s still an intriguing fourth line with Boris Katchouk joining them. The Lightning have five players with double-digit goal totals and tend to spread out their scoring, so there might be some hidden upside with their bottom-six forwards.

Anaheim Ducks and Dallas Stars

Both the Ducks and Stars play three games, which is nothing out of the ordinary, but what makes them sneaky-good picks in Week 13 is because the Ducks play Friday against the Wild and the Stars play Wednesday against the Kraken, both days which are light on games. Fantasy managers who are looking to gain an edge on these quiet nights might want to focus on these two teams, who should have plenty of players available on the waiver wire.

One name to keep in mind: Brayden Tracey. The 29th overall pick in 2019, Tracey is one of the Ducks’ top prospects, and projects to be a top-six scoring winger who was leading their AHL club in scoring at the time of his call up with 21 points in 24 games. Tracey played 9:21 in his NHL debut and may find it difficult to get more ice time because the Ducks have plenty of forwards who can score this season, but depending on his linemates, Tracey could be an under-the-radar pick. With games on both Friday and Saturday, it’s also possible that Lukas Dostal, who made 33 saves in a 4-3 win Sunday in his first-ever start, gets another look as well.

Avoid

Vancouver Canucks and Seattle Kraken

True, both teams play four games in Week 13, but they’ll be tough. The Canucks may be without Elias Pettersson, though he is travelling with the team, and Brock Boeser is expected to be available for Tuesday’s game against Florida. It’s a grueling four-game road trip, which includes further stops in Tampa, Carolina and Washington, with the latter being a back-to-back weekend challenge. The Canucks are 3-0-1 on the road under Bruce Boudreau, but only two were regulation-time wins and the opponents they’ve beaten so far on the road haven’t been very tough.

The Kraken face the Avs, Stars and Blues in a span of four days and all of them are on the road. Their road record might be better than their home record, but it’s still not saying much, though Saturday’s home date against the Kings feels like a scheduled loss. Without good goaltending and depending on scoring, the Kraken just don’t offer up a lot of good fantasy options.

Edmonton Oilers

The Oilers are one of six teams to play only one game in Week 13, and while the Sens should be a chance to get back on track, their game will be played on Saturday, when fantasy options are most plentiful. They’re dealing with a COVID situation so they may have to dress a bunch of rookies and minor leaguers to make it work, not to mention their goaltending has been absolutely atrocious. 

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