Welcome back from the Christmas break! We have a seven-game Thursday night slate on our hands so let’s come back with a bang!
C – Auston Matthews (TOR) – $7,400 vs. ARI
Auston Matthews returns home to his hockey roots tonight as he and the Maple Leafs visit the basement-dwelling Arizona Coyotes. Matthews returned from a six-game absence due to a concussion for the Maple Leafs final game before the break, and he looked excellent. He posted a goal and an assist on four shots on goal in a win over the Rangers. With Matthews fully healthy, we can likely expect to see the same player that scored 40 goals and won the Calder Trophy last season moving forward.
C – William Nylander (TOR) – $5,500 vs. ARI
It’s unfortunate we have to use another center spot in the Matthews/Nylander stack, but we will still roll with the dynamic duo. They regained some serious chemistry in Matthews return as Nylander also picked up a goal and a helper in that contest. He now has two goals and two assists over his last three games with seven shots on goal to boot. A healthy Matthews is an enormous boost to Nylander’s value so let’s lock this duo in tonight against the Coyotes.
W – Patrick Marleau (TOR) – $5,700 vs. ARI
We have a three-man stack here due to Marleau’s spot on the second power play unit alongside Matthews and Nylander. Marleau plays on the Leafs’ second line and has quietly notched 12 goals on 92 shots this season. He sees plenty of ice time as evidenced by his 17 minute per game average, but also skated over 21 minutes in the win over the Rangers. The Leafs rank fourth with 3.19 goals per game on the road so no problem locking in a trio of Maple Leafs tonight.
W – Jonathan Huberdeau (FLA) – $6,500 vs. PHI
There aren’t many players having a quieter point-per-game campaign than Huberdeau. He enters play tonight with 12 goals, 35 points, three power play goals and 96 shots across 36 games on the season. Games in Florida this season have been wide open as the Panthers rank fifth in shots for and last in shots against per game at home this season. They score 3.47 goals per game at home (6th), but give up 3.65 (31st), so some exposure is warranted for this contest.
W – Wayne Simmonds (PHI) – $5,600 vs. FLA
On the other bench is Simmonds who is very cost efficient relative to his opportunity tonight in Florida. As mentioned, the Panthers struggle defensively at home, while the Flyers rank 12th in road offense. Simmonds has 11 goals, five power play goals and 85 shots on the season. He plays in all situations for the Flyers which has him averaging 18:32 of ice time per game, but 20+ minutes consistently as of late. He should get plenty of opportunities tonight on that top line and top power play unit.
W – Ondrej Palat (TB) – $5,000 vs. MON
Palat hasn’t quite enjoyed the same success as linemates Brayden Point and Tyler Johnson, but had still notched 21 points across 35 games this season. The Lightning play host to the Montreal Canadiens tonight, a group that ranks 28th with 3.56 goals against per game this season, so some Lightning exposure isn’t such a bad idea. He has two power play goals and a shorthanded goal this season, so some bonus points could be in the cards tonight for the winger.
D – Aaron Ekblad (FLA) – $5,000 vs. PHI
Ekblad isn’t having a fabulous offensive season, but he doesn’t bring a solid floor with him into tonight’s contest against the Flyers. He has six goals and six assists on the season, but has also taken 101 shots on goal and blocked 54 shots as well. He logs 24:12 worth of ice time per game on the Panthers’ blueline, which also includes first unit power play duties as well. He is a fine mini-stack with Huberdeau for tonight considering how explosive the Panthers can be on home ice.
D – Shayne Gostisbehere (PHI) – $5,800 vs. FLA
We now have two mini-stacks going for tonight’s contest in Florida. Gostisbehere continues to have an excellent season on the Flyers blueline with seven goals, four power play goals, 27 points and 96 shots across 33 games for the season. The Flyers sport the league’s fifth best road power play at 22.6% while the Panthers rank 23rd with a 79.3% home penalty kill. There should be some chances coming from the Flyers man advantage tonight.
G – Martin Jones (SJ) – $8,100 vs. CGY
After a stretch of six games where he yielded at least four goals, Jones recorded a shutout his last time out against the visiting Kings. With the poor stretch behind him, my bet is he goes on a roll now as the reversion to the mean begins. After all, Jones has posted GAA’s of 2.40 or better in every one of his four previous NHL seasons. The Sharks rank second with 2.44 goals against per game and their penalty kill also checks in at second. He takes on a Flames team that ranks 22nd with just 2.75 goals per game.