As per usual, Saturday night brings us a heavy slate of NHL action. Tonight we have an 11-game slate on our hands with another game having been played in the afternoon between the Blues and Red Wings. Heavy slates are tough, but let’s find ourselves some winning picks to make our Saturday nights even more enjoyable!
C – Auston Matthews (TOR) – $7,800 vs. PIT
By his standards, Matthews hasn’t been too productive as of late, but that could change tonight against a weak Penguins’ defensive club. The Penguins rank 24th with 3.23 goals against per game on the season, and the Maple Leafs just happen to be the league’s top scoring road team as their 3.67 goals per game away from home are tops in the NHL. Matthews has tallied 13 goals and 26 points in 25 games this season to go along with 80 shots on goal. Look for a big game from the sophomore pivot tonight with plenty of elite centermen on the ice this evening.
C – Kevin Hayes (NYR) – $4,300 vs. NJ
While it is David Desharnais who has technically been given the Rangers’ top line center job with Mika Zibanejad sidelined, it’s Hayes who is seeing more ice time with the Rangers’ top pivot out. Hayes also shoots the puck more than Desharnais and plays with Rick Nash who is a very heavy shot on goal guy, so expect some rubber to be sent towards backup Keith Kinkaid tonight from this line. Speaking of Kinkaid, he yielded five goals to the league’s second worst offense in Arizona in his last start, so the Rangers are catching a break tonight as they will avoid Cory Schneider as the Devils are on back-to-back nights. Hayes has just five goals and 11 points on the season, but the Rangers are a high scoring team on home ice (3.33 goals per game) so let’s get some blueshirt exposure beginning here with with Hayes.
W – Rick Nash (NYR) – $6,100 vs. NJ
As mentioned, Nash puts plenty of pucks on goal with 86 shots on goal for the season, but continues to go unrewarded with just seven goals to show for it. His current 8.1% shooting percentage for the season is miles under his career mark of 12.2% and would go down as the lowest mark of his NHL career should the figure not improve. Nash was a threat all night long in last night’s loss in Washington and figures to be right in the middle of the Rangers’ offensive attack tonight on home ice. He and Hayes skate together on the Rangers’ second line as well as their second power play unit so let’s get our hopes up for this duo tonight.
W – Connor Brown (TOR) – $3,400 vs. PIT
Tonight’s value play, Brown has a very nice opportunity ahead of himself as he is set to skate with Matthews on the Maple Leafs’ top line. While it appears he has lost his job on the Leafs’ second power play unit with Matthews, Mike Babcock has juggled his lines quite a bit this season so it wouldn’t be surprising to see him reclaim his role on the man advantage should he and Matthews come out firing tonight. Brown does get plenty of penalty killing time, providing opportunity for a big bonus should he get a shorthanded point tonight, but his real value clearly lies within his spot riding shotgun with Matthews. He has a least one shot on goal in 11 straight games and could very well notch his ninth tally of the season tonight in Pittsburgh.
W – Jamie Benn (DAL) – $7,400 vs. VGK
The Dallas Stars are a much better team on home ice which is exactly where they will be tonight as they take on the Vegas Golden Knights who are playing their second road game in as many nights tonight. Benn has also been reunited with Tyler Seguin on the Stars’ top line after he has failed to score a goal over his last nine contests. However, the drought isn’t for a lack of effort as Benn has ripped 11 shots on goal over his last two games and has still been productive with three assists over his last four. Four of his 11 tallies on the season have come on a lethal Stars power play that has been cold lately, but obviously boasts some of the top talent in the NHL. He provides a nice floor with 90 shots for the season so let’s get Benn in this lineup to kick off our Stars exposure.
W – Alexander Radulov (DAL) – $6,200 vs. VGK
While he won’t skate with Benn tonight at even strength, Radulov will skate with him on the Stars top power play unit. We also get exposure to the Stars’ top two lines with this play as Radulov will skate with Jason Spezza on the Stars’ second line. He has tallied an impressive 25 points in 29 games in his first season as a Star while he also has four power play goals to go along with 69 shots on goal. The Golden Knights rank 24th with 3.60 goals against per game on the road while the Stars check in at 11th with 3.46 goals per game on home ice. Therefore, we will continue with our Stars exposure here with the Russian forward.
D – John Klingberg (DAL) – $5,400 vs. VGK
Klingberg completes our three-man Stars’ stack tonight as he skates with the aforementioned Benn and Radulov on the Stars’ top power play unit. Klingberg has been a steady source of production from the Stars’ blueline as he has chipped in four goals and 20 assists across 29 games to go along with 63 shots on goal and 41 blocks as well. Should the Stars top power play grouping chip in a couple of goals tonight this lineup is certainly in for a nice boost.
D – Kevin Shattenkirk (NYR) – $6,200 vs. NJ
Whether this is considered a stack or not is up for debate but I believe Shattenkirk is in the best spot among defensemen on this slate against Kinkaid and the Devils. He won’t skate with Hayes and Nash on the Rangers’ second power play unit, but he does quarterback the top unit, so it never hurts to get exposure to both units of one of the best power plays in the NHL. Shattenkirk has recorded five goals, two power play goals, 15 assists, 63 shots and 44 blocks across 28 games for the season. I believe the Rangers are in for some offense tonight and you better believe one of the top pure offensive defensemen in the NHL will be in on that action.
G – Mike Smith (CGY) – $7,900 vs. VAN
The Canucks are already one of the worst offenses in the NHL, but without their top forward in Bo Horvat they are simply worse. The Canucks rank 27th with 2.72 goals per game this season, but they recorded just one goal in their first game without Horvat on Thursday against the Flyers and I expect them to struggle offensively moving forward without last year’s leading point getter. After a couple of tough outings, Smith was very good in a tough 2-1 shootout loss against the Maple Leafs on Wednesday and enters play tonight with a solid .918 Sv% for the season. If you enjoy sentimental value, Smith is playing in his 500th NHL game tonight, and his team will certainly be playing hard for him in a game that they should certainly win on home ice.