The upcoming schedule will be extremely challenging for some fantasy owners, as the amount of games varies greatly. For whatever reason, the schedule maker has given the New Jersey Devils five games in the seven-day period, but the Dallas Stars and Ottawa Senators have just two games for the week. A majority of the teams face a four-game slate, so fantasy owners will have plenty to choose from. However, if you're in a cumulative league and your roster consists of plenty of Stars and Senators, you might have some issues.
New Jersey Devils
The Devils have a fairly challenging schedule in the upcoming week, but the potential for a few huge offensive performances, too. Home games against Tampa Bay, Buffalo and Winnipeg could make for high-scoring games, making their production in five games almost feel like six.
Must start: Martin Brodeur, David Clarkson, Patrik Elias, Andy Greene, Johan Hedberg (Rotisserie formats), Adam Henrique, Ilya Kovalchuk, Marek Zidlicky
It's another four-game week for the Ducks, but home-and-home contests with Phoenix and a home date with St. Louis might tamp down the offensive numbers somewhat. Still, right wing Corey Perry will have a hard time being stopped, as he has four goals and 11 points during his current six-game point streak. Center Ryan Getzlaf also continues to produce well. And if you're looking for immediate rearguard help, defenseman Francois Beauchemin has six assists over the past three outings.
Must start: Francois Beauchemin, Viktor Fasth, Ryan Getzlaf, Saku Koivu, Corey Perry, Bobby Ryan, Teemu Selanne
There seems to be no stopping the Blackhawks, who extended the NHL record Thursday by making it through regulation without a loss for a 20th straight game to open the regular season. The team's leading scorer, right wing Patrick Kane, has actually had his production slow to a trickle, managing just one goal over his past eight games dating back to Feb. 10. However, he remains an obvious must-start, and can pick up points in bunches when he is on. Those in leagues which reward blocked shots will want to take a look at defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson, who has just one goal and three assists with a plus-8 rating in 20 games, but he had 52 blocked shots to rank in the top eight in the league. Goaltender Corey Crawford (upper body) was shaken up Thursday in St. Louis, but it is not related to the injury he dealt with earlier in the month. Monitor the news on the severity of his injury this weekend. Goaltender Ray Emery was the NHL's third star of the month, so he is more than capable to handle full-time duties if Crawford misses more time.
Must start: Corey Crawford, Ray Emery (daily leagues), Marian Hossa, Patrick Kane, Duncan Keith, Jonathan Toews
Center Matt Duchene (groin) was back from a groin injury Thursday, and he picked up the game-winning goal along with an assist. Start him as you normally would. The Avalanche also matched an offer sheet from the Calgary Flames, ending the lengthy contract impasse with center Ryan O'Reilly. It will take him a while to get back up to speed, but he is a nice addition for fantasy owners. Defenseman Jan Hejda is a nice play in advanced scoring system pools, as he has 46 blocked shots and 44 hits. Defenseman Greg Zanon also leads the Western Conference with 58 hits, while amassing 30 hits in 19 games.
Must start: Matt Duchene, Jamie McGinn, P.A. Parenteau, Paul Stastny
Columbus Blue Jackets
The Blue Jackets do not have many viable fantasy options, but left wing Vinny Prospal is somewhat useful, at least in a four-game week. Goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky might be worth using as a low-end No. 2 netminder, although he has just three wins in 12 starts with a 2.90 goals-against-average (GAA) and .899 save percentage.
Must start: Sergei Bobrovsky, Brandon Dubinsky (PIM leagues), Vinny Prospal, Fedor Tyutin, James Wisniewski
Detroit Red Wings
The Red Wings continue to get nice production up top, but there isn't a lot of depth to this team. One you get past the top-six forwards, the fantasy cupboard is rather bare. Still, those who own left wing Henrik Zetterberg and center Pavel Datsyuk are in for a big week.
Must start: Damien Brunner, Pavel Datsyuk, Jimmy Howard, Niklas Kronwall, Henrik Zetterberg
Left wing Taylor Hall picked up an assist Thursday at Dallas in his first game back from a two-game suspension. The Oilers have all of their young guns going well, and if goaltender Devan Dubnyk can give them adequate play in between the pipes, this team could make a move.
Must start: Devan Dubnyk, Jordan Eberle, Sam Gagner, Taylor Hall, Justin Schultz
Left wing Tomas Fleischmann has picked up his play with a goal, five points and a plus-2 rating over his past three games to reclaim the team's points lead with 15 (5 G, 10 A in 20 games). Center Jonathan Huberdeau was named the NHL's rookie of the month for February, totaling six goals and nine points despite going scoreless over his past four games.
Must start: Tomas Fleischmann, Jonathan Huberdeau
Los Angeles Kings
Center Anze Kopitar has picked up his play with a four-game point streak, posting two goals with eight points. He now has a team-high 17 points (6 G, 11 A, plus-5) in 17 games. Center Jeff Carter also got out to a slow start this season, but he has lit the lamp in five consecutive games, and he has seven markers in the past eight outings.
Must start: Dustin Brown, Jeff Carter, Anze Kopitar, Jonathan Quick, Mike Richards (PIM leagues)
The Habs continue to get tremendous play from goaltender Carey Price, who has 11 wins and a stellar 1.90 GAA in 16 starts. He also has a nice .924 save percentage to date. The offense is so-so, and they added right wing Michael Ryder to give them more punch. It's his second go-around with the team. His presence might make center Alex Galchenyuk viable from a fantasy perspective.
Must start: Raphael Diaz, Andrei Markov, Max Pacioretty, Tomas Plekanec, Carey Price
New York Islanders
The top scoring line of the Islanders make this team dangerous in any game they play, but depth is a big problem on this team. Even then, the plus-minus ratings for left wing Matt Moulson (minus-9) and center John Tavares (minus-8) hold down their values slightly. After the big two plus one, there isn't much to jump up and down about in terms of fantasy.
Must start: Matt Moulson, John Tavares
New York Rangers
He hasn't been tremendously consistent, but left wing Rick Nash is starting to give the Blueshirts what they expected. He has two goals and five assists during a current five-game point streak, and he is now nearly producing at a point-per-game clip. There have been some chinks in the armor for goaltender Henrik Lundqvist lately, but overall he still has eight wins, a 2.32 GAA and .917 save percentage.
Must start: Marian Gaborik, Henrik Lundqvist, Rick Nash, Brad Richards, Marc Staal
Right wing Jakub Voracek got off to a slow start, as did right wing Claude Giroux. But those two are really clicking, and they have made center Brayden Schenn a must-start fantasy option, too. The Flyers have been better offensively since right wing Wayne Simmonds (concussion) returned from injury, too. If you're looking for blocked-shots help, defenseman Nicklas Grossman leads the NHL with 61 blocks and he has a respectable 57 hits in 22 games.
Must start: Ilya Bryzgalov, Danny Briere, Claude Giroux, Brayden Schenn, Luke Schenn (hits leagues), Wayne Simmonds, Jakub Voracek
Left wing Mikkel Boedker has picked up his play lately, posting two goals with five assists over his past six games, ascending to the top of the points list in Phoenix. Defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson continues his strong play, posting 13 points (3 G, 10 A) with a team-high plus-10 rating in 20 games. He has emerged as a must-start in all formats.
Must start: Mikkel Boedker, Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Mike Smith, Keith Yandle
Center Evgeni Malkin (concussion) missed his third straight game Thursday, but he is skating and a return might come sooner rather than later. Still, he should be reserved in all leagues in the new week until a more certain timetable is presented. Defenseman Paul Martin (undisclosed) missed the third period Thursday in Carolina due to an undisclosed injury, so he is a question mark in the new week, too.
Must start: Sidney Crosby, Marc-Andre Fleury, Chris Kunitz, Kris Letang, James Neal
St. Louis Blues
Not many saw this coming, but left wing Alexander Steen actually leads the Blue Notes with 16 points (4 G, 12 A, plus-2) through 18 games. Defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk has slowed to a crawl, but he still has a team-high 14 assists. Defenseman Alex Pietrangelo has tailed off significantly, and is due. However, the Blues face some of the Western Conference's best goaltenders this week in visits to L.A., Phoenix, San Jose and Anaheim.
Must start: Brian Elliott, Jaroslav Halak, T.J. Oshie, Kevin Shattenkirk, Alexander Steen
San Jose Sharks
Center Joe Thornton has pieced together a five-game point streak, his best since opening the season with at least one point in each of his first six. Left wing Patrick Marleau opened the season with five straight multi-point games, but he hasn't had more than one point in a game in 14 consecutive games since the impressive streak ended Jan. 27.
Must start: Logan Couture, Patrick Marleau, Antti Niemi, Joe Pavelski, Joe Thornton
Tampa Bay Lightning
Center Steven Stamkos is ridiculous. Or maybe the reaction of fans is ridiculous. He had Tampa fans and fantasy owners wringing their hands when he had no goals and just two assists with a minus-4 rating in a five-game span from Feb. 5-14. Since, he has seven goals with 13 points in the past seven outings. He is special to say the least.
Must start: Cory Conacher, Vincent Lecavalier, Teddy Purcell, Martin St. Louis, Steven Stamkos
Toronto Maple Leafs
Center Nazem Kadri is looking like the real deal. He had a hat trick at the N.Y. Islanders Thursday, giving him six points (3 G, 3 A, plus-6) over his past three games. He has ascended to the top of the Leafs' leaderboard in points, surpassing the inconsistent right wing Phil Kessel. Goaltender James Reimer (knee) made his first start Thursday since Feb. 11, and he reported feeling fine. He and goaltender Ben Scrivens are likely to be in a 60-40 split, making both No. 2 fantasy options at best.
Must start: Nazem Kadri, Phil Kessel, Dion Phaneuf, James Reimer, James van Riemsdyk
The enigmatic left wing Alex Ovechkin continues to be a question mark, but he is still tied for the team lead with eight goals. He can pick up points in bunches, and despite less-than-stellar play by his standards, and a team-worst minus-7 rating, he remains a must-start for now. Center Mike Ribeiro continues to lead this team in scoring by a mile, totaling six goals with 22 points and a respectable minus-2 rating. He has five markers on the man advantage, and is also helpful to those in PIM leagues with 28 penalty minutes.
Must start: Nicklas Backstrom, Troy Brouwer (PIM leagues), Alex Ovechkin, Mike Ribeiro
Not long ago, many in Winnipeg were concerned about right wing Blake Wheeler's production. Ever since a two-goal game, including the game-winner, in Raleigh Feb. 21, Wheeler has three goals and six points to move near a point-per-game production level. He has re-emerged as a must-start in all formats. Left wing Andrew Ladd is also hot since that game against the Canes, posting four goals with seven points during the past five. Defenseman Ron Hainsey can help owners in advanced scoring system leads with 55 hits.
Must start: Dustin Byfuglien, Tobias Enstrom, Evander Kane, Andrew Ladd, Blake Wheeler