NHL Breakdown – 1/5/17

The NHL has another 7-game slate tonight with only the Detroit Red Wings playing on a back-to-back. Six out of the seven games tonight have Vegas totals of 5.0, so we can expect a relatively low scoring night. The Blackhawks and Kings are the heaviest favorites on the slate and should command the highest ownership with goals at a premium. I will break down these matchups as well as try to find some lower owned spots for offense.

Buffalo Sabres at Chicago Blackhawks

The Sabres pulled off a huge upset over the New York Rangers on Tuesday night and will look to make it two in a row as large underdogs against the Blackhawks tonight. The Hawks have been slumping lately having lost five of their last six games. This streak has coincided with the loss of two-way forward Marian Hossa, who is expected to make his return to the lineup tonight. The Hawks’ major weakness is their lack of forward depth and losing a key piece like Hossa obviously hurt them a lot. During this stretch, the Hawks have had a hard time scoring goals and have been giving up way too many shots against and scoring chances. Hossa should help shore up both areas and I think we will see the Hawks play a much stronger game tonight. His return also helps take the pressure off the top line and gives them a more balanced attack. The top line of Patrick Kane, Artemi Panarin, and Artem Anisimov are in a great spot against a Sabres team that has the worst penalty kill in the league and has been giving up a lot of shots and goals against lately. The return of two-way center Ryan O’Reilly should help the Sabres defensively, but the Kane line should be able to avoid that matchup on home ice. I love that trio in cash games tonight as they stay together at even strength and on the top PP. Unfortunately, they are likely to be the highest owned stack of the night, so I don’t mind looking elsewhere in tournaments. The ownership is one reason for a fade, but the other is that they are all very expensive and make it difficult to fit in other high quality players in the rest of your lineup. One alternative for GPPs is the Hawks’ second line of Hossa, Jonathan Toews, and call-up Spencer Abbot. That line is likely to face off against the Jack Eichel line at even strength, which is poor defensively. Toews and Hossa are split up on the PP, which is not ideal, so I don’t hate the idea of using them as one-offs, or paired with Duncan Keith or Brent Seabrook who each see PP time. Abbott is a career minor-leaguer but has 21 points in 30 games in the AHL this season and is not a bad punt option at near min price on both sites.

Looking at the goaltenders tonight, there are not a lot of safe options to get the win, so Corey Crawford and Peter Budaj are the only two I am considering. Crawford is the more talented of the two and will see the higher volume of shots against, so he has more upside, but he will also face the more dangerous scoring chances so he carries more risk than Budaj. There is not much of a price difference between the two on either site, so pick your poison.

While I will be playing a lot of Crawford tonight, I think the Sabres are a fine contrarian play in tournaments once again. With the return of O’Reilly and some uncertainty surrounding some of the depth players on the Sabres, the line combos are still undetermined. The Hawks should be improved defensively with the return of Hossa, but they still have the 28th-ranked PK in the league and give up over 30 shots on goal per game. The uncertainty with the lines makes them a difficult team for stacking, but you can’t go wrong targeting any of the usual players on the top PP unit. O’Reilly, Eichel, Rasmus Ristolainen and Kyle Okposo are all in play for the Sabres, but I think Evander Kane and Sam Reinhart are my favorite under the radar plays for tonight as they should avoid most of the Hawks’ defensive focus.

Detroit Red Wings at LA Kings

The Wings played last night and were shutout by the Ducks in Anaheim. The Wings are one of the lowest scoring teams in the league and don’t generate a lot of shots on net. They can put up goals against the weaker teams in the league but usually suffer against the stronger defensive teams. Defense is the Kings’ specialty, as they give up the fewest shots on goal and fewest even strength shot attempts in the league. As I mentioned above, Budaj is the other top cash game option for me tonight as the Kings are the biggest favorite on the board and the Wings have the lowest projected goal total. The downside to Budaj is that he is not expected to face very many shots against, so he does not have a great ceiling if he does not pick up the shutout.

The Wings are starting backup goalie Jared Coreau, who has looked average in limited action this season. The Wings give up the second most goals per game of any team on the slate and will be a tired group after playing last night. The Kings are a low scoring team in general, but this is a good spot for them tonight. Jeff Carter has been on fire lately, even without linemate Tyler Toffoli, and he is my top option for the Kings. Carter has 11 goals in his last 12 games and is among the league leaders in shots on goal. He is a solid cash game option for his consistency and high floor. I don’t mind using him as a one-off in GPPs, or stacking him with winger Tanner Pearson, who also joins him on the top PP.

Nashville Predators at Tampa Bay Lightning

Both teams have had issues with consistency this season which makes this game a great target for GPPs. Both teams have offensive firepower but have struggled defensively at times and it’s hard to tell which versions will show up tonight. The Preds give up a lot of shots against and are not a very good team on the road, having gone 6-9-2 away from home ice this season. They have a middle of the road PK and will get a tough test against the Lightning who have the league’s 2nd-best PP. The Lightning top line of Tyler Johnson, Nikita Kucherov, and Ondrej Palat have been lighting it up since being reunited a few games ago. The Triplets are my top stack in this game as they skate together at even strength and the top PP unit. They have been the team’s main source of offense over this stretch which has not gone unnoticed by the DFS population. They are highly owned on a nightly basis and they keep delivering, which makes them a very difficult trio to fade in tournaments.

The Lightning have not been the same defensive team this season as the one who went to the Conference Finals last year. They have been blown out on several occasions and their PK has struggled over the past two months. The Preds are capable of putting up goals, but scoring is usually spread out among the forwards as they opt for a more balanced approach. This makes them a difficult team to stack, but they do have some solid one-off options. The top line will see a lot of defenseman Victor Hedman, which is a matchup to avoid, so I prefer looking to their second and third lines for offense tonight. James Neal and Victor Arvidsson are my favorite one-offs as they are first and second on the team in goals and shots on goal per game and have the most upside for tournaments. Mike Fisher and Roman Josi are solid options to pair with Neal as they all play together at even strength and on the top PP unit, while Ryan Ellis and Colin Wilson are decent options to pair with Arvidsson and come at a nice discount.