Nearly there. With the All-Star Game only days away, Saturday's schedule is the league's last plump slate before we all settle in for a mid-winter's rest. Fourteen of the 22 teams in action are playing their final game before heading off to the beach or ski hills or, for the anointed few, Sunrise, Florida for next weekend's showcase. While wins are always coveted amongst this competitive bunch, securing a victory before a stretch of time off feels extra precious. Who wants to spend a fat week or longer of vacay stewing on a loss?
Of the 14 who might, subconsciously or not, compete with a little extra pep in their stride, while facing arguably favorable competition, my favorites include the Colorado Avalanche (vs. St. Louis Blues), Pittsburgh Penguins (vs. San Jose Sharks), Tampa Bay Lightning (vs. Los Angeles Kings), Edmonton Oilers (vs. Chicago Blackhawks), and the Seattle Kraken (vs. Columbus Blue Jackets).
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All times Eastern.
Favorable scoring matchups
St. Louis Blues at Colorado Avalanche
3 p.m., Ball Arena, Watch live on ESPN+
The Blues surrendered five goals in each of their past three contests, all losses, to Arizona, Buffalo, and Chicago respectively. A couple of empty-netters add some bulk to that unimpressive sum, but still. Yeesh. Regardless of who starts between the pipes for St. Louis, be it Jordan Binnington or Thomas Greiss, the home side is in good form to wreak some productive damage. After losing their first in seven games Thursday - against the Ducks, as it were - Colorado's most dynamic are sufficiently fired up to enter this mid-winter break with a resounding win.
Activate all your favorite fantasy Avalanche with the possible exception of Valeri Nichushkin, who's listed day-to-day, and may very well be afforded the extended break. Yes, the Avs are better with Nichushkin (15-3-2) in the lineup. They can also bulldoze the Blues without him.
Mid-tier fantasy forwards
Carter Verhaeghe, Florida Panthers (64.2%): With his club desperately racing to remain in contention in the Atlantic, Verhaeghe is consistently doing his bit in helping the cause. The total of seven goals and three assists in seven contests works out to a walloping 3.5 fantasy points/game in ESPN.com standard leagues. If you're wondering how many other skaters are stomping along at such an impressive pace right now, the answer is "not many".
David Krejci, Boston Bruins (68.4%)
Jason Zucker, Pittsburgh Penguins (24.0%)
Kevin Hayes, Philadelphia Flyers (46.3%)
Brandon Hagel, Tampa Bay Lightning (64.7%)
Oliver Bjorkstrand, Seattle Kraken (60.0%)
Deep league/Daily Fantasy value forwards
Cole Perfetti, Winnipeg Jets (11.7%)
Pavel Zacha, Boston Bruins (7.2%)
Barrett Hayton, Arizona Coyotes (1.4%)
Ridly Greig, Ottawa Senators (0.1%)
Jason Dickinson, Chicago Blackhawks (1.3%)
Shane Pinto, Ottawa Senators (5.8%)
Kirby Dach, Montreal Canadiens (15.8%)
Kyle Palmieri, New York Islanders (1.1%)
Dylan Holloway, Edmonton Oilers (1.0%)
Derek Ryan, Edmonton Oilers (0.1%)
Victor Olofsson, Buffalo Sabres (19.5%)
Kirill Marchenko, Columbus Blue Jackets (2.3%)
Mason McTavish, Anaheim Ducks (9.5%)
Mid-tier fantasy defensemen
David Savard, Montreal Canadiens (31.2%)
Deep league/Daily Fantasy value defensemen
Cam Fowler, Anaheim Ducks (15.9%)
J. J. Moser, Arizona Coyotes (13.6%)
Logan Thompson (projected), Vegas Golden Knights (89.7%): The Islanders don't score, or win, much these days. When they do manage to pull off a victory, it's largely due to an outstanding goaltending effort by Ilya Sorokin, as was the case in Friday's 2-0 triumph over the Red Wings. With both the Isles and Knights playing their second game in as many evenings, and Semyon Varlamov poised to tend net for New York, I appreciate Thompson's chances of escaping with the win ahead of - in Vegas's case - a much-needed break.
Alexandar Georgiev (projected), Colorado Avalanche (92.0%)
Casey DeSmith (projected), Pittsburgh Penguins (4.3%)
Jack Campbell (projected), Edmonton Oilers (64.7%)
Anton Forsberg (projected), Ottawa Senators (8.8%)
Philipp Grubauer (projected), Seattle Kraken (4.9%)