The league was in a trade frenzy last week, but now that the dust has settled, there are still a few teams looking to improve. Due to salary cap constraints and a general reluctance to pull the trigger, some teams will be forced to look internally for answers.
One of those is Nashville, which called up 2014 first-round pick Kevin Fiala, a dynamite offensive talent, from AHL Milwaukee prior to Thursday's game, and promptly saw him score his first NHL goal 59 seconds into the first period. The Preds were so confident with his ability they slotted him onto the top line immediately, with Ryan Johansen centering and James Neal on the other wing.
And after waiving Nate Guenin, the Avalanche called up defensemen Nikita Zadorov and Chris Bigras from AHL San Antonio, two young players who should add some energy, size and puck-moving ability to the blue line. Zadorov will be paired with Patrick Roy's go-to guy, Francois Beauchemin, which showcases how much potential the Avs see in the big Russian, who had an up-and-down journey in Buffalo before getting traded.
Most of these callups will be priced fairly low, if at all, which make them excellent bargains for DFS. Taking the player who is on a roaring hot streak may seem like a good option, but that strategy will most certainly be replicated across all leagues. Keeping an eye on the big AHL callups could provide a competitive edge.
Ben Bishop, TB vs. PIT ($39) - The Lightning begin a four-game homestand Friday after winning the final three games of their road trip, while the flightless birds have lost three of their last four, with the only win coming against the struggling Habs. Bishop's been the Lightning MVP this season and the best bet for a win Friday night.
Goalie to Avoid
Cam Ward, CAR vs. VAN ($38) - The Hurricanes rattled off three straight wins entering Thursday, and the Canucks are playing the second half of a back-to-back, but two of those wins came against lowly Columbus, and Jacob Markstrom, who is expected to start for Vancouver, is one of the league's better backups. Ward has a career 3.39 goals-against average and .874 save percentage against the Canucks, yet is the second priciest goalie for Friday.
Tyler Seguin, DAL at ANH ($31) - He's an elite offensive player and picking him requires no second thought, even if he's in a bit of a slump with just one goal and a minus-5 rating his last five games. Against Anaheim's struggling defensemen, he should have no problem picking up a point or two.
Center to Avoid:
Nazem Kadri, TOR vs. CHI ($23) - He's one of Toronto's most consistent and improved players, but with just 22 points this season he's not a reliable source of offense. It seems as though Kadri will never reach the lofty status of being an elite offensive No. 1 center, and despite his improved defensive game will have his hands full against one of the league's best teams. Worse still, Mike Babcock may elect to play Kadri head-to-head against Jonathan Toews, who is arguably the best two-way player in the league.
Jamie Benn, DAL at ANH ($28) - If you take Seguin, you almost have to take Benn. The duo rank third and second in league scoring, respectively, and while John Gibson has the talent to potentially shut out the Stars, you have to take that chance.
Ondrej Palat, TB vs. PIT ($18) - For roughly the cost of a second- or third-line player, Palat could be one of the night's top performers. Injuries have really hurt Tampa's rhythm this season, but Jon Cooper's constant line juggling has produced one of the best lines in hockey recently, with Palat, Vladislav Namestnikov and Steven Stamkos combining for nine points in their last two games. Marc-Andre Fleury can be tough to beat, but last year he showed that when the Lightning get on a roll, they're tough to stop.
Wings to Avoid:
Patrick Sharp, DAL at ANH ($28) - He's on a 12-game point streak that dates to December, and in that span he's collected 15 points. The Ducks aren't an elite shutdown team, but there's no guaranetee Sharp will score. For the same price, it's safer to go with the more talented player (Benn) than the hot hand.
Marian Hossa, CHI at TOR ($25) - Hossa also has the hot hand, but not nearly to Sharp's extent. One of the league's most underrated two-way players, and an overlooked reason why Toews has been so successful recently, Hossa has just 21 points this season, four of which came over his last two games. If the preference is to go with the hot hand rather than an established player, then Sharp is a much better option.
Dustin Byfuglien, WPG at MIN ($17) - He hasn't been as dominant as expected, but perhaps playing in front of his home state will motivate him a little. He has just 23 points this season and failed to score a point in his last five games, even though he's played a minimum of 23 minutes per game and fired a total of 14 shots on goal, so you could argue he's due. Byfuglien's performance the next few games may dictate whether he stays with the Jets for the rest of the season or is sold to the highest bidder at the trade deadline.
Jared Spurgeon, MIN vs. WPG ($18) - At just $18, Spurgeon may be one of the best value plays of the night. At just 5-foot-9, Spurgeon has quietly established himself as one of the league's better puck movers and plays an integral role in the Wild's transition game. He's one points shy of 20, which would be the fifth straight season (pro-rated in the lockout year) he's managed to reach that milestone. He's played more than 27 minutes in two of his last four games, so he'll get plenty of opportunities to score.
Defensemen to Avoid
Sami Vatanen, ANH vs. DAL ($15) - He may seem like a bargain at this price with two points in his past five games, but it's important to note that three of his last four points have come on the power play, and the Stars are one of the most disciplined teams in the league, ninth in the league in fewest times shorthanded.
Morgan Rielly, TOR vs. CHI ($18) - The 21-year-old has displayed a lot of poise the last few seasons, labeled as the No. 1 defenseman on a team that is still trying to turn things around. Rielly will draw either Toews or Patrick Kane's line, which is a tough task, and even if Rielly is at his best, he may find the Blackhawks tough to handle because the rest of the team just doesn't stack up to the Blackhawks. Rielly has one assist in his last six games.
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