RotoWire Partners

Thursday Daily Puck: Clear the Hertl with Tomas

Neil Parker

A loyal Leafs, Cubs and Cowboys fan for decades, Neil has contributed to RotoWire since 2014. He previously worked for USA Today Fantasy Sports and founded TheFakeHockey.com.

There have been 117 goals over 17 contests (6.88 per game) in the first two nights following the All-Star break. 12 teams have scored at least five goals, too. It's an exciting brand of hockey.

Unfortunately, the trend will be short lived, and there are plenty of explanations for the uptick in scoring. However, perhaps what's most telling is the significance of the day-to-day impact of coaching and attention to detail has on limiting offense. With an extended break away from the grind, the games had a looser feel and the scoreboard reflected it. After all, there were at least four goals in each of the 17 games, and the winning team scored at least four times in all but three of the contests.

Sure, goaltenders are better than ever, and their equipment is bigger. But don't underestimate the significance that coaching and routine has on the lack of offense in the NHL.

Featured Matchups

Jets (PP: 17, PK: 27) at Stars (PP: 18, PK: 30), 8:30 p.m.
Expected Goalies: Ondrej Pavelec (3-2-0, 3.25, .893), Kari Lehtonen (11-13-6, 2.81, .904)
Key Injuries: Ales Hemsky (hip), Mattias Janmark (knee), Johnny Oduya (lower body), Jamie Oleksiak (hand), Ben Chiarot (illness), Marko Dano (lower body), Tyler Myers (lower body), Mathieu Perreault (thumb), Drew Stafford (lower leg)

The division rivals both enter with two-game winning streaks and currently sit outside the playoffs looking in. Winnipeg has received an injection of offense from Bryan Little (six goals and 10 points through six games), Mark Scheifele (nine goals and 23 points through 20 games) and Nikolaj Ehlers (13 goals and 21 points through 20 games), and Dallas has been led by the usual suspects Tyler Seguin (three goals and eight points through eight games) and Jamie Benn (four goals and seven points through six games). Patrik Laine has also sandwiched his concussion absence with four goals and 11 points during a seven-game point streak. Add the suspect goaltending from both clubs, and there is no reason to overlook this game in Thursday's daily contests.

Maple Leafs (PP: 2, PK: 3) at Blues (PP: 8, PK: 12), 9:00 p.m.
Expected Goalies: Frederik Andersen (21-10-8, 2.61, .919), Jake Allen (17-13-3, 2.86, .895)
Key Injuries: Kyle Brodziak (foot), Morgan Rielly (lower body), Ben Smith (hand)

There are a number of interesting factors at play here. The big news is Ken Hitchcock's firing, and Mike Yeo taking over behind the bench for the Blues. Typically, these coach swaps pay some immediate dividends. However, St. Louis' historically bad team save percentage isn't going to be solved overnight. After all, the Blues own an .887 mark, which is tied for the third-worst save percentage since the 2007-08 campaign. Enter the up-tempo Maple Leafs fresh off allowing six goals to Dallas on Tuesday, and you've got the makings of a fantasy free-for-all. Toronto is generating the second-most and allowing the third-most scoring chances per 60 minutes in the league, and St. Louis has lost four consecutive home games with 36 total goals scored.

Sharks (PP: 23, PK: 13) at Canucks (PP: 28, PK: 22), 10:00 p.m.
Expected Goalies: Martin Jones (26-15-2, 2.22, .917), Ryan Miller (14-12-3, 2.48, .920)
Key Injuries: Dylan DeMelo (wrist), Joonas Donskoi (upper body), Erik Gudbranson (wrist), Jannik Hansen (knee), Ben Hutton (hand)

Just three points out of a playoff spot with games in hand and boasting a 17-6-3 home record, this is an important game for the Canucks. Miller has seven consecutive wins at Rogers Arena and sports an impressive 1.98 GAA and .933 save percentage at home for the season. The Sharks enter on a terrific 23-9-1 tear with wins in seven of their past eight contests and a red-hot Logan Couture (three goals, seven points and 14 shots over his past six outings). Interestingly, the return of Tomas Hertl has bumped Patrick Marleau from the top line, but the veteran winger still has an impressive six goals during his four-game point streak. With The Sharks healthy, they will take a solid run at topping Vancouver and continuing their rise up the Western Conference standings.

Other Matchups

Canadiens (PP: 3, PK: 23) at Flyers (PP: 9, PK: 19), 7:00 p.m.
Expected Goalies: Carey Price (23-10-5, 2.34, .922), Michal Neuvirth (7-4-0, 3.17, .885)
Key Injuries: Brendan Gallagher (hand), Jeff Petry (illness), Michael Del Zotto (lower body), Brayden Schenn (illness)

Currently holding onto the final wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference, the Flyers will look to continue their strong play at home -- 15-7-3 -- against Montreal on Thursday. The Habs have a stranglehold on the Atlantic Division and have been fuelled by captain Max Pacioretty's offensive outburst over the past two months (19 goals and 27 points over his past 27 games). The Habs will also receive a boost with Alex Galchenyuk (knee) returning to the lineup, and Montreal definitely has the edge in goal. Phildealphia owns a third-worst .895 team save percentage this season, after all.

Rangers (PP: 14, PK: 15) at Sabres (PP: 5, PK: 29), 7:30 p.m.
Expected Goalies: Henrik Lundqvist (21-13-1, 2.78, .905), Robin Lehner (12-13-5, 2.64, .918)
Key Injuries: Josh Gorges (abdomen), Johan Larsson (wrist), Jake McCabe (shoulder), Kevin Hayes (lower body)

Following a strong four-game stretch (three wins with a .945 save percentage and 1.50 GAA), Lundqvist was run from the crease by Columbus on Tuesday after allowing three goals on 16 shots. Buffalo has won four consecutive home games and averaged a healthy 3.23 goals per game in January. Don't sleep on Evander Kane, the 25-year-old winger has an impressive 13 goals, 19 points, 92 shots, 43 PIM and 40 hits through his past 24 games. 25-year-old, power-forward Chris Kreider is also providing excellent numbers for the Rangers with 11 goals, 15 points, 52 shots, 15 PIM and 28 hits through his past 17 outings.

Senators (PP: 22, PK: 10) at Lightning (PP: 6, PK: 21), 7:30 p.m.
Expected Goalies: Mike Condon (14-8-5, 2.53, .913), Ben Bishop (11-12-3, 2.83, .904)
Key Injuries: Craig Anderson (personal), Ryan Callahan (hip), Steven Stamkos (knee)

Despite losing two straight, Ottawa sports a 6-2-2 record through its past 10 contests and has played a league-low 48 games this season. The Senators are in position to return to the playoffs, whereas the Lightning have an uphill climb into the dance following a disastrous 3-8-2 showing in January. Jonathan Drouin and Nikita Kucherov posted nine points each for the month, but otherwise, it's been a dreadful fantasy output from the Bolts. The Senators have been getting it done with consistent scoring throughout the lineup, as forwards Kyle Turris, Mark Stone, Mike Hoffman, Bobby Ryan, Zack Smith, Ryan Dzingel and Derick Brassard all had at least seven points in January. Erik Karlsson also has a goal and eight assists through his past nine games.

Oilers (PP: 10, PK: 14) at Predators (PP: 16, PK: 11), 8:00 p.m.
Expected Goalies: Cam Talbot (26-13-7, 2.39, .920), Pekka Rinne (19-13-6, 2.40, .920)
Key Injuries: Andrew Ference (hip), Darnell Nurse (ankle), Tyler Pitlick (knee), Roman Josi (upper body)

Edmonton enters the bout with an active 7-1-1 stretch, and Talbot has allowed two goals or fewer in seven of the nine games. He's emerged as a go-to No. 1 goalie in all seasonal settings and offers sneaky upside in daily contests. Edmonton still allows the fourth-most high-danger scoring chances per 60 minutes (11.85), which only strengthens how well Talbot has played this year. Interestingly, Nashville has allowed the fewest high-danger scoring chances per 60 minutes (8.58), so how they handle the dominant one-two punch of Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl might decide the game. McDavid and Draisaitl have combined for an impressive 3.31 goals per 60 minutes at five-on-five and 34 power-play points this year.

Blackhawks (PP: 20, PK: 28) at Coyotes (PP: 25, PK: 26), 9:00 p.m.
Expected Goalies: Corey Crawford (18-12-3, 2.55, .918), Mike Smith (11-14-5, 2.86, .917)
Key Injuries: Max Domi (hand), Brad Richardson (leg)

While still allowing the most high-danger scoring chances per 60 minutes (12.99), Arizona surrendered just 2.83 goals per game in January, which was 12th fewest in the league. The Blackhawks enter the game with three consecutive losses and have been rather mediocre over the past two months with a 15-11-2 record dating back to the beginning of December. During the 28-game stretch, the Hawks have generated the sixth-fewest high-danger scoring chances per 60 minutes (9.08), too. Still, this checks out as a prime bounce-back spot against the inferior Coyotes.

Recommended Pickup
Tomas Hertl, F, SAN: Dating back to his rookie campaign, Hertl has combined with Joe Thornton and Joe Palveski for a solid 3.33 goals per 60 minutes at five-on-five. The trio has been reunited, and Hertl scored a goal and registered four shots on net Tuesday against Chicago. Hertl owns excellent offensive upside and is currently lining up in a position to succeed.