This article is part of our FantasyAces NHL series.
When we look at Tuesday's 10-game slate, the matchup between the top team in the Western Conference standings and the defending Stanley Cup champions stands out above the rest. The Stars have been fortifying their roster for the last few seasons and have looked like a team without a weakness en route to a 25-7-2 record. Meanwhile, it's not like the Blackhawks have fallen to pieces. At 20-11-4, they remain formidable and are still the league's measuring stick.
In a second compelling matchup, the Wild host the Canadiens in a battle of top teams headed in opposite directions. The Habs are 2-8 in their last 10 games and have come back to the pack in the East, finally feeling the impact of a couple of key injuries. They face a tough task in Minnesota against the Wild, who are 6-2-2 in their last 10 games and boast one of the league's best home-ice records.
Here are my recommendations for games on December 22, 2015:
C: Anze Kopitar, LA vs. SJ ($4,900): After a sluggish start, Kopitar is clicking at a shade less than a point-per-game pace in his last 14 starts and finally looking like his usual dominant self. He's also seen a spike in his average playing time, which has risen to as much as 27 minutes per game. Kopitar will be ready for this rivalry game against the Sharks.
C: David Backes, STL at BOS ($4,700): Like Kopitar, Backes got off to a slow start, but he has also picked up his scoring pace, notching points in seven of his last nine starts. He loves the heavy going and can be counted on to show up and show well in the most hostile environments. The Bruins' home ice certainly is one of those places.
W: Tyler Toffoli, LA vs. SJ ($5,100): Toffoli had been in a slump in recent games after a torrid start to his season. But he's been reunited with his That '70s Line mates, Jeff Carter and Tanner Pearson, and has picked up points in two of his last three appearances.
W: Max Domi, ARI vs. TOR ($4,850): Domi is second in scoring among rookies, and you have to believe he's had the Maple Leafs' visit to the desert highlighted on his calendar for a long time. He was the first star when the two teams met in Toronto and hopes to repeat Tuesday.
W: Marian Gaborik, LA vs. SJ ($4,450): The Kings have shaken up their top two lines in an effort to get more balanced scoring. They're hoping that a first-line opportunity for Gaborik alongside Milan Lucic and Anze Kopitar can ignite the talented, albeit streaky sniper. Gaborik's looked engaged of late, as he's picked up three points and accounted for 24 shots on goal in his last five games.
W: Teuvo Teravainen, CHI at DAL ($4,100): Here's another one in keeping with a theme of slow starters who have a good-looking role going for them. He's on Jonathan Toews' left side and has seen his productivity rise recently, as he's notched seven points in his last nine games.
D: Aaron Ekblad, FLA vs. OTT ($4,650): Ekblad is going about his business with much less fanfare than he did In winning the Calder Trophy last season, but make no mistake – this sophomore is still a sensation on the Panthers' blue line. He's on a tear, too, with four goals and two assists in his last eight games.
D: Dennis Wideman, CGY vs. WPG ($4,550): I like Wideman in this matchup because it's usually a physical contest likely to include power-play opportunities – that's where his big slapper could come into play.
G: Ben Bishop, TB vs. VAN ($7,550): Bishop gets a favorable matchup with a home date against the struggling Canucks, 3-5-2 in their last 10 games, who will also be starting their backup goalie Tuesday. The fact that the Bolts' offense has scored 13 goals in the last three games should also boost Bishop's chances for victory Tuesday.