This article is part of our FantasyAces NHL series.
As we near the trade deadline, two games on Tuesday's schedule feature teams on the cusp of playoff contention. A loss in these games could confirm that those teams will be sellers in upcoming trade talks.
The Devils have surprised most observers by hanging around the playoff chase for much of this season, but they have stumbled recently, losing their last three games. They have an opportunity to stop that streak when they host their rivals from Broadway. Emotions are always high when these teams meet, and you can bet that the Rangers would love to deliver a knockout punch to New Jersey's hopes.
Philadelphia and Carolina are battling each other and also hoping to stay within range of the same playoff spot. A win gives the victor an edge in that pursuit, while the loser gives important ground in that elusive chase. The Flyers may be without two top centers, Claude Giroux and Sean Couturier, which must give them pause with the deadline a few days away. Is their chase a futile one? Meanwhile, the Hurricanes are conflicted with the pending UFA status of Eric Staal and Cam Ward, weighing the value of retaining them through the rest of the season. A decision could well be made based on the outcome of this game.
Here are my recommendations for games on February 23, 2016:
C: Connor McDavid, EDM vs. OTT ($5,350): When one of the league's dynamic young offensive wizards faces the team that surrenders the most shots on goal per game, you have to throw him into your lineup. He comes into this game on a roll, with eight points in his last five games.
C: Travis Zajac, NJ vs. NYR ($4.700): Zajac comes into this game anchoring a second line that has been productive both at even strength and on the power play in the last five games. He's produced five points in his last seven games and has seen his ice time rise to more than 21 minutes per game in his last three.
W: Filip Forsberg, NAS at TOR ($5,100): Forsberg gets a favorable opportunity to use his abundant offensive skills against a Leafs team that has traded its two veteran defensemen in the past two weeks, leaving the club very thin on the back line. Forsberg enters this contest wielding a hot stick, with five goals in his last five games.
W: Jordan Eberle, EDM vs. OTT ($4,900): Eberle has caught fire, enjoying his playing time alongside McDavid, and he enjoys that same solid matchup against the Senators on Tuesday. He has four goals and four assists in his last seven games, his most productive stretch of the season.
W: Justin Abdelkader, DET vs. CLM ($4,700): The big right winger has a plum assignment, filling out the Wings' top line with Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg. He also faces a non-playoff team lacking its top goalie. Pucks have not been going in for Abdelkader recently, but he does have five assists in his last five games and is also getting first-line power-play time with the same potent linemates.
W: Alex Killorn, TAM vs. ARI ($4,250): Killorn has been reunited with Steven Stamkos at a time when the team captain appears more focused and productive, having seen his short-term status get some clarity. Killorn is a skilled complement on this top line and gets a good matchup against a road-weary Arizona club that just lost a tough one to Washington on Monday night.
D: Shayne Gostisbehere, PHI at CAR ($4,500): Incredibly, the Ghost doesn't even rank in the top 20 on Tuesday's blueline board. He has a 15-game point-scoring streak heading into this game, making him my best value pick on this slate. This is a no-brainer.
D: Nick Leddy, NYI at MIN ($4,100): This is a low price when we note that Leddy appears to be playing at the top of his game, with eight points in his last seven starts. He's the Isles' top-scoring blueliner and anchors the power play, which is one of the league's best on the road.
G: Carter Hutton, NAS at TOR ($7,250): After Pekka Rinne started Monday's game, Hutton is the favorite to start Tuesday, and he looks like great value when we note that the Leafs' roster has a number of AHLers stepping in for injured regulars. A healthy Toronto lineup would still be the underdog in this matchup. That should tell you this is a safe and relatively inexpensive pick.