This article is part of our FantasyAces NHL series.
Ten games are scheduled for this evening's hockey menu, and a couple of them feature tasty matchups owing to the importance of those games in the standings.
Detroit visits Tampa in a battle that impacts both ends of the Eastern Conference playoff seeding, as the Lightning are embroiled in a three-team race for the Atlantic Division title, while the Wings are battling for a Wildcard slot. This could actually be a first-round matchup preview as well.
Meanwhile, Dallas goes into Chicago in a battle of Central Division heavyweights, with the Stars hoping to extend their first-place lead and avoid a difficult first-round matchup. These are two of three teams currently separated by four points, so it could also be a potential first-round matchup. Their contrasting styles, with the Stars featuring a puck-control offense and the 'Hawks relying on a high-pressure checking game, will be a test of their respective strengths.
Here are my recommendations for games on March 22, 2016:
C: Evgeny Kuznetsov, WAS at OTT ($5,300 ): Even though Kuznetsov has been a second-line center for much of this campaign, he's benefited from avoiding the top opposing checkers and top pairings on defense most nights and leads the Caps in scoring. He has flourished against teams that will trade chances, and Ottawa is at the top of that list.
C: Rickard Rackell, ANA at MON ($4,800): Rackell is enjoying a breakout campaign, yet he's been under the radar, getting little hype behind more notable teammates like Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf. Still, he has earned top-six minutes and is logging consistent time on the potent Anaheim power play. Rackell is a strong value play against the reeling Canadiens.
W: Brayden Schenn, PHI at CLM ($5,000): Schenn has been a key contributor in the Flyers' recent surge toward a possible playoff berth. He is back on the club's top line and top power-play unit. In Schenn's last 11 games, he has produced 12 points, which is well above his season pace, and he faces a weak Columbus team Tuesday that's one of the least defensively responsible in the league.
W: Milan Lucic, LA at MIN ($4,500): Lucic and his mates are already locked into playoff mode, and he's enjoying a nice streak, with six points in his last five games. The big, tough winger will pose a matchup problem for a smallish Minnesota defense corps.
W: Tanner Pearson, LA at MIN ($4,400): Pearson has flirted with top-six minutes and/or been a more regular depth scorer in recent weeks despite a third-line role. He has five points in his last seven starts and is another Kings grinder who's rising to the nearing occasion of the postseason. Like Lucic, he creates matchup issues for the undersized Minnesota D.
W: Andre Burakovsky, WAS vs. OTT ($4,250): Burakovsky has thrived since partnering with Kuznetsov, so this is another opportunity to take advantage of this matchup. The Sens will not be able to counter Washington's potent second forward line, as they will focus on trying to contain the Ovechkin-Backstrom combination with their best checkers. Burakovsky is undervalued at this price when we note that he has 17 points in his last 24 games.
D: Mark Streit, PHI at CLM ($4,850): Streit has looked like a younger, more productive version of himself in recent weeks, as he has collected eight (of his 20 points this season) during the last 12 games, coinciding with the Flyers' best hockey of this year. He gets that same nice matchup against a dispirited Columbus team that's playing out the string.
D: Michael Stone, ARI vs. EDM ($4,350): With the injury to Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Stone has been given more minutes in recent games, including additional power-play duty. He's responded with five points in his last six starts. In a larger sample, Stone has 29 shots on goal over his last nine games.
G: Steve Mason, PHI vs. CBJ ($7,550): Mason has provided solid goaltending over the Flyers' recent push, limiting all comers to 14 goals against in his last six starts. I believe he stands to collect an easy win Tuesday and is a relatively strong value play as the 10th-most-expensive goalie on the board.