This article is part of our The Daily Puck series.
There are nine games in the league Thursday with Eastern Conference contenders Montreal and Pittsburgh both on the wrong end of back-to-back road tests. While Taylor Hall's return to Edmonton and a tape-measuring matchup between St. Louis and Los Angeles don't crack the feature section, both contests are also intriguing tilts.
Penguins (PP: 3, PK: 24) at Senators (PP: 22, PK: 10), 7:30 p.m.
Expected Goalies:Matt Murray (13-3-1, 2.18, .928), Mike Condon (9-6-3, 2.36, .918)
Key Injuries:Craig Anderson (personal), Andrew Hammond (ankle), Clarke MacArthur (concussion), Brian Dumoulin (jaw)
Following a 5-2 loss to Washington on Wednesday, look for a solid night from the Penguins on Thursday. Pittsburgh is averaging the most goals per game (13.36) and generating the most high-danger scoring chances per 60 minutes in the league. Murray likely returning from a lower-body injury is also a welcomed bonus. Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Phil Kessel are all sitting among the top-10 scorers, and Kris Letang has 22 points through 28 games. Even on the wrong end of back-to-back road games, there is a lot to like about Pittsburgh's star power.
The Senators are a polar opposite with an average of just 2.46 goals per game, and Erik Karlsson has just five assists through his past 12 outings. This might not be the night he busts out of his slump, either. Ottawa is receiving most of its offense up front from Mark Stone, Kyle Turris and Mike Hoffman. The club has tightened up defensively, though, and sacrificing offense for a better 200-foot game has them in position to make the playoffs. It's just not ideal for fantasy results, and Thursday's matchup isn't likely, either.
Bruins (PP: 23, PK: 2) at Predators (PP: 15, PK: 12), 8:00 p.m.
Expected Goalies:Tuukka Rask (21-9-3, 1.97, .926), Pekka Rinne (15-11-6, 2.42, .919)
Key Injuries:Matt Beleskey (knee), Adam McQuaid (upper body), Colin Miller (lower body), James Neal (upper body) P.K. Subban (upper body), Colin Wilson (undisclosed)
With Nashville allowing a league-low 8.28 high-danger scoring chances per 60 minutes and Boston surrendering just 9.2 (third lowest), this has the makings of goaltending duel. So, it's fitting that countrymen Rask and Rinne will don the blue paint. However, of late, their play has been significantly different. Over his past 15 starts, Rinne sports a disappointing 6-6-3 record with a .901 save percentage and 2.92 GAA, whereas Rask has been excellent all season (21-9-3, .926, 1.97 stat line with five shutouts).
The Predators are dealing with a number of injuries throughout the lineup, and Kevin Fiala (expected to play on the first power-play unit) and Viktor Arvidsson are the biggest beneficiaries. Arvidsson's 12.10 shots per 60 minutes at five-on-five trails only Patrice Bergeron (12.35) among skaters with at least 500 minutes this season, so the 23-year-old winger is a potential add while skating with Ryan Johansen and Filip Forsberg. For Boston, don't sleep on Frank Vatrano. He's combined with David Krejci for 4.42 goals per 60 minutes and a 57.1 Corsi For percentage at five-on-five this year.
Canadiens (PP: 10, PK: 23) at Wild (PP: 14, PK: 4), 8:00 p.m.
Expected Goalies:Carey Price (20-6-4, 2.12, .928), Devan Dubnyk (21-7-3, 1.80, .939)
Key Injuries:David Desharnais (knee), Alex Galchenyuk (knee), Brendan Gallagher (hand), Andrei Markov (lower body), Greg Pateryn (ankle), Andrew Shaw (concussion)
If a date between Vezina hopefuls – Price and Dubnyk – backstopping two Stanley Cup contenders doesn't warrant inclusion in the featured section, what does? Both clubs also rank in the bottom five of goals against and top five in goals per game. Montreal is coming off a big 7-4 road win over the Jets on Wednesday, whereas the Wild haven't played since beating Anaheim 2-1 on Sunday. However, this is the beginning of an interesting stretch for Minnesota. The Wild have nine games in the next 15 nights, including two back-to-back sets. Grabbing Darcy Kuemper isn't out of the question in deeper leagues because he should garner at least two starts in the near future.
This should prove to be a difficult game for Montreal. The Habs are dealing with multiple injuries to key players and are likely ripe for a letdown showing against a solid club after scoring seven goals Wednesday. With all the injuries Phillip Danault and Artturi Lehkonen are two young Canadiens to consider grabbing in deep settings or utilizing in daily contests while they're both receiving top-six minutes and power-play time. Additionally Nathan Beaulieu and Jeff Petry have seen their fantasy value climb with Markov out.
Canucks (PP: 27, PK: 20) at Flyers (PP: 9, PK: 18), 7:00 p.m.
Expected Goalies:Ryan Miller (12-10-2, 2.59, .915), Steve Mason (14-14-6, 2.80, .903)
Key Injuries:Mark Streit (shoulder), Erik Gudbranson (wrist), Jannik Hansen (knee), Ben Hutton (upper body),Philip Larsen (upper body)
After winning six consecutive games, the Canucks have dropped their past two outings – both on the road – and own a disastrous 5-13-2 record away from Rogers Arena. While Bo Horvat's seven-game point streak was snapped last time out the 20-year-old center still has five goals, 13 points and 26 shots through his past 14 games. He also received 20:52 of ice time Tuesday. The streaky Flyers are just 2-6-3 since their 10-game winning streak ended in December.
Sabres (PP: 7, PK: 30) at Lightning (PP: 2, PK: 22), 7:30 p.m.
Expected Goalies:Anders Nilsson (7-3-4, 2.37, .930), Andrei Vasilevskiy (10-9-2, 2.97, .904)
Key Injuries:Tyler Ennis (groin), Josh Gorges (hip), Dmitry Kulikov (back), Johan Larsson (wrist), Robin Lehner (illness), Brian Boyle (lower body), J.T. Brown (face), Ryan Callahan (hip), Braydon Coburn (upper body), Brayden Point (upper body), Steven Stamkos (knee)
Buffalo has won three of four games with 15 goals, and Jack Eichel has just two goals during the offensive surge. The Lightning are in a free fall with four straight losses and 22 goals allowed during the skid. At least Jonathan Drouin is breaking out with nine goals, 19 points and 43 shots over his past 17 games, and he's producing despite receiving just 16:52 of ice during the stretch.
Red Wings (PP: 30, PK: 13) at Stars (PP: 20, PK: 29), 8:30 p.m.
Expected Goalies:Petr Mrazek (9-10-4, 3.14, .896), Antti Niemi (8-7-4, 2.88, .910)
Key Injuries:Jamie Benn (foot), Ales Hemsky (hip), Mattias Janmark (knee), Jamie Oleksiak (upper body), Darren Helm (shoulder), Jimmy Howard (knee), Niklas Kronwall (lower body), Brendan Smith (knee)
This is the final leg of a seven-game road trip for Detroit, and the Red Wings have gone 2-2-2 through the first six stops. Anthony Mantha continues to impress with 12 points – seven goals – through his past 10 games, but sophomore Dylan Larkin has been held to just 11 goals and 16 points through 41 games this year. Dallas scored six goals against Los Angeles on Monday but were shutout by Anaheim on Tuesday. Benn's status will be the big key for Dallas, as his return will shuffle the lineup.
Ducks (PP: 8, PK: 16) at Avalanche (PP: 28, PK: 25), 9:00 p.m.
Expected Goalies:John Gibson (16-10-7, 2.38, .918), Calvin Pickard (7-11-1, 3.06, .902)
Key Injuries:Simon Despres (head), Ryan Getzlaf (lower body), Clayton Stoner (abdomen), Nate Thompson (achilles), Francois Beauchemin (illness), Erik Johnson (leg)
The Avalanche are in the league's basement and own the worst goal differential in the league (minus-51). Gabriel Landeskog's three goals and five points through his past 14 games certainly aren't helping his trade or fantasy value, either. Rickard Rakell is also struggling with just two goals on 19 shots through his past 11 games. Gibson, however, has been great for Anaheim with wins in four of his past five starts with a sterling .959 save percentage and 1.38 GAA.
Devils (PP: 29, PK: 14) at Oilers (PP: 11, PK: 19), 9:00 p.m.
Expected Goalies:Cory Schneider (12-14-6, 2.73, .909), Cam Talbot (20-12-6, 2.51, .917)
Key Injuries:Brandon Davidson (illness), Andrew Ference (hip), Darnell Nurse (ankle), Tyler Pitlick (knee), Yohann Auvitu (lower body), Andy Greene (upper body), Jacob Josefson (illness), John Moore (concussion)
Remember the Taylor Hall-Adam Larsson deal? Edmonton is holding a playoff spot, whereas New Jersey is tied for second last in the Eastern Conference with a minus-29 goal differential. It certainly doesn't mean it was the right move for the Oilers, but they're in a better position now than they were 12 months ago. Maybe it's a nice homecoming for Hall, but the Devils have averaged just 1.96 goals per road game (second fewest in the league). After allowing five goals to San Jose on Tuesday, Talbot is in an intriguing bounce-back spot, especially in daily contests.
Blues (PP: 5, PK: 6) at Kings (PP: 17, PK: 7), 10:30 p.m.
Expected Goalies:Jake Allen (17-10-3, 2.70, .902), Peter Budaj (18-11-3, 2.13, .916)
Key Injuries:Jonathan Quick (groin), Tyler Toffoli (lower body), Robert Bortuzzo (lower body), Carl Gunnarsson (lower body)
St. Louis has only won two of its past seven road games, and the Kings boast a solid 12-6-1 home record. Additionally, Allen has struggled away from Scottrade Center during his career with an underwhelming .906 save percentage and 2.78 GAA. Even with the home-road splits pointing to the Kings, it's impossible to look at that depth chart and back Los Angeles confidently, isn't it?
Phillip Danault, C, MON: The 23-year-old pivot has landed in a cushy gig between Max Pacioretty and Alexander Radulov in all situations of late. Danault has been a respectable offensive contributor for over a month with four goals, 12 points and 29 shots through his past 16 games, but five of the points – two goals – have come over his past four games. He's a strong fantasy option for the duration of his stay with either Pacioretty or Radulov, and if the trio sticks for a prolonged stretch, Danault's fantasy upside skyrockets.