This article is part of our Yahoo DFS Hockey series.
I'm writing this on the day I have received my second COVID-19 vaccine shot, so if my recommendations seem unusual, let's blame it on that. There are 10 games on the NHL slate Thursday, though that does include the Avalanche facing the Blues, and the status of that game seems precarious. I'm going to set that one aside just to be on the safe side, and so here are my recommendations for the other nine contests.
Tuukka Rask, BOS at BUF ($30): Rask has gotten right back into the swing of things after returning from a lengthy injury absence. Through three starts he has a 1.33 GAA and .955 save percentage. One of those starts was a shutout of the Sabres, and I could see that happening again. After all, the Sabres have only averaged 2.35 goals per game.
GOALIE TO AVOID
Petr Mrazek, CAR at FLA ($37): Mrazek's numbers (1.60 GAA, .939 save percentage) are stellar, but we have to remember that he's been limited to nine games this season. He's made all of one start on the road since returning from injury. This could be his second, and it's a tricky matchup to handle. The Panthers have scored 3.21 goals per contest, but they are also second in the league with 34.0 shots on net per game.
Ryan Strome, NYR vs. PHI ($23): The Rangers have some nice depth now, and you might be surprised to hear how good of a season Strome is having. He's tallied 44 points in 46 games, including 16 on the power play. The 27-year-old recently had three games in a row with multiple points. Sure, all three of those games were against the Devils, but one of the two teams with a worse GAA than the Devils are the Flyers, so this is arguably an even better matchup.
CENTER TO AVOID
Nicklas Backstrom, WAS at NYI ($24): It's surprising to see Backstrom with 14 goals on the season, as he's typically a playmaker more than a goal scorer. You can chalk it up to 17.5 percent shooting, which is the highest of his career, and a huge jump from his 9.1 percent last season. I have a hard time believing a guy with 80 shots on net in 46 games is going to keep being a fairly prolific goal scorer. That's definitely true Thursday, given that the Islanders have a 2.28 GAA.
Bryan Rust, PIT vs. NJD ($27): The Penguins gave up six goals in one period in their last game, but they still won because they scored seven against the Devils. That's only one game, but it's a fine anecdote to describe the woes of New Jersey's defense and goaltending. Rust has eight points in his last six games, and while those games have come against the Sabres, Flyers, and Devils, it's not like he suddenly has a tougher matchup. Let the guy be a flat-track bully for a couple weeks. We can reap the benefits in DFS.
Tanner Pearson, VAN vs. OTT ($18): Pearson helped the Canucks get their first win after their pause thanks to two goals Tuesday against the Maple Leafs. Now Vancouver is being blessed with the opportunity to fully round into form with a tune-up against the Senators. Ottawa has a 3.59 GAA, highest in the NHL, and it has given up 32.4 shots on net per contest as well.
WINGS TO AVOID
Mitch Marner, TOR at WPG ($33): Marner has been producing this season, even though he doesn't have a power-play point in his last 19 games. That's a real surprise, given Marner's typical output. That's enough reason for a little concern given the winger's salary in DFS. My larger concern, though, is being on the road against Connor Hellebuyck, who has a 2.50 GAA and .919 save percentage.
Jakub Voracek, PHI at NYR ($14): Voracek has really taken a dip in terms of power-play production this season. He hasn't has fewer than 17 points with the extra man in his last eight seasons, but this year he has a mere seven. Voracek doesn't have a power-play point in his last 14 outings. Now the Czech wing has to face the Rangers, who have a top-five penalty kill.
Thomas Chabot, OTT at VAN ($18): Chabot is shouldering a huge load for the Senators. He's averaged 26:39 in ice time, including 3:28 on the power play. That's helped him notch 28 points and 100 shots on goal in 43 games. The Canucks were allowing 33.8 shots on net per game prior to their pause, which was highest in the NHL. Since returning, that number is up to 34.1, and that's not surprising given the likely rust they're feeling.
Mikhail Sergachev, TAM vs. CLM ($14): The Lightning aren't shielding Sergachev as much this season, as he's no longer starting the bulk of his shifts in the offensive zone. However, that hasn't stopped him from being productive, as he has 26 points in 46 games. That's on 2.2 percent shooting that is the lowest of his career. Maybe he'll get a little puck luck against a Blue Jackets team with a 3.33 GAA, bottom five in the NHL.
DEFENSEMEN TO AVOID
John Carlson, WAS at NYI ($23): This is simply the case of not feeling like you need to pay Carlson's salary with more than half the league in action Thursday. The Islanders, as I noted earlier, have a 2.28 GAA. That's second lowest in the league. If Semyon Varlamov is in net things will be even more precarious, as he has a 2.20 GAA and .923 save percentage.
Seth Jones, CLM at TAM ($17): Jones hasn't scored a goal in 16 games, and in that time he also only has six assists. The Blue Jackets have been in a bit of a spiral, and facing the Lightning likely won't help. Well, that's at least true if Andrei Vasilevskiy is in net, as the Vezina winner has a 2.08 GAA and .930 save percentage.