Itís not just a great day for fantasy hockey, itís a great day to plop down on the couch and take in what should be one of the season's best events. The Oilers are headed to Winnipeg for the Heritage Classic. Getting an outdoor game right at the start of the season is rare and wonderful.
Even if outdoor games arenít the once-in-a-lifetime events they once were, donít let the cynics ruin the day. Itís still a special game and thereís no reason not to enjoy a quality afternoon game on national TV.
Thatís especially true since weíre getting a glimpse of some of the gameís best young talent with Connor McDavid and Patrik Laine skating Sunday. The Oilers are also bringing Jesse Puljujarvi back into the lineup for the first NHL summit against Laine, his former national team linemate. With those rookies lacing up, this could be a preview of an intense rivalry that lasts for years.
Letís take a look at Sundayís slate.
Oilers (PP: 18, PK: 15) at Jets (PP: 22, PK: 29), 3:00 p.m.
Expected Goalies: Cam Talbot (4-1-0, 3.32, .904), Connor Hellebuyck (1-1-0, 3.44, .863)
Key Injuries: Drake Caggiula (undisclosed), Brandon Davidson (undisclosed), Mark Fayne (undisclosed), Matt Hendricks (lower body), Iiro Pakarinen (leg), Bryan Little (lower body)
The Heritage Classic should be a heartening milestone for fans of both teams, as their clubs start to round the corner on rebuilds, showcasing a shiny fleet of young talent.
For Edmonton, Talbot has been fine in net so far, but the Oilers blue line is still a mess. Theyíre going to make life hard on him and make opposing forwards appealing starts for your lineup. With the Oilers averaging 33.6 shots against per game, one of the leagueís worst marks, there are a lot of reasons to stick Jets forwards in your roster today. Additionally, if you believe that big-game players get up for big games, then skaters like Laine and Mark Scheifele, who have done it before, should be very appealing starts.
Wild (PP: 26, PK: 4) at Islanders (PP: 29, PK: 2), 6:00 p.m.
Expected Goalies: Darcy Kuemper (1-0-0, 3.00, .900), Jaroslav Halak (2-2-0, 2.77, .905)
Key Injuries: Erik Haula (lower body), Jared Spurgeon (upper body), Eric Boulton (lower body), Mikhail Grabovski (concussion), Nick Leddy (upper body), Shane Prince (lower body), Ryan Pulock (lower body)
The Islanders and Wild meet for the first time this season and it might be a good day to take a gamble on some Islanders forwards. The Wild are on the back-end of a back-to-back with their backup netminder between the pipes, which puts them at a disadvantage to start. Plus, the Wild were sloppy last night against the Devils, a team that poses less of a challenge than the Islanders.
The Wild are without one of their best defensemen in Spurgeon and the loss of Haula shouldnít be ignored either. Though heís the third-line center, Haulaís line has been clicking like they were at the end of last season when he combined with Jason Pominville and Nino Niederreiter to be one of the teamís most dangerous trios night after night. Thereís a chance that Islanders forwards could feast in this game.
However, the Isles have issues of their own. It seems like just about every night the Islanders blue line is dismantled a little bit more. First Leddy went out. In response, Pulock gets called up, plays one game, and now heís out. The X-factor could be trying to determine just how "unplayable" the ice at Barclays Center is for the game. Itís been an issue early in the season.
Coyotes (PP: 23, PK: 14) at Rangers (PP: 14, PK: 17), 7:00 p.m.
Expected Goalies: Louis Domingue (0-3-0, 6.25, .836), Antti Raanta (1-0-0, 4.00, .871)
Key Injuries: Jamie McGinn (upper body), Mike Smith (lower body), Pavel Buchnevich (back), Oscar Lindberg (hip)
The Rangers enter Sundayís game on the back-end of a back-to-back as well. But their foe hasnít been at the top of their game. Arizona is without their starting netminder and theyíve struggled defensively. The Coyotes allow a league-leading 36.5 shots against per game. More importantly, theyíre allowing 4.5 goals per game, which is also the highest mark in the league. The Arizona penalty kill is middling and their power play hasnít been much of a threat so far.
On the other side of the rink, however, the Coyotes young offense is actually pushing play pretty well. They take the 10th most shots per game and are tied for 16th in the league in goals per game. But, if youíre fearing playing Coyotes forwards because of the satisfactory defensive marks of the Rangers, know that thereís a bit of an illusion there. The Rangers defense can be picked apart and with Lundqvist out (even if he is struggling early in the season), there are plenty of opportunities for the Coyotes to do some damage.
Canucks (PP: 19, PK: 13) at Ducks (PP: 24, PK: 16), 8:00 p.m.
Expected Goalies: Ryan Miller (1-0-0, 0.00, 1.000), John Gibson (1-2-1, 2.81, .890)
Key Injuries: Simon Despres (head), Rickard Rakell (personal), Nate Thompson (achilles), Anton Rodin (knee)
In the early going, Vancouver has surprised many with a franchise-best 4-0-0 record. They took their first loss of the season Saturday against the Kings. Might this be the moment when we see the emperor has no clothes? On paper, Vancouverís defense and goaltending simply arenít as good as the stats have been in the seasonís small sample size. Yet, theyíre only allowing 1.8 goals against per game, which is the second-best mark in the league.
But are Randy Carlyleís Ducks really the team thatís going to show us that you can break open the Vancouver defense? Anaheim has scored fewer goals than Vancouver, though their shot totals are a little more toward the middle of the pack. This could be a low-event game that doesnít leave much to chew on in terms of fantasy.
Joel Eriksson Ek, C, MIN ó The young rookie (pronounced Yule) made his NHL debut Saturday against the New Jersey Devils and scored Minnesotaís lone goal. He could be an interesting pickup in a deep league. Heís not expected to blow the doors off the NHL, but heís talented and impressed at camp. If heís performing well, as he did Saturday, coach Bruce Boudreau wants to give him some ice and Eriksson Ek could get it.
Because of strong play the prior game, Zac Dalpe centered the third line in place of Haula, leaving Eriksson Ek to center the teamís speedy fourth line. By the end of Saturdayís game, he was up on the teamís second line with Mikko Koivu and Mikael Granlund. Eriksson Ek took the place of Chris Stewart, who Boudreau was displeased with. That could open the door for Eriksson Ek to get better linemates and more playing time. Heís available in season-long formats and dirt cheap in daily formats. Heís no sure thing but could provide interesting, easy to acquire upside.