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Friday Daily Puck: Ekman-Larsson's Time to Shine

Sasha Yodashkin

Sasha Yodashkin writes about fantasy sports for RotoWire.

Despite only four games being scheduled for Friday, there's plenty of offensive upside to be found with half of the teams in action ranking 20th or worse in goals allowed per game. Multiple teams are struggling on the injury front, creating both short and long-term opportunities for new candidates, and consequently their fantasy owners, to take advantage of. One player poised for a productive night is Oliver Ekman-Larsson, whose power-play prowess should be on full display against the worst penalty killing team in the NHL. He’s far from the only notable name to keep an eye on here, as all four contests are brimming with smart daily plays and savvy season-long additions.

Featured Matchups
Oilers (PP:11, PK:17) at Capitals (PP:5, PK:7), 7:00 p.m.
Expected Goalies: Cam Talbot (31-16-7, 2.36, .921), Braden Holtby (30-8-5, 1.99, .927)
Key Injuries: Andrew Ference (hip), Adam Larsson (lower body), Darnell Nurse (ankle), Benoit Pouliot (undisclosed), Andrej Sekera (undisclosed), Andre Burakovsky (hand), Matt Niskanen (lower body), Brooks Orpik (undisclosed)

Both teams are banged up along the blue line, which could mitigate the effectiveness of their respective seventh and first-ranked defenses. Even so, it's tough to justify paying up for Edmonton's most expensive options in daily formats. One Oiler who could still be worth a shot is Jordan Eberle, who is plus-4 with a goal and three assists in five games since moving back up to the top line. Washington's bottom-six forwards are much less formidable than usual due to injuries, though rookie third-liner Zachary Sanford has scored twice in the last four games after managing just a single assist over 20 appearances in his earlier NHL stints.

Flames (PP:12, PK:20) at Panthers (PP:26, PK:3), 7:30 p.m.
Expected Goalies: Chad Johnson (17-13-1, 2.55, .912), Roberto Luongo (16-14-6, 2.69, .915)
Key Injuries: Ladislav Smid (neck)

Johnson will get a look in net after Brian Elliott started Thursday in Tampa Bay. He has surrendered 18 goals over his past five starts while being pulled twice in that span, which is good news for a Panthers offense that has been clicking of late thanks to improved health. Florida has averaged 4.0 goals per game in its past nine, with Jonathan Huberdeau spearheading that improvement with eight points in eight games since returning from an Achilles injury. Calgary's offense has been nothing to scoff at either, with 3.0 goals per contest in nine February contests. Johnny Gaudreau, Dougie Hamilton, Sean Monahan and Mikael Backlund each have at least four points over their last two appearances, which spells bad news for Luongo as he searches for just his second set of consecutive wins since Nov. 19.

Senators (PP:21, PK:9) at Hurricanes (PP:24, PK:2), 7:30 p.m.
Expected Goalies: Craig Anderson (15-7-1, 2.34, .927), Cam Ward (21-19-7, 2.65, .904)
Key Injuries: Bryan Bickell (illness), Mike Hoffman (lower body), Clarke MacArthur (concussion), Bobby Ryan (finger), Mark Stone (neck)

This is a great time to use Ward in any format, as the injury-riddled Senators will have a hard time even matching their usual below-average offensive production. Ryan Dzingel and Tom Pyatt are currently serving as Kyle Turris' wingers on the first line, but aren't likely to hold much long-term value with both Stone and Hoffman in line to return as soon as Sunday. Carolina's 22nd-ranked offense will also be hard-pressed to find success against Anderson, who has limited opponents to seven goals in four games while going 3-1-0 since returning from a two-month absence.

Coyotes (PP:27, PK:26) at Stars (PP:18, PK:30), 8:30 p.m.
Expected Goalies: Mike Smith (16-16-6, 2.84, .918), Kari Lehtonen (13-18-6, 2.88, .902)
Key Injuries: Dave Bolland (back), Brad Richardson (leg), Ales Hemsky (hip), Mattias Janmark (knee), Johnny Oduya (lower body)

This promises to be a high-scoring affair, with both teams ranking among the three worst in goals allowed per game. Arizona is one of two teams playing the second night of a back-to-back set along with Calgary, but Smith will likely be right back in net after starting 13 of the past 14 games for the Coyotes. Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn are currently skating on different lines for the Stars, but both are still strong candidates to finish among the night’s top scorers in what is an excellent matchup for top skill players on both sides. Coyotes defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson has accrued a team-leading seven goals and 17 points on the power play, and it’s hard to find a better time to use him than against the league’s most generous penalty kill.

Recommended Pickup
Mathieu Perreault, C, WPG - Perreault has been a completely different player since being moved to a line with top producers Patrik Laine and Mark Scheifele. He has two goals, four assists and a plus-5 rating in the past four games after totaling 17 points and a minus-18 mark through his first 42 appearances. Perreault’s linemates have piled up points regardless of who they play with, and chances are the two-time 18-goal scorer will continue piggybacking on their production as long as he’s serving as the left wing on that line. That role could also earn Perreault left wing eligibility before long, further raising his value.