Henrik Lundqvist, NYR vs. SJ ($30) – Neither team has looked very good so far this season, but at least Lundqvist started to look like his old self in his most recent win against the Predators, during which he made 23 saves. Despite a talented roster, the Sharks have been having trouble preventing goals, so even if Lundqvist isn’t at his best, the Rangers offense should have a chance to bail him out.
GOALIE TO AVOID
Frederik Andersen, TOR vs. LA ($33) – Everyone’s waxing poetic about the Leafs and how much they’ve improved, but their defensive play has been inconsistent and many times this season they’ve hung Andersen out to dry. The Leafs could win this game, but the Kings have been quietly dominant and still haven’t lost in regulation. Even without Jeff Carter, the Kings have plenty of offensive weapons, including leading scorers Dustin Brown and Anze Kopitar, and underrated rookies Adrian Kempe and Alex Iafallo.
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Anze Kopitar, LA at TOR ($20) – His scoring pace will surely regress, but Kopitar and linemate Dustin Brown have had an excellent start to the season, and they haven’t looked this dominant in over five seasons. Kopitar is an excellent two-way player, and he’ll have a chance to feast on a Leafs team that has a bad habit of coughing up the puck. The Kings have opened up their game under new coach John Stevens, but they’re still a defense-first team at heart, and the Leafs had trouble against the stingy Sens in their previous game.
CENTER TO AVOID
Joe Thornton, SJ at NYR ($14) – He’s on a three-game point streak but he’s no longer a reliable scoring option at this stage of his career, and he’ll be playing his fourth game in three nights on a grueling road trip. The Rangers have made a conscious decision to become a faster team, and even with an elite ability to control the pace of play, Thornton may have some trouble keeping up. The Rangers defense is mobile and unafraid to block shots.
Dustin Brown, LA at TOR ($20) – Why not double down on the league’s hottest duo? Tied with Kopitar with 11 points for the team lead, Brown is playing some of his best hockey in recent memory. He’s averaging close to 20 minutes per game after averaging around 16 minutes per game in each of his past four seasons, and his ability to play a physical game and consistently win battles along the boards will come in handy against the Leafs.
Connor Brown, TOR vs. LA ($13) – He’s been promoted to Tyler Bozak’s line and is also red-hot with a point in each of his past three games. The Kings are faster but still play a very heavy game, and Brown’s a savant when it comes to winning battles on the boards and forcing turnovers. His ability to retrieve pucks will be key against a Kings team that defends very well, and playing with more talented linemates should give him the opportunity to pick up a point or two.
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WINGS TO AVOID
Mats Zuccarello, NYR vs. SJ ($21) – Other than a four-point game, Zuccarello has been rather quiet with just two points in his past seven games. Even though he’s been a reliable playmaker for the past four seasons, Zuccarello doesn’t seem to be the focus of the offense anymore, and his minus-10 rating also shows how ineffective he’s been. The price is just too high for a player who’s been very inconsistent this season.
Josh Leivo, TOR vs. LA ($15) – There are much better options than a player who’s yet to play this season. It’s true that Leivo’s being wasted in the press box while the Leafs keep rotating veterans in and out of the lineup, but even if Leivo plays, keep in mind it’ll be his first game of the season and the Kings have been almost perfect so far.
Drew Doughty, LA at TOR ($23) – He’ll be arguably the best defenseman to take the ice Monday, and he’ll be doing it against a team that doesn’t defend very well and has allowed 28 goals this season. If the Kings can clog up the neutral zone like the Sens did with the Leafs, they should be able to capitalize on some turnovers. The Leafs have a bad habit of turning the puck over and leaving Frederik Andersen out to dry.
Oscar Fantenberg, LA at TOR ($14) – He’s getting limited ice time but he’s also on a four-game assist streak, three of which have come on the power play. The Leafs and Kings should be a rough, physical affair, and the Kings have a slight advantage having taken seven fewer penalties this season. If the Kings can get a few power-play opportunities, Fantenberg is a viable high-risk, high-reward option.
DEFENSEMEN TO AVOID
Brent Burns, SJ at NYR ($33) – The price tag still reflects a player who can produce offense like an elite offensive forward, but Burns’ performance so far makes it a difficult salary to swallow. He’s scored just four points this season, all of them assists, and his minus-8 rating reflects his inconsistent defensive play. Lundqvist looks like he’s getting into a groove and the Rangers defense is very good at blocking shots.
Derek Forbort, LA at TOR ($16) – Forbort’s blocked nine shots over his past two games, which is his usual best-case scenario when it comes to the stats sheet. The former first-round pick took a while to establish himself in the NHL, but clearly has limited offensive abilities with just 18 points last year. He’s a defenseman who takes care of his own end first, which makes him a dependable shot blocker, but he lacks the proper skill set to be a factor otherwise.