Thursday's nine-game NHL slate begins at 7:00 PM Eastern time. Read on to see which players to target and which to avoid in this medium-sized batch of games.
Tuukka Rask, BOS vs. ARI ($24): Rask logged a 28-save shutout in his last start, but the Finnish veteran's buy-low window remains wide open heading into this juicy home date with the 7-18-5 Coyotes. While he's started slow with a 2.62 GAA and .906 save percentage after finishing with a GAA of 2.30 or lower in six of his previous eight campaigns, Rask won't need to be anywhere near the top of his game to pay major dividends at $24 considering Arizona's scoring the second-fewest goals per game in the league at just 2.40.
GOALIE TO AVOID
Jacob Markstrom, VAN vs. PHI ($30): Markstrom has no business being tied for the fifth-most expensive goaltender in this slate given his career 2.82 GAA and .917 save percentage. While he's been better with 2.41 and .917 marks in a small sample this year, Markstrom doesn't deserve the benefit of the doubt with a Flyers team that's scored at least four goals in three of its past five games next on the docket. For the same price, you can have Carey Price against a Flames team that's playing the second leg of a road back-to-back.
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Mathew Barzal, NYI at PIT ($18): Barzal's $18 price doesn't do his offensive prowess justice, as the 20-year-old center has 26 points in 27 games this season despite going scoreless in his first five. Expect his elite skill to translate onto the scoresheet against a Penguins team that's allowing 3.24 goals per game and is missing top netminder Matt Murray (lower body).
CENTER TO AVOID
Aleksander Barkov, FLA vs. WPG ($21): The desire to keep riding Barkov is understandable given his four goals in the past five games, but the man tied with Jonathan Huberdeau as Florida's most expensive skater will have a hard time living up to his $21 valuation in this matchup. Jets netminder Connor Hellebuyck sports a strong 2.44 GAA and .921 save percentage, while a Winnipeg team that ranks fifth at 3.35 goals per game could easily wreak havoc on Barkov's mediocre plus-1 rating, especially with No.1 Panthers goalie Roberto Luongo (hip) sidelined.
Ondrej Palat, TB vs. COL ($18): Owners unwilling to drop $35 on Nikita Kucherov but still looking to take advantage of this mismatch should look Palat's way at just over half that price. The less heralded winger has played at a point-per-game pace with three goals and five assists over his past eight and should have no trouble exploiting an Avalanche team that's surrendering 3.26 goals per game.
Patric Hornqvist, PIT vs. NYI ($22): Hornqvist brings active streaks of points in six consecutive games and goals in four straight into what promises to be one of the higher-scoring matchups of the night. The Islanders enter this clash of offensive-minded foes allowing 3.37 goals per game, which is tied for third-most in the league. While Pittsburgh has plenty of alternative scoring options, Hornqvist's hotter than any of them, but remains priced below four other Penguins skaters.
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WINGS TO AVOID
Mikko Rantanen, COL at TB ($17): With productive linemate Gabriel Landeskog suspended, Rantanen will be fighting an uphill battle against Lightning netminder Andrei Vasilevskiy, who sports a stellar 2.21 GAA and .932 save percentage. Facing Tampa Bay's league-best offense (3.70 goals per game) is unlikely to do Rantanen's minus-6 rating any favors, either.
Jeff Skinner, CAR at SJ ($18): Skinner doesn't provide much value when he's not putting the puck in the net, as he has just seven helpers and a minus-8 rating to go with his 10 goals goals in 26 games. A Sharks team that's been second-stingiest in terms of both goals allowed per game (2.30) and penalty killing (86.2 percent) will make it exceedingly difficult for Skinner to light the lamp, and the rest of his game isn't impressive enough to pick up the slack.
Torey Krug, BOS vs. ARI ($17): Krug's 14 points and minus-9 rating in 21 games make him a high-risk, high-reward play on the blue line. The diminutive defenseman's ability to jump up into the play on offense is likelier to pay off against Arizona than any other team in the league with the Coyotes allowing a league-high 3.43 goals per game, so Krug's worth taking a flier on here. With one goal on 27 shots in his past seven games, Krug's due to break through in this favorable matchup.
Dustin Byfuglien, WPG at FLA ($22): Byfuglien still hasn't scored on any of his 69 shots this season, but the career 7.0 percent shooter has offset some of that bad luck with 14 helpers in 26 games. He should have no trouble working his way onto the scoresheet one way or another against a Panthers team that's allowing 3.37 goals per game, especially with Luongo out. Panthers backup James Reimer has a 3.67 GAA and .892 save percentage, so offensive-minded Jets players in general make for strong choices here.
DEFENSEMEN TO AVOID
Erik Karlsson, OTT at LA ($32): While Karlsson often lives up to his lofty price tag, doing so will be exceedingly difficult in this matchup. Not only is he playing the second game of a road back-to-back, but the Kings team Karlsson faces here allows the fewest goals per game (2.17) while killing penalties at a league-best 89.6 percent rate.
Oliver Ekman-Larsson, ARI at BOS ($18): Ekman-Larsson's value lies primarily in his power-play production, as 96 of his 199 points since the start of the 2013-14 campaign have come with the extra man. His contributions in such situations are likely to be nonexistent in this one against Rask and Boston's third-ranked, 84.8 percent penalty kill, while Ekman-Larsson's putrid minus-19 rating shows that his scoring upside comes with plenty of downside.