Next week's NHL schedule, and the best strategy for optimizing fantasy hockey lineups (Week 13)…

All fantasy owners need help in the short term AND the long term. The Looking Ahead feature identifies one player to plug into lineups in the short term, a second to invest in for the long term, a third to bench for the coming week and a fourth who will struggle to meet expectations for some time. Without further ado…

 

The Immediate Fix (Grab this guy and use him for the next several days)

 

Trevor Daley, D, Pittsburgh (Available in 85 percent of Yahoo leagues) – There’s nothing stopping this veteran from being an incredibly useful and productive fantasy defenseman… other than the inevitable return of fellow Penguins blueliner Kris Letang from injury. In the meantime, however, poolies would be well-served to add Daley. He’s currently being deployed on Pittsburgh’s top power-play unit, and he’s scored four points in three games since being acquired/saved from the Chicago Blackhawks (where he put up a modest six points in 29 games). He’s seeing almost six more minutes of ice time per game with the Pens than he did with the Blackhawks, so it is evident Pittsburgh is trying to get the most out of Daley while Letang is on the shelf. Take advantage now, as Pittsburgh’s No. 1 defenseman should be back fairly soon.

 

The Building Block (Buy now, sit back and enjoy the production)

 

Mathieu Perreault, C/LW, Winnipeg (Available in 70 percent of Yahoo leagues) – Once upon the time, this former sixth-rounder didn’t receive enough playing time to provide anything more than middling offensive production. That changed last year, as Perreault averaged more than 16 minutes of ice time for the first time in his career. The increase led to a career-best campaign in which the Winnipeg forward racked up 41 points in 62 games played. Fast-forward to this season, and Perreault is poised for his best year yet (despite a career-worst shooting percentage that’s destined for some positive regression). Poolies looking for some scoring on the cheap should look no further than this 27-year-old, who is entering the prime of his career. Simply stated, Perreault is worth a bench spot in most leagues.

 

The Odd Men Out (His short-term value is cause for concern)

 

Alexander Edler, D, Vancouver (Owned in 75 percent of Yahoo leagues) – It’s been a banner year for the 29-year-old Canucks blueliner. Edler’s on pace to score more goals in a season than ever before and register more points than any campaign since 2011-12. The increase in production can largely attributed to a couple of key facts:

  • Only six skaters in the entire NHL have seen more ice time this year than Edler.
  • Only 10 players in the entire league have seen more power-play ice time this year than him.

There’s one problem, though. Edler hasn’t done much of anything in the last two-plus weeks. He scored two points in his squad’s 2-1 win over the New York Rangers on December 9. Since that game, he hasn’t registered a single point in six appearances. Vancouver’s upcoming schedule will do Edler no favors, so feel free to sit the veteran defenseman until both his circumstances and production change for the better.

 

The Anchor (He’ll do nothing but disappoint even over the long haul)

 

Zdeno Chara, D, Boston (Owned in 79 percent of Yahoo leagues) – Fun fact about this veteran Bruins defenseman: Chara has registered a shooting percentage at or above .060 just once since his Norris Trophy-winning 2008-09 campaign. That was 2013-14, when he far exceeded his career mark of .063 with a career-best .101. Fun fact No. 2: Chara’s shooting percentage through 31 games this year stands at .082. It’s safe to say the 38-year-old blueliner has been the beneficiary of a little bit of luck so far this season. He’s on pace to finish with 40-45 points, which would be double what he posted a year ago. Don’t bet on this happening. His declining skills and advanced age cannot be denied, and it is more than reasonable to expect him to fade in the season’s second half. Moving forward, Chara’s primed to disappoint.

 

By taking some time to analyze the upcoming NHL schedule, poolies can gain a significant and measurable edge over their opponents. Now let’s identify some teams that will help or hurt fantasy owners in the coming days.

 

Love ‘Em (These squads are sure to pay dividends in the coming days)

 

Washington – The Caps see the ice on five occasions between Saturday, Dec. 26 and Saturday, Jan. 2. Also, all of those games take place against squads that rank in the bottom half of the NHL in save percentage: Buffalo (twice), Montreal, Columbus and Carolina. The last two squads have registered a save percentage under the .900 on the season. Happy New Year, Alex Ovechkin owners!

 

Pittsburgh – As with Washington, there will be plenty of opportunities for The Penguins to pile up fantasy production in the next several days. Between Saturday, Dec. 26 and Saturday, Jan. 2, this squad plays a whopping five times. Who cares if three of those five games are on the road? The volume will be there.

 

Winnipeg – Two of this team’s final three games of 2015 are set to take place at home. The other game? A road matchup against the struggling Arizona Coyotes, a squad that’s goaltenders have compiled a terrible .896 save percentage on the year (and one that is currently starting an unproven rookie in net in Louis Domingue). Lean on any and all Jets in the short term.

 

Leave ‘Em (These squads will leave fantasy owners sorely disappointed in the short term)

 

San Jose – No NHL squad plays less in the coming days than the Sharks. The team squared off against the host Los Angeles Kings on Tuesday, Dec. 22, but San Jose doesn’t see action again until Monday, Dec. 28. That will be the first of two games scheduled for the remainder of 2015 for this team.

 

Vancouver – Like the Sharks, the Canucks play just twice between Tuesday, Dec. 22 and the end of 2015. Unlike San Jose, though, both those games occur at home.


Boston – This is no offense to the Bruins, but they don’t play a ton between now and the New Year. Between Saturday, Dec. 26 and the end of the year, they play just three times. At least they open 2016 with two straight in Beantown.

 

Friday, December 25 to Thursday, December 31

Best Bets

Washington 4.09 – four games – MTL, BUFx2 and CAR
Los Angeles 4.09 – four games – ARI, VAN, EDM and CGY
Nashville 4.05 – four games – DET, NYR, STL and DAL
Carolina 4.00 – four games – NJDx2, CHI and WAS
St. Louis 3.99 – four games – three at home

 

Steer Clear

New York Rangers 1.85 – two games – both on road
Philadelphia 1.85 – two games – both on road
Florida 1.89 – two games – CBJ and MTL
Vancouver 2.05 – two games – EDM and LAK
San Jose 2.31 – two games – COL and PHI

 

Saturday, December 26 to Friday, January 1

Best Bets

Anaheim 4.10 – four games – PHI, CGY, EDM and VAN
Washington 4.09 – four games – MTL, BUFx2 and CAR
Los Angeles 4.09 – four games – ARI, VAN, EDM and CGY
Nashville 4.05 – four games – DET, NYR, STL and DAL
Boston 4.05 – four games – three at home

 

Steer Clear

New York Rangers 1.85 – two games – both on road
Philadelphia 1.85 – two games – both on road
Florida 1.89 – two games – CBJ and MTL
San Jose 2.31 – two games – COL and PHI
Tampa Bay 2.89 – three games – CBJ, MTL and NYR

 

Sunday, December 27 to Saturday, January 2

Best Bets

Winnipeg 4.34 – four games – PIT, DET, ARI and SJS
Colorado 4.30 – four games – three at home
New York Islanders 4.30 – four games – TORx2, BUF and PIT
Pittsburgh 4.21 – four games – WPG, TOR, DET and NYI
Washington 4.20 – four games – BUFx2, CAR and CBJ

 

Steer Clear

Vancouver 1.84 – two games – LAK and ANA
Philadelphia 2.71 – three games – all on road
Tampa Bay 2.73 – three games – MTL, NYR and MIN
Boston 2.84 – three games – OTTx2 and MTL
Florida 2.89 – three games – CBJ, MTL and NYR

 

Monday, December 28 to Sunday, January 3

Best Bets

Washington 4.20  – four games – BUFx2, CAR and CBJ
New York Islanders 4.19 – four games – TOR, BUF, PIT and DAL
Winnipeg 4.15 – four games – DET, ARI, SJS and ANA
Los Angeles 4.10 – four games – VAN, EDM, CGY and PHI
Minnesota 4.05 – four games – DET, STL, TBL and FLA

 

Steer Clear

Vancouver 1.84 – two games – LAK and ANA
Boston 1.89 – two games – OTT and MTL
Philadelphia 1.90 – two games – both on road
Columbus 2.05 – two games – DAL and WAS
Florida 2.73 – three games – MTL, NYR and MIN

 

Tuesday, December 29 to Monday, January 4

 

Best Bets

New Jersey 4.26 – four games -three at home
New York Islanders 4.19 – four games – TOR, BUF, PIT and DAL
Winnipeg 4.15 – four games – DET, ARI, SJS and ANA
Los Angeles 4.15 – four games – EDM, CGY, PHI and COL
Edmonton 4.15 – four games – all at home

 

Steer Clear

Boston 1.89 – two games – OTT and MTL
Tampa Bay 1.89 – two games – NYR and MIN
Philadelphia 1.90 – two games – both on road
Montreal 2.00 – two games – both on road
New York Rangers 2.00 – two games – both on road

 

Wednesday, December 30 to Tuesday, January 5

Best Bets

Pittsburgh 4.25 – four games – three at home
Buffalo 4.22 – four games – three at home
Washington 4.06 – four games – BUF, CAR, CBJ and BOS
Winnipeg 3.90 – four games – ARI, SJS, ANA and NSH
Dallas 3.90 – four games – NSH, NJD, NYI and NYR

 

Steer Clear

Boston 1.79 – two games – MTL and WAS
Columbus 1.84 – two games – WAS and MIN
Toronto 1.90 – two games – PIT and STL
Montreal 2.00 – two games – both on road
San Jose 2.15 – two games – PHI and WPG

 

Thursday, December 31 to Wednesday, January 6

Best Bets

Anaheim 4.20 – four games – EDM, VAN, WPG and TOR
St. Louis 4.08 – four games – MIN, TOR, OTT and COL
Chicago 4.00 – four games – COL, OTT and PITx2
Colorado 3.94 – four games – all at home
Carolina 3.94 – four games – WAS, NSH, EDM and VAN

 

Steer Clear

San Jose 1.00 – one game – WPG
Philadelphia 1.70 – two games – LAK and MTL
Ottawa 1.76 – two games – both on road
Boston 1.79 – two games – MTL and WAS
Toronto 1.81 – two games – STL and ANA