After a week off, let's see if I remember how to do this. Setting a fantasy lineup in these times of the omicron variant has been more about finding players that fit the following criteria: 1) Their team is playing today, and 2) The player is not injured or on COVID protocol. There. That's it. I guess I can wrap up today's article with that little bit of sage advice, right?
Okay, I need to come up with a little more than that. So let's go.
A good place to start might be that Sunshine State battle between Florida and Tampa Bay. While players run through the revolving door known as COVID protocol, we're witnessing some crazy scores. 8-7 between San Jose and Arizona two nights ago? How about the defending Stanley Cup champions giving up nine goals because both their first- and second-string goalies are on the COVID list?
NHL COVID-19 Tracker: Monitoring outbreaks across the league
Maxime Lagace started for the Lightning for the second consecutive game, allowing six goals to the Panthers in two periods before being pulled. Lagace has allowed at least four goals in each of his two games with Tampa since his callup. Despite playing for one of the league's top teams, he only appears to be a matchup-based start at best. It's possible that Hugo Alnefelt (Dobber Prospects profile) could make his first NHL start against the Rangers tonight (Friday) if Andrei Vasilevskiy isn't ready to return from COVID protocol. Alnefelt took over in the third period of Thursday's game from Lagace, allowing three goals of his own. Just an awful night for Lightning goalies. Vasilevskiy can't come back soon enough.
Victor Hedman was a minus-6 in this game, by far the worst on the Lightning. Even if you don't look highly upon plus/minus, you have to admit that's not a number you'd expect from Hedman. Consider it an anomaly.
The Jonathan Huberdeau – Anthony Duclair unit did the most damage for the Panthers. Duclair scored twice and added an assist, while Huberdeau scored a goal and piled up four helpers while finishing with a plus-4. Duclair has scored goals in back-to-back games since the pause. Meanwhile, Huberdeau's 1.23 PTS/GP pace is the best of his career. If Huby can keep up that pace, he will be in for his first 100-point season. He's currently the best player on one of my fantasy teams.
One of those four assists looked pretty damn impressive.