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NHL: DADOUN – THE FANTASY WEEK AHEAD (February 19th to 25th) – Guentzels injury complicates a tough situation for Penguins – Favourable schedules and players to target

WASHINGTON, DC - OCTOBER 13: Penguins center Sidney Crosby (87) takes a face-off wearing his CCM helmet, gloves, and stick and left wing Jake Guentzel (59) on his wing during the Pittsburgh Penguins versus Washington Capitals National Hockey League game on October 13, 2023 at Capital One Arena in Washington, D.C.. (Photo by Randy Litzinger/Icon Sportswire)

Pittsburgh earned a 4-1 victory over Chicago on Thursday with Sidney Crosby scoring two goals, including his 30th of the campaign -- marking the 12th time he’s reached that milestone. However, with a 24-20-7 record, the Penguins are still five points behind the Detroit Red Wings and the second wild-card spot and would need to climb over the New York Islanders and the New Jersey Devils on their way to gaining that position.

That’s not an insurmountable obstacle, but it’s one that got much harder when Jake Guentzel suffered an upper-body injury Wednesday that’s projected to cost him four weeks. The Penguins have already taken the step of moving him to the long-term injured reserve list.

That complicates an already tough situation. As I’ve talked about before, Pittsburgh went into this season trying to manufacture at least one more run out of the era of Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Kris Letang before time finally catches up to them. That would make them very reluctant sellers at the deadline as it would essentially be an admission that the era is over and the Penguins now need to rebuild.

As it happens, that brings us back to Guentzel. He’s playing out the final season of his six-year, $30 million contract and is in line for a big raise. It’s not clear if the Penguins will re-sign him, but if they feel they can’t or are otherwise willing to commit to rebuilding, then he could potentially command a huge return on the trade market. Obviously, his injury complicates that -- he might not even be healthy by the March 8 deadline -- but those interested in his services will naturally have an eye toward the playoffs and based on Guentzel’s timetable, he should be fine well before the postseason starts.

Pittsburgh still has 10 games before the deadline, and it wouldn’t be surprising if Penguins president and general manager Kyle Dubas waits until those contests are in the books before deciding what direction he wants to go. That makes those upcoming games of vital importance to the future of the franchise and, perhaps, whether Crosby spends his final campaigns in the NHL as part of a contender or as a mentor for a rebuilding squad.

Anaheim Ducks - MON @ BUF, WED VS CBJ, SAT @ LAK, SUN VS NSH (BTB)

The Ducks will begin the week with a game in Buffalo on Monday and then host the Blue Jackets on Wednesday. After a breather, the Ducks will visit LA on Saturday before playing at home against the Predators on Sunday. Anaheim isn’t a strong team, but the Blue Jackets are one of the few with a comparable record. The Sabres are also far outside of the playoff hunt, so that should be another competitive matchup for the Ducks.

Anaheim has an especially good chance of winning those contests if Frank Vatrano stays hot. The 29-year-old forward has two goals and seven points over his past five appearances. He’s having a strong campaign overall too with 23 goals and 41 points in 53 outings, which matches his career high in points, which was set in 2022-23. It helps that Vatrano is playing on the top power-play unit, which has accounted for 15 of his points, and he’s likely to remain in that role for the remainder of the campaign.

Trevor Zegras should join him on the first power-play unit once he’s recovered from a broken ankle, which he sustained Jan. 9. Based on his original six-to-eight week timetable, we’re getting to the point where you’ll want to keep an eye on the situation. Zegras has just four goals and seven points in 20 contests in what’s been an injury-riddled season, but he’s capable of far more. If nothing else, remember him for your 2024 fantasy drafts, because the 22-year-old should be an excellent rebound candidate.

Mason McTavish hasn’t had the same kind of rough campaign that Zegras has endured, but McTavish should also see improvement in 2024-25. You don’t have to wait, though. In fact, this might be a good week for the 21-year-old, especially after he scored three goals and six points over his last eight outings.

Columbus Blue Jackets - TUE @ LAK, WED @ ANA (BTB), FRI VS BUF, SUN VS NYR

Columbus will start on the road with games in Los Angeles and Anaheim on Tuesday and Wednesday, respectively. The Blue Jackets will then return home to face the Sabres on Friday and the Rangers on Sunday.

Although Ivan Provorov was able to complete Tuesday’s 6-3 loss to Ottawa, he might have suffered an injury while blocking a shot and underwent X-rays as a result. At the time of writing, the results aren’t known, so it’s unclear if he’ll be available next week. Provorov has four goals, 23 points, 44 hits and 99 blocks in 52 contests while averaging 22:36 of ice time, so he’d leave a considerable hole in the lineup if he’s unavailable.

If Provorov is forced to miss time then we might see Jake Bean take on a bigger role at even strength and start regularly featuring on the second power-play unit. Bean has four goals and nine points in 49 contests, so he hasn’t been particularly productive this season, but he’s been averaging just 16:17 of ice time and has gotten almost no work with the man advantage. The 25-year-old recorded 25 points in 2021-22 while averaging 20:34, so Bean can chip in offensively when given the opportunity.

We might also see Andrew Peeke play regularly should Provorov miss time. Like Bean, Peeke can do a bit with the puck when the opportunity presents itself. The 25-year-old blueliner has six assists, 39 hits and 40 blocks in 20 contests while averaging 15:40 in 2023-24.

When it comes to hot players, Boone Jenner is an interesting pickup option after scoring three goals in his past two games. He has 16 markers and 21 points through 37 contests in 2023-24, so he’s not a great long-term option but can provide some help when he’s on a roll.

Detroit Red Wings - MON @ SEA, THU VS COL, SAT VS STL, SUN @ CHI (BTB)

The Red Wings will start next week in Seattle for a contest Monday, but they’ll get to return to Detroit afterward to host the Avalanche on Thursday and the Blues on Saturday before closing out the week with a game in Chicago on Sunday.

With four games on the schedule, including a back-to-back set during the weekend, it’s safe to assume that the Red Wings will need more than Alex Lyon in goal. With Ville Husso once again shelved due to a lower-body injury, though, James Reimer is instead projected to get at least one start next week.

If you’re still holding onto Husso, you might want to drop him. It’s unfortunate because he only recently recovered from a different lower-body injury, but the reality of the situation is he’s week-to-week and even if he does return before the end of the campaign, he’s unlikely to receive much work. Although Husso entered the season as the projected No. 1 goaltender, the 29-year-old has lost that role to Lyon due to Husso’s 3.55 GAA and .892 save percentage in 19 appearances. With Husso’s three-year, $14.25 million contract set to run through 2024-25, he’ll need to rebound next year if he wants the league to still see him as a legitimate starter candidate.

Patrick Kane is healthy, though, having returned last Saturday from a lower-body injury. He hit the ground running with a goal and four points in three contests since rejoining the lineup. Kane’s contributed eight goals and 20 points in 22 games this season, demonstrating that the 35-year-old is still a high-end scoring threat.

Christian Fischer certainly won’t match Kane in terms of offensive production, but the 26-year-old forward is on a three-game scoring streak in which he’s collected three assists. That might be enough to warrant consideration for a short-term pickup, but Fischer’s fantasy value is typically minimal, so don’t hold onto him if he cools down.


The Oilers will play in Arizona on Monday to conclude a three-game road trip. Afterward, Edmonton will host the Bruins on Wednesday, the Wild on Friday and the Flames on Saturday. Boston is a difficult team, but the Oilers’ other three adversaries next week have been middling.

Whether you’re lucky enough to have Connor McDavid on your fantasy squad or not, you might want to watch him next week for the fun of it. He’s doing amazing even by his incredibly high standards, scoring four goals and 20 points in his past seven games. That’s barrelled him to the 80-point milestone (21 goals, 59 assists) by his 48th contest. Nikita Kucherov and Nathan MacKinnon are the only players ahead of him in the scoring race, and it wouldn’t be shocking if all three of them finish with at least 120 points each. To put that into context, there have been seven occasions of a player reaching the 120-point milestone since the start of the salary cap era, so for three to achieve that feat all in the same campaign would be remarkable.

One of McDavid’s three assists Thursday came on a Corey Perry goal. It was Perry’s first goal and second point in six contests with Edmonton. Since signing a one-year, $775,000 contract with Edmonton on Jan. 22, Perry has seen time on the ice with McDavid and he’s also been utilized alongside Leon Draisaitl and Evander Kane. While those are choice assignments, Perry’s power-play work has been somewhat limited and he’s finished with more than 15 minutes in just two of his six games -- and even then, just barely. The 38-year-old should be seen as an okay secondary scorer, but not someone who is going to be a big enough threat with the Oilers to be worth having on a standard fantasy league team.

By contrast, Stuart Skinner was a great fantasy option for months, posting a 22-5-0 record, 2.02 GAA and .926 save percentage in 27 games from Nov. 11-Feb. 6. He’s hit a rough patch, though, allowing at least three goals in each of his past three contests. Skinner’s struggles haven’t gone on long enough to warrant panic, but meanwhile, Jack Campbell has been finding himself with AHL Bakersfield. He got off to a rough start after being sent to the minors but allowed just 20 goals over nine starts from Dec. 30-Feb. 14. Perhaps it’s time for Campbell to get another shot with the Oilers.

New York Rangers - TUE VS DAL, THU @ NJD, SAT @ PHI, SUN @ CBJ (BTB)

The Rangers will host Dallas on Tuesday, but after that they’ll take to the road, playing in New Jersey on Thursday, Philadelphia on Saturday and Columbus on Sunday. That opponent list is a mixed bag with Dallas doing well, the Flyers and Devils being decent, but not amazing, and the Blue Jackets ranking near the bottom of the NHL.

Meanwhile, the Rangers have built a firm lead in the Metropolitan Division race and their offense has been a key factor. Chris Kreider can take some credit for that. After scoring a hat trick Thursday, he’s up to 27 goals and 51 points through 54 contests this season, including seven tallies and 12 points over his past 10 games. Kreider’s goals tend to come in bunches, so be sure to take advantage of him while he’s hot if given the opportunity.

Will Cuylle hasn’t been making the same kind of headlines as Kreider. The 22-year-old is serving in a bottom-six capacity and has offered the kind of gritty play that role typically dictates, recording 38 PIM and a team-leading 173 hits in 54 appearances this season. However, Cuylle was an offensive force at lower levels, providing 80 points (43 goals, 37 assists) in 59 outings with OHL Windsor in 2021-22 as well as 45 points (25 goals, 20 assists) in 69 games with AHL Hartford last season. He’s up to 10 goals and 18 points in 54 contests with the Rangers in 2023-24 despite his limited playing time and is on a three-game scoring streak. Consider picking up Cuylle for the duration of his hot stretch, especially if your league uses hits as a category.

You also might want to consider giving Kaapo Kakko a chance. When healthy, he struggled mightily on offense during the first half of the campaign, scoring three goals and four points across 26 contests. However, he’s shown life recently, contributing three goals and five points over his last seven outings.

Tampa Bay Lightning - MON VS OTT, THU VS WAS, SAT @ NYI, SUN @ NJD (BTB)

The Lightning are set to play at home against the Senators on Monday and the Capitals on Thursday. They’ll follow that up with a road set over the weekend versus the Islanders and the Devils on Saturday and Sunday, respectively. None of Tampa Bay’s upcoming opponents are in a playoff position, though the Islanders and Devils still have a solid shot of reaching the postseason.

The Lightning is in a strong spot in the playoff race with a 30-20-5 record thanks to their run of 11 wins over their past 14 contests. The Lightning’s resurgence is thanks in no small part to Andrei Vasilevskiy, who has rebounded from a rough start to post a 10-2-0 record, 2.41 GAA and .915 save percentage in his last 12 starts.

Meanwhile, Jonas Johansson has been used sparingly, but he’ll probably get a start Saturday or Sunday. If it’s against the Islanders, who are tied for 22nd offensively with 2.91 goals per game, then he might be worth considering as a short-term pickup for a spot start. Johansson has a 3.46 GAA and an .889 save percentage in 23 outings, so he’s not having a great year, but with Tampa Bay rolling, he’s at least a decent candidate to collect a win.

In contrast to Johansson’s struggles, Anthony Cirelli had one of the best campaigns of his career with 12 goals and 30 points through 54 appearances. A lot of that production has come recently -- Cirelli has three four and 13 points over his last 11 outings. He’s unlikely to maintain that pace, but fantasy managers should take advantage of the 26-year-old forward while he’s hot.

Vegas Golden Knights - MON @ SJS, TUE VS NSH, THU VS TOR, SAT @ OTT

The Golden Knights will start the week with a road game against the lowly Sharks before hosting the Predators and the Maple Leafs on Tuesday and Thursday, respectively, and finishing with a visit to Ottawa on Saturday. Toronto is the only team on that list in a playoff position, though the Predators are also in the running.

Jack Eichel, who underwent lower-body surgery in mid-January, was originally given a four-to-six-week timetable, so we’re at the point where he might be getting close to returning. When Eichel is back, he’ll likely serve on the first line and top power-play unit. His return might cut into Nicolas Roy’s playing time, especially with William Karlsson having also recently rejoined the lineup from a lower-body injury. If that happens, Roy, who has 10 goals and 29 points in 44 outings, would likely see his production dip.

Shea Theodore (upper body) is also getting close to returning and when he does, Daniil Miromanov will likely see his power-play role vanish. However, the 26-year-old defenseman is an interesting pickup to hold onto until Theodore’s back. Miromanov missed most of the campaign because of an undisclosed injury, but after recovering he recorded a goal and six points in five outings during a conditioning stint with AHL Henderson, and he made his NHL season debut Feb. 8. Although he didn’t record a point in his first two contests with Vegas, he did average 2:38 with the man advantage (17:56 overall), so he’s getting a solid opportunity.

If Logan Thompson is available to be picked up, he’s also worthy of consideration given the likelihood that he’ll start versus San Jose on Monday or Nashville on Tuesday. Obviously, facing the Sharks is preferable for the goaltender, but Nashville ranks 19th offensively with 2.96 goals per game, so either opponent might yield a good result. Thompson has been alright this season with a 16-10-4 record, 2.77 GAA and .906 save percentage in 31 games, but he’s fallen into the No. 2 slot with Adin Hill recovered from his undisclosed injury.

Winnipeg Jets - MON @ CGY, TUE VS MIN, FRI @ CHI, SUN VS ARI

The Jets will face the Flames in Calgary on Monday, and then return to Winnipeg to play against Minnesota on Tuesday. After that back-to-back, Winnipeg will play in Chicago on Friday and host the Coyotes on Sunday.

Winnipeg’s offense has gone ice cold in February, scoring just four goals over its last four contests. That’s despite acquiring Sean Monahan from Montreal on Feb. 2 at the cost of the Jets’ 2024 first-round pick. Monahan hasn’t recorded a point with the Jets, but he’s fired nine shots while averaging 16:16 of ice time, including 2:13 with the man advantage, over his first four games with Winnipeg, so it should just be a matter of time before he breaks through.

Monahan’s addition has been bad news for Adam Lowry, though. Lowry has averaged just 14:55 since the Jets’ trade and has received almost no power-play ice time. He has eight goals and 23 points in 51 outings in 2023-24, so Lowry already wasn’t a significant factor in fantasy circles, and his offensive production is likely to slow further.

One player who conversely might start doing better is Cole Perfetti. The 22-year-old has been limited to an assist over his last 11 games, but it’s not unusual for younger forwards to be prone to big hot and cold streaks. In terms of strong stretches, he had eight goals and 17 points across 18 contests from Oct. 24-Dec. 2 as well as five markers and 10 points in 11 games from Dec. 18-Jan. 9, so be on the lookout for his next big run.