Chad Johnson, BUF vs. TOR ($26) – The Leafs offense is vastly different when Auston Matthews isn’t in the lineup, and scoring has been a bit of a problem lately with just seven goals in their past three games. Johnson, who is expected to start after Robin Lehner lost Friday, has won two straight games after allowing just one goal each to the Bruins and Lightning. He sports a 5-1-1 career record against the Leafs with a .932 save percentage and 1.99 GAA, so history is on his side as he tries to extend his hot streak. The Sabres are not a good team and their defense needs a huge upgrade, but Johnson can be a high-risk, high-reward play.
GOALIE TO AVOID
Jacob Markstrom, VAN vs. NYI ($27) – He’s allowed seven goals in his past two appearances and has never looked like he can be a reliable No. 1 at any point this season. The Canucks defense is going to have a lot of trouble containing the Islanders’ speed, and Markstrom has been getting beat by bad goals all season. He has been better on the road than at home this season and sports a career 3.37 GAA against the Islanders, so the numbers don’t work in his favor at all.
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Evgeni Malkin, PIT vs. CGY ($31) – He’s one of the league’s hottest players and is making a late-season charge for the scoring title and MVP, and neither of the Flames’ young goalies may be able to do anything about it. Malkin has not scored in three straight games but does have three assists in his past two games, and managed seven shots on net Saturday against the Islanders. The Penguins are deep at center and Mike Sullivan will be able to get the matchups he wants with last change on home ice.
Mathew Barzal, NYI at VAN ($20) – Not only is the Canucks’ goaltending not good, their defense hasn’t been very reliable, either. With some of their best two-way forwards out of the lineup and the top pairing of Alex Edler and Erik Gudbranson most likely matched up against John Tavares, Barzal has a chance to unleash his devastating speed against either Michael Del Zotto or Ben Hutton on the other pairings. The Canucks have had trouble containing speedy forwards this season – Nathan MacKinnon’s scored eight points in three games against them – and Barzal’s one of the league’s fastest. His ability to score in bunches should terrify the Canucks, who allowed three goals in the first period Wednesday against the Rangers and two goals in the third period Friday against the Predators.
CENTERS TO AVOID
Sean Monahan, CGY at PIT ($20) – He’ll face either Sidney Crosby or Derick Brassard if Mike Sullivan has his way, and neither of them will be easy matchups. Monahan has not scored a point in three straight games, coinciding with the Flames’ recent scoring woes. The Pens are hoping Casey DeSmith and Tristan Jarry can hold the fort until Matt Murray returns, and even though both goalies are very green, either of them could turn in a gem performance. Monahan has scored just twice over the past month.
Matt Duchene, OTT at DAL ($17) – You’d think getting rid of Derick Brassard would help Duchene’s production as the team’s undisputed No. 1 center, but his inconsistency remains frustrating. He’s scored just three goals in six games after scoring two goals and seven assists in the six games prior, and the Stars don’t allow many goals despite their pedestrian goaltending. Just 16 of Duchene’s 40 points this season have come on the road, where he’s also a minus-19.
Brock Boeser, VAN vs. NYI ($23) – He’s one goal shy of 30 and he’ll most definitely get there, and the Islanders are a good target because their goaltending has been atrocious all season. Boeser has two goals and four assists in his past six games, and even though there might be signs of fatigue as the season winds down, he continues to play on the top line and get power play opportunities with the first unit. All signs point toward a wide-open, high-scoring game, and if that’s the case Boeser should have no problem picking up a couple points.
Patric Hornqvist, PIT vs. CGY ($21) – The veteran winger has a way of getting under goalies’ skin, and he’s got easy targets in a very inexperienced tandem of David Rittich and Jon Gillies. He’s scored three goals and an assist in his past six games, and registered at least four shots in three of his past four games, including nine against the Panthers. Even though the Flames defense is talented they’ve performed below expectations this season, and the Penguins have been on a tear in the second half of the season.
Brendan Leipsic, VAN vs. NYI ($10) – He’s the lucky guy who gets to play opposite Boeser on the Canucks’ top line, and after a smashing debut in which he recorded two assists, it looks like Leipsic is there to stay. His speed, tenacity and ability to handle the puck has been an upgrade over every linemate Boeser and Bo Horvat have skated with this season, and over the past two games he’s also fired nine shots on goal. He’s a cheap option who can provide some great value.
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WINGS TO AVOID
Josh Bailey, NYI at VAN ($23) – When he’s not setting up teammates there’s little fantasy value to be derived because he doesn’t shoot the puck very often, and sometimes he’ll disappear for stretches. The Canucks seem like an easy target but his line with John Tavares has taken a back seat to Barzal’s recently. Among the second tier of wingers, Bailey’s recent play does not make him an appetizing option.
Mitch Marner, TOR at BUF ($20) – He’s been held without a point in his past two games with just two shots on goal. The Leafs have dropped three straight and the Sabres have won two straight against two of the best teams in the East thanks to Johnson, who sports very good career numbers against the Leafs with a 5-1-1 record.
Kyle Okposo, BUF vs. TOR ($15) – Okposo has dropped on the depth chart lately and skated just over 15 minutes in each of his past two games, recording just one goal on three shots with a minus-3 rating. He isn’t blessed with talent and scoring has been a problem all season for the Sabres, especially without Jack Eichel. Okposo spent most of Friday’s game on a checking line with Zemgus Girgensons and Nicholas Baptiste, so scoring chances will be rare.
Rasmus Ristolainen, BUF vs. TOR ($17) – The Sabres seem intent on running him into the ground, but as long as he’s standing Ristolainen will be the best high-floor, high-ceiling defenseman who is stuck playing on a bad team. The Leafs offense has sputtered recently, while Ristolainen has two assists in his past three games and has not been held without a shot on goal since Jan. 25.
Darnell Nurse, EDM vs. ARI ($16) – The stats only show part of the picture – four shots, two blocked shots – but Nurse was excellent Saturday against the Rangers. The Coyotes are on a roll but other than Clayton Keller don’t really have any other players producing on offense, and also don’t have any players who can bully Nurse with their strength. Nurse has been putting pucks on net much more often this season and has only failed to block a shot in just two games in 2018.
DEFENSEMEN TO AVOID
John Klingberg, DAL vs. OTT ($26) – He had just six points in 12 games in February, easily his least productive month of the season, and seems to be stuck in a rut still with just one assist in his past two games even though the Stars have scored eight goals. He’s just three points shy of tying his career high of 58 points but seems to be struggling a little of late. At this price, Erik Karlsson is the better bet.
Justin Schultz, PIT vs. CGY ($18) – He’s unreliable because he’s not the best offensive defenseman on his team and has scored just 18 points this season, reverting back to his former status as a middling second-pairing defenseman with a sprinkling of upside on offense. His shooting percentage is at a career low and he’s also a minus-10 in 18 games in his career against the Flames, which makes him a poor pick when Kris Letang ($22) is only slightly more expensive and Olli Maatta ($17) – who has scored three times in six games – is slightly cheaper.