Tonight is busier than it normally is for a Friday, which is nice. It will be an interesting night because of the goalie landscape. There are five backups getting the nod, including J-F Berube making his first start of the season, Philipp Grubauer, James Reimer and Calvin Pickard in a battle of the backups and Andrei Vasilevskiy in Vancouver.
This Cheat Sheet includes DraftKings and FanDuel salary as well as SaberSim dfs projections. These projections don’t tell you exactly what’s going to happen. One game samples have too much randomness to pin down exact predictions. Rather, the projections represent what a player’s performance would look like on average if that particular matchup were played over and over again. There is a wide range of possible outcomes, and the projections represent the average of those possibilities for each player.
Jack Eichel – vs. NYI – (DK-$7,500 / FD-$7,100)
SaberSim Projection: DK-3.42 / FD-12.28
Last time I wrote about Jack Eichel I messed up his salary, I triple checked it this time—he is $7,500 on DraftKings and $7,100 on FanDuel. Eichel had two goals, one assist and five shots in the Sabres’ win over the Kings on Tuesday to bring him to eight points (5G / 3A) in seven games since returning to the Sabres’ lineup. Tonight he will play alongside Kyle Okposo, who will be taking on his former team for the first time, I like the possibility for points from that duo.
Nathan MacKinnon – vs. FLA – (DK-$6,600 / FD-$7,200)
SaberSim Projection: DK-4.23 / FD-15.13
I wrote about MacKinnon vs. the Flyers on Wednesday and he turned in a subpar performance, but I’m going back to the well tonight. MacKinnon shoots the puck a ton—3.64 shots per game—and has been hot as of late. The best news for Avalanche forwards is that the Panthers are in town on the tail-end of a back-to-back. Florida has been reeling lately and that should bode well for MacKinnon and his linemates.
Kyle Okposo – vs. NYI – (DK-$6,000 / FD-$6,200)
SaberSim Projection: DK-3.58 / FD-12.93
As I mentioned, tonight should be an emotional night for Okposo, who takes on the Islanders for the first time after spending the first nine years of his career on the island. The Sabres winger had three assists on Tuesday and comes in having picked up three goals and six assists (nine points) in his last eight games.
Rene Bourque - vs. NYI – (DK-$4,600 / FD-$3,900)
SaberSim Projection: DK-3.25 / FD-11.62
Bourque scored while registering five shots on Wednesday to give him nine goals in 26 games this season. Bourque is averaging around 15 minutes per night and will skate with MacKinnon and Gabriel Landeskog again tonight, making him a nice value option against an exposable Panthers team and James Reimer.
Cory Conacher – @ VAN – (DK-$2,500 / FD-$3,000)
SaberSim Projection: DK-2.04 / FD-7.23
Conacher made his return to the NHL on Wednesday and collected four shots in 13:32 TOI. With both Ondrej Palat and Nikita Kucherov out, Conacher is expected to see a bump in minutes and should skate with Tyler Johnson at even strength and practiced on the top power-play unit in the morning skate. With a minimum salary, he is worth a punt-play vs. the Canucks.
Rasmus Ristolainen – vs. NYI – (DK-$5,900 / FD-$5,400)
SaberSim Projection: DK-3.08 / FD-10.72
Ristolainen has been one of the hottest defensemen in the NHL as of late, (coincidentally when Eichel returned) picking up one goal and nine assists (10 points) in his last eight game. Risto is averaging nearly 2.5 shots per game and has been shooting even more lately and he also blocks nearly two shots per game, so even if he doesn’t score or pick up an assist, he has a high floor.
Victor Hedman - @ VAN – (DK-$5,500 / FD-$6,500)
SaberSim Projection: DK-3.80 / FD-13.37
It’s hard to get excited about the Lightning right now, but without Steven Stamkos or Kucherov, Hedman basically becomes their go-to guy, specifically on the power-play. Hedman picked up three assists on Wednesday and has a penchant for having large shot and block totals on any given night, making him a safe play in Vancouver.
Justin Schultz – vs. LA – (DK-$4,400 / FD-$4,000)
SaberSim Projection: DK-1.52 / FD-5.45
Kris Letang is out, which leaves a huge hole on the Penguins’ blueline and top power play. Schultz appears to be the top option to fill-in on the power play, but the Penguins had an optional morning skate today, so I wasn’t able to get a read on how things will sort out. Head coach Mike Sullivan didn’t divulge either, but he did name Schultz as someone who could step up on the PP. Schultz has played very well lately, having cored five goals with seven assists (12 points) in his last eight games.
Coach Sullivan on the PP: “We have a few options, and Justin Schultz is one of them. He brings good offensive instincts and a great shot.”
— Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) December 16, 2016
Matt Murray – vs. LA – (DK-$8,200 / FD-$9,300)
SaberSim Projection: DK-5.41 / FD-21.64
Murray has been borderline unbeatable in his young NHL career, so you should feel safe starting him whenever he gets the call. Murray has won five in a row with a 1.75 GAA, .945 SV% and one shutout and is tied for second in Wins (12), is fourth in SV% (.935) and fifth in GAA (1.93) since he returned to the crease in early November. He has been outstanding and the Kings are in town on the tail-end of a back-to-back.
Philipp Grubauer – @ CAR – (DK-$8,000 / FD-$7,900)
SaberSim Projection: DK-4.82 / FD-19.29
Grubauer struggled in his first start of the season vs. the Hurricanes, but that has been his only blemish during what has been an otherwise successful two months for the Capitals’ backup. The Hurricanes scored eight goals the other night, which could scare a lot of people away from Grubauer, but I still like him tonight. I don’t see the Hurricanes getting four passed him again. In fact, SaberSim projects there to be a 76.6 percent chance that it doesn’t happen.
Robin Lehner - vs. NYI – (DK-$7,700 / FD-$8,000)
SaberSim Projection: DK-4.49 / FD-17.96
I don’t really know why, but I really like the Sabres and seem to always pick them to win. I had them vs. the Kings the other night and I’m rolling with them again tonight. The Islanders are an ugly 2-7-1 on the road this season and Lehner has played well in his last four starts and even if he gives up a goal or two (or three) he will still see enough rubber to pick up a lot of points and should walk away with the win bonus.