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Fantasy buzz: Ristolainen could return for Sabres

Defenseman worth owning in most leagues despite slow start, injury

by James Harding / NHL.com Fantasy Correspondent

All season long, NHL.com's fantasy hockey staff will have you covered with daily lineup news, production trends and injury notes from around the League. We will identify how these developments affect fantasy owners in year-long (Yahoo) and daily (DraftKings) formats.

 
5 p.m.
Gaborik could return for Kings on Friday

Los Angeles Kings forward Marian Gaborik is nearing a return and could make his season debut against the Arizona Coyotes on Friday (9 p.m. ET; FS-A, FS-W, NHL.TV). Gaborik, 35, has been sidelined after offseason knee surgery.

Gaborik (LW/RW, 2 percent owned in Yahoo) could slot into the Kings top-six forward rotation upon his return, potentially even on the top line with center Anze Kopitar and wing Dustin Brown. Gaborik had 21 points (10 goals, 11 assists), five power-play points and 123 shots on goal in 56 games last season and would be an intriguing DraftKings value pick ($4,000) if he plays against the Coyotes.

 

2:30 p.m.
DraftKings value picks for Friday

NOTE: These targets are for Nov. 24 contests beginning at 7 p.m. ET.

CENTER

Ryan Johansen, NSH ($5,000 at STL): The Nashville Predators center has begun to turn his season around over the past three weeks and is a value pick against the St. Louis Blues on Friday (8 p.m. ET; TVAS, FS-MW, FS-TN, NHL.TV). Johansen has at least one point in back-to-back games and six points (two goals, four assists) in his past four games on a line with Filip Forsberg ($6,800) and Viktor Arvidsson ($6,200). Johansen is averaging 3.0 DraftKings points per game over his past eight games and has seven points (one goal, six assists) in 11 road games this season. 

Spend up for: Brayden Schenn, STL ($6,500 vs. NSH)

 

WING

Brock Boeser, VAN ($5,100 at NJD): The Vancouver Canucks right wing remains moderately priced against the New Jersey Devils on Friday (7 p.m. ET; MSG+, SNP, NHL.TV). Boeser enters Friday with a five-game point streak totaling six goals, one assist and 17 shots on goal. He is coming off back-to-back multi-goal games against the Philadelphia Flyers and Pittsburgh Penguins and has scored at least one goal in each of his past four games. Boeser's 21 points lead all NHL rookies and he has 10 points (five goals, five assists) in 11 road games.

Spend up for: Johnny Gaudreau, CGY ($7,600 at DAL) 

Video: The guys on Boeser's scoring, leadership for Canucks

 

DEFENSEMAN

Oliver Ekman-Larsson, ARI ($4,700 vs. LAK): The Arizona Coyotes defenseman has a three-game point streak totaling one goal, three assists, two power-play points, seven blocked shots and 11 shots on goal. He's worth drafting in DFS against the Los Angeles Kings on Friday (7 p.m. ET; FS-A, FS-W, NHL.TV) given his elite category coverage over his past 10 games (4.0 DraftKings points per game). Ekman-Larsson has seven points (one goal, six assists), 16 blocked shots and 33 shots on goal in that span and is averaging 3.3 DraftKings points per game at home with first power-play exposure to rookie forward Clayton Keller ($5,400).

Spend up for: P.K. Subban, NSH ($5,200 at STL)

 

GOALTENDER

Carter Hutton, STL ($7,600 vs. NSH): The St. Louis goaltender will start against the Predators at home on Friday. It will be his first game since he relieved Jake Allen against the New York Islanders on Nov. 11. Hutton has been one of the better backups in the NHL; he's 4-0-0 with a 1.71 goals-against average and .943 save percentage in five games (four starts). Hutton has a favorable matchup considering Nashville's offense has struggled on the road, averaging 2.36 goals per game through 11 games.

Video: STL@CAR: Hutton snags Aho's backhand shot in tight

 

11 a.m.
Ristolainen could return for Sabres on Friday

Buffalo Sabres defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen could return to their lineup against the Edmonton Oilers on Friday (7 p.m. ET; SNE, SNO, SNW, MSG-B, NHL.TV). Ristolainen has missed the past nine games because of an upper-body injury.

The Sabres assigned defenseman Casey Nelson to Rochester of the American Hockey League on Friday to make room for Ristolainen's potential return.

Ristolainen (76 percent owned in Yahoo) was having a down fantasy season before the injury with no goals and five assists in his first 13 games, but finished 93rd overall in Yahoo last season and remains a must-own player if your league counts shots on goal (32 this season), power-play points (two) and/or hits (38).

[ INJURY UPDATE: Price to return Saturday; updated fantasy top 25 goalie rankings ]

The 23-year-old should immediately slot back into his normal spot on the top defense pair and first power-play unit. He scored 25 PPP last season and had 21 in 2015-16. He leads the NHL in ice time per game (27:09) and is an intriguing DFS value pick priced at $4,500 in DraftKings. The Oilers are allowing the ninth-most DraftKings points to opposing defensemen.

Video: MTL@BUF: Ristolainen banks shot in off the post

 

Ovechkin, Backstrom back together for Capitals

The Washington Capitals reformed their longtime duo of left wing Alex Ovechkin and center Nicklas Backstrom in their 5-2 win against the Ottawa Senators on Wednesday. Coach Barry Trotz is expected to keep that line together against the Tampa Bay Lightning on Friday (5 p.m. ET; NHLN, NBCSWA, SUN, NHL.TV).

The line change had an immediate impact on the pair; Ovechkin scored his 14th goal of the season, assisted by Backstrom, in the first period. They played alongside forward Tom Wilson (7 percent owned in Yahoo) at even strength. Wilson did not have a point Wednesday but has three assists over his past six games. Wilson has added value in hits leagues with 51 through 19 games.

Video: WSH@NJD: Backstrom, Ovechkin combine for PPG

The move also positively impacted their new second line of Evgeny Kuznetsov centering forwards T.J. Oshie and Jakub Vrana (LW/RW, 8 percent owned). Vrana scored two goals on five shots on goal, and Kuznetsov (one goal, two assists) and Oshie (two assists) each had a multipoint game.

Vrana, who began the season alongside Ovechkin and Kuznetsov at even strength, is worth owning again in deeper leagues and should be considered in a standard format if he remains in this spot moving forward. From a DFS standpoint, Vrana is a viable option priced at $3,200 in DraftKings on Friday.

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