Now that the dust has settled from the NHL Trade Deadline, the final push for the fantasy playoffs has begun.
Whether you are on the edge on making it, fighting for positioning or trying to play spoiler, paying attention to matchups becomes more important as the end of the season approaches. With 18 teams playing four games this week, lineup decisions will be tougher each day, but if you research matchups and your players’ career numbers against their opponents, those tools will help you make the important decisions.
Lineup decisions become particularly crucial in the final weeks of the season, with the schedule more spread out and many teams playing back-to-back and four times a week. (Photo: Getty Images)
Looking for some goalie wins, don’t forget about the backups as there are 24 sets of back-to-backs scheduled this week with the Nashville Predators and Pittsburgh Penguins having two each.
WAIVER WIRE WATCH
Artem Anisimov, Columbus Blue Jackets (owned in 12 percent of Yahoo Leagues) -- When a player scores four game-winning goals in the first nine days of the month, it is time to pay attention to him in the fantasy world. The 6-foot-4 forward has both center and left wing eligibility in Yahoo fantasy leagues and is red hot, already having scored a career-high 19 goals this season. The Blue Jackets have four games this week (@DAL, DET, SJS, @MIN) and we would not be surprised to see Anisimov score his 20th and perhaps his fifth game-winning goal of the season.
Jason Demers, San Jose Sharks (owned in 13 percent of Yahoo Leagues) -- The 25-year-old leads the Sharks' backline in scoring (29 points in 59 games) and is still not owned in many fantasy leagues. Demers has seen his ice time increase each month and has averaged 20:57 in March. He’s a plus-10 and has nine power-play points this season. The Sharks have four games this week (TOR, @CBJ, @NYI, @NYR), all against the East, where he has 15 points in 25 games.
Jhonas Enroth, Buffalo Sabres (owned in 10 percent of Yahoo Leagues) -- After having one win in his first 20 appearances, the 25-year-old has won three of his past five starts. The Ryan Miller trade opens up the door for the Swedish goalie, and even with the recent trade for Michael Neuvirth expect the second-round pick (No. 46) in the 2006 NHL Draft to get the bulk of the time. Don't forget, he was named the best goaltender at the 2013 IIHF World Championship.
A schedule breakdown -- As previously mentioned, the schedule is important to pay attention to as the playoffs approach so here is a breakdown to help make those tough decisions. There are 54 games scheduled this week with half of them (27) coming on Tuesday, Saturday and Sunday. The Philadelphia Flyers play all three of their games on these days while the Carolina Hurricanes, Sabres and Penguins play three of their four games on the busiest days. We are not suggesting sitting Sidney Crosby, Claude Giroux or Jeff Skinner, but for your fringe players on those teams you should be ready to bench them at some point this week.
Home-and-home series --
Left Wing - PIT
GOALS: 16 | ASST: 29 | PTS: 45
SOG: 139 | +/-: 8
The Penguins are a part of two home-and-home series this week against division opponents, the Washington Capitals
(Monday and Tuesday) and Flyers (Saturday and Sunday). These are not only entertaining games involving rivals and some of the top players, but great places to pick up extra fantasy points. Penguins forward Jussi Jokinen
has 24 career points in 31 games played against the Capitals, and newly acquired Washington goalie Jaroslav Halak
is 3-1-0 in his four games played against Pittsburgh. Flyers forward Vincent Lecavalier
has 45 points in 53 career games played against the Penguins, and once again Jokinen is a good play this week with his 18 points in 20 career games played vs. Philadelphia. Also, no surprise Crosby has 120 career points in just 72 games played against the Capitals and Flyers.
Evgeny Kuznetsov, Washington Capitals -- The 26th pick in 2010 has finally arrived in Washington after five years in the Kontinental Hockey League and is ready to contribute right away. The 21-year-old finished with 167 points in 251 regular season and playoff games playing for his hometown team, Traktor Chelyabinsk. The 6-3, 200 pound left-handed shot played on the right wing in the KHL, but could see time on the left side for the Capitals. If you are looking for a bump offensively he is worth the risk, and in a keeper league he is a must-own.