Jason Spezza is expected back in the Dallas Stars lineup Thursday at the Arizona Coyotes (9 p.m. ET; FS-SW, FS-A, NHL.TV), and the fantasy impact of his return is far-reaching to say the least.
Spezza (C, 85 percent owned in Yahoo), who missed six games because of an upper-body injury, skated on the right side of Cody Eakin and Antoine Roussel at the Thursday morning skate. Patrick Sharp moves back up to the top line with top-five fantasy forwards Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin.
Patrick Eaves, who made fantasy waves in a top-line, top power-play unit stint in Spezza's absence, skated on the fourth line with Colton Sceviour and Vernon Fiddler. Eaves (LW/RW, 19 percent owned) scored a hat trick Feb. 11 and had eight of his 12 points this season in his five-game point streak Feb. 4-13, which began the game where Spezza was injured against the Colorado Avalanche.
From a fantasy standpoint, Eaves' value takes a major hit with Spezza's return. There was a chance Eaves could stick on the top line because we didn't know the severity of Spezza's injury and also because Spezza and Sharp have played together at points this season. But ultimately, the Dallas lines Thursday morning indicate Eaves will again occupy a depth role.
Eaves' fantasy ownership rose 12 percent in recent days, but he's now droppable in many formats. If your league is deep enough where you can afford to wait a few days to see if Eaves rejoins Seguin and Benn, then obviously do so. Don't expect Eaves to see much power-play time at all though with Spezza back in the fold.
Dallas coach Lindy Ruff has shuffled lines all season long, but Sharp, tri-eligible in Yahoo (C/LW/RW, 93 percent), had his best stretch of the season alongside mostly Seguin and Benn on the top line, highlighted by a 12-game point streak from Dec. 19 to Jan. 9. Sharp has no goals and one assist in his past eight games and has not scored a goal since Jan. 3 -- a 17-game drought despite his usual high shot volume in that stretch (56; 3.3 per game).
Spezza, who had seven points (four goals, three assists) in a nine-game stretch prior to his injury, is a self-sustainable fantasy forward who had played with nearly every combination of Stars forwards this season. Even after a two-week absence, Spezza ranks 74th among all players in standard Yahoo leagues; he's one of 15 players with at least 18 goals, 18 assists, a plus-5, 10 power-play points and 130 shots on goal. He has also been consistent in his split stats, with 20 home points in 25 such games and 20 road points in 27 such games.
DRAFTKINGS DAILY FANTASY OUTLOOK:
Spezza (C, $6,000) is tied for 15th in price among Thursday centers. He faces the Arizona Coyotes, who allow the seventh-most DraftKings points to opposing forwards and have allowed a combined 20 goals in four games this month against teams in Stanley Cup Playoff position (six vs. Los Angeles Kings; five vs. Chicago Blackhawks; five at Anaheim Ducks; four at San Jose Sharks). On a night with tons of value picks at each position, Spezza offers the cheapest exposure to Dallas' projected top power-play unit for the favorable matchup at Arizona, with Seguin ($8,400), Benn ($8,200), Sharp ($6,500) and defenseman John Klingberg ($6,300) each priced higher. Dallas frequently changes its lines during games, so power-play stacking options are much more promising than drafting Spezza with his even-strength linemates.