This article is part of our FanDuel NHL series.
It's an eight-game slate for Friday and the three marquee matchups start at 7 p.m. EST. The shorthanded Caps, who will be without starter (Ilya Samsonov), their No. 2 defenseman (Dmitry Orlov) and one-third of their top-six (Evgeny Kuznetsov, Alex Ovechkin) due to COVID-19 protocol, will host the Sabres, who will try to take advantage of the situation. Rimouski Oceanic alumni Alexis Lafreniere and Sidney Crosby will meet for the first time when the Rangers visit the Pens, and both Connor McDavid's Oilers and Auston Matthews' Leafs should put on a better show in their second showdown of the season after Wednesday's snoozer.
The remaining games will have staggered start times for your efficient viewing pleasure, starting with the Wild-Sharks (8 p.m.). The Hawks are looking for their first win of the season in an old Norris Division matchup against the Wings (8 p.m.), and the Stars make their season debut after a lengthy wait against Nashville at 8:30 p.m. It's Knights-Yotes, Round 2 at 9 p.m., and finally the Avs close out their back-to-back against the Ducks at 10 p.m.
(All advanced stats courtesy Natural Stat Trick.)
Robin Lehner, VGK at ARI ($8,700): The Coyotes are playing faster, but their roster still lacks elite scorers and Vegas is running the best goaltending battery in the league. Lehner ranks fourth among starters with a .949 EV Sv% and will face a team that ranks 22nd in Shots/GP - only managing 23 shots against Marc-Andre Fleury on Wednesday - and 16th on the power play.
Philipp Grubauer, COL at ANH ($8,500): Among starters in the $8,000-range, Grubauer comes in with the most enticing matchup against a team that has done very little on offense. Entering Thursday's games, the flailing Ducks are last in Shots/GP, 21st in CF%, and have scored just six goals over four games. The Avs were not sharp last night, but have already showed early in the season they can bounce back the following game.
Cam Talbot, MIN vs. SJ ($8,200): Talbot has been playing well – almost too well. That makes us wary of him - especially against the Sharks, who are getting resurgent seasons from Tomas Hertl and Logan Couture and trail only Vegas and Colorado in goals scored in the division. However, the Wild are still a decent bet with their deep defense, and their underlying metrics suggest their offense is underperforming relative to xGF as they rank 17th in GF/GP, just ahead of the Sharks.
Linus Ullmark, BUF vs. WSH ($6,900): Do I feel 1,000 times more confident the Sabres will win because the Caps will be without Ovechkin? Yes. Ullmark will likely get the start after returning to the team yesterday following the death of his father, so there's some added motivation for him and the team. The Sabres had only eight players with a CF% above 50 percent (min. 30 GP) last season; this year, they're already up to 14 and look vastly improved.
Thomas Greiss, DET at CHI ($6,700): Since starting a career-high 38 games in 2015-16, Greiss ranks 23rd in wins (101, ahead of Jacob Markstrom) and 18th in Sv% (.915, tied with Fleury). The gulf between Greiss and Chicago's goalies is pretty sizable, but the Wings are only slightly favored.
Jakub Vrana, WSH vs. BUF ($4,600): Not only is Vrana's role going to be substantially bigger, he played better with Nicklas Backstrom as his center (51.09 CF% With) compared to Evgeny Kuznetsov (45.56 CF%) last season. Over the next four games while Ovechkin sits, Vrana offers first-line upside for a second-line salary.
Roope Hintz, DAL vs. NSH ($4,400): Hintz will open the season as the Stars' No. 1 center with Tyler Seguin on the shelf and is projected between Jamie Benn and Denis Gurianov. He established career highs in virtually all statistical categories last season, including 19 goals and 14 points on the power play.
Joel Eriksson Ek, MIN vs. SJ ($4,200): Eriksson Ek finished fourth in ice time among Minnesota forwards and has produced three points and 14 shots on net through four appearances. His offense has been a pleasant surprise, as he averaged just 1.68 shots per game the previous four seasons. Eriksson Ek is getting plenty of playing time because Dean Evason trusts his line and the center has been very effective in front of the net on the power play, a role in which he's currently excelling despite previously playing few man-advantage minutes.
Kasperi Kapanen, PIT vs. NYR ($4,200): Kapanen understandably played 10 minutes in his season debut after missing all of camp and the first few games. Despite the limited role, he looked very good and there's a chance he gets moved up the lineup. Kapanen was brought over to play on Sidney Crosby's right wing, and he may do that as soon as tonight.
Alexis Lafreniere, NYR at PIT ($4,100): We're still awaiting Lafreniere's first goal and it may come tonight with him skating on the top line with Mika Zibanejad and Pavel Buchnevich. The Rangers' talent is apparent, but they've been very inconsistent as Dan Quinn juggles his lines again. Who knows if Lafreniere will stick, but he's in a favorable situation right now.
Chandler Stephenson, VGK at ARI ($3,700): Stephenson's underlying numbers are excellent and he's playing with talented linemates, but the big drawback is his lack of power-play ice time. That probably won't change, but this line is likely to remain dominant all season and they've been very efficient in scoring goals. Stephenson also notched two points in the first game against the Coyotes.
Sabres vs. Capitals
This trio combined for seven points in their first two games against the Caps, and Orlov - who played with John Carlson and matched up with Eichel quite a bit in the second contest - will not be available. The Eichel-Hall partnership has paid huge dividends so far.
Red Wings at Blackhawks
This is an inexpensive line stack with a high-upside sniper (Zadina) facing a team with poor goaltending. The Red Wings have split up their top line for the moment, but Larkin has been excellent and has been driving the engine with four points and 15 shots on net while averaging over 20 minutes a night.
Shea Theodore, VGK at ARI ($6,200): The Coyotes aren't in the same class as Vegas. And when they inevitably turn over the puck with their uptempo style, it feeds right into Theodore's swift, counter-attacking skills as evidenced by the two goals he scored against them last time out.
Jakob Chychrun, ARI vs. VGK ($4,100): It's not an ideal matchup, but Chychrun's been Arizona's most steady defender so far this campaign. He's racked up five points and 18 shots quarterbacking the top unit and has accumulated plenty of ice time. You could do a lot worse in this salary range.
Adam Fox, NYR at PIT ($4,000): Anthony DeAngelo ($4,400) will return to the lineup, but Fox represents the far better play. He's dependable, so the coaches will play him a lot more. And it seems Fox will remain on the top power-play unit while DeAngelo starts with Jacob Trouba on the second unit. Of note, the Penguins' PK currently ranks 22nd.