This article is part of our FanDuel NHL series.
It's a busy night with nine games on the docket with the Hurricanes, Lightning and Panthers in action as the race in the Central heats up. There's plenty of incentive to finish first, because a first-round matchup between two of the three teams would be very tough. The Predators will visit the Hurricanes (7 p.m. EDT) and the Lightning will host the Panthers (7 p.m.).
The East playoff race is also interesting, but more so because the fourth spot is very much up for grabs. The Bruins hold down that spot right now but they'll host an excellent Islanders squad (7 p.m.). Meanwhile, the Rangers (four points behind) will try for their fourth straight win against the Devils (7 p.m.) and the Flyers (six points behind) will visit the rival Penguins (7 p.m.) as they try to keep their playoff hopes alive despite awful goaltending all season.
Ilya Samsonov, WSH vs. BUF ($8,700): This should be an easy matchup for the Caps, especially with Anthony Mantha bolstering their goal scoring. The Sabres have a chance if they start Linus Ullmark, but the rest of their lineup doesn't breed a lot of confidence. Samsonov should be a popular play but there certainly are other options available that provide better value…
Semyon Varlamov, NYI at BOS ($8,100): Did you know the Bruins have not beaten the Isles once this season? Some games haven't been close, either, with the Isles outscoring them 17-8 through five games. The B's attack has been bolstered, but the Isles have made similar improvements, too. Tuukka Rask is expected to return, but you wonder how effective he will really be after three weeks off in perhaps the worst season of his career.
Igor Shesterkin, NYR vs. NJ ($8,100): Shesterkin made 27 saves in a shutout win against the Devils in his last start and should get the crease again. The Devils are a young team headed for the lottery, which often means they're short on experience and talent most nights. They've lost seven of their past eight and their goaltending has not been able to bail them out over the past two months.
Kevin Lankinen, CHI at DET ($7,100): Lankinen has been shaky but has at least won three of his past four games. He's a perfect 4-0 with a .962 Sv% against them this season, and while the Wings shouldn't be taken lightly after humbling the Hurricanes with a 3-1 win, they are missing three of their top-six forwards (Tyler Bertuzzi, Bobby Ryan, Robby Fabbri) and only one defenseman who has been good enough to average over 20 minutes per game (Filip Hronek).
Anton Khudobin, DAL vs. CBJ ($7,300): Jake Oettinger should also be a viable pick here. The Jackets are coming off a rare two-day break but they've lost three in a row, and this is the beginning of a gruelling six-game road trip. They've done a much better job of scoring lately but the Stars remain one of the best defensive teams in the league and they've outshot the Jackets in every game this season.
Filip Zadina, DET vs. CHI ($3,500): Several factors make Zadina a good value play. First, on home ice, he'll get better matchups. Second, he's starting to score again with two points and six shots in his past two games. Third, Dylan Larkin and Zadina have formed a very good partnership in April, leading the Wings with a combined 7.81 5v5 xGF despite being on ice for just one goal… which means the puck might start going in for them soon.
Dylan Cozens, BUF at WSH ($3,500): There's always a slight chance the Caps' goaltending implodes, and it was a little curious they didn't seek more veteran help in the crease at the deadline. Cozens has two helpers in his past two games since returning to the lineup. Casey Mittlestadt ($3,600) is also a good value play after ascending into the top-six midway through the season.
Kirby Dach, CHI at DET ($3,600): It's a good value play for a high-upside center playing top-six minutes with an assist in two consecutive games. The Red Wings should not pose a challenge on defense with two AHL call-ups (Dennis Cholowski, Gustav Lindstrom) on the blue line.
Jeff Carter, PIT vs. PHI ($3,800): Carter is slated to center the second line with Jared McCann and Jason Zucker on the wings, making his Penguins debut against his former team. It'll be interesting to see how well Carter fares after playing on the wing for most of the season, but it's a good value play because he shoots a lot and the Flyers allow a lot of goals.
Rangers vs. Devils
This trio has combined for 16 points against the Devils, including three from Zibanejad and Buchnevich last game. It's relatively inexpensive compared to the other top lines, the only drawback being that Buchenvich plays PP2 while Zibanejad and Kreider get to play with Artemi Panarin.
Capitals vs. Sabres
Mantha's Caps debut couldn't get any better, and this line was by far their best in a 6-1 drubbing of the Flyers. They led all Caps lines with 12:43 of 5v5 TOI and a 57.89 5v5 CF% with 11 shot attempts, according to Natural Stat Trick. Mantha was extremely efficient, registering six shots in just 14 minutes of play in a blowout win, and it's probable he'll play more minutes in his second game. At the very least, he doesn't seem to be in coach Peter Laviolette's doghouse like Jakub Vrana was for most of the season.
Stars vs. Blue Jackets
On a point-per-game basis, Hintz's 1.10 P/GP is the best mark among Stars forwards this season, and he's doing this while playing injured. He missed the last game but returned to practice on the top line with the overlooked and underrated Robertson (29 points in 36 games) and L'Esperance, a proven scorer in the AHL, on the wings. It's a very inexpensive first line, and while L'Esperance clearly doesn't have the same amount of upside, he has made the occasional appearance on the power play.
John Carlson, WSH vs. BUF ($6,900): Carlson has five helpers in his past four games and remains one of the more consistent offensive defensemen in the league. There's plenty to choose from Thursday night, but Carlson has the edge with a relatively easy matchup against one of the league's worst defensive teams.
Adam Fox, NYR vs. NJ ($6,300): Fox has scored six points in five games against the Devils and even though his scoring pace has (inevitably) slowed, he continues to be the Rangers' key player on the blue line. Since March, Fox has failed to register a point in only five games.
Seth Jones, CBJ at DAL ($4,900): He's taken on more of an offensive role with Zach Werenski out of the lineup, registering at least four shots in five of his past six games. He has just three helpers to show for it on the score sheet, but no one else is being leaned on more on the Jackets' blue line.