NHL Fantasy Hockey: Week Five Preview (Feb. 18-24)

New York Islanders center John Tavares

The fifth week in Fantasy Hockey features quite the anomaly; there are five teams playing just two games, yet there is one team playing five games this week. That can be fantasy gold for some people. This is how it breaks down this week.

Two-Game Teams

Anaheim Ducks, Boston Bruins, Dallas Stars, Minnesota Wild, Washington Capitals

Offensively, there’s not a whole lot you will miss out on this week. I know that Anaheim and Boston can be high scoring and Dallas has a few interesting names, but it seems that Anaheim and Boston at least do a good job spreading the scoring around. Those two teams have 17 players combined averaging at least 0.5 points/game. Where you will be missing out on is the starting goaltending; Viktor “Life In The” Fasth(lane) is a perfect 8-0, Tuukka Rask is among league leaders and Niklas Backstrom is set to get the bulk of the starts now that Josh Harding is on the IR. However, with just two games this week, I cannot recommend starting any of the goalies if you have two other number ones behind them. If you have to choose between Rask (2) or Smith (3), then I could still go Rask. But for the most part, avoid players on any of these teams.

Three-Game Teams

Buffalo Sabres, Chicago Blackhawks, Edmonton Oilers, Los Angeles Kings, New York Rangers, Phoenix Coyotes, Pittsburgh Penguins, San Jose Sharks, St. Louis Blues

Buffalo has a fairly soft schedule this week with a visit to Toronto sandwiched by home games against the Islanders (who I will get into later) and Winnipeg. I would say start anyone from this team if you have them. Chicago has three straight home games against the Canucks, Sharks and Blue Jackets. Considering how Ray Emery has been playing and how bad the Sharks/Jackets have been, I have confidence in Emery and all the Blackhawks’ scorers this week. Edmonton has a very soft schedule this week, with three home games against Los Angeles, Minnesota and Phoenix. They broke out for six goals against the Avalanche on Saturday night and would expect this trend to continue. Both Los Angeles and Phoenix have back-to-back games against Edmonton and Calgary. Despite the mediocrity of those two Alberta teams, it’s always a tough road trip so be wary of Quick and Smith. The Rangers should roll this week, with two games against Montréal and Ottawa in between them. The offense might struggle against Price and Anderson but the defense will not. San Jose has been sliding lately and they have three tough road games ahead with St. Louis, Chicago and Dallas on the docket, with the latter two games being a back-to-back. While none of those three teams will be featuring their “Number 1” goalie, all three are good home teams and the Sharks could be in for extending their losing streak to double-digits. Of all these teams, St. Louis probably has the easiest schedule with a home game against a sliding Sharks team, a visit to a banged-up Colorado team and another home game against a brutal Columbus team. I expect most Blues players to fill the net this week, so start ’em if you got ’em.

Four-Game Teams

Calgary Flames, Carolina Hurricanes, Colorado Avalanche, Columbus Blue Jackets, Detroit Red Wings, Florida Panthers, Montréal Canadiens, Nashville Predators, New Jersey Devils, Ottawa Senators, Philadelphia Flyers, Tampa Bay Lightning, Toronto Maple Leafs, Vancouver Canucks, Winnipeg Jets

With half the teams in the NHL playing four games, most of your players will come from this group and this is the week you “start your studs”. Every single one of these teams plays a back-to-back at some point, so be wary of your starting goaltenders. The worst schedule in this sense is Nashville as they play two different back-to-backs with the first set being in Colorado and at home against Detroit and the second set at home against Vancouver and on the road against Detroit. It’s a lot of travel in a week with back-to-back sets, so beyond Rinne and Weber, I would be hard-pressed to start anyone else. Calgary has a sneaky schedule, as their first game of the week is the second in a back-to-back situation while they host Minnesota and Phoenix at home on the weekend with the Kings in between these two sets. Columbus and Colorado are turning into wastelands, so if you don’t have the studs off these teams (and there’s only a handful), the rest should be riding the pines. With Petr Mrazek starting today for Detroit, expect Jimmy Howard to get at least three, if not all four starts this week. He hasn’t been good, but with Nashville twice and Columbus on the schedule, expect some low goal totals. Are you like me and are starting José Theodore from Florida once in a while? Not this week. They have Toronto and Boston with a back-to-back on the road against Philadelphia and Pittsburgh this week, so there will be lots of pain felt by Theodore owners. Montréal has a back-to-back home/road set this week against Carolina and the Rangers with the Islanders and Rangers to finish the week. This could be a bad week for Price owners so make sure you have other viable options besides him. I can see the Devils filling the net this week, with two games against Washington, a home game against Winnipeg and a beat-up Ottawa team up ahead. Start all the New Jersey players you have. Tampa Bay players could see a hit to their plus/minus ratings this week. They host Toronto and Boston followed by a back-to-back on the road in Carolina and Pittsburgh. Three of these four teams are in the top-5 in team scoring in the East so far this year. Both Vancouver and Winnipeg play all their games on the road this week. Those two teams are a combined 5-4-2 on the road this year, so it could be a long week for owners of goalies from either of these teams.

Five-Game Team

In some sort of weird scheduling logic, there are five teams that play two games, yet the New York Islanders play five games this week. If you’re not worried about ratios, I would be starting goalie Evgeni Nabokov. While they play five games, two sets of back-to-backs and thus Rick DiPietro should get at least one start. If the Islanders have any interest in making the playoffs, DiPietro should only get one. It goes without saying (so I’m saying it), all your Islanders players should be in your starting lineup.

Players I Like This Week


Frans Nielsen (C – New York Islanders) – He is not a shooter, he is a set-up guy. But with five games this week, this assist man is going to get lots of opportunities to get on the scoresheet. He is getting second-unit power-play time and for those of you who count short-handed points, he’s a staple on the penalty kill. He won’t stuff the peripheral stats except face-off wins but he should get you some points with the abundance of games this week.

Calgary Flames right wing Jarome Iginla
Calgary Flames right wing Jarome Iginla during the third period against the Vancouver Canucks at Rogers Arena Anne Marie Sorvin USA TODAY Sports

Jarome Iginla (RW – Calgary Flames) – I’m calling it. This is the week Iginla breaks out. With just one goal so far this year (on 46 shots, mind you, good for 2.2% shooting), Iginla has been off to his predictably slow start. With just one game in their first six where Calgary scored at least four goals, they have three such games in the last six. Calgary is finding its offensive groove, other players are contributing. It’s just a matter of time before Iginla finds the net and the advanced stats are saying the time is sooner rather than later.


Cody Franson (Toronto Maple Leafs) – Very quietly, this young D-man has put up eight points in 12 games this year. He is seeing first-unit power-play time and is currently T-7th in plus/minus among defencemen in the NHL at (+8). With the solid even-strength play, the abundant power-play time and a soft-ish schedule this week, look for Franson to continue his underrated play (he’s a top-3o fantasy defenceman right now).

Zach Bogosian (Winnipeg Jets) – Returning from a wrist injury that took months to rehab, Bogosian is probably the most underrated defenceman that is under 25 years old in the NHL. Had he played 82 games last year, he would have been close to a 40 point season. With Tobias Enstrom likely out for a while, look for Bogosian to pick up the slack in all facets of the game. When healthy, he has top-15 defenceman potential.


Martin Brodeur (New Jersey Devils) – After going through a rough stretch a couple weeks ago, Brodeur has only allowed 10 goals in his last five starts. To boot, he’s got a Washington team twice that he’s already beat this year and he was 3-0 against the Jets last year. With Hedberg getting the most recent start, Brodeur should get three this week and all three could easily be wins.

Devan Dubnyk (Edmonton Oilers) – This is a big week for Dubnyk. With Khabibulin starting the most recent game, in conjunction with three straight home games all in non-back-to-back situations, this will be a three start week for Dubnyk. Minnesota and Phoenix are among the worst teams in goal scoring on the road in the West while the Kings are as Jekyll-and-Hyde as they come. All these games are against teams that Edmonton is fighting with for a playoff spot, so they need Doober to come up big. I think he does.

Players I Don’t Like This Week


Joe Thornton (C – San Jose Sharks) – Get this: Thornton has one point in his last eight games (an assist). If the team isn’t scoring (and it’s not), Thornton doesn’t stuff the peripheral stats to be a reliable fantasy option. With three road games (two of them being St. Louis and Chicago) including a back-to-back at the end of the week, I don’t see the Sharks breaking their slump this week. Unless you’re handcuffed, leave Thornton on the bench.

Pavel Datsyuk (C/LW – Detroit) – Datsyuk has been great so far this year, no doubt. However, he’s now day-to-day with a shoulder injury and that worries me in a four-game week at his age. Also, he’s shooting an abnormal 21.4% after never having cracked 17% for six straight seasons. He’s due for a regression any way so with three division games (NSH x2, CBJ) and a back-to-back with one of those Nashville games and Vancouver, I don’t see this being a good week for The Wizard.


Brian Campbell (Florida Panthers) – The man who owns the most ridiculous nickname in the NHL (Soupy) is in for a long week. With Toronto and Boston coming to town and a back-to-back with the Pennsylvania teams in between, this is going to be a huge minus week for Florida as a whole and Campbell particularly. He’s already sporting a (-8) rating and could see that number hit (-11) or (-12) before the end of the week.

Keith Yandle (Phoenix Coyotes) – This team doesn’t score a whole lot to begin with (two goals/game on the road), but they are facing one of the tougher back-to-backs in hockey with the Alberta trip – Edmonton and Calgary. They also host Calgary this week. With a difficult back-to-back and only three games this week, I would be hard-pressed to start Yandle unless I was short on options.


José Theodore (Florida Panthers) – The Panthers are in for a whole lot of pain this week and it starts in net. Theodore has been pretty poor this year overall but with the schedule they have to face (See: Campbell), he’s going to have a sunburn on the back of his net from the red goal lamp. I typically don’t like leaving potential four-start goalies on the bench, but I can’t in good conscience recommend this one.

Anders Lindback (Tampa Bay Lightning) – The Lightning as a whole have been on a bit of a slide, but Lindback more so. He’s allowed 17 goals in his last five starts and has gone 1-2-1 in his last four. The wins might be there for him, but with Toronto and Boston coming in followed by a back-to-back on the road in Carolina and Pittsburgh, the ratios certainly will not. I would assume you have two goalies other than Lindback, I would start them almost regardless of who they are.

So that’s how I see the NHL this week. Agree/Disagree? You can always reach me on Twitter @SlimCliffy with any fantasy hockey question.

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Michael Clifford
Michael Clifford was born and raised in Fredericton, New Brunswick, Canada and is a graduate of the Unviersity of New Brunswick. He writes about fantasy hockey and baseball for XNSports and FantasyTrade411.com. He can be reached on Twitter @SlimCliffy for any fantasy hockey questions. !function(d,s,id){var js,fjs=d.getElementsByTagName(s)[0],p=/^http:/.test(d.location)?'http':'https';if(!d.getElementById(id)){js=d.createElement(s);js.id=id;js.src=p+'://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js';fjs.parentNode.insertBefore(js,fjs);}}(document, 'script', 'twitter-wjs');