NHL Fantasy Hockey: Week 8 Preview

Colorado Avalanche goalie Semyon Varlamov

With only three weeks left in the Fantasy Hockey regular season, now is the time to make moves if you need to. Most leagues have their trade deadline coming up in the next 10-14 days which means you don’t have a lot of time left to keep taking the wait-and-see approach. Whether or not the moves work out is a different story. But if you’re sitting a few games out of playoff position you probably have to shake things up at least a little bit.

Remember: It’s always better to go down swinging than go down flailing.

With that being said, let’s take a look ahead to Week 8.

Two-Game Teams

Chicago, Montréal, New York Islanders, Philadelphia

This is going to be a week of struggle if you’re heavy on players from these teams. With only two games and lots of firepower on these squads, there is going to be a bit of guesswork this week. I could still see starting players from Chicago and the Islanders, as they have easy schedules this week – Chicago with a game in Columbus and Dallas, New York with a game in Tampa Bay and Florida. But Philadelphia has a home-and-home with New Jersey while Montréal has Ottawa at home then a visit to New Jersey. The upside is that you won’t need to start any of the goalies from these teams (the exception would maybe be Carey Price depending on other options).

Three-Game Teams

Anaheim, Buffalo, Calgary, Carolina, Colorado, Columbus, Dallas, Detroit, Edmonton, Florida, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York Rangers, Phoenix, San Jose, St. Louis, Tampa Bay, Toronto, Vancouver 

Colorado Avalanche goalie Semyon Varlamov
Colorado Avalanche goalie Semyon Varlamov Ron Chenoy USA TODAY Sports

Most of the teams this week play three games so you will get most of your player pool here. There are three teams that play all their games on the road this week: Anaheim (Minnesota, Dallas, St. Louis), Detroit (Calgary, Edmonton, Vancouver), Rangers (Buffalo, Winnipeg, Pittsburgh). Say what you will about home/road splits, but teams score more at home than on the road and allow more on the road than at home. Be wary of this. Buffalo, Calgary, Columbus and Florida seem well on their way to a lottery ticket and their goaltending should all be avoided. Yes, that means even the streaking Blue Jackets, who have Vancouver, Chicago and Phoenix this week. The Carolina offensive juggernaut continues to roll along, posting 25 goals in their last six games. Even their goaltending has been decent, not having allowed more than three goals against in over two weeks. Despite 71 shots against in his last two starts, Semyon Varlamov has only allowed four goals for Colorado, good for a .943 SV%. After stopping Chicago’s streak and beating San Jose in overtime, I trust them to get on a little roll here now that they are mostly healthy. Dallas has three home games this week, but with Nashville, Anaheim and Chicago coming to town and the possibility of missing Jamie Benn, Brenden Morrow and Ray Whitney for possibly the whole week, it could be a long week for Dallas. I would avoid everyone not named Kari Lehtonen on this team. Edmonton finishes its nine-game road trip this week, but probably a little too late as they are now 14th in the West. They need to go on a big winning streak so we’ll see how they respond this week. Floridaahahahahahah (I think you get the point). Minnesota is leading the Northwest Division. I don’t think anyone imagined that a couple of weeks ago. With Anaheim and a home-and-home with Colorado, it’ll be interesting to see how they stack up this week. Phoenix gets a Los Angeles team that is starting to fill the net and two road games against St. Louis and Columbus. A week ago, I would have said this was a pretty easy schedule. Now, it’s a gauntlet. San Jose could struggle this week with a road game in St. Louis followed by a home-and-home with Los Angeles. I would avoid goalie Antti Niemi if you can help it. I love the offensive players from Tampa Bay more than usual this week. With Florida, the Islanders and Carolina on the schedule (combined -29 goal differential), there’s going to be lots of scoring chances for the Lightning. Toronto gets Pittsburgh, sandwiched by two games against the Jets. It’ll take a person with a strong stomach to start any goaltenders from the Maple Leafs.

Four-Game Teams

Boston, Los Angeles, Nashville, Ottawa, Pittsburgh, Washington, Winnipeg

Like usual, if you have someone playing four games, they should be in your lineup. But you should be licking your lips if you own a lot of Boston or Los Angeles skaters; the Bruins have scored two goals or less only twice in the last month while the Kings have scored 19 goals in their last four games. Nashville has been hard-pressed to score goals lately – they have scored one goal or less in six of their last eight games. That is absolutely astounding, actually. But with a depleted Dallas team, sliding Vancouver team and subpar Edmonton and Calgary teams on the schedule, if they were going to turn around their offensive fortunes, this would seem to be the week. Ottawa is also struggling to find the back of the net (although not nearly at the rate of Nashville) with just 15 goals scored in their last seven games. With them not scoring and their revolving goaltending situation, I would avoid this team for the most part. Pittsburgh could be in for a tough week, with Boston twice, Toronto and the Rangers. As per usual, start the studs and sit the goalies. Washington has Carolina twice and Boston this week (add the lowly Sabres, too), so I would be hard-pressed to rely on anyone in the crease for them. Winnipeg has three teams – Toronto twice, the Rangers and Ottawa – that are all five points ahead of them and occupy three of the four bottom playoff spots. This is going to be a very important week for the Jets, let’s see how they respond.

Players I Like This Week


Los Angeles Kings left wing Dustin Penner
Los Angeles Kings left wing Dustin Penner 25 checks St Louis Blues right wing TJ Oshie 74 during the third period at the Scottrade Center The Kings defeated the Blues 4 1Scott Rovak USA TODAY Sports

Dustin Penner (LW – LAK) – After being a healthy scratch at times this year, Penner is now on a five-game point streak (albeit, five assists). He has added ten shots on goal and four PIMs to boot during that stretch, so he’s been a fairly valuable fantasy commodity recently. He’s still not getting any significant power-play time, so that is a bit of a drawback when talking about his value. But Los Angeles is about as high scoring as any other team in the last week and the hope is that this can continue. PDO says that he will turn around sooner rather than later – it currently sits at 942 which is exceedingly low. As long as Penner stays on a line with Mike Richards and Jeff Carter, he’ll continue to provide decent fantasy value.

Michael Ryder (RW – MTL) – Since the trade to Montréal for Erik Cole, Ryder has nine points in seven games playing with the Habs including four power-play points in the last week. He’s the type of natural scorer that fits in better with the offensive style that the Habs are playing this year. I almost never advocate starting a player with only two games in a given week. However, he’s about as hot as any player in hockey right now with eight points in his last four games. The key to fantasy hockey is being able to catch the streaks while they’re occurring, so if it’s just for two games, so be it. If you don’t feel comfortable with it I can understand that, but it’s something to consider.


Jake Muzzin (LAK) – ….Who? Yeah I know. He wasn’t on anyone’s radar really to start the season, with Drew Doughty and Slava Voynov the expected offensive stars on the point. But Muzzin has four goals and two assists in his last seven games (a +7, too) and is, get this, logging more power-play time over the last three games than either of Voynov or Doughty. Yeah, again, I know. One of the biggest indicators of performance in fantasy hockey is how he is used by his coach. Since starting the season without cracking 20 minutes of ice-time in his first 13 games, he’s cracked 20 minutes in five of his last seven games. Ride the lightning while it lasts.

Victor Hedman (TB) – He hasn’t scored a goal in nearly a month and is a (-1) since he last scored. So overall, he hasn’t been outstanding. But he’s still getting a good amount of the power-play time (about a third of it of late) and has a fantastic schedule to get on the scoresheet for something else besides penalties. If he doesn’t put up offensive numbers facing the Panthers, Islanders and Hurricanes, then it will be time to worry. Until that happens, I like him this week.


Semyon Varlamov (COL) – As I talked about earlier, he’s been outstanding as of late. With Gabriel Landeskog healthy, Erik Johnson back in the lineup and Ryan O’Reilly back from his holdout, the Avalanche are finally looking like the team some people (namely me) expected them to be at the outset of the season. They have work to do if they expect to make playoffs, but they sit just four points out of first place in their division. With two games against Minnesota this week, they could be at the top of their division this time next week. I’m a believer in Varlamov.

Jonathan Quick (LAK) – As you can tell, I love the Kings this week. Quick has been a bit shaky of late, allowing ten goals in his last three games. But if Los Angeles wants to get to the playoffs, they’ll need to ride their true number one goaltender. Back-up Jonathan Bernier was pulled in his last start so perhaps it’s at the point now where Quick gets the majority of the starts. With four games this week, he should get three of them and none of the teams they are facing are in the top ten in goals for/game as a team.

Players I Don’t Like This Week


Loui Eriksson (LW/RW-DAL) – Eriksson has been pretty good of late, with three goals and four assists in his last seven games. But he just lost is centreman in Jamie Benn to a possible concussion and that’s a huge loss for him and Dallas as a whole. Without his centre there, Eriksson will struggle – he had just three points in five games to start the season while Benn was holding out. He’s a very good player with good versatility, but losing your centre is nothing to sneeze at. Expect a downturn from the Stars.

Pavel Datsyuk (C/LW – DET) – Whoa, right? Well he only has three assists in his last seven games with an even rating over that stretch. Detroit is the third-worst team in the NHL in scoring on the road (ahead of only Nashville and Columbus) and they have a tough road schedule this week with Calgary to start and a back-to-back with Edmonton and Vancouver. These games individually aren’t overly difficult, but that Western Canada road swing is tough for any team, let alone one of the worst scoring road teams in the league. It seems odd, but if you have other options, I would leave Datsyuk on the bench.


Marek Zidlicky (NJD) – With just three points in his last nine games, going (-5) over that stretch, Zidlicky has had a predictable slowdown as of late. New Jersey as a whole has allowed 22 goals in their last six games so I expect this trend for Zidlicky to continue. In fact, at this point, if you haven’t dropped him from your roster, I would say it’s safe to do so now. He still gets the majority of power-play time among defencemen for that team, so if you can stomach the minus rating, then maybe I could start him. But I would have to be all out of options to do so.

Dan Boyle (SJ) – Hooo boy. Well, after starting the season 7-0 and scoring 27 goals over those seven games, the Sharks, and get this, have scored 25 goals in their last 17 games. Yes, I triple-checked that. The only thing keeping them in playoffs is overtime/shootout losses (three point games). As a result, Boyle has two points in his last 12 games. With a very good St. Louis team and one of the hottest teams in the NHL twice this week (Los Angeles), I don’t expect the turnaround from San Jose to come right now. Boyle doesn’t stuff the peripherals to make up for a lack of point production (four PIMs and a -1 rating over those twelve games), so I would be leaving him on the bench.


James Reimer (TOR) – In four games since returning from injury, Reimer has allowed 4+ goals in three of them and has a SV% of .900 over that stretch. A lot of it has to do with a lack of defensive play from his team – he’s faced 40+ shots each of the last two games. But that’s the nature of goaltending in the NHL; if you can’t get a good performance from your team consistently, you’ll be hard-pressed to give a good performance consistently. With only three games and the likelihood of Ben Scrivens starting at least one of them, Reimer belongs on your bench until further notice.

Jacob Markstrom (FLA) – I was clamoring for his call-up and finally got my wish. I thought the Panthers would tighten up defensively with a rookie goalie in the net, but man was I wrong. While the shot totals aren’t overwhelming and Markstrom has allowed a few soft goals, the Florida defencemen aren’t giving him much help in clearing the front of the net or tying up sticks of opposing players. Much like Reimer, until further notice, I can’t trust Markstrom and neither should you.

Well that’s all for this week. Like I said, with only a few weeks left in the fantasy hockey regular season, now is the time to make your moves. Remember to keep your stick on the ice!

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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');