From a fantasy perspective, there are a few details to suss out, and/or appreciate, ahead of the NHL's first post-trade deadline slate of the season. Most pressing, will Timo Meier, recovering from a lower-body injury, feel fit enough to play his inaugural match as his new Devils club visits the Golden Knights in Vegas? It appears improbable, but keep abreast of updates from the team as the day wears on.
On the other hand, defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere - rostered in 79.4% of ESPN.com leagues - is expected to suit up against his old team in Arizona as a fresh-faced member of the Hurricanes, while ex-Oiler Jesse Puljujarvi is also a possibility for that tilt in the desert. Undoubtedly primed to make the best first impression, Puljujarvi presents as a tempting outlying and temporary fantasy asset with Carolina, should he indeed compete this evening.
Elsewhere, the Jets and Oilers are booked to play their first of a home-and-home, scheduled through Saturday. Look for Connor Hellebuyck to first start for the visitors versus Edmonton's No. 1 Stuart Skinner, while backups Jack Campbell and David Rittich prepare to do battle in the weekend's follow up. Probably no Pierre-Luc Dubois for the Jets again Friday. The with-little-to-lose Canadiens visit the equally loose Ducks in Anaheim, while, after beating the Red Wings in OT, the Kraken play their second in as many nights against the Blue Jackets in Columbus.
Of course, for the final time this 2022-23 season, keep a fantasy-related view of any significant transactions as we count down the minutes to Friday's trade deadline (3 p.m.).
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The travelling Kraken needed overtime and minutes from both Martin Jones and Philipp Grubauer in defeating the Red Wings fewer than 24 hours earlier in Detroit. Ranking 30th in goals-allowed this season, the Blue Jackets are relying on Elvis Merzlikins (.879 SV%, 4.10 GAA) nearly full-time in net from here on out. As such, the stage is set for a reasonable amount of scoring from both sides in Ohio this Friday evening.
Oliver Bjorkstrand, Seattle Kraken (34.9%):I'm all over the Kraken winger scoring against his former team in Columbus during their second/final meeting of the season. It's worth noting he earned an assist (plus-one) on a goal by Eeli Tolvanen in their first match-up on Jan. 28. As for the here and now, skating on a scoring line with Alex Wennberg and Jaden Schwartz, Bjorkstrand potted an even-strength goal and the OT power-play winner in Detroit only 24 hours earlier.
Dawson Mercer, New Jersey Devils (34.9%): Never mind Meier (for now), skating on a top line with Nico Hischier and secondary power play, the 21-year-old Sophomore is riding a seven-game scoring streak, totalling ninegoals and five assists. HowMercer remains available in nearly 70% of ESPN.com leagues is beyond me.
Jack Roslovic, Columbus Blue Jackets (41.5%)
Nino Niederreiter, Winnipeg Jets (35.4%)
Ivan Barbashev, Vegas Golden Knights (13.3%):Vegas's new top-line winger logged a primary assist on a goal by Jack Eichel in Wednesday's 3-2 win over the Hurricanes. There's no reason the former Blues forward shouldn't continue to contribute in such fashion, as long as he remains on that No. 1 Eichel-centered scoring line. Which appears to be the plan.
Kent Johnson, Columbus Blue jackets (3.8%)
Jordan Eberle, Seattle Kraken (16.1%)
Adam Lowry, Winnipeg Jets (2.7%)
Seth Jarvis, Carolina Hurricanes (9.4%)
Mason McTavish, Anaheim Ducks (9.4%)
Josh Anderson, Montreal Canadiens (5.8%)
Denis Gurianov, Montreal Canadiens (0.7%)
Evan Bouchard, Edmonton Oilers (62.9%):Partnered with newbie Mattias Ekholm at even-strength and anchoring the top power play following Tyson Barrie's exodus, Bouchard is going to start putting up points with greater regularity. Quite possibly Friday night against the visiting Jets and their recently shaky No. 1 netminder.
Cam Fowler, Anaheim Ducks (19.5%)
Adam Boqvist, Columbus Blues Jackets (2.8%)
Mike Matheson, Montreal Canadiens (14.9%)
Juuso Valimaki, Arizona Coyotes (3.1%)
Justin Schultz, Seattle Kraken (8.0%)
Antti Raanta (projected), Carolina Hurricanes (17.1%): There's no guarantee coach Rod Brind'Amour starts Raanta against his old team while reserving Frederik Andersen for Sunday's' tilt with the Lightning, but that's what I would do, if offered Carolina's coaching reins. Winner of five-straight, and looking especially stingy in securing those victories, the Hurricanes' No. 2 has been idle since last week's 32-save shutout of the Senators. He could use the work. Plus, it's always extra special to face a former club. Just make sure to check the goaltending matchup later Friday before enlisting Raanta as an active asset.
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