This article is part of our DraftKings NHL series.
Thursday's NHL slate features nine games after 7:00 p.m. EDT. Below, you'll find a breakdown of the action and suggested options for crafting an effective lineup.
With the regular season winding down, playoff teams could opt to rest some of their key contributors, so make sure to check who's in and who's out before finalizing your lineup. There's no shortage of heavy favorites, so forming contingency plans shouldn't be too difficult. The Hurricanes (vs. New Jersey), Bruins (vs. Buffalo), Oilers (vs. San Jose), Lightning (in Columbus), Panthers (in Ottawa) and Avalanche (vs. Nashville) are all teams that can be worth building around if at full strength. Florida's game has a slate-high over/under of 7.0 goals, while Edmonton, Tampa Bay and Colorado all check in at 6.5.
Mike Smith, EDM vs. SJ ($8,500): Smith has allowed just 15 goals during his nine-game winning streak, including only 10 over the past eight games. He should be worth paying up for if he gets the nod, and even Mikko Koskinen ($8,300) would make for a decent play against a Sharks team that's averaging only 2.59 goals per game — fourth-fewest in the league.
Antti Raanta, CAR vs. NJ ($8,400): Carolina will likely give Raanta this start so he can prove he's healthy ahead of the postseason. Even if the Hurricanes sit some regulars in their regular season finale, Raanta should have no trouble keeping the injury-depleted Devils lineup at bay. He's 14-5-4 with a 2.43 GAA and .913 save percentage this season.
Vitek Vanecek, WAS at NYI ($7,900): Vanecek has gone 3-0-1 with a shutout in his last four starts, making a push to open the postseason as Washington's starter in net. Pushing the Capitals ahead of the Penguins and out of a first-round matchup against top-seeded Florida would be the cherry on top of Vanecek's case for the top goalie spot, so he'll be motivated to hold off a bottom-10 Islanders offense that's scoring 2.75 goals per game.
Spencer Martin, VAN vs. LA ($7,600): Martin has looked highly impressive in limited action this season, going 2-0-2 with a 1.69 GAA and .953 save percentage. Vancouver's postseason push has come up short, but Martin can help the team finish its home schedule on a high note against the middling Kings offense.
Joel Eriksson Ek, MIN vs. CGY ($4,600): This one means much more to the Wild, as Calgary has already secured the top seed in the Pacific Division while Minnesota's battling St. Louis for home-ice advantage in the first round. Eriksson Ek has done all he can to help tilt the scales Minnesota's way, producing a 5-3-8 line and 12 shots in his last three games.
Tim Stutzle, OTT vs. FLA ($4,400): Stutzle's coming off a four-point performance, which gave him an 8-7-15 line in his last 10 games. While the Senators are major underdogs here, they should get plenty of scoring chances against a Panthers team that plays at a breakneck pace.
Conor Garland, VAN vs. LA ($4,200): Garland has been on fire down the stretch, notching a 4-10-14 line in his last 10 games, including six points in the last three. He has a nice opportunity to build on his recent success against struggling Kings goalie Cal Petersen, who has surrendered 15 goals in his last three starts but will likely be pressed into action after Jonathan Quick started Wednesday.
Andreas Athanasiou, LA at VAN ($3,900): Athanasiou's a streaky scorer who's currently locked in, with a 6-2-8 line over his past eight games. Vancouver's quality goaltending could present a road block, but Athanasiou's still a low-risk, high-reward option at his sub-$4,000 valuation.
Nino Niederreiter, CAR vs. NJ ($3,600): Niederreiter's the kind of player that can thrive in this late-season context, as he's probably not important enough to be held out of the lineup but has enough skill to capitalize on increased usage if Carolina sits its top guys. The winger's in the midst of his sixth 20-goal campaign with a 24-20-44 line, which includes a 2-3-5 output in his last six games.
FORWARD LINE STACKS
Lightning at Blue Jackets
Expect plenty of lineups to be built around this line after its members combined for nine points Tuesday against Columbus, including four each from Stamkos and Kucherov. Kucherov has an incredible 9-11-20 line in his last seven games while Stamkos has kept pace with a 7-14-21 output over that same span. Palat's a nice value play given his deployment alongside two of the league's top scorers, and he's chipped in a 2-5-7 line in his last six games.
Bruins vs. Sabres
The Bruins can still pass the Lightning in the standings — and earn a first round date with Toronto rather than Carolina — if they can make up three points over the last two games, so Boston should be all systems go for this home matchup with a Sabres team that's allowing 3.50 goals per game. Marchand has a 1-4-5 line during his current three-game goal streak and racked up eight shots in the game preceding this streak. Bergeron's coming off an eight-shot performance of his own and has contributed a 2-3-5 line with 11 shots over the past two games. DeBrusk has fit well on the top line, notching a 2-2-4 line and 16 shots in his last five games.
Panthers at Senators
Florida can clinch the Presidents' Trophy if things break right Thursday, and this top line should help the Panthers hold up their end of the bargain against an Ottawa team that's allowing 3.23 goals per game. Barkov has a 39-49-88 line in just 67 appearances, leading the team in goals and trailing only Jonathan Huberdeau (115) in points. Giroux has 23 points in 18 games since joining the Panthers, and Verhaeghe's a nice bargain at $2,900 given his 22-31-53 line.
Victor Hedman, TB at CLS ($7,700): Tampa Bay's top players are in postseason form down the stretch, and Hedman has been a dominant two-way force of late. He has scored 22.4 or more fantasy points in five of his last six games, with 14 points over that stretch as well as three-plus shots in every game and at least three blocks in three of the six.
Evan Bouchard, EDM vs. SJ ($5,000): Bouchard has taken over Darnell Nurse's (lower body) role as the do-it-all player on Edmonton's blue line. The 2018 10th overall pick has a 2-2-4 line in his last four games to go with 17 shots and four blocks.
Brady Skjei, CAR vs. NJ ($4,400): Skjei has produced at a point-per-game rate in his last nine, bringing him two points shy of hitting 40 for the first time. He'll be motivated to reach that mark in the season finale against a Devils team that's surrendering 3.64 goals per game.
Dante Fabbro, NSH at COL ($3,700): The Predators need to beat the Avs to avoid the Avs. Nashville's one point back of the Stars with two games left to Dallas' one. Whichever team finishes last between them will draw top-seeded Colorado in the first round. Fabbro has a 2-2-4 line in his last six games and has blocked four shots twice over that stretch, so he'll look to continue his strong two-way play and help the Predators improve their seeding.