With a eye toward kick-starting one last push to the playoffs, the Buffalo Sabres are shaking things up at both ends of the ice. Up front, that means a dismantling of the club's top trio of Jack Eichel, Jeff Skinner and Sam Reinhart. Coach Phil Housley appears eager to roll out Jason Pominville on the No. 1 line with Eichel and Skinner, while letting Reinhart settle in on the right side of rookie center Casey Mittelstadt and fellow winger Conor Sheary.
If the return to this configuration gels, Pominville could be in for a serious upswing, at least for a stretch. Earlier this season, the veteran was dialed in almost immediately alongside Eichel, collecting seven goals and six assists in a stretch of seven games. Fantasy managers with holes at right wing should definitely pay attention to what's happening upstate.
It's also worth noting that Mittelstadt is finally beginning to get in the swing of things, and having Reinhart by the 20-year-old rookie's side won't hurt in that regard.
There's also a shift brewing between the pipes in Buffalo. Carter Hutton has owned the starting gig for most this season, but the former Blues goaltender has struggled of late, opening the door further for backup Linus Ullmark to get some play. He's been relatively solid, so any fantasy manager with an ounce of faith in the Sabres' ability to win games down the stretch might consider taking a flier on Ullmark in deeper leagues. The 25-year-old is widely available.
Fantasy Forecaster: Feb. 11-17
Highlights from teams playing four games: If he isn't traded away in the meantime, Jimmy Howard should be in for a busy and successful week for the Detroit Red Wings. Pencil in backup Jonathan Bernier for half of the home-and-home set with Philadelphia, but Howard is likely to start Detroit's other three contests. ... By no means a perennial productive powerhouse, the New Jersey Devils certainly merit some use with a quartet of favorable matchups in sight. In addition to fantasy regulars Kyle Palmieri and Nico Hischier, Marcus Johansson is contributing regularly in place of Taylor Hall, who remains out indefinitely. ... Winner of seven straight, and a hefty reason the Philadelphia Flyers remain in loose playoff contention, goalie Carter Hart has yet to play in back-to-back games in the NHL. That suggests that the 20-year-old rookie will split the week's four starts "even-steven" with Anthony Stolarz -- himself coming off a shutout victory. It's a shame for Hart's fantasy managers, considering how favorable the Flyers' matchups measure up. ... Be sure to lock in Jordan Binnington for consecutive desirable starts versus the Devils, Coyotes and Avalanche. If all goes swimmingly, the new No. 1 for the St. Louis Blues might even play in his first ever back-to-back, concluding with a visit to Minnesota on Saturday. It probably won't happen, but Jake Allen hasn't seen competition since mid-January. Binnington remains available in 80 percent of ESPN.com leagues. ... Despite battling in the same division, Jacob Markstrom still awaits his first start of the season against the Sharks. He'll face them twice this week. Given Markstrom's poor record last season against San Jose, along with the fact that the Sharks have averaged 4.31 goals per game since Christmas, the Vancouver Canucks' No. 1 doesn't seem to be a solid play, despite his club's four-game slate. ... There's nothing quite like a team-bonding visit to the California sunshine to bust up a midwinter slump. That's precisely how the Washington Capitals are wrapping this coming week's four-game stretch. Be sure to activate your favorite Capitals, plus top-six sleeper Jakub Vrana.
Teams playing two games: No need to worry about teams coming out on the short side of the schedule, as every team in the NHL will take the ice at least three times this scoring period.
Highlights from teams playing three games: The Boston Bruins have the opportunity to light it up both at home and on the road, hosting Chicago before making a swing through Southern California. Outside of David Pastrnak, Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron and defenseman Torey Krug, secondary performers such as David Krejci and Jake DeBrusk could be worth rostering. ... It's a similar story for the Carolina Hurricanes with the Senators, Oilers and Stars on tap. If you've yet to jump on the Nino Niederreiter fantasy bandwagon, there's no time like the present. The former Wild forward is carving out quite a productive role for himself on the Hurricanes' top line alongside Sebastian Aho and Justin Williams. However, expect only two appearances from the recently recovered Curtis McElhinney, while Petr Mrazek projects to start one of the two games in the Friday-Saturday back-to-back. ... In facing the Rangers, Avalanche and Senators, the Winnipeg Jets project to score quite a bit -- including under-rostered (1.7 percent), top-six winger Jack Roslovic, who earned a hat trick just days ago.
For those new to the forecaster chart, here are some explanations: "O" (offense) and "D" (defense) matchup ratings are based on a scale from 1 (poor matchup) to 10 (excellent matchup) and are calculated using a formula that evaluates the team's season-to-date statistics, its performance in home/road games depending on where the game is to be played, and its opponents' numbers in those categories. The "Ratings" column lists the cumulative rating from 1 to 10 of that week's offensive ("O") and defensive ("D") matchups.
Colorado Avalanche: Split up for a brief period, Colorado's top trio of Nathan MacKinnon, Mikko Rantanen, and Gabriel Landeskog have been reunited. Producing below pace of late, that line should benefit from three contests scheduled against the Maple Leafs, Jets and Blues. Remember Colorado's 6-3 domination of the Leafs on Jan. 14? We'll see how the recent addition of defenseman Jake Muzzin helps in quashing MacKinnon, Carl Soderberg & Co. in the next go-round. Not entirely, is our guess.
Minnesota Wild: For a club eyeing a berth in the postseason, the loss of veteran Mikko Koivu serves as a significant blow. Scheduled to undergo surgery to repair a torn ACL, the top-six center is out for the duration of 2018-19. Yet the show must go on in Minnesota, which means newbie Victor Rask better up his game in subbing in on a scoring line with Zach Parise -- the club's leading goal-getter -- and Charlie Coyle, along with serving on the secondary power play. Under such circumstance, and overwhelmingly available across the ESPN.com spectrum, Rask might be worth a flier in deeper fantasy leagues.
Pittsburgh Penguins: While former Panther Nick Bjugstad strives to adjust to his new settings, and Evgeni Malkin remains sidelined with an upper-body ailment, the Penguins continue to shuffle their top six around for optimal effect. The latest incarnation sees Bjugstad shifted to the wing on a No. 1 line with Sidney Crosby and Jake Guentzel, while an ageless Matt Cullen takes over as second-line center. This is an especially intriguing combination, as it appears like it might be immune to Malkin's return (which doesn't appear too far off). Keep a view on Bjugstad's effectiveness in that role, if it sticks, ahead of Pittsburgh's week of four mostly favorable matchups.
Dylan Strome, C, Chicago Blackhawks: No speculation needed here, Strome is already getting it done on a dynamic second scoring line with Alex DeBrincat. Rostered in only 16 percent of ESPN.com leagues, the 21-year-old, in-season transplant makes for a promising addition in deeper leagues ahead of home tilts with New Jersey and Columbus.
Mattias Janmark, C/LW, Dallas Stars: Munching up heavy minutes, Janmark is proving to be a productive presence on the Stars' top line alongside Tyler Seguin and Alexander Radulov. Since the currently playoff-bound Stars are actually winning, don't expect another reshuffling anytime soon. An enticing DFS asset, Janmark is available in the vast majority of ESPN.com leagues.
Tyler Toffoli, RW, Los Angeles Kings: It took only until the end of January, but Toffoli is finally on something resembling a tear. After nearly four months of plodding regular-season play, the 26-year-old has finally erupted for four goals and two assists in the four games ahead of Thursday's game in Philadelphia. Don't underestimate the boost in confidence such a flurry provides, at least in the short term. Be aware, though, that Toffoli could soon be dealt -- there's been talk -- to a team that scores with greater regularity.
Valentin Zykov, LW, Vegas Golden Knights: The widely available 23-year-old forward is worth monitoring now that he finally has scored while skating on Vegas' top line with Jonathan Marchessault and William Karlsson. Don't make any rash moves just yet. After all, he was a waiver-wire staple not that long ago. Still, keep tabs on how Valentin progresses (or fails to do so) in this plum role.