NHL schedule hacks: Why you need the Avalanche in your lineup

Evan Rodrigues of the Colorado Avalanche will see prime minutes down the stretch. Melissa Tamez/Icon Sportswire

As any experienced fantasy manager can tell you, we're now into the final, make-or-break, push. With only 29 days remaining on the regular-season calendar, those who proactively try to benefit from any advantage, stand that much better of a chance of eventually emerging with their league's coveted crown. Including a concerted effort to hack the inherent imbalance of the schedule itself. Four games one day, 13 the following, a collection of eight contests thereafter - a rhythm that forces us to make tough (often wrong) decisions regarding who to bench one night, only to then fail in filling a fraction of active spots 24 hours later. Now, more than ever, it's time to maximize the number of warm, involved, fantasy-friendly bodies in your lineup as often as possible.

Let's once again then hack the schedule by investing in players who compete more often when others don't, upping their chances of filling a lineup spot and accruing points. Usually we're dealing with a small handful of teams in this regard. Not on this occasion. From now until season's end, the Colorado Avalanche stand alone in playing eight times on days when six games or fewer are scheduled. For sobering perspective, 19 other clubs compete on so-determined lightly-scheduled dates two times or less.

In the plainest terms, your Colorado skaters are going to qualify for a daily-shuffled lineup spot more often because they're playing when so many others are not. A big enough deal, when a fantasy point (or two or three... ) can mean the difference between victory and defeat. And, get this, those eight games - split evenly between home and away - are against the Blackhawks, Penguins, Coyotes (twice), Ducks (twice), Wild, and Predators. A relatively friendly schedule, from a scoring view.

So, if endeavoring to provide your roster with a boost by subbing in a final-stretch fantasy commodity or two, consider the following widely available Avalanche assets. You can always bench them on busier nights when seemingly everyone else is also active.

Evan Rodrigues, F (Rostered in 9.5% of ESPN.com leagues): Now that we're almost sure Gabriel Landeskog won't be healthy enough to return until/near the postseason, Rodrigues appears Jared Bednar's go-to on a top line and power play alongside Nathan MacKinnon and Mikko Rantanen. He's going to contribute to the scoresheet - already has, in fact - from that position. Not every night, but often enough to merit roster inclusion in deeper leagues.

J.T. Compher, F (9.5%): Despite having fallen into a minor funk recently, Compher is already a proven contributor as a valuable fantasy asset. Before stumbling in early March, the second-line center collected three goals and nine assists in a lively stretch of nine games, performing well enough to help dissuade management from acquiring a more formidable center - no offense meant to Lars Eller - ahead of the trade deadline. One of your streakier types, he's bound to kick back into gear at even strength and on the top power play shortly. This is a skater who averaged 3.3 fantasy p[points/game in ESPN.com standard leagues through the final two weeks of February.

Also, keep a view of how Denis Malgin (0.2%) manages as substitute for Artturi Lehkonen (thumb) on Compher's line and the secondary power play with Valeri Nichushkin. Just in case the former Leaf/Panther contributes out of conservative character in being offered that ripe opportunity.

Samuel Girard, D (17.0%): Need a boost on D? Pick up Girard ASAP. The top-four defender is gobbling up plenty of on-ice minutes these days, shooting on net, and averaging nearly a point/game. Precisely seven in his past eight, including two with the extra skaters. Toss is a respectable number of blocked-shots, and Bowen Byram's blue-line partner is averaging 2.1 fantasy points/contest since March 1. Only Cale Makar has more from Colorado's blue line over the same period.

I'd love to endorse goalie Alexandar Georgiev as a go-to fantasy grab down the stretch, particularly considering his comparatively easy schedule - easiest, on paper, in fact - as outlined by my colleague Sean Allen. However, with Colorado's No. 1 rostered in 95% of ESPN.com leagues, there's little point. Best look elsewhere for improvement in net, if needed.

Only one other team nears the Avalanche in playing more often while others are not, competing six times when six or fewer games are scheduled. The Arizona Coyotes also feature a gaggle of underappreciated forwards who are punching well above their perceived fantasy weight without the extra pressure of competing for a playoff spot. Hitting machine Jack McBain (1.5%) has four goals and three assists in nine games, skating on a top line with Lawson Crouse and fellow up-and-comer Matias Maccelli (1.5%). Rostered in just 9.2 of ESPN.com leagues, Barrett Hayton in lighting it up, again, with three goals and seven assists in five contests alongside Clayton Keller and Nick Schmaltz (when healthy, otherwise Brett Ritchie).

Defenseman Juuso Valimaki doesn't earn nearly enough fantasy respect for his eight assists and 23 blocked shots in eight games, which averages out to a hefty 2.7 fantasy points/contest. Unless all of your fantasy defenders are bettering that rate, pick up the 16th overall draft pick (2017) before it's too late.