Not that we weren't already in for a boatload of playoff-relevant drama, but Friday's light four-game slate boasts that bit of extra sparkle in form of an always-appreciated goaltending debut. All eyes on KeyBank Center as Devon Levi - fresh from Northeastern University - is tapped to play his first NHL game, when the Sabres welcome the Rangers. The 21-year-old was a standout throughout his NCAA career, wrapping up this season with a .933 SV% and 2.24 GAA. His numbers were even better his freshman year. And guess what? The young lad is pretty pumped.
"It's exciting. I've been dreaming of this moment my whole life, so for it to finally be here, it's a big deal. I'm really excited."
No doubt. Keep in mind, Buffalo still fancies itself in the playoff mix and New York is travelling following Thursday's 2-1 loss to the Devils. Plus, skaters often bring a little extra, in support of a fresh-faced newbie, aspiring to make the best first impression in front of family, friends, and the whole NHL community. Don't be surprised if the Sabres pop a few past Rangers backup Jaroslav Halak. If nothing else, dynasty fantasy managers might give Levi some extra attention from now until season's end, beginning with Friday's professional launch.
Elsewhere, we'll see how the Jets respond to coach Rick Bowness's latest public calling out when the busy Red Wings come to town. Detroit's Magnus Hellberg is poised to start across from Connor Hellebuyck after Alex Nedeljkovic backstopped the Wings to Thursday's impressive 3-2 win over Carolina. With their sights set on catching Winnipeg in the West's Wild Card race, the Flames are in must-win mode when visiting the unpredictable Canucks. Although Thatcher Demko has been solid more often than not since wading back into the competitive fray, he surrendered six to the Blues earlier this week.
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All times Eastern.
Favorable scoring matchups
Dallas Stars at Arizona Coyotes
10:30 p.m., Mullett Arena, Watch live on ESPN+
Outscoring the Coyotes 15-4 thus far this season, the Stars are in position to do more productive damage in Friday's fourth and final meeting. It's not like Arizona isn't still giving up more goals/game than the majority of the league. Dallas' power play is solid and the Coyotes' penalty kill is not. While the Stars are tops in the faceoff dot, Arizona ranks 29th. Play all your favorite fantasy skaters from the visitors' side, including second-line center Wyatt Johnston.
Mid-tier fantasy forwards
Dominik Kubalik, Detroit Red Wings (34.6%)
Andrew Copp, Detroit Red Wings (33.3%)
Mikael Backlund, Calgary Flames (21.5%)
Brock Boeser, Vancouver Canucks (53.9%)
Barrett Hayton, Arizona Coyotes (23.6%)
Deep league/Daily Fantasy value forwards
Casey Mittelstadt, Buffalo Sabres (2.4%): Forward Tage Thompson remains day-to-day ahead of Friday's meeting with the Rangers, which means Mittelstadt could earn another turn on the Sabres' top line and power play. The 24-year-old center logged nearly 20 minutes, and earned an assist with the extra skater, while serving as such substitute versus the Canadiens on Monday. After losing a tight one to New Jersey the previous evening, the Rangers - projected to start No. 2 Halak - might feel a titch deflated less than 24 hours later. Give Mittelstadt some extra fantasy thought if Thompson is indeed destined to sit out once more.
JJ Peterka, Buffalo Sabres (0.8%)
Vladislav Namestnikov, Winnipeg Jets (0.8%)
Blake Coleman, Calgary Flames (5.1%)
Wyatt Johnston, Dallas Stars (3.3%)
Matias Maccelli, Arizona Coyotes (3.0%)
Mid-tier fantasy defensemen
MacKenzie Weegar, Calgary Flames (68.9%): The Flames defender has three goals and four assists (plus-seven) in his past seven contests, plus 16 blocked-shots and 21 hits. Which all averages out to 3.14 fantasy points/game in ESPN.com standard leagues. If possible, enlist Weegar as a fantasy asset in whichever forum against the Canucks.
K'Andre Miller, New York Rangers (29.7%)
Deep league/Daily Fantasy value defensemen
Jake Walman, Detroit Red Wings (2.5%)
Juuso Valimaki, Arizona Coyotes (10.3%)
Magnus Hellberg, Detroit Red Wings (0.3%): If you believe the Jets are irredeemably broken - and Tuesday's lacklustre 3-0 loss to the Sharks suggests they might be - then Hellberg makes for an ultra-attractive streaming and outlying Daily Fantasy asset. I'm not quite there yet. But the Detroit netminder certainly serves as a fantasy gamble worth considering.