Despite the nominal number of contests, Wednesday's three-game slate packs a hard playoff-shuffling punch. Which means those engaged on this eve are still trying (read: not resting), with all their respective productive and goaltending might. For instance, hardly secure in their WC1 spot in the East, the Islanders hope to reverse their head-to-head 2022-23 fortunes against a not-mathematically-eliminated Capitals club that's outscored them 9-4 through two earlier meetings. Look for Ilya Sorokin to start across from Darcy Kuemper in this 7:30 start at Capital One Arena.
Elsewhere, the Maple Leafs - still battling to completely nail down second spot in the Atlantic - host the Wild Card-pursuing Panthers, themselves utterly desperate for two points after losing four-straight. For the first time in six weeks, the Wild and Avalanche compete, but this time in a tilt that could see a flip in positioning a-top the Central Division. While Colorado's recent 9-1-0 run is unquestionably impressive, all but one of those victories was secured against a non-playoff team. Hosting Minnesota is a whole other can of corn.
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All times Eastern.
Favorable scoring matchups
Florida Panthers at Toronto Maple Leafs
7:30 p.m., Scotiabank Arena, Watch live on ESPN+
Just because the Panthers are the more needy team in this match-up doesn't mean matters will unfold according to their preferred script. Sergei Bobrovsky has surrendered too many in recent days - 13 total in his past three games, including five to the Maple Leafs on Mar. 23 - while backup Alex Lyon wasn't exactly rock solid in his last start, hemorrhaging five to the Flyers eight days ago. I'm tossing in the backup's stats just in case Paul Maurice opts to instead save Bob for Thursday's contest in Montreal. Toronto could put up another healthy handful in this one, garnering contributions from less-prominent fantasy assets like Alexander Kerfoot and Calle Jarnkrok. Both of whom are skating with the big shots in the Leafs' top six.
Mid-tier fantasy forwards
Ryan Hartman, Minnesota Wild (53.7%): The Wild aren't losing a grip on No. 1 spot in their division if their top-line center has anything to say about it. His collection of five goals and five assists through 10 games is one reason the Wild are still winning without Kirill Kaprizov in the lineup. (Boldy's inspired production is another, but the sophomore no longer qualifies as a mid-tier fantasy asset.) Competing with extra bluster these days, Hartman shines as a productive commodity in what sets up to be an epic battle with the Avalanche for head-of-the-class in the Central. Opposing netminder Alexandar Georgiev is solid enough, but beatable.
J.T Compher, Colorado Avalanche (42.3%)
Dylan Strome, Washington Capitals (39.4%)
Jean-Gabriel Pageau, New York Islanders (33.1%)
Deep league/Daily Fantasy value forwards
Zach Parise, New York Islanders (10.2%): The veteran sniper is inarguably in a scoring mood, boasting five goals and one assist in his past six games. No wonder he's now skating on a top Islanders line with Bo Horvat. Same goes for second-line winger Kyle Palmieri, who's stomping along at an even more torrid pace, with five goals and five assists in his past six. Both elder statesmen qualify as late-season fantasy lineup substitutes as the Isles continue to fight to secure a postseason spot - or a more favorable one - down the stretch.
Calle Jarnkrok, Toronto Maple Leafs (3.7%)
Alex Kerfoot, Toronto Maple Leafs (3.1%)
Aliaksei Protas, Washington Capitals (0.1%)
Kyle Palmieri, New York Islanders (4.2%)
Marcus Johansson, Minnesota Wild (2.3%)
Mid-tier fantasy defensemen
Gustav Forsling, Florida Panthers (49.3%)
Bowen Byram, Colorado Avalanche (46.7%)
Ilya Samsonov (probable), Toronto Maple Leafs (75.9%): Buoyed by the birth of his son, Samsonov is poised to start his first game since welcoming his first child into the family fold. By all accounts - including his verbalized own - he's super jazzed to get back at it and re-establish himself as the Leafs go-to ahead of the postseason.