This article is part of our DraftKings NHL series.
The featured contests at DraftKings on Sunday are comprised of the three afternoon games. Washington hosts Pittsburgh, Columbus visits Montreal, and the Canucks visit the Hurricanes. Carolina is the largest favorite on the docket, and the game that's projected to be the highest scoring is the Penguins-Capitals bout. It's worth noting the Blue Jackets, Canadiens and Canucks all played Saturday.
The Canadiens have won six of their past eight games, so Columbus could be in tough on the road with Montreal a favorite and playing well. However, Elvis Merzlikins ($7,200) has been exceptional for a prolonged stretch with a 9-2 record, .951 save percentage and 1.65 GAA. The Blue Jackets have also allowed the fewest five-on-five goals in the league - just 34 through 26 games - since Dec. 1.
The price is steep, but it's hard to argue with James Reimer's ($8,300) recent results. He's stopped 102 of 105 shots through his past three starts for an average of 29.0 DraftKings points per outing. Additionally, the Canucks are ripe for a letdown showing considering their current 14-3 stretch dating back to mid-December.
On the flip side, considering how well Vancouver has played, Thatcher Demko ($6,800) warrants mention because of his low salary and solid recent form. The 24-year-old netminder has won consecutive games with a .964 save percentage, and he'll have plenty of opportunities to pad his DraftKings point total with saves on Sunday. The Hurricanes rank sixth in the league in shot attempts per 60 minutes on home ice at 62.4.
This represents a manageable salary for Jake Virtanen ($4,400). He's in the midst of a breakout campaign and has recorded six points, 12 shots and four blocks through his past five outings. Additionally, he's shown excellent chemistry with center Elias Pettersson ($6,200), as the duo have clicked for 5.79 goals per hour during the noted five-game stretch.
The numbers don't jump off the page, but Jared McCann ($4,300) is the meat-and-potatoes type who has excelled alongside Sidney Crosby ($7,000) in the past. McCann's recorded a respectable five goals, five assists and 43 shots through the past 17 outings and combined with Crosby for a respectable 13.5 high-danger scoring chances per 60 minutes since No. 87 has been back in the lineup.
While the Blue Jackets definitely check out as a tough matchup, Nick Suzuki's ($4,200) fantasy stock is rising of late. The rookie has a goal and four assists through his past three games to improve an impressive 3.04 points per hour over 19 contests since mid-December.
FORWARD LINE STACKS
Turning to both Sidney Crosby ($7,000) and Evgeni Malkin ($6,600) in a Penguins stack isn't out of the question. Washington has been shorthanded more than any team in the league, and the go-to duo have recorded seven goals and 13 assists through six games since Crosby returned to the lineup. They've also scored an impressive 10.65 goals per hour on the power play this season.
For the Capitals, Evgeny Kuznetsov ($4,800), Jakub Vrana ($5,200) and T.J. Oshie ($4,900) come in as an affordable secondary stack. Kuznetsov snapped a nine-game goal drought last time out, Oshie has four points through his past four games, and Vrana enjoyed a dominant January with eight tallies and five helpers through 11 games. They've also shown notable improvement over the past month with 5.02 goals per 60 minutes at five-on-five.
The Hurricanes have a new-look lineup, and the most intriguing line consists of Sebastian Aho ($6,400) between Andrei Svechnikov ($6,000) and Warren Foegele ($4,200). They've also shown some chemistry with 3.55 goals and 20.41 high-danger scoring chances per hour while driving possession with a 61.2 Corsi For percentage at five-on-five.
It's also worth noting that Jordan Staal ($4,400), Teuvo Teravainen ($5,500) and Nino Niederreiter ($4,100) have combined for an even more impressive 67.6 Corsi For percentage while generating 19.66 high-danger scoring chances per hour at five-on-five, but their combined 4.1 shooting percentage has kept their goal total in check. Statistical correction is ahead.
With just two assists through his past eight outings, Zach Werenski ($6,200) is eyeing statistical correction of his own. The fourth-year defenseman is an established offensive force and quarterbacks the No. 1 power-play unit for the Blue Jackets, which projects to land in a mismatch Sunday. The Canadiens have shown improvement while shorthanded of late, but they still rank 20th in the league with a 79.2 penalty-kill percentage.
In a small defense pool, Kris Letang's ($5,900) salary is short. He's recorded seven points through his past nine games to climb to a rock-solid 1.79 points per hour for the campaign. As noted, Washington has been shorthanded more than any other team in the league, and Letang is the focal point of the Pittsburgh power play at the top of the umbrella between Sidney Crosby ($7,000) and Evgeni Malkin ($6,600).
The Hurricanes have handed Jaccob Slavin ($5,000) more responsibilities with the man advantage - an average of 3:03 of power-play time the past four games - with Dougie Hamilton ($6,400) sidelined indefinitely, and Slavin has responded. The 25-year-old American should see huge minutes against the Canucks on Sunday, and his cross-category contributions provide a high fantasy floor.
Quinn Hughes ($4,800) is showing no signs of slowing down, as the rookie has collected four goals and four assists through his past eight games. He's now up to a 10th-ranked 2.08 points per hour among all regular defensemen this season. The tough matchup is already built into his decreased salary as well.