This article is part of our The Daily Puck series.
You won't have to stay up late to enjoy Friday's five-game slate, as every single game starts at 7:30 or earlier. Most eyes will be on a Columbus-Pittsburgh matchup which features two of the league's top four teams, but the pair of stingy goaltenders involved in that one suggest the bulk of fantasy production could actually come from other contests. A player that stands out as a strong value in both the short and long-term is Thomas Greiss, who has brought the Islanders back into the playoff picture with his outstanding goaltending. He's one of many guys recommended in the preview below, which touches on both daily and season-long formats.
Blue Jackets (PP:1, PK:8) at Penguins (PP:4, PK:24), 7:00 p.m.
Expected Goalies:Sergei Bobrovsky (28-9-2, 2.10, .929), Matt Murray (18-6-1, 2.41, .922)
Key Injuries:Matt Cullen (foot), Evgeni Malkin (knee), Conor Sheary (upper body)
With Malkin still out, Carter Rowney will be centering Pittsburgh's second line despite an uneventful debut Tuesday in Nashville. Bryan Rust will also see increased opportunities as the first-line right winger with Sheary sidelined for 4-6 weeks, though this matchup against the league's wins leader in net will make it difficult for either player to capitalize on their increased role. First-line center Alexander Wennberg is coming off a three-point effort against the Rangers for Columbus, and is now just three points behind Cam Atkinson for the team lead.
Islanders (PP:26, PK:20) at Red Wings (PP:30, PK:18), 7:30 p.m.
Expected Goalies:Thomas Greiss (15-7-3, 2.24, .928), Petr Mrazek (10-12-5, 3.16, .894)
Key Injuries:Johan Franzen (concussion), Jimmy Howard (knee), Steve Ott (shoulder), Brendan Smith (knee), Mikhail Grabovski (concussion), Travis Hamonic (knee)
The red-hot Greiss should have no problem containing the 25th-ranked Red Wings offense after limiting opponents to two or fewer goals in 12 of his past 14 starts. Detroit's own woes in net aren't projected to last much longer with Howard back to practicing. The league's second-best netminder by GAA and save percentage is worth a speculative pick-up if available, but for now the Red Wings remain vulnerable defensively. That vulnerability should allow plenty of opportunities for Islanders first-liners John Tavares and Anders Lee, who are the only members of their team with more than 10 goals.
Oilers (PP:10, PK:14) at Hurricanes (PP:21, PK:1), 7:30 p.m.
Expected Goalies:Laurent Brossoit (1-0-0, 2.76, .930), Cam Ward (19-16-6, 2.57, .907)
Key Injuries:Bryan Bickell (illness), Darnell Nurse (ankle), Iiro Pakarinen (leg)
Ward was strong in his last outing, but has still allowed 24 goals in his past six appearances. His recent struggles make top Oilers weapons enticing plays despite Carolina's 87.8 percent proficiency on the penalty kill. Everyone knows league points leader Connor McDavid is always dangerous, but linemate Leon Draisaitl has been nearly as proficient with 13 goals and 17 assists in 29 games since Dec. 1. Patrick Maroon also brings plenty of upside just for skating on a line with these two young talents, while Jordan Eberle continues to stumble since being removed from McDavid's side. If you think the Hurricanes will be able to get the jump on an Edmonton team playing the second game of a road back-to-back, then first-line right winger Lee Stempniak and third-line center Jordan Staal would make sensible high-floor plays as the team's only members with over 20 points and a positive rating.
Ducks (PP:7, PK:6) at Panthers (PP:24, PK:4), 7:30 p.m.
Expected Goalies:John Gibson (20-11-8, 2.28, .920), Roberto Luongo (14-13-6, 2.53, .919)
Key Injuries:Aleksander Barkov (back), Jonathan Huberdeau (achilles)
The absence of two skilled young forwards will make life difficult for the Panthers against a Ducks team that has earned at least a point in 14 of Gibson's past 17 starts. On the bright side, both Huberdeau and Barkov are back to practicing and expected to return soon.
Flames (PP:11, PK:17) at Devils (PP:27, PK:16), 7:30 p.m.
Expected Goalies:Brian Elliott (10-12-2, 2.80, .896), Cory Schneider (15-15-7, 2.72, .910)
Key Injuries:Andy Greene (upper body), John Moore (concussion)
Elliott has allowed just three total goals in winning his past two starts, and has a golden opportunity to put more distance between himself and the struggling Chad Johnson as he visits a Devils team that has scored only 2.24 goals per game.
Bryan Rust, RW, PIT - Rust's 12 goals and 24 points in 46 games are nothing to write home about, but those numbers show that the 24-year-old winger does bring some offensive upside. That upside just got a lot higher with the news of Conor Sheary's upper-body injury. Rust is the logical choice to replace Sheary as the top-line right-winger alongside Sidney Crosby, which should lead to more scoring chances and an improvement to his plus-3 rating. It would only take a modest scoring uptick to push Rust from waiver wire material to must-own commodity, and the next 4-6 weeks present a perfect opportunity for him to get to that next level.