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WATCH LIVE: Dallas Stars at Anaheim Ducks

NBCSN’s coverage of the 2017-18 season continues on Friday, as the Anaheim Ducks host the Dallas Stars at 10 p.m. ET. You can watch the game online by clicking here

PROJECTED LINEUPS

STARS
Jamie BennTyler SeguinBrett Ritchie
Remi ElieRadek FaksaAlexander Radulov
Antoine RousselJason SpezzaMattias Janmark
Gemel SmithDevin ShoreTyler Pitlick

Esa LindellJohn Klingberg
Marc MethotGreg Pateryn
Dan HamhuisJulius Honka

Starting goalie: Mike McKenna

[‘Resilient’ Ducks look to extend win streak vs. Stars]

WATCH LIVE – 10 P.M. ET

DUCKS
Rickard RakellRyan GetzlafCorey Perry
Andrew CoglianoRyan KeslerJakob Silfverberg
Nick RitchieAdam HenriqueOndrej Kase
Jason ChimeraDerek GrantJ.T. Brown

Hampus LindholmJosh Manson
Francois BeaucheminBrandon Montour
Marcus PetterssonAndy Welinski

Starting goalie: Ryan Miller

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

WATCH LIVE: Dallas Stars at Minnesota Wild

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[CLICK HERE TO WATCH]

Dallas Stars

Jamie Benn / Tyler Seguin / Alexander Radulov

Mattias Janmark / Radek Faksa / Tyler Pitlick

Remi Elie / Devin Shore / Brett Ritchie

Antoine Roussel / Jason Spezza / Gemel Smith

Esa Lindell / John Klingberg

Marc Methot / Stephen Johns

Dan Hamhuis / Greg Pateryn

Starting goalie: Kari Lehtonen

[Stars – Wild preview]

Minnesota Wild

Jason Zucker / Eric Staal / Mikael Granlund

Zach Parise / Mikko Koivu / Nino Niederreiter

Jordan Greenway / Matt Cullen / Charlie Coyle

Daniel Winnik / Joel Eriksson Ek / Marcus Foligno

Ryan Suter / Matt Dumba

Jonas Brodin / Ryan Murphy

Nick Seeler / Nate Prosser

Starting goalie: Devan Dubnyk

WATCH LIVE: Dallas Stars at Pittsburgh Penguins

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NBCSN’s coverage of the 2017-18 NHL season continues on Sunday, as the Pittsburgh Penguins host the Dallas stars at 7:30 p.m. ET. You can watch the game online by clicking here.

PROJECTED LINEUPS

Stars

Mattias JanmarkTyler SeguinAlexander Radulov

Jamie BennRadek FaksaTyler Pitlick

Antoine RousselJason SpezzaBrett Ritchie

Remie Ellie — Jason DickinsonDevin Shore

Esa LindellJohn Klingberg

Dan HamhuisGreg Pateryn

Marc MethotStephen Johns

Starting goalie: Kari Lehtonen

Penguins

Jake GuentzelSidney CrosbyConor Sheary

Carl HagelinEvgeni MalkinPatric Hornqvist

Riley SheahanDerick BrassardPhil Kessel

Tom KuhnhacklJosh JoorisCarter Rowney

Brian DumoulinKris Letang

Jamie OleksiakJustin Schultz

Olli Maatta — Chad Rudwedel

Starting goalie: Casey DeSmith

PHT on Fantasy: The Monthly Method

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As we get deeper into the 2017-18 season, it’s tougher and tougher to add difference-makers in fantasy hockey. At least if you’re in a league with people who even try to know what they’re doing.

To get an edge and land the sort of players who might help you in playoff series (or to make the playoffs), sometimes it requires breaking things down in different ways. For one thing, you should definitely check out Joey Alfieri’s weekly add/drops, not to mention the great offerings from the fine folks at Rotoworld’s NHL section.

One thing I like to look at is: which players are really rising over the last month or two? Using various sites – both Yahoo’s fantasy section and NHL.com are among the ways to check these things out – I thought I’d share some observations that might help you in fantasy.

  • As far as the tippy top goes, it’s mostly players you’d expect, and thus players who’ve already been taken. The closest thing to an upset in the top 10 scorers during the last two months is Mikko Rantanen, a player many at least recognized was very good. (Rantanen is owned in 76 percent of Yahoo leagues. If he’s available … what are you waiting for? Sheesh.)

With that in mind, you’re probably wisest to break things down into different categories, whether that means narrowing lists down to positions or looking for specific stats.

  • If you look at defensemen, Marc-Edouard Vlasic pops up, especially (but not only) if you look at January. For one thing, he’s picking up his shooting a bit the last two years, with his current 2.06 SOG per game representing a career-high. “Pickles” is a stat-stuffer thanks to his blocked shots, but even more simply, he’s scoring at a much higher level. Vlasic already has 20 points in 49 games after managing only 28 in 75 last season.

You might miss something like that because Vlasic’s 20 points would only rank him 50th among defensemen from a full-season standpoint. His 11 points in January rank third among defensemen; it’s clear that he is along for the ride with Brent Burns, who topped all blueliners that month with 17 points. Vlasic is only owned in 44 percent of leagues. While he’s not necessarily guaranteed to be a top-10 guy for the rest of the season, he’s probably better than the lower-ranking blueliners on your team, particularly if you didn’t invest heavily in the position with high draft picks.

  • Checking out rising players from a monthly perspective could also help you identify people to watch list, even if you don’t add them. Sorting for time on ice, for instance, may help you clue into a player who’s rising in the eyes of a coach. If the luck comes in a wave, maybe you’d grab someone – even for a limited time – who might deliver?

Jordan Oesterle of the Chicago Blackhawks is an intriguing case, for one.

After barely being used in October and November, Coach Q rolled him out for an average of 21:47 in nine December games, and then almost 24 minutes per night in January. His 10 points this season won’t blow your mind, but note that nine of them have come in the last two months.

That’s not mind-blowing, naturally, but in deeper leagues he could be the sort of guy who might be intriguing, particularly if he rides a surge if Chicago manages to get it together.

Ivan Provorov and Esa Lindell are examples of higher-ceiling defensemen who might be available, too, but there are ways to dig deep if you really need to.

  • The monthly method can help you eyeball a goalie who’s finishing the season on a hot streak. After all, the past is the past, and a rough start could deflate a netminder’s value too much at times.

(That said, check their career stats, as a hot streak could just as easily go ice cold once you actually invest in a guy.)

Usual suspects

Using Yahoo’s monthly ranking tool, some familiar names came up. Here’s some quick context for a few of them, going from higher to lower rankings. Please note that I’m skipping heavily owned goalies since you won’t be able to get them anyway:

  • Jonathan Bernier (59 percent owned): Obviously, Bernier’s been a huge part of Colorado’s surge up the rankings. There’s some pedigree there, as a former first-rounder. There’s also plenty of motivation, as he’s fighting for a new contract. Just note that Semyon Varlamov could elbow his way back in if Bernier goes on a prolonged cold streak.
  • Carter Hutton (64 percent): Fantastic month, building a growing resume as a quality backup. Still, the Blues are very much devoted to Jake Allen; Hutton might benefit from a trade, at least in fantasy terms.
  • Jaroslav Halak (57 percent): Last season, Halak made a “too little, too late” run for the Islanders … but it was quite a run in March and April. Like Hutton and Bernier, he’s on an expiring contract. The Islanders are committed to Thomas Greiss contract-wise, with his deal expiring after 2019-20, but there’s not much luxury to just hope that Greiss works out of his awful rut. Halak is an intriguing goalie to watch.

***

Hopefully this week’s column gave you some names to consider, but most importantly, some tools to use to find even more.

Really, it might be fun for you to look at who’s been hot in January, even if you’re not a fantasy hockey type. Perhaps it could help you in Daily Fantasy, too?

(If so, I expect royalties.)

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

After flurry of moves, questions remain about Stars’ blue line

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The Dallas Stars are in go-for-it mode.

Of that, there can be no debate, after GM Jim Nill hired Ken Hitchock as head coach, traded for and signed goalie Ben Bishop, traded for defenseman Marc Methot, then added forwards Alexander Radulov and Martin Hanzal in free agency.

Combine those new additions with Jamie Benn, Tyler Seguin, Jason Spezza, and John Klingberg, and expectations will be rightfully high next season.

Certainly, with all that talent, scoring goals shouldn’t be an issue in Big D.

Defensively, though, the Stars will not only need to be better, they’ll need to be much better. In 2016-17, they had the NHL’s second-highest goals-against average (3.17). Only the dreadful Avalanche got scored on more (3.37).

Hence, the Hitchcock hiring and the Bishop signing. The former knows how to structure a team to defend. The latter has a .919 career save percentage.

But in terms of importance, don’t sleep on the Methot acquisition. Next season, Nill expects the 32-year-old to pair with Klingberg, in the same way that Methot paired with Erik Karlsson in Ottawa.

“Marc has proven to be a capable and steady defenseman that can play well with an offensive-minded partner, and he will add a tremendous amount of leadership and experience to our blue line,” Nill said, per the Dallas Morning News.

Of course, even if Klingberg and Methot strike a good balance, there are two other pairings to worry about. Perhaps Dan Hamhuis could skate with Julius Honka: one steady veteran with a more offensive-minded youngster. Then put Esa Lindell with Stephen Johns.

In theory, it could work.

In theory.

Dallas learned last year that a plan doesn’t always come together. The Stars entered the season with Stanley Cup aspirations, only for almost everything to go wrong. When it was over, they’d gone from the best record in the Western Conference to missing the playoffs by 15 points.

Though the goaltending took much of the blame for all the losing, the defense was a real issue. Last summer, the Stars bid good-bye to Alex Goligoski and Jason Demers, a couple of top-four guys. In response, Hamhuis was brought in as a free agent; however, he struggled right off the bat.

It is not easy to fix a defense in today’s NHL. Just ask all the teams still trying to do it. To have success, much of the improvement has to come internally. So, yes, Methot will have to be a complement for Klingberg. But also, Lindell will have to avoid a sophomore slump, and Honka will have to prove he’s ready for the big time.

“We like what we have on paper, but in the end the goal for us is to be a contender every year, to get in the playoffs every year,” Nill said, per the Associated Press. “This game can humble you pretty quick, and it’s a tough league.”