Anthony Cirelli

NHL Fantasy Hockey: Bjorkstrand, Dvorak highlight this week’s top adds

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Welcome to our weekly Adds/Drops column, where I focus on highlighting players you should consider grabbing or be concerned about in fantasy leagues. As always, the goal here isn’t to recommend 10 players you must add and five players that need to be dropped. Context is everything and the context of each league is different. What this is instead is a guideline so that if you’re looking to make a change, you have potential players to target and if you see players I’ve suggested to drop, you can evaluate your potential alternates.

Players Worth Adding

Jordan Eberle, Islanders – RW: Eberle had a disappointing first half of the campaign, but he’s picked up the pace lately with four goals and six points in seven games. He’s a tough one to gauge. Certainly when he’s at his best, he’s worth owning and he had some very strong seasons earlier in his career. The last two seasons though have featured stints of strong play from Eberle, but he’s been more miss than hit over that span. There’s the hope that his recent play will be the start of a second half turnaround, but that’s far from a safe bet. What I will suggest is that you should be weary of him. Pick him up for now and hope for the best, but be prepared to drop him in a couple weeks if things aren’t playing out as you wished.

Tanner Pearson, Canucks – LW: Pearson’s first full season with Vancouver got off to a quiet start. He had just two goals and six points in 18 games through Nov. 10th. He’s found another gear since then though with 12 goals and 31 points in 31 games. He’s been playing alongside Bo Horvat and that combo has worked well together. With Pearson still only owned in 37% of Yahoo leagues, you should check on his status in your league and pick him up if he’s available.

Phillip Danault, Canadiens – C: Danault is on a three-game point streak with a goal and five points over that span. That’s a solid start to what will hopefully be a longer hot streak, but even putting that aside, he’s had a great campaign with 12 goals and 36 points in 50 contests. His center-only eligibility means that he’s still something of a borderline option in standard leagues, but he’s worth taking a chance on while he’s off and he’s good enough to hang onto even when he’s not.

Oliver Bjorkstrand, Blue Jackets – LW/RW: Bjorkstrand scored five goals and seven points in four games from Dec. 16-21, but in the last game during that stretch he suffered a rib/cartilage contusion and an oblique strain. He made his return from those injuries on Sunday and picked up right where he left off with another two goals. It helps that he’s been averaging 17:18 minutes this season, which is a huge leap from the 12:20 minutes per game of work he got in 2018-19 when he finished with 36 points in 77 games.

Mike Smith, Oilers – G: Smith has certainly not been an ideal goaltender this season, but he’s been great lately and has asserted himself as the Oilers’ starter in the process. So far in January he’s 5-0-1 with a 2.50 GAA and .924 save percentage in six games. I don’t trust him to stay strong for the rest of the second half, but if you’re in need of goaltending help, Smith is probably your best option right now among those who are available.

Anthony Cirelli, Lightning – C: Cirelli had a hat trick on Friday, which gives him six points in his last three games. Immediately following the break might be a good time to bet on the Lightning in general. They’ll kick off with a four-game road trip that takes them to Dallas, Los Angeles, Anaheim, and San Jose. The Stars are a tough team defensively, but the other three teams in the trip are pretty vulnerable and that could lead to some high scoring games for Tampa Bay in the near future.

Radko Gudas, Capitals – D: If you want help offensively, Gudas isn’t a great bet. He has contributed two goals and 14 points in 49 games, so he’s not a pure stay-at-home defneseman, but he’s very useful in other fantasy categories. He’s tied for sixth in plus/minus at 22 and ranks fifth among defenseman with 135 hits. He’s also been taking a lot of shots lately, accumulating 19 in his last seven games. He’s more of a situation pickup to grab if you’re hurting in categories that are a bit easier to neglect than the more eye-catching offensive statistics.

Alexander Steen, Blues – LW/RW: Steen had a terrible start to the season with five assists in his first 24 games. He may have turned a corner though with four goals and nine points in his last nine contests. This might just be a hot streak and if that’s the case then he’s only worth a short-term pickup. However, Steen’s a good enough player that he might end up having a strong second half of the campaign.

Christian Dvorak, Coyotes – C/LW: Dvorak has 13 goals and 30 points in 51 games in 2019-20, which puts him in that borderline range where he could conceivably be on a fantasy squad year round without looking out of place, but in many cases there are better options out there. For now though he’s hot, having recorded a point in each of his last four games, so if you’re looking for a short-term pickup, he’s an option worth considering, especially given his left wing eligibility.

Zach Parise, Wild – LW: Parise isn’t the star he once was, but the 35-year-old is having a great season with 18 goals and 30 points in 48 games. Right now he’s on a goal scoring streak with four markers in his last three games, so he’s worth considering right now, to ride for as long as he’s hot. It’s worth adding that aside from a bad start to the season where he scored three goals and had no assists in 13 games, he’s been a pretty stable contributor in 2019-20, so he’s also not a bad player to grab simply as an injury replacement if you have a hole to fill on the left wing.

Players You May Want To Drop

Antti Raanta, Coyotes – G: Raanta made his return from a lower-body injury on Saturday, but was chased from that contest after allowing six goals on 18 shots. That’s not the primary reason I’m recommending dropping him though. The All-Star break is just around the corner and Darcy Kuemper will likely return shortly after it. Once he does, Raanta will be relegated to backup duties and won’t have much value as a result.

Dougie Hamilton, Hurricanes – D: Hamilton is still owned in 86% of Yahoo leagues and unfortunately, I’d advise that you drop him unless you’re in a keeper league. Hamilton has had an amazing season, but after undergoing surgery to repair a fractured left fibula, he’s likely to miss most if not all of the rest of the campaign. To be fair, we don’t know exactly how long Hamilton will be out because Carolina didn’t provide a timetable, but this is a major injury and half the season is already done so the situation is rather bleak.

Esa Lindell, Stars – D: Lindell had a five-game point streak from Dec. 29-Jan. 9, recording eight assists over that span. He’s been held off the scoresheet over his last four games though, with the lone silver lining being his goal on Jan. 14th. He’s a solid defenseman, but not quite good enough offensively to warrant holding onto at all times unless you’re particularly hurting for blueliners or you’re in a deep league.

Jared McCann, Penguins – C/LW: McCann had a good run from Jan. 5-14 with four goals and five points in his last five games, but he’s been held off the scoresheet in his last three contests. He’s a solid secondary scorer for the Penguins, but isn’t good enough to hold onto outside of his hot streaks. For that reason, I’d recommend dropping him for now and just keeping an eye on him if you’re interesting in grabbing him again once he starts to heat up.

Rasmus Sandin, Maple Leafs – D: Sandin was called up on Jan. 13th and made a great first impression with two assists on Jan. 14th. That excited some fantasy owners given the 19-year-old’s potential, but Sandin was held off the scoresheet in the two games that followed. I think Sandin will eventually be a great defenseman, but right now he’s mostly with the Leafs to fill a hole. He’s only averaged 16:03 minutes over his three games since being summoned. I don’t think he’s going to have much use to fantasy owners in standard leagues in the near future.

If you’re looking for fantasy hockey information, Rotoworld is a great resource. You can check the player news for the latest information on any player and insight into their fantasy outlook.

Every week Michael Finewax looks ahead at the schedule and offers team-by-team notes in The Week Ahead. I have a weekly Fantasy Nuggets column where I basically talk about whatever’s captured my attention that week. Gus Katsaros does an Analytics columns if you want to get into detailed statistical analysis. If you’re interested in rookies and prospects, there’s a weekly column on that written by McKeen’s Hockey.

For everything fantasy hockey, check out Rotoworld’s Player News, and follow @Rotoworld_ HK and @RyanDadoun on Twitter.

The Buzzer: Cirelli, Lightning cruise past Jets; Crosby tallies OT winner

Anthony Cirelli #71 of the Tampa Bay Lightning
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Three Stars

1) Anthony Cirelli, Tampa Bay Lightning

Cirelli recorded his first NHL hat trick as the Lightning steamrolled the Winnipeg Jets Friday evening. The 22-year-old scored twice in the opening period as the Bolts jumped out to a 3-0 lead and never looked back. Cirelli hammered a feed from Ondrej Palat 9:27 into the game and then converted a nifty forehand-backhand maneuver to close out the first 20 minutes. Cirelli would complete the hat trick midway through the third period.

2) Evgeni Malkin, Pittsburgh Penguins

Malkin recorded two power-play assists to set up Pittsburgh’s two goals in its 2-1 win against the Detroit Red Wings. Sidney Crosby has received a lot of attention since returning from a 28-game absence earlier this week and added the game-winning goal Friday. However, it was Malkin who looked off the defender and delivered a perfect pass to set up the Penguins captain. Malkin has recorded 10 points in the previous six games.

3) Nikita Kucherov, Tampa Bay Lightning

The 26-year-old winger scored twice in Tampa Bay’s 7-1 win. Cirelli and Kucherov alternated goals as Tampa Bay jumped out to a 4-0 lead, including three in the opening period. Kucherov buried two tap-in opportunities to record goals 21 and 22 on the season. The Russian winger has five goals in his previous three games and the Lightning improved to 12-2-0 in the previous 14 games.

Highlights of the Night

Crosby extended his goal-scoring streak to three games when he buried a pretty feed from Malkin to propel the Penguins in overtime.

Sam Steel fired the OT winner after Andrei Svechnikov‘s costly turnover.

Stats of the Night

Scores

Pittsburgh Penguins 2, Detroit Red Wings 1 (OT)

Anaheim Ducks 2, Carolina Hurricanes 1 (OT)

Tampa Bay Lightning 7, Winnipeg Jets 1

NHL ALL-STAR GAME COVERAGE:
• All-Star Game rosters
• Rosters for Elite Women’s 3-on-3 Revealed
• Pass or Fail: 2020 All-Star Game jerseys
• Alex Ovechkin will not play in 2020 All-Star Game
• NHL Skills Competition to feature women’s 3-on-3, pucks shot from stands

Scott Charles is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @ScottMCharles.

NHL Fantasy Hockey: Kovalchuk, Toffoli among this week’s top adds

Welcome to our weekly Adds/Drops column, where I focus on highlighting players you should consider grabbing or be concerned about in fantasy leagues. As always, the goal here isn’t to recommend 10 players you must add and five players that need to be dropped. Context is everything and the context of each league is different. What this is instead is a guideline so that if you’re looking to make a change, you have potential players to target and if you see players I’ve suggested to drop, you can evaluate your potential alternates.

Players Worth Adding

Ilya Kovalchuk, Canadiens – LW/RW: Kovalchuk didn’t work out with the Los Angeles Kings and that eventually ended with his contract being terminated. However, he still clearly can offer something offensively in the right situation. That situation seems to exist with his new team, the Montreal Canadiens. Through four games they’ve given him an average of 19:57 minutes and he’s rewarded him with a goal and four points.

Jake DeBrusk, Bruins – LW/RW: DeBrusk is in his third NHL season and though he’s been a solid contributor right from the start, he hasn’t found that next level yet. His upside makes him interesting to watch, but if nothing else, he’s at least a good short-term grab with three goals and five points in his last three games. He wouldn’t be terrible to own even after he cools down, but you certainly shouldn’t feel obligated to keep him.

Nathan Gerbe, Blue Jackets – LW: Gerbe is a roll of the dice, but an interesting one. The 32-year-old was a regular in the NHL from 2010-11 through 2015-16, but from 2016-17 through 2018-19 he played in all of two NHL games. During that time he had a stint in the Swiss league and spent time with the AHL’s Cleveland Monsters. He’s been putting in the time though in hopes of getting another shot. In 2018-19 he had 32 points in 41 AHL games and then he had 25 points in 30 AHL games this season. That led to him getting a call up on Dec. 22nd and he’s stuck with the Blue Jackets since. He’s been a regular contributor since then with three goals and six points in 10 contests while averaging 14:32 minutes. That offensive production has been spread out with him not being held off the scoresheet in back-to-back games yet. There’s enough to like here to give him a chance if you’re hurting for a left winger, though he’s definitely a high-risk pickup given that he might not even stay in the NHL.

Vincent Trocheck, Panthers – C: Trocheck is on a four-game point streak and has two goals and 12 points in his last 12 games. He’s worth grabbing while he’s hot, especially given that this might develop into a strong second half overall for him. Trocheck isn’t that far removed from his amazing 2017-18 campaign when he scored 31 goals and 75 points in 82 games and while he won’t come close to those totals this season, he’s still capable of being an asset in fantasy leagues.

Esa Lindell, Stars – D: Lindell is one of those players who is more valuable to his team than he is to fantasy owners. He contributes offensively, but not to the extent that he’s more than a borderline option in standard leagues. Lately he’s been far more than that though. He has eight assists in his last six games. He’ll cool down and at that point you’ll want to look at your other options, but for now he’s a solid gamble.

Derek Ryan, Flames – C: Ryan is on a hot streak right now with two goals and five points in six contests. He’s not worth owning outside of his hot streak, in part because of his center-only eligibility, but on the plus side this season is shaping up to be a step forward for him. He has eight goals and 24 points in 47 games, putting him well on his way to topping his career-high of 38 points, which he set in 2017-18 and matched in 2018-19.

Matt Martin, Islanders – LW: If you’re ever hurting in the hits category, Martin is the answer. He won’t do much else, but with 141 hits in 31 contests, he’s one of the best sources of hits in the league. If you are going to pick him up, now is a particularly good time because of the Islanders’ packed schedule. They’ll play against Detroit on Tuesday, the Rangers on Thursday, Washington on Saturday, Carolina on Sunday, and the Rangers again on Tuesday, Jan. 21st before they finally get a breather for the All-Star break. The end result is that you should get plenty of hits out of Martin in a short span of time and after that you can replace him with a player who will help you in more categories.

Tyler Toffoli, Kings – LW/RW: Toffoli got off to a slow start this season with six goals and 13 points in 30 games, but he’s heated up with six goals and 14 points in his last 16 contests. He’s been something of an inconsistent player in his career with him never matching his highs of 31 goals and 58 points set back in 2015-16. His more recent success does give some reason for cautious optimism in the second half of the campaign though.

Nico Hischier, Devils – C: Hischier has been at the top of his game lately with six goals and 10 points in his last nine contests. It’s been interesting because this jump started after the Hall trade. At least in part, this is probably a hot streak from Hischier and he’ll fizzle out, but there’s also a chance that he’s taking the lead a bit more in the post-Hall Devils.

Dominik Kubalik, Blackhawks – LW/RW: I mentioned Kubalik last week too, but because he’s still only owned in 15% of Yahoo leagues, he’s worth bringing up again. The rookie forward has been outstanding lately with eight goals and 13 points in 11 contests. A contributing factor to his recent success has been him playing on a line with Jonathan Toews. As long as that continues to be the case, he should be a significant fantasy asset.

Players You May Want To Drop

Nick Schmaltz, Coyotes – C/LW/RW: Schmaltz has had a couple amazing stretches this season with his most recent coming from Dec. 17-Jan. 4. Over the nine games he played during that span, he scored a goal and 12 points. The problem is that he’s also been inconsistent this season. From Nov. 9-Dec. 6, he had just six points in 15 games. So you have to wonder if we’re in the start of another prolonged cold streak given that he’s now gone four straight games without a point.

Clayton Keller, Coyotes – LW/RW: It shouldn’t come as much surprise that Schmaltz’s regular linemate is also struggling. For Keller though, he’s been cold for significantly longer. Keller has just two goals and three points in nine contests. He’s something of a frustrating player because his rookie season was so good, but he took a significant step back as a sophomore and while his third campaign is shaping out to be better, he’s still falling shy of his promise. He’s 21-years-old so it wouldn’t be shocking to see him breakout in the future, but for now he’s very much a mixed bag.

Mikko Koskinen, Oilers – G: Koskinen endured a rough stretch from Dec. 21-31 where he allowed at least three goals in four straight games. After that slump, Mike Smith started in four consecutive games and took full advantage of the opportunity, posting a 3-0-1 record, 2.49 GAA, and .926 save percentage in that span. Koskinen finally got another shot on Saturday, but allowed four goals on 33 shots in a 4-3 loss to Calgary. There will be other chances for Koskinen, but he’s pretty mediocre anyways so you should always be examining your other options.

Anthony Duclair, Senators – LW/RW: Duclair has already set a new career-high this season with 21 goals in 44 games, but that’s largely due to an incredible stretch from Dec. 4-21 where he scored 11 goals in nine contests and was enjoying an unsustainable 36.7 shooting percentage. Since then he hasn’t scored another goal and because his value is so heavily dependent on goals, that’s a big problem. To be fair, he’s been a pretty intriguing player for a long time now and he’s enjoying a bigger role with the Ottawa Senators than he’s ever had, so there are reasons to hope for him to have a strong second half. However, given his streaky nature, it’s not unreasonable to regard him as a situational pickup who has fallen out of favor for now, but may be worth scooping back up later.

Anthony Cirelli, Lightning – C: With nine goals and 27 points in 44 games and just eligibility as a center, Cirelli isn’t a particularly good option in fantasy leagues. He has enjoyed some great stretches though, which makes him worth keeping an eye on. Unfortunately, this isn’t one of them. He’s gone six straight games without a point immediately following a far more pleasant stretch of two goals and five points in four contests.

If you’re looking for fantasy hockey information, Rotoworld is a great resource. You can check the player news for the latest information on any player and insight into their fantasy outlook.

Every week Michael Finewax looks ahead at the schedule and offers team-by-team notes in The Week Ahead. I have a weekly Fantasy Nuggets column where I basically talk about whatever’s captured my attention that week. Gus Katsaros does an Analytics columns if you want to get into detailed statistical analysis. If you’re interested in rookies and prospects, there’s a weekly column on that written by McKeen’s Hockey.

For everything fantasy hockey, check out Rotoworld’s Player News, and follow @Rotoworld_ HK and @RyanDadoun on Twitter.

The Buzzer: Price is right for Canadiens, Malkin’s 400th goal, and Hall’s impact

NHL Scores Taylor Hall Coyotes Debut
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Three Stars

1. Carey Price, Montreal Canadiens. If the Canadiens are going to make the playoffs they are going to need more performances like this from Price. He stopped 38 shots on Tuesday and helped the Canadiens pick up a 3-1 win over the Vancouver Canucks. Price had a slow start to the season but has started to get back on track over the past couple of weeks. He has won four of his past five starts with a .952 save percentage during that stretch.

2. Sebastian Aho, Carolina Hurricanes. Aho is on quite the run for the Hurricanes. His three point effort on Tuesday (including two goals to put him over the 20-goal mark for the fourth consecutive year to start his career) gives him 11 points over the past five games. His assist numbers are down a little this season, but he is currently on pace for 48 goals as he continues to have an incredible chemistry with linemate Teuvo Teravainen.

3. Taylor Hall, Arizona Coyotes. His stat line in his Coyotes debut is not one that will wow you. He finished with just one assist in 18 minutes and attempted three shots in 18 minutes of ice time. But he still did exactly what the Coyotes acquired him to do — make an impact in a close game. With the Coyotes and Sharks playing in a 2-2 tie late in the third period, Hall used his speed to win a race for a loose puck, maintain possession, and set up Oliver Ekman-Larsson for the game-winning goal. Hard to ask for more than that in a debut. He will make his home debut on Thursday when the Coyotes host the Minnesota Wild.

Other notable performances from Tuesday

  • Thanks to big nights from John Marino, Bryan Rust and Tristan Jarry the Pittsburgh Penguins were able to pick up a huge 4-1 win over the Calgary Flames. That game also featured a milestone goal for Evgeni Malkin as he scored the 400th goal of his career.
  • Craig Smith and Calle Jarnkrok both had three points as the Nashville Predators scored seven consecutive goals to rout the New York Islanders, 8-3, ending the Islanders’ 13-game point streak on home ice (they went 12-0-1 during the streak).
  • A late goal from Matt Roy and an overtime winner from Anze Kopitar helped lift the Los Angeles Kings to a 4-3 win over the slumping Boston Bruins.
  • Carter Hart made 40 saves and the Flyers’ stars (Claude Giroux, Sean Couturier, and Jakub Voracek) all had big games in a 4-1 win over the Anaheim Ducks. The Flyers and their fans also showed support for forward Oskar Lindblom during the game. Read about that here.
  • Gustav Nyquist had two points, including a goal, in his return to Detroit as the Columbus Blue Jackets picked up a 5-3 win over the Detroit Red Wings.

Highlights of the Night

Auston Matthews scored two goals for the Toronto Maple Leafs in their 5-3 win over the Buffalo Sabres, including this beauty. Read all about his game and the Maple Leafs’ big win here.

Marc-Andre Fleury stopped 24 shots for the Vegas Golden Knights in their 3-2 win over the Minnesota Wild and none were better than this stop. He earned career win No. 453 and is just one win away from moving into a tie for sixth-place with Curtis Joseph on the NHL’s all-time wins list.

The Tampa Bay Lightning allowed a two-goal lead to slip away against the Ottawa Senators but still managed to get the win thanks to this beauty of a goal from Anthony Cirelli in overtime.

You also need to take one more look at Andrei Svechnikov‘s second lacrosse-style goal of the season for the Carolina Hurricanes. You can do that right here.

Blooper of the Night

Nikita Kucherov did not play much in the third period of the Lightning’s win, but he did score the game’s first goal. Senators goalie Marcus Hogberg losing his stick and looking completely out of sorts certainly helped.

Factoids

  • Lou Lamoriello has now been an NHL general manager for 2,500 games. [NHL PR]
  • Thomas Chabot played 37 minutes for the Senators on Tuesday night (on the second night of a back-to-back!). According to Hockey-Reference, only Dennis Wideman’s 38 minutes in 2014 are more for a regular season game. [Elliotte Friedman]
  • Jack Eichel‘s point streak is at 17 consecutive games, one away from tying the Buffalo Sabres’ franchise record. [NHL PR]

Scores

Los Angeles Kings 4, Boston Bruins 3 (OT)
Toronto Maple Leafs 5, Buffalo Sabres 3
Tampa Bay Lightning 4, Ottawa Senators 3 (OT)
Nashville Predators 8, New York Islanders 3
Philadelphia Flyers 4, Anaheim Ducks 1
Columbus Blue Jackets 5, Detroit Red Wings 3
Carolina Hurricanes 6, Winnipeg Jets 3
Pittsburgh Penguins 4, Calgary Flames 1
Montreal Canadiens 3, Vancouver Canucks 1
Vegas Golden Knights 3, Minnesota Wild 2
Arizona Coyotes 3, San Jose Sharks 2

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

Get ready to learn a lot about the Lightning

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With a cursory glance at the Tampa Bay Lightning’s upcoming schedule, it was tempting to predict that the team will look like a juggernaut again very soon.

After beating the Predators in overtime in an unexpectedly nasty game in Nashville, the opportunity is indeed there to enjoy some home cooking. The Lightning play:

  • Their next three games at home.
  • Seven of their next eight games in Tampa Bay.
  • Could be set for a big December overall with 10 of their next 12 games at home.

Yet, when you dig a little deeper, the situation is even more interesting because a hot streak isn’t necessarily a slam dunk for Tampa Bay. While it’s dangerous to read too much into any month in the marathon that is an NHL regular season, it’s fair to say that we should get a better idea of what kind of team the Lightning might be in 2019-20.

Bumpy start

Chalk it up to a hangover from that jarring sweep at the hands of the Blue Jackets, Brayden Point limping into the early part of the season, or any other number of factors, but it’s clear that something’s been a bit off about the Lightning in 2019-20.

It wouldn’t have been reasonable to expect the Lightning to duplicate 2018-19’s regular-season magic, but it’s still jarring that, as of Dec. 4, Tampa Bay is not in a playoff position.

Now, sure, some of that is misleading. After all, the Lightning have only played in 25 games, the lowest total in the NHL. Still, a 13-9-3 record feels closer to a drizzle than a thunderstorm.

It’s a tad bit unnerving that Tampa Bay’s record is closer to “meh” than dominant when you consider that a decent number of things are going right for the Lightning.

Their power play is still humming along with a robust 29.3 percent success rate, third-best in the NHL. Nikita Kucherov isn’t on another 120-point pace, he’s still a dangerous scorer, and the Lightning are getting strong production from Steven Stamkos, Victor Hedman (remarkably, 23 points in as many games), and Brayden Point. Beyond the usual suspects, they’re also seeing an even-more-revitalized-than-expected Kevin Shattenkirk (not far behind Hedman with 20 points in 25 GP), and some nice contributions from rising players like Anthony Cirelli.

The Lightning’s even-strength PDO (1.017) ranks seventh-highest in the NHL, a quick reference that indicates that they aren’t suffering from particularly terrible puck luck.

While their goaltending hasn’t been great (Andrei Vasilevskiy and Curtis McElhinney share matching .908 save percentages), it hasn’t been a full-fledged disaster.

So … it’s fair to wonder if this Lightning team might fall closer to good than great. But, again, this stretch will tell us quite a bit about their ceiling — not everything, but quite a bit.

Another look at this home-heavy stretch

Here’s that span of 12 games, with road contests in italics:

Dec. 5: vs. Minnesota
Dec. 7: vs. San Jose
Dec. 9: vs. Islanders
Dec. 10: at Florida
Dec. 12: vs. Boston
Dec. 14: vs. Washington
Dec. 17: vs. Ottawa
Dec. 19: vs. Dallas
Dec. 21: at Washington
Dec. 23: vs. Florida
Dec. 28: vs. Montreal
Dec. 29: vs. Detroit

While the Senators and Red Wings stand as games the Lightning absolutely should win, and there are matches against teams who have been up and down (Wild, Sharks, Stars), it all looks like a set of challenges as much as this is a golden opportunity.

After all, the Lightning are only 6-4-1 so far at home this season, and that’s with that trip to Sweden mucking things up a bit.

***

It’s hyperbolic to say that this is a do-or-die stretch for the Lightning, but it’s still one of the more significant spans of their season.

Consider it the equivalent to an animal storing fat for in preparation for a difficult winter. From Dec. 31 through Feb. 1, the Lightning face what could be a treacherous run of away games: four in a row to begin 2020, 12 out of 15 games on the road. While that set of opponents is softer (at least on paper), it would likely help if they entered that run on a high note.

Do you think the Lightning can take advantage of December to prove that they’re still truly among the elite, or will they continue to face peaks and valleys?

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.