If you haven't tried our daily Hockey Throwdown fantasy game, check it out. The link in the tile will take you to the game page where you can set up a head-to-head challenge with a friend, an enemy, the cable guy, the vicar, me ... basically anyone. Pick three players on three different NHL teams who you think will surpass their projected totals in such categories as wins, saves and goals-against average for goalies; and goals, assists, plus-minus, PIM and shots on goal for forwards and defensemen. Your team earns points based on live game stats. Highest score wins. You can play for free or wager anywhere from $1 to $500.
Each day, I offer up my three picks for that night's action. To help you prepare, here are the players that I think are primed to have a big night:
Forget the stats. If you've seen Bjugstad play lately, you know why he's the pick. The big center is playing the heavy game that made him such a smart first-round draft choice by the Panthers, and he's generating more chances as he dominates possession down low. He's produced five points in his past two games, including a goal and an assist against the Sabres on Saturday, so I like him to crush his projections (0.3 G, 0.3 A, 0.4 PIM, 2.6 SOG, 0.1 PPP) against a goaltender (Martin Brodeur) who is still looking to work his way back into game shape.
Defense: Kevin Shattenkirk, Blues (hosting Panthers, 8 p.m. EST; FS-F, FS-MW)
Picking blueliners isn't easy, so it's never a bad idea to go with the hot hand. Shattenkirk has four points in his past two games after a 1-2-3 performance against the Islanders on Saturday, but he's been even better at home, tallying seven points over the course of a five-game scoring streak at Scotttrade Center. His projections (0.1 G, 0.4 A, 0.2 +/-, 0.7 PIM, 2.0 SOG, 0.3 PPP) don't seem to account for his recent play, so he's a good bet to get you over the top.
Starting a keeper against Pittsburgh's explosive offense might seem counterintuitive, especially given Lundqvist's struggles this season. But if there's one team that's brought out the best in him, it's the Penguins. He led the Blueshirts to a 5-0 shutout win over Sidney Crosby and Company on Nov. 11 before dropping a tough shootout decision four days later, stopping 69 of 71 shots in the process. With a set of fairly soft projections (0.4 W, 2.6 GA, 24.6 SV) he's a solid play tonight.