This article is part of our DraftKings NHL series.
After Wednesday's four-game set on Opening Night, the 2019-20 NHL season really kicks into high gear Thursday with eight games scheduled after 7:00 PM Eastern time. Below, you'll find an overview of the matchups and suggested options for crafting an effective lineup.
There's no shortage of familiar faces in new places here, with the likes of Sergei Bobrovsky (Panthers), Artemi Panarin (Rangers) and Phil Kessel (Coyotes) all making their debuts with their respective teams. While those guys will look to leave strong first impressions, it might be best to trust what you already know, such as the top-heavy Pittsburgh forward corps at home against Buffalo or potent Lightning and Predators clubs that remain favored despite facing Panthers and Wild teams that made some splashy offseason moves.
Petr Mrazek ($7,800) solidified himself as the starter in Carolina with a strong postseason run to the Eastern Conference Finals, and he'll open his 2019-20 campaign in a favorable situation at home against a defensively oriented Canadians club.
Darcy Kuemper ($7,300) is a great affordable option in what should be a low-scoring contest in Anaheim. He posted a 2.33 GAA and .925 save percentage in 55 starts with Antti Raanta injured last season, and Kuemper will start the opener since Raanta is rehabbing a lower-body injury at the AHL level. Meanwhile, Anaheim scored a league-low 2.39 goals per game in 2018-19.
With Bryan Little sidelined by a concussion, Winnipeg's Andrew Copp ($4,700) has a golden opportunity to rack up some points against the Rangers as the second-line center between a pair of snipers in Patrik Laine and Kyle Connor, both of whom topped the 30-goal mark last season.
The Flames had no answer for Colorado's Mikko Rantanen ($6,900) when the two teams met in the postseason last year, as he delivered four consecutive multi-point efforts to knock Calgary out and finished with five goals and four assists over five games. He comes slightly cheaper than either Nathan MacKinnon or Gabriel Landeskog ($7,300 each), but Rantanen could easily be the best of Colorado's Big 3 here.
It looks like Victor Olofsson ($3,500) will open the season on the top line for the Sabres. The opportunity to lock in a guy who skates on a line with Jack Eichel and Sam Reinhart — who combined for 147 points last season — is tough to pass up, even against the favored Penguins.
FORWARD LINE STACKS
Penguins vs. Sabres
This line won't come cheap, but it could be worth paying up for in its entirety against a Sabres team that allowed 3.27 goals per game last season — eighth-most in the NHL. Crosby's coming off a 100-point season and is all systems go after blocking a shot with his leg in the preseason finale. Guentzel's coming off a 40-goal campaign, and Hornqvist is a bounce-back candidate after scoring only 18 goals in 2018-19 to fall short of 20 for just the second time in the last 10 years.
Lightning vs. Panthers
Scoring depth was a major strength for last year's regular season juggernaut Lightning team, and the team's depth will be tested right away without Brayden Point (hip). Tampa Bay's current second line won't cost you too much but features three capable forwards who each produced between 34 and 40 points despite seeing limited ice time. Increased roles here should lead to greater production against a Panthers team that allowed the fourth-most goals last season and won't mask all of its defensive deficiencies with Bobrovsky.
Rangers vs. Jets
With the Jets trading Jacob Trouba to the Rangers for salary cap reasons and Dustin Byfuglien on leave for personal reasons, Winnipeg will dress an underwhelming set of blueliners for the season opener. The current crop will have trouble slowing down New York's new top line. Zibanejad's coming off a 74-point season in which he barely had any help, and now he'll get to work alongside Panarin, who has never scored fewer than 74 points in a season himself. Buchnevich rounds out this line after a strong finish to last season, which saw him tally 12 goals and eight assists over the final 26 games.
Calgary's Mark Giordano ($5,800) is coming off a 74-point season, and the veteran blueliner can also stuff the stat sheet in other categories, giving him a tremendous floor. Giordano ranked fifth among defensemen with 221 shots and top-25 league-wide in blocks (144) last season.
Opposite Giordano, Cale Makar ($4,700) likely won't be this affordable for long, so grab the young Avalanche blueliner at this price while you still can. Makar made his NHL debut during Colorado's playoff run, and the fourth overall selection from the 2017 draft found immediate success with six points in 10 games. He's expected to operate on Colorado's high-powered No. 1 power-play unit with Tyson Barrie now in Toronto.
Speaking of young blueliners who made established veterans expendable, Dante Fabbro ($2,900) could be a massive bargain given the Predators' expectations for him. He's expected to occupy the second-pairing role and power-play time vacated by the P.K. Subban trade.
While all eyes will be on his teammate Trouba against the team he played for last season, Anthony DeAngelo ($3,600) is in line to provide great bang for the buck after posting 30 points in 61 games. He'd make a nice addition to the Rangers' top line in what could be an affordable yet effective stack.