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Right on Schedule: No holiday break on the ice

by | Rotowire.com
  •  

Nearly halfway through the 2010-11 campaign, The Winter Classic will be the first NHL broadcast of the season for The National Broadcasting Company. With all due respect to said-network's coverage, does anyone remember the days when a major network cared about season-long loyalty? Versus is slowly becoming a respectable cable network and it's in large-part thanks to Hockey viewers. But let's get one thing straight ... Versus has helped earned some respect back for the NHL.

This past Tuesday night, Versus televised the coming out party for Andrew Gordon of the Washington Capitals. By the end of the game, it had an atmosphere much like that of Sunday Night Baseball, featuring a freshly called up pitching phenom who just threw seven strong. I must admit, it's going to be nice to watch Sunday afternoon hockey. Point being, instead of schedule algorithms this week, let's focus on the television network schedule most committed to the NHL in the long run.

Minnesota Wild (16-13-4) @ Columbus Blue Jackets (17-14-3)

December 27th -- Columbus is last-place in what is arguably the most balanced (Central) division in the league. The ice could be run amuck with deficiencies as both teams are struggling to light the lamp. Columbus is ranked 29th in Power Play Goals, while Minnesota are worst in the league with less than 900 shots-taken.The Blue Jackets are 9-9-1 at home this season and the Wild are a modest 8-6-2 on the road. Thus far the season series is tied at one, with each team having stolen a one-goal road victory.

Previous match-ups
Sat, Nov 6, @ Columbus - Minnesota 3-2
Sat, Oct 16, @ Minnesota - Columbus 3-2

End to End

MIN Niklas Backstrom, who had seemingly lost his job to Jose Theodore, is now on a 3-game winning streak. Having forfeited only a goal-a-game over that span, it should also be noted Backstrom has a 1.81 GAA in four career games at Nationwide Arena.

CLB Goalies, this portion of our week is brought to you by Ibuprofen. Both Steve Mason and Mathieu Garon have had their issues. Even though Garon has been getting most of the nods in December, both goalies have taken turns being pulled after allowing six goals. Your guess is as good as mine here, but I lean towards Garon.

Boston Bruins (18-11-4) at Tampa Bay Lightning (20-10-5)

December 28th -- Much could be said about the Lightning, but mostly how they have shown spells of ambivalence. During an important month with only one Western Conference opponent, the Boston Bruins have been the Jekyll and Hyde of the NHL. The beginning days (4-0-1) of December were kind, but the Bruins went 2-3-1 in their last six heading into the Christmas break. Third in the league with a plus-105, the B's roster has merely five players with a minus-rating. However, these are two teams that have headed in different directions since their last meeting. The Lightning are 6-1-2 in since their embarrassing 8-1 road loss to the Bruins on the 1st of this month.

Boston left-winger, Milan Lucic was enjoying a point-per-game over the last eight games. Since then, Lucic has been a minus-two and 22 PIM thanks to a bit of a brawl in the Bruins 4-1 win over Atlanta. Lucic, who earned two minutes calling zebra Dan O'Rourke "a joke" and "embarrassing," had a feisty night. There have been no reports that Lucic suffered an injury after the cheap hit by Freddy Meyer in that game. Following Tampa, Boston heads to Hotlanta for the second time in seven days.

Previous match-ups
Thu, Dec 2, @Boston - Boston 8-1
Mon, Nov 22, @TB - Tampa 3-1

End to End

TB Dan Ellis has just about taken the reigns from Mike Smith since that aforementioned loss. Ellis, (10-5-5) is 4-1-2 in the month of December. This is a man looking to get his GAA (3.03) below three, and I think he will bring Tampa Bay to at least a semifinal playoff.

BOS Tim Thomas (16-4-3) is without a doubt a top MVP candidate as we flip the calendar. Despite fighting off a persistent Tuukka Rask, Thomas has been solid again in the month of December, sporting a 5-2-1 record. It's no surprise that the Bruins have been shutout in three of four of Thomas' losses.

Phoenix Coyotes (15-11-7) at St. Louis Blues (17-12-5)

December 31st -- Neither team has yet to dig in their heels, nor is this a juicy match up of exciting hockey towns. However, both organizations have righted the ship in recent years. What does this mean to us for New Years Eve hockey? Quite honestly, I'll be suite-side with family for the Stars and Canucks at the American Airlines Center.

Either way, I will not be surprised if this game has an edgy pace all-night. Alex Steen is leading the Blues with 11 goals (six in December) and slowly becoming a leader. Despite an over-zealous style and minus-9 rating for the season, point man Keith Yandle has been a huge lift to blue-line offense for Phoenix. The 'Yotes went 1-3-1 on this road trip heading into Sunday's action with Dallas.

Previous match-ups
Sat, Nov 13, @ Phoenix - Phoenix 5-3

End to End

PHO Ilya Bryzgalov (upper-body/flu) was rumored to be returning to action against the Stars. If I ruled the desert, I'd sit him one more game as a precaution. They could give a shot to former Dallas Stars prospect goalie Matt Climie. Only a week ago, Climie relieved Jason LaBarbera after giving up five goals in 22 shots. Barring any setbacks, I expect Bryzgalov between the pipes against the Blues offense.

STL Jaroslav Halak -- remove a three-day, two-game total of 13 GA allowed in mid-November, and Halak has been irreplaceable. Even heading into the Christmas break (1-3-1), Halak can make or break this team while we wait for raw talent getting to know one another.

Out of Broadcast Area

Brian "The Hair" Engblom was right last week. New Jersey is in serious trouble. I don't think anyone noticed, but this organization has leaned on Marty Brodeur like the U.S. leaned on foreign oil in 1990's. Could we see a fire sale in Jersey?

NJ this week: vs. NYR, ATL, @ CAR

I hate to sound like the rest of the NHL world, but can we actually count Buffalo out after the loss of leading goal-scorer Derek Roy? Roy, who had 10 goals (25 points) tore his left quadriceps tendon and is expected to take four to six months to recover.

BUF this week: @ EDM, CAL vs. BOS

Sleeper Alert

CLB Jakub Voracek, recently broke a goal-scoring drought. Voracek, who has six goals (20 points), has now been combined with Derick Brassard and R.J. Umberger to make up Columbus' second line. Available in 40% of CBS leagues, you may want to keep an eye on this young former first-rounder.

This week: vs.MIN @TOR vs. OTT @NSH

NYR Derek Stepan, really not as much a sleeper as he is underdeveloped talent, Stepan has kept step with the NHL. After a brilliant hat-trick in his NHL debut on Rangers opening night, Stepan has spent most of the season QUIETLY adapting. Nonetheless, the 20-year-old has three goals in his last three games.

This week: vs. NYI, @ NJ, TB, FLA

As for the mid-season Super Bowl-like event, weather.com reports a 30% chance of flurries for Saturday. Sid and the Great Alexander's ... sounds like a Glam/Rock outfit. Just as you're shaking away the fog of a New Year and/or hangover, tell your family and friends the game at Heinz Field just started. Even if they complain at first, after the show (see Cooke flop) these two teams put on last Thursday, you WILL BE thanked later.

The Full Schedule Grid

Team Away Home Total
Atlanta 3 1 4
Boston 4 0 4
Columbus 2 2 4
Colorado 2 2 4
Dallas 2 2 4
Detroit 2 2 4
Los Angeles 2 2 4
Minnesota 1 3 4
Montreal 3 1 4
N.Y. Rangers 3 1 4
Philadelphia 4 0 4
Phoenix 2 2 4
San Jose 3 1 4
Anaheim 1 2 3
Buffalo 2 1 3
Carolina 2 1 3
Calgary 1 2 3
Chicago 2 1 3
Edmonton 0 3 3
Florida 0 3 3
New Jersey 1 2 3
Nashville 1 2 3
N.Y. Islanders 2 1 3
Ottawa 1 2 3
Pittsburgh 2 1 3
St. Louis 0 3 3
Tampa Bay 0 3 3
Toronto 2 1 3
Vancouver 2 1 3
Washington 1 1 2

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Player News
Boyd Gordon
Oilers' Gordon In Line To Serve As No. 3 Center
Boyd Gordon, C, EDM
12:44 AM
News: Boyd Gordon is expected to serve as the Oilers' No. 3 center to begin the season, ESPN.com's Pierre LeBrun reports.
Analysis: Though filling the hole at the second-line center spot is the more pressing need for the Oilers, it appears that rookie Leon Draisaitl or Mark Arcobello will be given the opportunity to do so before Boyd Gordon does. Gordon is serviceable two-way depth center for the Oilers, but he doesn't offer enough offensive upside to keep up with the likes of David Perron and Nail Yakupov on the wings. Look for Gordon to finish with another season where he hovers around the 20-point mark.

Ilya Bryzgalov
Wild Talking To Bryzgalov About Tryout
Ilya Bryzgalov, G, MIN
12:41 AM
News: Minnesota has approached Ilya Bryzgalov about coming into training camp on a tryout, the Minneapolis Star Tribune reports.
Analysis: With Josh Harding suffering an ankle injury this summer and Darcy Kuemper unsigned and threatening to play overseas, the Wild may bring back Ilya Bryzgalov to serve as Niklas Backstrom's backup.

Mike Ribeiro
Ribeiro Likely Candidate For Preds' Top Line
Mike Ribeiro, C, NSH
9/17/2014
News: Mike Ribeiro is a likely candidate to center the Predators' top line this season alongside James Neal, The Tennessean reports.
Analysis: Mike Ribeiro and Neal were teammates in Dallas for three seasons (2008-2011) prior to the trade that sent Neal to Pittsburgh, so it makes sense for the Preds to try and re-create whatever chemistry may have existed between the two back then. In fact, Ribeiro's two best seasons came during this period (83 points in 2007-08 and 78 points in 2008-09), however don't expect him to put up similar numbers with his new team. We think a 50-point season is within his reach, with upside to 60+ if all goes well.

Chad LaRose
Canes' LaRose Injured, Likely Bound For AHL
Chad LaRose, RW, CAR
9/17/2014
News: Chad LaRose is currently injured and not on the Hurricanes' training camp roster, Chip Alexander of the Raleigh News & Observer reports.
Analysis: Details of the injury have not been provided, however Chad LaRose was not likely to crack the Canes' lineup this year anyway, after sitting out all of last season. If and when he returns to health, expect to see LaRose suit up for the Charlotte Checkers of the AHL.

Brock McGinn
Canes' Prospect McGinn Slowed By Injury
Brock McGinn, LW, CAR
9/17/2014
News: Brock McGinn has been invited to the Hurricanes' training camp despite being slowed by a leg injury at the annual Traverse City prospects tournament, the Raleigh News & Observer reports. GM Ron Francis said McGinn was not at 100 percent during the tournament, and described the injury as a "charley horse".
Analysis: Despite the injury, Brock McGinn was one of several Canes prospects to receive an invitation to training camp, even though most, if not all, will likely wind up back in junior or at AHL Charlotte. McGinn is one of the Canes' more promising prospects, having scored 85 points in 58 games last season with the Guelph Storm of the OHL.

Victor Rask
Canes' Rookie Rask Invited To Training Camp
Victor Rask, C, CAR
9/17/2014
News: Victor Rask has been invited to the Hurricanes' training camp after impressing the coaching staff at the annual Traverse City prospects tournament, the Raleigh News & Observer reports.
Analysis: The 21-year-old Victor Rask will now compete for a roster spot after finishing the tournament with eight points in four games. "[Rask] played well all four games," GM Ron Francis said. "He has very good hockey sense and was good at both ends of the rink, and on special teams. He was consistent, every shift, every game." Bottom line, despite his strong showing thus far, Rask will face some stiff competition in his attempt to crack the Canes' roster. It will be interesting to see how he fares in camp against seasoned NHL veterans. Monitor closely.

Josh Harding
Wild's Harding Ruled Out Indefinitely
Josh Harding, G, MIN
9/17/2014
News: Josh Harding has been ruled out indefinitely with a fractured right foot sustained in an off-ice incident Sept. 14.
Analysis: Josh Harding will fortunately be able to avoid surgery on the foot, but the injury more than likely dashes his chances of playing in the Wild's season opener. More details surrounding the nature of Harding's injury should become available in the coming days, but expect his stock to fall considerably in drafts as the season approaches. Harding already came with plenty of built-in health risk due to his complications with multiple sclerosis that have prematurely ended each of his last two seasons, so the injury only further damages his standing. Look for either Niklas Backstrom, Darcy Kuemper or perhaps a currently unsigned goalie to compete for No. 1 duties in training camp.

Max Domi
Domi Could Make Big Contribution
Max Domi, C, ARI
9/17/2014
News: Max Domi, who had a brilliant 93 point campaign for London in the OHL in 2013, is being looked to crack the Coyotes' lineup and add scoring, according to Sarah McLellan of the Arizona Republic.
Analysis: Max Domi's offensive ability is not in question, but coach Dave Tippett will need to be assured that he can handle his defensive duties in order for Domi to get the kind of ice time he needs to reach his potential.

Jaden Schwartz
Schwartz Remains Unsigned
Jaden Schwartz, LW, STL
9/17/2014
News: Jaden Schwartz, a restricted free agent, remains unsigned with one day left before camp opens, reports Andy Strickland of Fox Sports Midwest.
Analysis: Reports suggest that Jaden Schwartz and the Blues remain far apart. The 22 year-old had a break out season with 56 points and a plus-28 rating. It is unlikely that he will miss time in the regular season and hopefully any time he misses in camp does not cause him to get off to a slow start.

Justin Braun
Sharks Sign Braun To Five-Year Extension
Justin Braun, D, SJ
9/17/2014
News: Justin Braun, who set career bests with 17 points, four goals, and 13 assists last season, has inked a five-year, $19 million extension with the Sharks, which will begin in the 2015-16 season.
Analysis: Justin Braun's strengths for fantasy lie in his 20:59 of average ice time last year, but his value in other categories is generally limited. Though he occupies a prominent place on the Sharks' penalty kill, the aforementioned career-highs are nothing that will get you drafting him in early rounds. It's a great signing for the Sharks, but strictly from a real-life perspective.

 
 
 
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