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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
Mika Zibanejad
Zibanejad Helps Sens Past Ducks
Mika Zibanejad, C, OTT
12:59 PM
News: Mika Zibanejad scored his ninth goal of the season, had an assist, was credited with four shots on goal, and was a plus-3 in Friday's win over the Ducks.
Analysis: An all-around great fantasy night for Mika Zibanejad, who now has 17 points in 30 games on the season. After a slow start, Zibanejad has heated up, recording six goals and 11 points in his last nine games. Skating on the second line with Bobby Ryan, the 21-year-old could hit the 25-goal mark in 2014-15, making him worthy of a look right now.

Erik Karlsson
Sens' Karlsson Collects Two Assists In Win
Erik Karlsson, D, OTT
12:27 PM
News: Erik Karlsson collected a pair of helpers in Friday's win over Anaheim.
Analysis: Erik Karlsson now has points in two straight games after being held off the scoresheet in his previous three game. The 24-year-old has seven goals and 23 points in 32 games on the season, to go with a minus-12 rating. He sits second in the NHL with 124 shots on goal and is one of the best offensive defenseman in the game. Keep him rolling.

Kyle Turris
Sens' Turris Remains Hot Friday
Kyle Turris, C, OTT
12:09 PM
News: Kyle Turris remained red-hot on Friday, scoring a highlight-reel shorthanded goal and adding an assist in a win over the Ducks.
Analysis: Kyle Turris has been lighting it up lately, riding a five-game point streak in which he has recorded three goals and seven points. With 23 points (seven goals) in 32 games, the 25-year-old is proving to be a reliable fantasy option this season. He has scored the game-winning goal in back-to-back games and has never gone more than three games without appearing on the scoresheet. His consistency and top-line role makes him worth a look right now.

Carter Ashton
Suspension Over For Leafs' Ashton
Carter Ashton, RW, TOR
12:54 AM
News: Carter Ashton has completed his 20-game suspension for violating the league's performance enhancing substances protocol and has been reinstated onto the Leafs' active roster, James Mirtle of The Globe and Mail reports. He will now head to AHL Toronto for a conditioning stint, according to David Alter of MapleLeafs.com.
Analysis: Since he hasn't been able to play since early November, Carter Ashton will likely spend multiple games on the assignment before he's called back up to the parent club. Ashton had largely served as a healthy scratch for the Leafs prior to his suspension, making just six appearances on the season. He'll likely see limited duty again once he rejoins the Leafs.

Henrik Lundqvist
Rangers To Start Lundqvist On Saturday
Henrik Lundqvist, G, NYR
12:49 AM
News: Henrik Lundqvist will be between the pipes Saturday against the Hurricanes.
Analysis: Coach Alain Vigneault is expected to split the starts between Henrik Lundqvist and Cam Talbot for the team's weekend back-to-back, but that plan could change if King Henrik submits a dominant outing Saturday. Given that Lundqvist is riding a four-game winning streak and will be facing a Carolina squad that ranks second-last in the league with 21 points, he should be viewed as one of the better goalie plays on the Saturday slate.

Jordie Benn
Stars Rule Out Jordie Benn For Friday
Jordie Benn, D, DAL
12:45 AM
News: Jordie Benn (illness) has been ruled out from playing Friday against the Flames, Mike Heika of the Dallas Morning News reports.
Analysis: Jordie Benn participated in the Stars' morning skate Friday, but coach Lindy Ruff decided to err on the side of caution and give him another day to recover from the illness. Jamie Oleksiak will join the lineup in Benn's stead.

Christian Ehrhoff
Pens' Ehrhoff Has Lower-Body Injury
Christian Ehrhoff, D, PIT
12:39 AM
News: Coach Mike Johnston said Friday that Christian Ehrhoff was suffering from a lower-body injury and remains under evaluation, Seth Rorabaugh of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports.
Analysis: With the extent of Christian Ehrhoff's injury unknown at this time, the blueliner's status remains in limbo for Saturday's game against the Panthers. Brian Dumoulin would likely draw into the lineup Saturday in the event Ehrhoff is deemed unavailable.

Jeff Schultz
Kings Call Up Schultz On Friday
Jeff Schultz, D, LA
12:29 AM
News: Jeff Schultz was recalled from AHL Manchester on Friday, Jon Rosen of LA Kings Insider reports.
Analysis: The Kings promoted Jeff Schultz in the wake of the hand injury suffered by Robyn Regehr on Thursday, which will sideline him for two-to-three weeks. Jamie McBain is expected to assume a regular spot in the Kings' lineup during that time, while Schultz figures to serve primarily as the team's seventh blueliner.

Robyn Regehr
Kings' Regehr On IR, Ruled Out 2-3 Weeks
Robyn Regehr, D, LA
12:26 AM
News: Robyn Regehr's upper-body injury is related to his hand and will keep him out for two-to-three weeks, NHL.com's Curtis Zupke reports. The Kings placed him on injured reserve Friday.
Analysis: Robyn Regehr suffered the injury in the second period of Thursday's victory over the Blues, likely when he collided with Paul Stastny. It's the second noteworthy injury Regehr has dealt with this season, as he previously missed just over a week in November with an undisclosed ailment. Jamie McBain figures to assume a regular spot on the Kings' defense while Regehr is sidelined.

Cam Talbot
Rangers Ink Talbot To One-Year Extension
Cam Talbot, G, NYR
12:18 AM
News: Cam Talbot signed a one-year, $1.45 million extension with the Rangers on Friday, Larry Brooks of the New York Post reports.
Analysis: The new deal will keep Cam Talbot under contract through the end of the 2015-16 campaign. It was an easy decision for the Rangers to retain Talbot for another year, as he's performed as one of the league's best backups since taking the reins of the role last season. Over his 28 career regular-season appearances (25 starts), Talbot is 14-9-0 with a 1.80 GAA, .936 save percentage, and five shutouts.

 
 
 
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