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Right on Schedule: Familiar foes in Week 14

by | Rotowire.com
  •  

It's difficult not to head straight for the schedule of the NHL's hottest team, the Vancouver Canucks. As one of the greatest writers of the 20th century once said, 'only a fool would dip into that pot just yet'. Aside from a busy week for the Canucks, the NHL has a bit of a rivalry week going on for five of the original six NHL teams. This week's schedule features a plethora of new school rivalries as well, including Calgary heading to Eastern Canada and Edmonton on the road for a sweeping tour of the South and Western United States. More inviting to your DVR will be the four home-and-home series. Let's focus on two traditional and two not-so-traditional match-ups going on this week.

Traditional

Columbus Blue Jackets vs. Detroit Red Wings

Detroit leads this series 2-0 so far this year, but they are hurting. The losses of Pavel Datsyuk, Daniel Cleary, Valtteri Filppula and Brad Stuart has certainly taken their toll. Even Chris Osgood (groin) is having problems backing up solidifying-sophomore Jimmy Howard. As for Columbus, since their expansion year in 2000, Columbus has yet to beat big-brother Detroit three times in one season. If the Jackets are to avoid yet another season series loss to the Red Wings, it starts in this week. Though 13th place in a compact Western Conference, if Columbus can somehow scratch together a win or two against Detroit this week, they're only five points from fourth place. Then again, this is the same Blue Jackets team that got slammed by a lackluster Ducks team 6-0. Detroit won the 2009-10 season series 5-0-1.

Keys to the series: For Detroit, it's simple, get healthy. Both Steve Mason and Mathieu Garon have taken turns giving back the starting-goalie grind. Aside from signing Michael Leighton, if Columbus is going to stay tough in this important back-to-back with Detroit they are in desperate need of solid goaltending. Additionally, Mike Commodore has demanded a trade out of town. Commodore has been a healthy scratch 11 times this season, so considering his hefty contract, a trade may not be likely. After that 6-0 loss to Anaheim, both GM Scott Howson and Commodore - who are said to have a pending meeting - may have to come to terms for now. If traded, this would be Commodore's sixth team in 10 seasons.

DET this week: @COL, CLB, vs. CLB

CLB this week: vs. PHO, DET @ DET

Chicago Blackhawks vs. Nashville Predators

With the series knotted up (1-1-1) this season, Chicago holds the momentum. Two goals by RW Jack Skille and a near perfect show by rookie goalie Corey Crawford helped the 'Hawks handily beat the Preds at United Center 4-1 on December 22nd. Chicago won the 2009-10 season series 4-2.

Keys to the series: Both teams are very strong fundamentally, ranking in the bottom five of the league for penalty minutes. While fantasy-wise this is of no use to me or you, it will certainly make for a fluid game and quite possibly the difference in the series. The variation may be when-and-if a penalty is called, as its Nashville that holds a firm grip and Chicago that folds. Nashville is ranked fifth in NHL penalty kill percentage, while Chicago's PK% ranks 29th in the league. Ironically enough, Chicago's power-play is second (24.8%) in the NHL, and Nashville is 25th at 15 percent.

NSH this week: vs. MIN, @ FLA, vs. CHI, @CHI

CHI this week: vs. COL @NSH, vs. NSH

Not-so-traditional

New York Rangers vs. Montreal Canadiens

With this being the first meeting of the season, and both teams having shown a propensity for mediocrity, with top-notch goaltending to lean on, it should be interesting to see where either team goes following this week. Neither team has been shy about call-ups from the AHL, as both Max Pacioretty and Mats Zuccarello have made quick strides in their short NHL time. Owners of Carey Price and Henrik Lundqvist should certainly enjoy the GAA accrual. Montreal won the 2009-10 season series 3-1

Keys to the series: Marian Gaborik is as cold as can be, not having registered goals on back-to-back nights since the 2nd of December. The Rangers have found a spark elsewhere for now. Mats Zuccarello has three points in last three games and led the Rangers to a shootout win in Dallas last week. Montreal on the other hand, learned to stop counting on their veteran talent for scoring months ago. Despite a few poor decisions that have cost the Canadiens a game or two, Max Pacioretty scored an overtime goal against Boston, and is starting to infuse the Canadiens with a bit of old fashioned determination.

NYR this week: vs. MON, VAN, @MON, vs. PHI

MON this week: @ NYR, vs. PIT, NYR

Pittsburgh Penguins vs. Boston Bruins

One thing is for sure, Jesse Boulerice won't be expecting a call-up to the big club after his actions in Charlotte last week. Way back in the second week of November, when Pittsburgh had yet to get all gears going, Boston won their first meeting 7-4. Neither team has been all that impressive since flipping the calendar, and Pittsburgh has been outscored 6-1 since Sidney Crosby began his scratch time with concussion-like symptoms. I believe you can expect both Tim Thomas and Marc-Andre Fleury to take the helm of this series. Pittsburgh won the 2009-10 season series 3-1

Keys to the series: For Boston, Patrice Bergeron (10 goals, 17 assists) has 12 points in the last 11 games. Redundant as it may sound, with Crosby's activity in question, the very streaky Evgeni Malkin becomes the most important Pittsburgh Athlete not named Roethlisberger.

BOS this week: @PIT, vs. OTT, PHI, PIT

PIT this week: vs. BOS, @MON, BOS

Needing a heat wave in Denver

With the way the Canucks are playing, the Colorado Avalanche (21-15-6) are already fading in the Vancouver's rear-view. Even scarier for the mile-high club is the thought of a few consecutive losses. There is nothing cozy about 47 points (seventh place) in the Western conference, as a few losses, coupled with a few strategic conference rival wins, and Colorado could find themselves in 12th place quick.

After being ousted by the New York Islanders in a 4-3 shootout loss, the Avs are one of the most underachieving teams in the young year of 2011. Colorado, 2-5-3, since having their six-game winning streak snapped by the Los Angeles Kings (5-0) on December 19th, has been outscored 29-18 in that span. There is of course hope on the horizon as the Avs will soon look to defenseman Kyle Cumiskey (concussion), who has been cleared to resume practice. While six of their remaining eight games this month are at Pepsi Center, they first must get past this week's schedule.

COL vs. DET, @CHI, MIN

Other interesting schedules

VAN @ NYI, NYR, WAS, MIN - The Canucks are 11-1 against their division, 17-1-3 in last 20 games. Seeing that three of their four games this week will be in Eastern Conference arenas, it's only fair to note Vancouver's dominance this season has not been limited to the Western Conference. Having outscored opponents in the Eastern Conference 39-24, their 7-2-2 record against the East should be taken lightly. Of the 11 games played, only one (Philadelphia) has been against a team currently holds a playoff position in the standings.

SJ vs. TOR, EDM, STL - Despite Toronto's recent explosion (see below), with a schedule like this, an explosive Sharks offense is licking their chops this week.

ANH vs. STL @ PHO vs. EDM - As noted before the Ducks chased the Blue Jackets out of town last Friday. This week they will host a still blooming, Blues team before heading out to Phoenix and Edmonton. Could Anaheim be heating up?

TOR @LA, SJ, PHO vs. CAL - Similar to Anaheim, Toronto routed (9-3) their opponent (Atlanta) last Friday, and a little swagger could be just what the doctor ordered in Toronto. Center Mikhail Grabovski now has 12 goals in his past 14 games, and goalie James Reimer's performance (2-1) is perhaps even more intriguing. Averaging 2.00 goals-against per-game in January, you'll want to consider him for now in deep leagues.

LA vs. TOR, STL, EDM - The Kings are looking to get things going. Taking into account how tight the West is, the Kings hope a few additions from the IR can help. Defenseman Willie Mitchell and RW Alexei Ponikarovsky both will go active active within the next couple of weeks. Not exactly as offensive as San Jose, Los Angeles certainly looks to beat up the same three teams.

CGY @CAR, OTT, TOR – Okay, first a stop in Raleigh, NC, then off to Ottawa and Toronto. Though, eventually losing 5-4 in a shootout-loss, Calgary stuck it to Detroit nicely last week. This team has more staying power than quite realized yet. Question is whether or not they can summon that talent on this trip to three pedestrian playing teams.

Nationally televised action - Last week's results 1-1, -8

VERSUS January 10th - Boston at Pittsburgh / Prediction: 4-3 F/SO Pittsburgh

VERSUS January 11th - Philadelphia at Buffalo / Prediction 5-3 Philadelphia

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

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Player News
Semyon Varlamov
Avs Confirm Varlamov As Friday Starter
Semyon Varlamov, G, COL
12:57 AM
News: Coach Patrick Roy confirmed Semyon Varlamov (groin) as the Avs' starter Friday against the Canucks.
Analysis: Semyon Varlamov will officially be activated from injured reserve prior to Friday's game, with Calvin Pickard likely heading back to AHL Lake Erie in a corresponding move. The goalie missed only three games due to the groin injury and should man the net for the entirety of Friday's game, barring an early scoring barrage by the Canucks.

Corey Crawford
Chicago's Crawford Could Skate In Next Day Or Two
Corey Crawford, G, CHI
12:53 AM
News: Coach Joel Quenneville said Thursday that Corey Crawford (upper body) could begin skating in the next day or two, CSN Chicago's Tracey Myers reports.
Analysis: The Blackhawks continue to view Corey Crawford's upper-body injury as short-term concern, with the team only ruling him out for their next two games thus far. With Crawford unavailable Thursday, Antti Raanta will make the start against the Predators. Raanta or call-up Scott Darling would then be called upon to man the net in the final game of the Blackhawks' road trip, which will take place Saturday in St. Louis.

Jonas Hiller
Flames Go With Hiller On Thursday
Jonas Hiller, G, CGY
12:49 AM
News: Jonas Hiller has been confirmed as Thursday's starter in goal for the Flames' tilt with the Hurricanes, Scott Cruickshank of the Calgary Herald reports.
Analysis: Coach Bob Hartley will continue to deploy his pattern of alternating starts between his two goalies, as Jonas Hiller gets the nod after resting Tuesday against the Lightning. The Flames are expected to turn the net back over to Karri Ramo on Saturday, when the Capitals will come to town.

Jhonas Enroth
Sabres Will Start Enroth On Thursday
Jhonas Enroth, G, BUF
12:38 AM
News: Jhonas Enroth will be in the crease Thursday against the Kings.
Analysis: After backup Michal Neuvirth received the nod in Thursday's loss to the Ducks, Jhonas Enroth will return to the net against a tough Kings squad on the road. Enroth may need to hold the opposition to one or fewer goals to give the Sabres any chance at salvaging a point Thursday.

Anthony Peluso
Jets' Peluso Nursing Upper-Body Injury
Anthony Peluso, RW, WPG
12:32 AM
News: Anthony Peluso missed Thursday's practice with what was described as a minor upper-body injury, Ken Wiebe of the Winnipeg Sun reports.
Analysis: While it doesn't look like the ailment is serious enough to result in a move to injured reserve for Anthony Peluso, he could still be forced out of Friday's game against the Lightning. Since Peluso's a fourth-liner who averages only 6:35 of ice time per game, the Jets wouldn't lose much by swapping him out for Matt Halischuk for a game or two.

Evander Kane
Jets' Kane Making Positive Progress
Evander Kane, LW, WPG
12:28 AM
News: Coach Paul Maurice said Evander Kane (knee) is progressing well and could begin skating before the end of the week, Ken Wiebe of the Winnipeg Sun reports.
Analysis: The Jets likely won't have a definitive timetable on Evander Kane until after he starts taking part in practices in some capacity, but an early- to mid-November return would seem realistic at this time. The winger was set to play a vital role for the Jets on the second line to open the season, before he suffered the knee injury after just 1:24 of action in the team's first game.

Thomas Hickey
Isles' Hickey Will Play Thursday
Thomas Hickey, D, NYI
12:22 AM
News: Thomas Hickey (face) will play Thursday against the Bruins.
Analysis: Thomas Hickey exited Tuesday's game against Toronto after suffering a cut to his face, but it was never viewed as serious enough to keep him out of further action. He'll occupy a spot on the Islanders' second pairing, where he'll be joined by a new partner in Lubomir Visnovsky (back), who was activated from IR on Thursday.

Martin Hanzal
Coyotes' Hanzal Could Resume Skating Friday
Martin Hanzal, C, ARI
12:19 AM
News: Coach Dave Tippett said Martin Hanzal (lower body) could resume skating Friday, Sarah McLellan of the Arizona Republic reports.
Analysis: Martin Hanzal didn't make the trip with the Coyotes to Minnesota for Thursday's game, but the team seems to believe the forward is only in line for a short-term absence. While Hanzal's injury might not clear up in time for him to play Saturday against the Panthers, there's a good possibility he'll be back in action at some point next week.

Alex Killorn
Bolts' Killorn Likely Out Friday
Alex Killorn, C, TB
12:15 AM
News: Alex Killorn (shoulder) isn't expected to play Friday against the Jets, Erik Erlendsson of the Tampa Tribune reports.
Analysis: Alex Killorn acknowledged that his previously undisclosed injury occurred when he banged his shoulder and head on the boards Monday. While he wasn't diagnosed with any concussion symptoms and was able to get in a light skate Thursday, the Bolts seem inclined to give him a few more days off to aid his recovery.

Marian Gaborik
Kings' Gaborik Won't Skate Until Next Week
Marian Gaborik, RW, LA
12:01 AM
News: Marian Gaborik (undisclosed) isn't expected to resume skating until early next week, Jon Rosen of LA Kings Insider reports.
Analysis: Marian Gaborik hasn't played since Oct. 12 while dealing with the mystery injury, and it sounds like at the very least, the forward could miss an additional handful of games. While getting on the ice would mark a positive step for Gaborik, coach Darryl Sutter wasn't willing to speculate if the forward would be available for the Kings' five-game road trip that runs from Oct. 28 to Nov. 4. Fantasy owners likely drafted Gaborik with the knowledge that his shaky health would make him a huge risk, but it wasn't believed that he'd miss this much action so early in the campaign.

 
 
 
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