Did you hear that? That collective sigh from the RotoWire Hockey Staff and Fantasy team owners everywhere relaxing for the first time since September. The All-Star Break brings a respite not quite as lengthy as Christmas Break to the Capitol Hill but effectively comparable in spirit. With 16 teams playing twice this week on only three game days this week, how will you set your rosters this week? While some of the teams on this list could easily be seen as an easy 'W', many teams may look to rest a goalie or a semi-healed talent, so let's have a gander at their position heading into the break.
BOS this week: @LA, vs. FLA (3-1 last week)
Milan Lucic scored twice in last Saturday's pummeling of the struggling Craig Anderson and the Colorado Avalanche. Boston (27-14-7) blue-liners have scored 14 goals in their last 11 games. Boston is a league best (+41) in GF/GA, 15-5-4 on the road, finish their quick trip out West against Los Angeles. Then head home to host the Panthers.
1st in the Northeast +3
CAL this week: vs.NAS, STL (2-1-1 last week)
Perhaps separating themselves from Edmonton, or still attempting to remain in the playoff hunt, here come the Calgary Flames. The Flames (22-21-6), overwhelmed in a very tight conference, were having a very mediocre (3-4-3) month. But since their embarrassing 6-0 home loss to the Wild last week, the Flames managed to come away with wins against the Stars and Canucks.
4th in the Northwest -18
CAR this week: vs TOR, @NYI (1-3 last week)
The 'Canes (23-19-6) will host the Maple Leafs, then head to Long Island this week. These will not be back to back, so Cam Ward could get both starts. They of course enjoy some time at home before becoming gracious hosts of the NHL All-Star Game.
4th in the Southeast -11
COL this week: vs. STL, PHO (1-2 last week)
WOW!!! "Peter The Great" making a comeback? He may be worth the pick-up in a deep league. So far this month, the Avs (24-18-6) are 2-1 in three games against Conference favorites, Vancouver and Detroit. As for the rest of the month, the Avs have managed just a 2-4-1 record against teams like The Islanders and a 5-1 loss to Nashville. It's going to be a long break if they don't take at least one game this week.
2nd in the Northwest -12
DAL this week: @VAN, vs. EDM (2-1 last week)
After winning eight road games in a row, Dallas (29-14-5) blows it in Calgary of all places. As strong as this team can look at times, there just is not enough leadership on the blue-line or certainty in ownership to remain confident they will continue their success as the second half begins.
1st in the Pacific +6
EDM this week: @PHO, DAL 5th (0-3 last week)
In a battle with New Jersey for quickest to the golf course, Edmonton’s (14-25-7) brass can at least take solace in the experience their kids are experiencing together. With Shawn Horcoff (knee) back, if the Oilers can get the goalie situation figured out, I wouldn't rule out a strong second half from these young legs. Then again, anything would be an improvement.
5th in the Northwest -21
FLA this week: @NYR, BOS (0-0-3 last week)
After tossing them out for fantasy uselessness earlier this season, it appears Florida (21-20-5) may have the most attention all of a sudden. Yes, it’s almost time to drop your back-up goalie or young-spec winger in hopes that Scott Clemmensen will bring you a fruitful second half. But more intriguing is the hockey the Panthers have been playing. After going 3-0-0 two weeks ago and 0-0-3 this past week Florida is gaining steam. Regardless of what occurs this week, several young players (i.e.Dmitry Kulikov) will get a chance to shine in the second half.
5th in the Southeast -16
LA this week: vs. BOS, SJ (1-3 last week)
If only the Kings could play all their games on Saturdays. Los Angeles (25-22-1) is 12-2-1 this season on Saturday. That is the good news. Including 3-1 this month on the sixth day of the week, but it’s every other day of the week that seems to be a problem (0-7) in January. Having lost 10 of their last 13, the Kings could very well find themselves in second to last place in the Western Conference as we head into the All-Star Break.
5th in the Pacific -12
NAS this week:@CAL, VAN (2-1 last week)
Nashville (26-15-6) will play three games in four nights on the road, including this past Sunday’s trip to Edmonton. They're on a two-game winning streak, and strong fundamental hockey has them hanging in the Central. Few teams in the league need two wins from their schedule more than the Preds this week.
2nd in the Central -6
NYI this week: @PIT, vs. CAR (1-2 last week)
There's a phenomenon going on for the New York Islanders (15-24-7), let's call 'em the M&M boys of the blue line. Milan Jurcina joined Mark Streit, Mike Mottau and Mark Eaton on the Isles injured reserve list this week. Jurcina, who began to show some spark last week, is now gone for two-to-four weeks with an upper-body injury. From the book of literal, adding insult to injury, the goalie-thirsty Islanders who placed a claim on KHL reject, Evgeni Nabokov, were reportedly snubbed by the unemployed Nabokov. In other news, RW Kyle Okposo had his first point of the season in a 5-2 win over Buffalo.
4th in the Atlantic -30
NYR this week: @WAS, vs. FLA (2-2 last week)
Fresh off a 3-2 S/O win over Atlanta, the Rangers are one of the stronger teams ravaged by injury, hoping the All-Star Break brings health and good fortune. Mats Zuccarrello (3 SO goals) continues to impress, and the last three-years of playing young defenseman is finally paying off. In the shadow of constant adversity, they have managed a respectable first half (28-19-3), even with a quiet Marian Gaborik. Either way, sooner or later, the Rangers will have to decide if they are a contender or pretender.
3rd in the Atlantic -8
PHO this week: vs. EDM, @ COL (1-3 last week)
Going into last week, the Coyotes (24-16-9) had really looked alive in the month of January. Carrying a 7-3-2 record into All-Star week, a complimenting mix of youth, veterans and role players has some heads turning. Looking past the Oilers, the Coyotes look to gain a little more momentum by beating Colorado for the second time this month.
3rd in the Pacific -6
STL this week: @COL, CAL (1-1-1 last week)
Next to Ottawa, the surprising St. Louis Blues (22-18-7) are the coldest team in Hockey. No team in the league needs two wins more than St. Louis. Granted, the Blues have had a tough schedule in January as every opponent has been arguably a quality team. Sure, T.J. Oshie is back, and the team is excited about David Backes joining Alex Steen on the first line. Bottom line, with a 7-10-4 record on the road, nothing short of two shutout wins by Jaroslav Halak will send this team to the break feeling good after the start they had.
4th in the Central -13
TOR this week: @CAR, TB (1-2 last week)
Maple Leafs fans were expecting a little more than 19-23-5, that is about the only surety in Toronto. Mike Komisarek is all over TMZ after reportedly hitting a woman in Los Angeles, and from one week to the next Francois Beauchemin and Tomas Kaberle are the targets of trade talk. Currently 12 points out of the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, do-or-die time is approaching for the Leafs.
4th in the Northeast -18
VAN this week: vs. DAL, NAS (0-1-3 last week)
Regardless of what a winless week may suggest, the only thing that can slow down the Canucks (29-10-9) is the All-Star Break. Even with Kevin Bieska (black eye) leaving Saturday's game against the Flames, Sami Salo is near return. Despite an uncharacteristic 0-1-3 last week, the only question mark heading into the break for Vancouver fans is will the Sedin's end up as opponents for the All-Star Game? Vancouver finishes the first half with two at Rogers Arena, where they have only been beaten three times in 22 games.
1st in the Northwest +12
WAS this week: vs. NYR, @ATL (3-0-1 last week)
It's not been a pretty month for the Washington Capitals. After beating the Penguins on New Year's Day, the Caps (27-14-8) were then shutout by the Lightning twice, and mustered only one win in two weeks against the Panthers. A weak schedule last week certainly helped, and even Alexander Ovechkin got in on the action. Ovechkin, had his first multi-goal game of the year since October 30th, netting three-goals (one EN) this past Saturday against the host Maple Leafs.
2nd in the Southeast -3
Finally, a pair in Columbus?
Columbus has rarely been known for its production on the point. With the Mike Commodore saga finally over, there's buzz in a Blue Jackets uniform, and if someone beat you to Kyle Cumiskey, check your FA for two Columbus names. Grant Clitsome (five points in five games) and Fedor Tyutin (11 points in his last 13 games).
Nationally Televised Action in EST (4-3 record this season)
VERSUS Jan. 24 -- NY Rangers at Washington, 7:30 PREDICTION: Rangers 5-3
VERSUS 25 -- Montreal at Philadelphia, 7:30 PREDICTION: 3-2 Philadelphia
VERSUS 26 -- New Jersey at Detroit, 7:30 PREDICTION: Detroit 4-3
VERSUS 28 -- NHL All-Star Player Fantasy Draft Powered by Cisco, 8:00
VERSUS 29 -- Honda NHL Skills Competition, 7:00
VERSUS 30 -- NHL All-Star Game Presented by Discover, 4:00
Full Schedule Grid