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Right on Schedule: Busy time to be an owner

by | Rotowire.com
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After a yawning rise on Sunday, right about - perhaps exactly - after the result of Caps/Pens rematch, it seems like a nice jumping point. With 10 weeks left in the regular season, let's hear those seat-belts click as it's going to be a hectic week. It's one of the busiest weeks of the second half NHL schedule until March 28, as 27 of the 30 NHL teams will play at least three games this week, including 11 teams playing four games over the next seven days. It's time to for a few NHL teams to develop a grip for their playoff hopes. More daunting, is the majority of these games will be in their opponents arena, so here's some road tunes for the way.

Should I stay or should I go?

Carolina Hurricanes - Still hungover from last week's All-Star festivities, the Canes went 1-2 this past week. The young and restless Carolina (26-21-6) team will take to the road, where their 12-12-4 will get them little respect. Look for Zach Boychuck (just under seven minutes of TOI) to get more ice time this week. If Carolina is to make the playoffs, it's going to take a lot more than just a consistent Eric Staal or a productive Joni Pitkanen. Surviving with a GF at 2.89, this will take a stranglehold defense, and a post-break consistency from goalie Cam Ward. Carolina finds out what they're made of, facing three of four teams playing strong hockey and another rematch with division rival Atlanta.

- Combined record (5-3) against this week: @NJ, PHI, TB, ATL

Chicago Blackhawks - It's clear now that Corey Crawford (16-10-2) is the goalie to lead the way, but after giving away a lead in the third period to the Canucks last week, Chicago's staying power for the rest of the season is currently in question. Facing ninth place in the Western Conference and four road games (11-8-4), this road trip is more important than most Blackhawks fans realize.

- Combined record (3-5) against this week: @CAL EDM, DAL, PHO

Colorado Avalanche - It seems like lately postponements are the only result saving the Avs from a check-mark in the loss column. After a sharp start to the season, conditioning may have cost Craig Anderson (12-7-3) another Venzina-numbers like year. In fact, the most exciting news in Denver is Peter Forsberg's impending return. Shuuush, tell no one, LW Peter Mueller (concussion) is skating again and soon will join in for non-contact practice. John-Michael Liles (-7 in last five games) is the key to the Avs' success at this point. It seems like he is the variation missing right now, and if Colorado (56 points) is to make a move from 12th place, it also starts where the Avalanche are a respectable 11-8-3 on the road. They were 2-for-2 against Columbus, but 0-2 against Phoenix. Peter or not, Colorado has a twisting week ahead. Two forwards to look out for: T.J. Galiardi has been quiet for far too long, and Brandon Yip should be moved up in the depth charts. In the end, it will be David Jones who moves ahead of Chris Stewart soon, which could cause an actual Avalanche.

- Combined record (4-5) this week: @ PHX, MIN, CLB, NSH

Columbus Blue Jackets - Before anyone starts spouting off their position (14th) in the Western Conference, let's consider they are fresh off a solid 2-0 defeat of Detroit. Steve Mason was brilliant, shutting down Johan Franzen (five goals the previous night) and the rest of the Motor City Wings. Columbus is 2-2-1 against one of the NHL's best, a team Columbus has yet in franchise history to beat in a season-series. Antoine Vermette is heating up, registering three goals in his last four, and six points in last seven games. One only needs to look at their schedule this week to say redundantly, it's do-or-die time in Columbus.

- Combined record (3-5) this week: @ PIT, vs. SJ, COL, @DAL

On the road again

Los Angeles Kings - The Kings have a few season firsts on the way. In the midst of a 10-game road trip to start February, it's time to forget about wins and losses. Los Angeles (last in the Pacific) MUST have an offensive break out in the next three games, or 10th place can be 14th real quick. The Kings (28-22-2) will have to improve their 11-13-1 road record against three of the Eastern Conference's best. In their only meeting against any of these teams, Philly took a commanding 7-4 win. I dont even know where to start on their offense, but the truth is it's the defense. Jack Johnson has four points in the last nine games, while Drew Doughty (four points in last five games) may be awakening. Yes indeed, offense begins with defense. The battle of Jonathan's got a little-warmer when Jonathan Bernier went toe-to-toe with Niklas Backstrom in the 1-0 shootout loss to Minnesota. Then again, Jonathan Quick has been the Jaroslav Halak of Hollywood, and has nothing to worry about.

- Combined record (0-1) this week: @PIT, WAS, PHI

San Jose Sharks - Also playing most of their games (nine of 12) on the road this month, the Sharks (28-19-6) are probably the scariest sleeping giant of the National Hockey League. With six potential 30-goal scorers on their team, this mediocre Northern Californian squad is a quiet fourth place in the conference. Logan Couture got the game-winner the other night against Boston, and San Jose even had a strong Antti Niemi (14-13-3) showing, shutting out the Bruins. However, they will need to depend on Niemi, as Antero Niittymaki (groin) is already on the IR, recent call-up Alex Stalock was sent back to Worcester with an unspecified injury and Carter Hutton will become Niemi's back-up.

- Combined record (2-1-1) this week: @WAS, CLB, NJ, FLA

Anaheim Ducks - With a 17-8-1 record in Orange County, it's clear I was dead wrong about the Anaheim Ducks. The fifth place (62 points) Ducks' real problem is on the road (12-13-3). On the other hand, lock your jaw for this - Anaheim is third in the league in Power Play percentage. Ryan Getzlaf is due to return in the first of their three games this week. Interestingly, LW, Joffrey Lupul hasn't gone pointless two games in a row in almost six weeks. Registering nine of his thirteen points on the season in the last 14 games may not seem like much, but for a team with little beyond super-freak Corey Perry (hat-trick on Saturday), Teemu Selanne and Bobby Ryan, the Ducks, would love to see Lupul (17% owned in CBS) become a big producer in the second half.  

- Combined record (4-1-1) this week @VAN, CAL, EDM

Johnny I hardly knew ya

Boston Bruins - Having been a Rangers fan most of my life, I've always taken pleasure watching the Bruins bury themselves, year after year. Though they really need to pick up a second-line center and a stay at home defenseman before the deadline, this year looks to be different. They're a bit dirty at times (see highlights from last week against Dallas), but Tim Thomas and Tuukka Rask provide all the consistency needed for the B's to go flying into the playoffs. First they must get past Montreal (0-2-1 in previous three tries) and a non-traditional home-and-home with Detroit. Perhaps another Boychuck, Johnny Boychuck (five shots in last two games), who played over 16 minutes in the 2-0 loss to San Jose, will finally get more involved offensively.

- Combined record (0-2-1) this week:vs. MON, DET @ DET

Back-to-Back

St. Louis Blues vs. Minnesota Wild (0-0 Season Series)

Here's an interesting match-up; St. Louis and Minnesota meeting for the first time this season in a traditional home-and-home series. Both teams are hard-working, low-budget teams in desperate need of a deep playoff chase. St. Louis may seem younger, but Niklas Backstrom is on the mend and warming. Two shutouts in his last four starts, albeitagainstCalgary and Los Angeles, the Fin goalie turns 33 next week and should be considered a target of buy-low while still available. Of course, Jaroslav Halak, has played 39 of the Blues' 51 games, with only a non-reflective (17-16-5) record of his reliability. It appears now the busy first-half schedule may have worn down the 25-year-old Halak,who sustained an upper-body injury and is now listed as day-to-day.
Streaking St. Blue: McDonald is back, how will Patrick Berglund, David Backes, Alex Steen and T.J. Oshie benefit?
Wild Week:, D, Jared Spurgeon, is a sleeper to look out for. After a mere 23 games (nine points) with the AHL's Houston Aeros, he registered his first NHL point against Chicago last week and is a plus-5 over the last seven games.

Nationally televised action in EST

VERSUS Feb. 7 - NY Rangers at Detroit, 7:30
VERSUS Feb. 8 - Buffalo at Tampa Bay, 7:30
VERSUS Feb. 9 - Montreal at Boston, 7:00
NBC Feb. 13 - Boston at Detroit 12:30

The Full Schedule Grid

Team Away Home Total
Carolina 4 0 4
Calgary 1 3 4
Chicago 4 0 4
Columbus 2 2 4
Colorado 4 0 4
Detroit 1 3 4
Edmonton 1 3 4
N.Y. Islanders 2 2 4
Pittsburgh 2 2 4
San Jose 4 0 4
Toronto 2 2 4
Anaheim 3 0 3
Atlanta 1 2 3
Boston 1 2 3
Buffalo 2 1 3
Dallas 0 3 3
Florida 0 3 3
Los Angeles 3 0 3
Minnesota 1 2 3
Montreal 1 2 3
New Jersey 1 2 3
Nashville 1 2 3
N.Y. Rangers 2 1 3
Ottawa 3 0 3
Phoenix 1 2 3
St. Louis 2 1 3
Vancouver 0 3 3
Philadelphia 0 2 2
Tampa Bay 0 2 2
Washington 0 2 2
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Andy Greene, D, NJ
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Analysis: The two sides completed the deal just in time to avoid a salary arbitration hearing that was set for Friday. Coming off of his best NHL season in which he played 77 games, Dwight King was productive cog in the machine for the Stanley Cup champs. He netted 15 goals along with 30 points, and had an overall rating of plus-16 when he was on the ice.

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News: Matt Halischuk has signed a one-year, two-way contract with the Jets worth $725,000, the Ken Wiebe of the Winnipeg Sun reports.
Analysis: Matt Halischuk thus returns to the Jets, on the heels of his first season with the team, in which the winger recorded a modest total of 10 points (including five goals) in 46 contests.

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Jake Gardiner
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Chad LaRose
LaRose Signs AHL Contract With Hurricanes
Chad LaRose, RW, CAR
7/29/2014
News: Chad LaRose agreed to a contract with AHL Charlotte on Tuesday, Chip Alexander of the Raleigh News & Observer reports.
Analysis: The 32-year-old will try to parlay the AHL contract into a comeback with the Hurricanes at the NHL level, after he sat out the entirety of the 2013-14 campaign. Chad LaRose appeared in 35 games for the Hurricanes two seasons ago, logging four points and a minus-8 rating.

Matt Fraser
Bruins' Fraser Should Be Ready For Training Camp
Matt Fraser, LW, BOS
7/29/2014
News: Matt Fraser, who underwent surgery on his right foot a week after the 2013-14 season concluded, is slated to start skating in early August, ESPN Boston reports.
Analysis: The report adds that the winger -- who is coming off a season in which he recorded 20 goals and 30 points in 44 AHL contests with Providence, along with two goals in 14 NHL contests -- expects to be 100 percent for the start of training camp in September. The 24-year-old is in line to make a run at a roster spot with the Bruins, given that the team needs to fill a couple of spots up front after bidding adieu to veterans Jarome Iginla and Shawn Thornton this offseason.

Peter Mueller
Blues Sign Mueller
Peter Mueller, RW, FLA
7/29/2014
News: Peter Mueller has signed a one-year, two-way contract with the Blues, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch's Jeremy Rutherford reports.
Analysis: Peter Mueller spent last season in Switzerland, scoring 24 goals and 46 points for Kloten of the Swiss A-League. Although he carries concussion concerns, Mueller is a skilled winger who will provide the Blues with a solid depth option up front.

Justin Fontaine
Wild's Fontaine Agrees To Contract
Justin Fontaine, RW, MIN
7/29/2014
News: Justin Fontaine has agreed to a two-year contract to remain with the Wild, the Star Tribune reports.
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Eric Staal
Hurricanes' Staal Undergoes Hernia Surgery
Eric Staal, C, CAR
7/29/2014
News: Eric Staal underwent successful hernia surgery and is expected to be ready for training camp in September, USA Today reports.
Analysis: Eric Staal's procedure should allow him ample time to recover by training camp and be fully healthy by the time the regular season begins. The 29-year-old posted 21 goals and 61 points in 79 games last season, production lower than his usual output. Nonetheless, Staal has only missed 17 games during his 10-year career, so durability hasn't traditionally been a concern for him.

 
 
 
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