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Right on Schedule: Busy time to be an owner

by | Rotowire.com
  •  

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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Player News
Justin Schultz
Oilers' Schultz A Healthy Scratch Thursday
Justin Schultz, D, EDM
10:31 AM
News: Justin Schultz will be a healthy scratch Thursday against the Predators. "Justin has struggled a little bit as of late and we felt it was best to hit the reset button," coach Dallas Eakins said.
Analysis: Justin Schultz has seen his ice time drop to 16:30 and 15:13 in each of the last two games due to poor performance on his own end, a far cry from the 22 minutes he's averaging for the season. His banishment to the press box is only expected to be a one-game appointment, but it's certainly not a promising sign for the third-year blueliner. Oscar Klefbom will enter the lineup in his place Thursday.

Jiri Tlusty
Offense Sputtering For Canes' Tlusty
Jiri Tlusty, LW, CAR
10:27 AM
News: Jiri Tlusty was held off the scoreboard for the third straight game during Wednesday's 1-0 loss to the Panthers. He recorded just a single shot on goal and saw just 15:53 worth of ice time.
Analysis: Jiri Tlusty's season got off to a great start with a hat trick in his second game back on Oct. 11, but he's been mostly quiet since then, with just six points in his last 19 games. For now, Tlusty continues to spend most of his time on the top line with Eric Staal and Alexander Semin, however we wouldn't be surprised if he was shifted to a lower line at some point, or sat out as a healthy scratch. Overall, his value as a reliable fantasy option is in rapid decline - avoid using him if you can.

Tom Sestito
Canucks' Sestito Skates Thursday
Tom Sestito, LW, VAN
10:26 AM
News: Tom Sestito (lower body) was able to skate on his own at the end of Thursday's practice.
Analysis: Tom Sestito is traveling with the Canucks on their seven-game road trip that kicks off Friday in Columbus, seemingly indicating that the team hopes to have him available at some point. Since the fourth-line tough guy has missed over three weeks with the injury, he'll have to get in several practices before having a shot at rejoining the lineup.

Pekka Rinne
Preds' Rinne To Get Start Thursday
Pekka Rinne, G, NSH
10:24 AM
News: Pekka Rinne will receive the start in goal Thursday against the Oilers, Jack Michaels of the Oilers Radio Network reports.
Analysis: The matchup is about as cushy as it gets for Pekka Rinne, as the Oilers have dropped seven games in a row to tie the Sabres for the league's worst record. Rinne has been steamrolling just about every opponent this season, so expect him to have little trouble dispatching the feeble Oilers on his own ice.

Viktor Fasth
Oilers Going With Fasth On Thanksgiving
Viktor Fasth, G, EDM
10:22 AM
News: Viktor Fasth will be between the pipes Thursday against the Predators, Jack Michaels of the Oilers Radio Network reports.
Analysis: Viktor Fasth has only marginally outperformed Ben Scrivens of late, but it will be enough for him to earn his third start in four games. He's still been an underachiever by and large this season, carrying a 2-5-1 record, 3.32 GAA and .893 save percentage. He'll have little chance at upsetting the Predators and Vezina Trophy candidate Pekka Rinne at their own arena.

Jason Akeson
Flyers Waive Akeson
Jason Akeson, C, PHI
10:04 AM
News: Jason Akeson was waived by the Flyers on Thursday, Darren Dreger of TSN reports.
Analysis: Jason Akeson received the opportunity to compete for a top-six role with the Flyers in training camp, but was never able to gain much momentum in the job battle. Forced to settle for checking-line duties for most of the season, Akeson has predictably struggled to provide much offense, accumulating no points and seven shots on goal over 12 games. The Flyers will hope to sneak him back to AHL Lehigh Valley in an attempt to help him rediscover his scoring touch.

Devin Setoguchi
Flames' Setoguchi Clears Waivers
Devin Setoguchi, RW, CGY
10:01 AM
News: Devin Setoguchi cleared waivers Thursday, TSN's Darren Dreger reports.
Analysis: Devin Setoguchi will now have to decide if he wants to report to AHL Adirondack or pursue an opportunity with another organization. Corban Knight is expected to be recalled by the Flames from Adirondack now that Setoguchi's roster spot has been vacated.

Zack Kassian
Canucks' Kassian Nursing Injury
Zack Kassian, RW, VAN
9:59 AM
News: Zack Kassian took a slash to the arm in Tuesday's win over the Devils and didn't travel with the team to Columbus in advance of Friday's game Brad Ziemer of the Vancouver Sun reports.
Analysis: Friday's game will mark the start of a seven-game road trip for the Canucks, so the fact that Zack Kassian isn't traveling with the team wouldn't seem encouraging. It's possible he could rejoin the Canucks on the trip at some point if he's able to practice on his own back in Vancouver, but fantasy owners should prepare to be without his services for the next few games. The recent return to health by winger Alex Burrows lessens the Canucks' need to have Kassian available.

Carey Price
Habs' Price To Make Start Friday
Carey Price, G, MON
9:53 AM
News: Carey Price will be in the crease Friday against the Sabres.
Analysis: Carey Price will make the first turn for the Canadiens in a back-to-back set with the Sabres, but look for backup Dustin Tokarski to get the nod for the second game Saturday. Price will enter Friday's contest coming off his second shutout of the season, a dazzling 33-save effort to keep the rival Bruins off the board last Saturday.

Tyler Myers
Sabres' Myers Questionable To Play Friday
Tyler Myers, D, BUF
9:51 AM
News: Tyler Myers (undisclosed) is questionable to play Friday against the Canadiens, Bill Hoppe of the Olean Times Herald reports.
Analysis: After he was a surprise scratch Wednesday with the injury, Tyler Myers was unable to practice Thursday morning. The team will reassess his condition following Friday's early skate before determining if he'll be fit to play. Andre Benoit would take Myers' spot in the lineup in the event he can't go.

 
 
 
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