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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
Matthew Lombardi
Rangers' Lombardi Returns To Practice
Matthew Lombardi, C, NYR
8:56 AM
News: Matthew Lombardi (groin) took part in Thursday's practice, Newsday's Steve Zipay reports.
Analysis: Matthew Lombardi has been held out since injuring his groin Sunday, but it appears he is feeling good enough to return to practice, and the setback should not prevent him from being ready for Opening Night.

Patric Hornqvist
Hornqvist Set For Big Season In Pittsburgh
Patric Hornqvist, RW, PIT
8:53 AM
News: Patric Hornqvist, who skated with Sidney Crosby and Chris Kunitz on Wednesday, was held pointless against Detroit.
Analysis: He registered one shot while seeing five other attempts blocked or missing the net. Patric Hornqvist makes for a strong fantasy sleeper, as he regularly totals 50-plus points and takes a healthy number of shots. The Penguins are expected to play him with Evgeni Malkin, but even if Malkin misses time with an undisclosed injury Hornqvist will still see ample opportunity on Pittsburgh's potent power play. Hornqvist, Kunitz and Crosby all played more than four minutes (4:05 TOI) on the man advantage Wednesday to lead the team.

Ryane Clowe
Devils Clowe To Make Preseason Debut Thursday
Ryane Clowe, LW, NJ
8:53 AM
News: Ryane Clowe (concussion) will play in Thursday's exhibition game.
Analysis: Ryane Clowe missed the first portion of training camp after recovering from a concussion suffered in late March, but he returned to practice a couple weeks ago, and is now ready to make his preseason debut. Barring any unexpected symptoms over the next few days, it seems likely that Clowe will be available for the Devils' season opener.

Nick Spaling
Spaling Set For Season With Pens
Nick Spaling, C, PIT
8:45 AM
News: Nick Spaling led the Pens with two assists in Wednesday's 2-0 win in Detroit.
Analysis: He's expected to skate with Brandon Sutter on the team's third line in 2014-15. Nick Spaling scored 13 goals and 32 points in 71 games for Nashville last year and a similar point total is likely with Pittsburgh.

Ryan Hartman
Blackhawks Assign Hartman To AHL Rockford
Ryan Hartman, RW, CHI
8:41 AM
News: The Blackhawks assigned Ryan Hartman to AHL Rockford on Thursday, Mark Lazerus of the Chicago Sun-Times reports.
Analysis: Ryan Hartman was given a chance to compete for a roster spot during training camp, but he missed time recently with an injury and did not show enough to make cut. Hartman could see action for the Blackhawks at some point this season after being selected in the first round of last year's draft.

Sidney Crosby
Pens' Crosby Makes Preseason Debut On Wednesday
Sidney Crosby, C, PIT
8:40 AM
News: Sidney Crosby made his preseason debut Wednesday, skating 18:47 TOI while taking a game-high seven shots in a pointless effort against the Red Wings.
Analysis: Sidney Crosby, who made it through the game unscathed, took just nine shots combined in his final four spring playoff games -- making Wednesday's shot total somewhat impressive. Injury speculation will likely dog him until he shows that he can score and be the player he was for the first five months of 2103-14, but Wednesday proved to be an encouraging start. The Penguins are off now until Oct. 9, when they host Anaheim in the regular-season opener.

Phil Kessel
Maple Leafs' Kessel Leaves Practice With Injury
Phil Kessel, RW, TOR
8:33 AM
News: Phil Kessel left Thursday's practice with an undisclosed injury, Rob Longley of the Toronto Sun.
Analysis: Head coach Randy Carlyle was vague when discussing Phil Kessel's health, so it's uncertain what type of setback he is dealing with. Expect Kessel's status to be updated as more details become available.

Sergei Gonchar
Stars' Gonchar Sits Out With Ankle Injury
Sergei Gonchar, D, DAL
8:27 AM
News: Sergei Gonchar did not participate in Wednesday's practice after taking a puck off his ankle late in Tuesday's exhibition game, Brandon Worley of DefendingBigD.com reports.
Analysis: It's not entirely clear what type of setback Sergei Gonchar is dealing with, but he was seen in obvious pain on the bench after being struck by the puck. Expect an update on his status as more details become available.

Matt Cullen
Preds' Cullen (Lower Body) Resumes Skating
Matt Cullen, C, NSH
8:23 AM
News: Matt Cullen (lower body) is skating outside of team practices, according to the Tennessean.
Analysis: Despite Matt Cullen's injury - which doesn't sound overly serious - his role on the team is somewhat in question this season after the Preds went out and picked up Mike Ribeiro, Derek Roy and Olli Jokinen in the offseason, moves that strengthen them considerably down the middle. Realistically speaking, Cullen is likely looking at a third-line role by the time he returns.

Wayne Simmonds
Flyers' Simmonds Dealing With Lower Body Injury
Wayne Simmonds, RW, PHI
8:22 AM
News: Simmons is dealing with a lower body injury and is considered day-to-day.
Analysis: The extent of Wayne Simmonds' setback is uncertain, but it prevented him from taking the ice Thursday, according to CSN's Tim Panaccio. It remains to be seen if the setback will threaten Simmonds' availability for the Flyers' season opener.

 
 
 
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