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Right on Schedule: Calm before the storm

by | Rotowire.com
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It was the night before Christmas, not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse. In fact, buckle up, because this week's Fantasy results will be played out by the end of Friday night, so choose wisely.

A dozen NHL teams will play only two games and not one team will play four times this week. Instead of hoping for Santa to heal some of the NHL's concussed stars, perhaps a strange schedule can give you a competitive edge out there.

NHL schedule

Buffalo: Before an 8-3 defeat at the hands of Pittsburgh last week, Buffalo (@OTT, TOR) played host to Ottawa and Toronto. This week, they'll take to the road versus the same two teams. From there, the Sabres play four games in six nights to end the calendar year, including a third matchup in three weeks with Ottawa on New Year's Eve.

Fire or Ice: Headed into Sunday's match up with Chicago, Calgary still has an opportunity to put together a solid December record. After going 4-1-2 in their first seven games this month, the Flames lost three very tight road games last week, including a 2-1 loss to Nashville. Next week, Calgary looks for a little revenge as they play Nashville on New Year's Eve. As for this week, Calgary (vs. MIN, DET @VAN) plays host to several strong Western Conference teams before finishing 2011 on the road.

What have you done for me lately?: Arguably the NHL's most consistent (12-4-1) team over the last six weeks, Chicago (@PIT vs. MON) has a light week. Puzzling, as it's with little thanks to Corey Crawford, who hasn't seen action since December 5. Ray Emery has seemingly taken over the job for now, winning six of his seven December starts (goals-against average of 1.93 and save percentage of .933).

Home for the holidays: They won't be easy games, but Colorado (vs. PHI, STL, TB) and Dallas (vs. ANH, PHI, NSH) will not be required to travel at all this week. How will being home all week prior to the Christmas break affect their play? Meanwhile, Columbus (@NSH) gets a much needed one-game week.

Traveling Red Wings: After beating up on the leaderless Kings (@TOR vs. ANH @SJ) this past Saturday, the last two weeks of December are the prime example of what Detroit (@EDM, VAN, CAL) has been griping about during the fuss of realignment. Playing seven games (five on the road) in the next 12 days, six of them will be on back-to-back nights.

Leading the pack: Minnesota (7-1-2) follows in Detroit's footsteps with nearly the exact same itinerary this week. After losing 2-1 in a shootout to the Islanders, do the Wild (@VAN, CAL, EDM) have enough fire power to maintain the top position in the NHL through Christmas?

Estranged fresh slate: The good news? With Jacques Martin out and Randy Cunneyworth (interim rest of the season) in, there's hope Montreal's spiraling ways has hit rock bottom. The bad news? Although the Canadiens are headed out on the road where they seem to be more in control these days (8-6-1), unfortunately, it will be against three (@BOS, CHI, WPG) of the NHL's hotter teams.

Gifts under the tree: Both Ottawa (vs. BUF, FLA @CAR) and Phoenix (@FLA, CAR vs. STL) test out their new toys with very similar schedules. After some bad blood between forward Kyle Turris and Coyotes general manager Don Maloney, the Senators acquired Turris from Phoenix on Saturday for defenseman David Rundblad and a second-round draft pick. Also noteworthy, Ottawa, which plays host to this year's All-Star Game, will unveil yet another Christmas gift for its fans next week. A $5-million video scoreboard that will feature two 360-degree LED rings over the ice at Scotiabank Place.

Flying confidently: Boasting the best road record in the NHL, Philadelphia (12-3-1) has won eight of its last 10 games. They'll need that kind of road-warrior confidence as they have a difficult schedule (@COL, DAL, NYR) this week.

Blue calm before the storm: St. Louis (7-1-2) enjoys a two-game week, or at least they better enjoy it. Next week (vs. DAL, @DET, vs. NSH, @DET) could be the ugliest schedule for any NHL team all season, which includes two games at Joe Louis Arena in one week!

Cruising Canucks: Mason Raymond (three goals, three assists in seven games) has been consistent since coming back and Alexandre Burrows has four points (two goals, two assists) in his last two games. Since a 5-1 home loss to Chicago on November 16th, Vancouver (10-3) has been in complete control, outscoring opponents 50-24 in that span.

Got Versus?

(All times Eastern)

Dec. 19: Anaheim at Dallas 8 p.m.
Dec. 20: Chicago at Pittsburgh 7:30 p.m.
Dec. 21: Philadelphia at Dallas 7:30 p.m.

Get player news notifications, manage your team and check scores
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Player News
Rich Peverley
Stars' Peverley Decides To Retire
Rich Peverley, C, DAL
12:07 AM
News: Rich Peverley has decided to hang up his skates and call it a career.
Analysis: It's an unfortunate end to the 33-year-old center's career, as he suffered a cardiac incident March 10, and hasn't been able to play since. He spent time with four different teams throughout his career, and was a member of the Stanley Cup-winning 2011 Boston Bruins. He finishes his playing career with 241 points (84 goals, 157 assists) in 442 games, but isn't finished with hockey altogether. He will now join the Stars' staff as the Player Development Coordinator.

Niklas Backstrom
Wild's Backstrom Waiting For Clearance
Niklas Backstrom, G, MIN
9/4/2015
News: Niklas Backstrom (elbow) was scheduled to visit team doctors this week with the hope of receiving clearance for the start of training camp, Michael Russo of the Minneapolis Star Tribune reports.
Analysis: Niklas Backstrom required surgery over the summer to address a lingering elbow injury, and there remains some concern that he may not have healed enough to this point to take the ice when the season begins in October. In reality, it would probably be in the Wild's best interest for Backstrom to open the season on long-term injured reserve, as he's currently the No. 3 goalie on the depth chart behind Devan Dubnyk and Darcy Kuemper and carries a $3.4 million cap hit for 2015-16. Stashing Backstrom on long-term IR would allow the Wild to save a roster spot and avoid the financial hit of waiving him, as he would then be unavailable for at least the team's first 10 games.

Anton Zlobin
Pens' Zlobin Healthy Entering Camp
Anton Zlobin, RW, PIT
9/4/2015
News: Anton Zlobin (shoulder) is looking forward to entering training camp healthy after undergoing two shoulder surgeries in three years, the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reports.
Analysis: Anton Zlobin, a sixth-round pick in 2012, scored 40 goals in the QMJHL but has played just 61 games since turning pro due to injury. While his speed and size (5-11, 205 pounds) don't stand out, he has reputation for scoring big goals -- he scored six goals (three game-winners) in 15 AHL playoff contests. The 22-year-old Russian will be looking to make an impression this fall, most likely in the AHL, as he's playing for a new contract.

Daniel Cleary
Wings Ink Cleary To One-Year Contract
Daniel Cleary, RW, DET
9/4/2015
News: Daniel Cleary signed a one-year contract with the Red Wings on Friday, Stephen Whyno of The Canadian Press reports.
Analysis: The veteran Daniel Cleary didn't see a ton of action with the Red Wings last season, playing just 17 games due to some knee issues. He'll give it another go in 2015-16, however, with perhaps another offseason helping with the knee problem.

Kristers Gudlevskis
Bolts' Gudlevskis In Line To Open Season As Backup
Kristers Gudlevskis, G, TB
9/4/2015
News: With Andrei Vasilevskiy slated to remain off the ice for the next two-to-three months while recovering from a blood clot near his collarbone, Kristers Gudlevskis is expected to serve as the backup goalie behind Ben Bishop.
Analysis: Vasilevskiy's recovery timetable has him on track to sit out until early November at the earliest, paving the way for Kristers Gudlevskis to stick with the Bolts for at least the first month of the season. Coach Jon Cooper showed a willingness to give Bishop more frequent nights off than some of the league's top netminders last season, but that was due in some part to the reliability Vasilevskiy showed in a part-time role. Though Gudlevskis is a quality prospect, it might take a while before he earns the same amount of trust from the coaching staff, which could result in Bishop bearing a heavier workload to open the campaign, at least until Vasilevskiy is healthy enough to return. That said, because of the overall strength of the Bolts' roster, Gudlevskis should be well positioned to come away with the win nearly anytime he's called upon to make a spot start.

Andrei Vasilevskiy
Bolts' Vasilevskiy Undergoes Vascular Surgery
Andrei Vasilevskiy, G, TB
9/4/2015
News: Andrei Vasilevskiy had surgery Thursday to remove a blood clot from near his left collarbone and treat a type of Vascular Thoracic Outlet Syndrome, and is expected to remain out for two-to-three months.
Analysis: With that timetable, Andrei Vasilevskiy figures to sit out through at least early- or mid-November, and quite possibly longer if his recovery trends toward the longer end of that period of time. Though Ben Bishop is the clear No. 1 goalie between the pipes for Tampa, Vasilevskiy looked to be one of the league's top backup options entering the season, due to both his strong team context and the skills he displayed when he received spots starts in 2014-15. With the 21-year-old sidelined, the Lightning will likely turn to Kristers Gudlevskis when they need to spell Bishop.

Ryan Wilson
Flames Ink Wilson To PTO
Ryan Wilson, D, CGY
9/3/2015
News: Ryan Wilson signed a professional tryout offer with the Flames on Thursday, Randy Sportak of the Calgary Sun reports.
Analysis: Ryan Wilson was limited to just three games as a member of the Avalanche last season, as he suffered a shoulder injury in late October that would ultimately require surgery. Prior to the injury, the 28-year-old wasn't expected to be a major part of the Avs' plans on the blue line, and he'll have an even more difficult time trying to carve out a role in Calgary's defensive corps, which may be the deepest in the NHL.

Nicklas Backstrom
Caps' Backstrom (Hip) "Not In A Rush" To Play
Nicklas Backstrom, C, WAS
9/3/2015
News: Nicklas Backstrom (hip) skated during informal workouts Thursday morning, but is "not in a rush" to return to action, Alex Prewitt of The Washington Post reports.
Analysis: Nicklas Backstrom began skating in August following hip surgery during the offseason, and while he hasn't experienced any setbacks, he doesn't appear to have a specific target date in mind for his return. "I'm not going to be back to 100 percent before I start playing," the 27-year-old pivot remarked, "I'm not going to play on 90 percent. We'll see how it goes. We don't know yet." The uncertainty surrounding Backstrom's return has lowered his standing somewhat in fantasy rankings. While the situation should be monitored closely, Backstrom should provide some serious value if he can get up to speed quickly on the top line with Alex Ovechkin and newcomer T.J. Oshie, as he has been one of the more productive playmakers and power-play performers over the last several seasons. Don't sleep on him too long in your draft if he continues to progress according to plan.

Joe Pavelski
Pavelski Expected To Be Named Sharks' Next Captain
Joe Pavelski, C, SJ
9/3/2015
News: Joe Pavelski is expected to be named the Sharks' next captain, CSN Bay Area's Kevin Kurz reports.
Analysis: Captaincy has been a delicate issue in San Jose over the last year, as former coach Todd McLellan stripped longtime leader Joe Thornton of those honors heading into 2014-15, straining the relationship between the star center and team brass. While Thornton is still around, it's clear that the 31-year-old Joe Pavelski is now the face of the franchise, after ranking fourth in the NHL in goals over the last four seasons with 161. Pavelski figures to pace the Sharks in scoring once again during the upcoming campaign, while taking on more of a leadership role in the locker room.

Keith Ballard
Ex-Wild D-Man Ballard Leaning Toward Retirement
Keith Ballard, D, MIN
9/3/2015
News: Keith Ballard (concussion) confirmed last week that he's leaning toward retirement, Michael Russo of the Minneapolis Star Tribune reports.
Analysis: Keith Ballard is still experiencing concussion symptoms from the head injury he suffered Dec. 9 of last season, and it sounds like he's leaning toward hanging up his skates rather than risking permanent health issues. The 32-year-old had previously experienced several concussions during his NHL career, likely leaving many teams disinterested in Ballard's services even if he opts to keep playing.

 
 
 
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