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Right on Schedule: Surging into the break

by | Rotowire.com
  •  

Although 10 teams will play two games the week of the All-Star break, for all intents and purposes, this is your final week of the NHL first half.

And what a week it's going to be.

With Boston playing the rare five-game schedule, it's “anything goes” out there as teams prepare for the break. Let's find you some juicy crevasses from which to steal some points in the Fantasy standings.

NHL schedule

Don't call it a comeback: Looky here, the Ducks are sneaking up the standings. Teemu Selanne has woken up a bit (three goals, three assists in last seven days) and Anaheim is 4-1-1 in 2012. Anaheim (vs. PHO, OTT, COL) hosts three winnable games.

Busy B's: Boston (@FLA, TB, NJ, vs. NYR, @PHI) plays five times in the next seven nights. Four of those games will occur on back-to-back nights and in visitor jerseys. Outside of their first meeting with NHL points-leading Rangers, Boston is a combined 5-2 (29-9 GF/GA) against their five opponents this week.

Busted blue-line: Injury depleted Buffalo (@DET, CHI, WPG, STL) has its work cut out for them. Jhonas Enroth is 0-5-2 is his last seven decisions, including a 0-1-1 record in January, despite stopping almost everything (.943 save percentage over the last three games) that comes his way. Ryan Miller has a .912 save percentage in the month of January. Of the injured Sabres defensemen, Robyn Regehr (upper body), Brayden McNabb (possible concussion), Christian Ehrhoff (upper-body) only Andrej Sekera (upper-body) is expected back any time soon. Additionally, left-wingers, Tyler Ennis (ankle) and Colin Stuart (knee) are still out with no word on a return date.

Re-kindling the Flame: Calgary (@SJ, LA, EDM) hits the road for two against the Northwest and one against a slumping Edmonton. New addition Michael Cammalleri (77 percent owned in CBSSports.com leagues) notched a goal in his first game back in Flames colors. Will the romance last? My money is on yes and I'm dropping the slumping Mason Raymond to prove it.

Wind speed picking up?: Perhaps Carolina (@PIT, vs. WAS, @NYI), who plays two on the road, can turn things around after the All-Star break. Nineteen-year-old Jeff Skinner (missed 16 games) has been activated off the injured-reserve. Rookie defenseman Justin Faulk (four goals, seven assists in 27 games) is clearly getting more comfortable and headed to the All-Star skills competition. After a 4-2 win over the Bruins, it seems Kirk Muller has got the blood moving in Raleigh again.

Rivalry brewing: Chicago (vs. BUF, FLA, @NSH) has two confidence builder games and a road trip to Nashville. Having already beat Nashville once this season, Chicago will need their confidence as this is the start of a home-and-home with the Preds extending into next week. The Hawks will certainly miss Daniel Carcillo, who had ACL (left knee) surgery and will need six months to recover. Rookie center Andrew Shaw (three goals in six career games) has two goals in his last two games.

Ever changing altitude: It's been an inconsistent month for Colorado (@PHO, vs. FLA, @LA, ANH), who has three of four on the road this week. After crumbling Chicago (4-0) earlier this month, the Blues gave the Avs the same treatment the next night. Add in last week's 0-1-1 two losses to Nashville (7-3 GF/GA), and January was starting to look gloomy. But a third period goal from Paul Stastny (12 goals, 13 assists) against the Stars helped Colorado end the week proper. Although the Avs play two road games this week (Phoenix, Los Angeles), neither one are considered far destinations. Add in two home games and the schedule is filled to the brim. Ryan O'Reilly (two goals, two assists in last three games) continues to show sparks in Matt Duchene's absence.

Perhaps another colored jacket?: Things are not getting better in Columbus. Though their combined record (2-4-1, 23-28 GF/GA) against this week's opponents (vs. EDM, NSH, @DET) is fairly balanced, I'm not sure I would put Fantasy stock in any Columbus player at this time.

Bachman backup overdrive: Symmetrically intriguing, Dallas (@STL, vs. DET, vs. TB, @MIN) starts off the week with back-to-back nights, travelling to St. Louis and hosting Detroit. After a two day rest, they host the Lightning and travel to play the Wild. As mentioned in last week's SA, Richard Bachman (6-2, 2.56) may be a good pick up for the week if you're looking to steal a couple of goalie points.

Quietly coasting: I dare you to find a more dangerous third place team in hockey. Heading into Sunday night, Detroit (vs. BUF, @DAL, PHO, vs. CLS), who has the best home record (17-2-1) in the NHL, has two more in the Motor City. Very similar to Dallas' schedule, only the Wings start out hosting the Sabres and travel to the Stars. After a day rest, they head to Phoenix and then home to host Columbus on Saturday night.

Sliding Slick: Edmonton (@CLS, STL, vs. CAL), losers of five straight headed into their game with the Kings on Sunday, has a schedule this week that could get harder with each game.

Panthers Pride: Take away their Division lead and Florida goes from third to seventh in the conference. That doesn't mean anything to the slumping (3-5-2) Panthers. The season series is tied at one win a piece as Florida (vs. BOS, @COL, CHI, WPG) heads into Monday's matchup with the defending Stanley Cup champs. From there, the Panthers play the Avs for the first time, attempt to avenge an OT loss to Chicago and look to go 2-0 up on division suitor Winnipeg.

Crossing January off the list: Los Angeles (@VAN, vs. CAL, COL) starts out the week finishing up their three-game road trip against the Northwest division. From there, LA will head home to play out their three remaining January games from home, all prior to the All-Star Break.

Enduring the road: The Wild (@PHI, TOR, vs. DAL) continue their January travels (eight of 11 games this month on the road) with two more against the Eastern Conference before heading home for the Stars. Though Minnesota is no longer boasting the NHL's best record, they still hold onto the eighth and final playoff spot amidst a locker room flu that took on two of their top three goalies. Josh Harding seems to be breaking loose of the flu quicker than Niklas Backstrom, who hasn't even dressed in two games, much less played since the January 7. Matt Hackett has been backing up Harding, who made 47 saves in a 3-2 shootout loss to St. Louis on Saturday.

Trading away their mentality: Having traded away their own locker room issue and limping into the All-Star break, Montreal (vs. WAS, @PIT, TOR) is hoping the addition of Rene Bourque will spark the fuel of the Scott Gomez (4 points) and Tomas Plekanec (31 points) line. After hosting the red hot Rangers this past Sunday night, the Canadiens rest at home for two days and play host to the Capitals. From there, the Habs take to the road against the Pens and Leafs.

Tale of two opponents : Nashville is right on the tails of Detroit, Chicago and Central Division leader St. Louis. Consider Nashville (@NYI, NYR, CLS, vs. CHI) the busiest NHL team over the next 10 days leading up to the break. Although the Preds will actually play four this week, they'll have two types of opponents. Games against the Islanders and Blue Jackets will be entirely different than those against the Rangers and Blackhawks. Music City's ice hockey club will play six times in the next 10 days. Four of their remaining six games before the break will be on the road. Winners of five of their six January games, one can look to left-winger Sergei Kostitsyn (five goals, two assists in six games) as a big reason for this month's success.

Father time asleep: After spending the first five of seven January games on the road, the Devils (vs. WPG, BOS, PHI) play in home jerseys for their remaining five games in January. Though the calendar year started off poorly for the Devils (0-1-1, 3-9 GF/GA), a perfectly timed schedule against teams on the stitch has New Jersey in the thick (sixth place, 52 points) of the Eastern Conference playoff hunt. Outside of an embarrassing start in their 6-3 loss to Calgary, it helps when your 39-year old goalie defies old man logic. Martin Brodeur (13-10-1, 2.90 goals-against average) is 7-2-1 over his last 11 starts.

Terrible and terrific: Long Island have a tough week ahead, fortunately for the Islanders (vs. NSH, @WAS, PHI, vs. CAR), 36-year old Evgeni Nabokov (11 straight starts) is holding off father time as well. Of course, with the system in front of him, results have varied (2-3, 3.04 goals-against average). The New York Islanders are terrible when they're bad (5-12 GA/GF in three January losses) and terrific when they're good (13-6 GF/GA in three January wins). The Islanders have a chance over the next 10 days to balance out the ship with six games. As of now, Al Montoya (concussion), the ship's backup, has resumed skating with the team. As for Rick “IR” DiPietro, he's likely gone for the season. If any goalie is to fill in for Nabakov over the next 10 days, look to Kevin Poulin, (last week's AHL player of the week) who recently celebrated three straight shutouts for the AHL's Sound Tigers.

Best for the best: Heading into their aforementioned match up with the Canadiens, the Rangers led the NHL in points. As for strength of schedule this week, it's only fitting the Rangers (vs. NSH, PIT, @BOS) have the toughest week ahead, facing three strong Stanley Cup contenders this week. Winners in 11 of their last 13 games, the Rangers are not an explosive team by any means, but the balanced scoring attack and NHL second-ranked GAA of 1.88 has the pedal to the metal. As of Sunday, Coach Tortorella is playing it safe with Brandon Dubinsky (shoulder), but it's not said to be serious.

Pre-occupied hosts: Ottawa (vs. WPG, @TOR, SJ, ANH) is yet another team with six games over the next ten days. Once the Jets leave town this Monday, the Sens hit the road for six straight road games to end the month as they get ready to host this year's All-Star weekend.

Resilient Flyers: Philadelphia, 4-2 since their loss to the Rangers in the Winter Classic, hosts three this week including the Wild and Bruins. Philly is dealing with several major injuries including Chris Pronger (concussion), who was recently quoted. "It is very, very tough right now, I don't feel well and it hurts so much not to be playing." The team announced on Saturday left-winger James van Riemsdyk is out indefinitely with a concussion. Despite the IR issues, with a 4-1-1 combined record against this week's (vs. MIN, NYI, @NJ, vs. BOS) opponents, the Flyers look to steal back the Atlantic division lead from the hated Rangers.

Howling Swedes and role players: Phoenix (vs. COL, @ANH, vs. DET, TB) hosts three of four this week. Defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson had two two-point nights in less than seven days. He's becoming an SA regular. The 'Yotes have a bit of their own injury problems, missing key players like center Martin Hanzal (upper body), who sat out his 10th straight game. Hanzal is optimistic he's within a week of returning. Defenseman David Schlemko however, is out six-to-eight weeks after surgery on his right foot.

Healing the wounds: Despite the over-publicized issues with the concussed Pittsburgh captain, it seems the Penguins true strength is left-winger James Neal (24 goals, 16 assists) and Evgeni Malkin (21 goals). During the Penguins recent six-game losing streak, Neal was a minus-6 rating and held pointless. During the Penguins last two convincing wins three goal wins, Neal has registered three goals, an assist and is a plus-4, while Malkin has four goals, two assists and is a plus-5. Outside of their game against the Rangers, Pittsburgh (vs. CAR, @NYR, vs. MON, WAS) should head into the break with good momentum.

Just nibbling: And yet another team yet to be beaten during January regulation, San Jose (vs. CAL, OTT, @VAN) heads into Sunday night's matchup with juggernaut Chicago, full of steam. Though, off the surface the Sharks seem potent, one might saying they've been just skating by. During their 6-0-1 run to start 2012, the Sharks haven't exactly blown any doors off the hinges, outscoring opponents 21-12, and earning three one-goal wins. Good old Patrick Marleau (four goals, five assists in seven January games) is fine. It's only a matter of time before Logan Couture's (two goals, three assists in last seven games) consistent scoring transitions back into multiple scoring. No one will de-seat Antti Niemi, but it seems there's a bit of controversy between the pipes in NoCal. Antero Niittymaki is complaining to the media about being scratched in favor of Thomas Greiss, who picked up his second start in 17 games.

Nothing blue about St. Louis: St. Louis (6-0-1) gears up for what could possibly be its most difficult back-to-back match ups all season in Detroit and Pittsburgh next week. But first, the Blues (vs. DAL, EDM, BUF) host three games against Dallas, Edmonton and Buffalo. The Blues have the second-best home record (19-3-3) in the league.

Darkening: With a team so talented but winless at the same time, is it safe to say Tampa Bay is coming up on the deadline as a seller? Crawling to the All-Star break, the Lightning are 0-5-1 in 2012, and with this week's schedule (vs. BOS, @DAL, PHO), there's no light at the end of the tunnel. Perhaps their only game next week (vs. CLS) will finally get them off the snide.

More drama from the GM: Toronto's schedule over the next two weeks is fairly light, especially with a home-and-home series against the Islanders headed into the All-Star Break. But first, this week (vs. OTT, MIN, MON). Word around Brian Burke's campfire is prior to van Riemsdyk's concussion on Saturday, there was a deal to send Leafs defenseman Luke Schenn to play with his brother Brayden in exchange for the now concussed Riemsdyk. From my vantage point, despite two straight losses, it appears goalie Jonas Gustavsson is still the man in Toronto, as coach Ron Wilson was hesitant about naming James Reimer his starter on Tuesday versus the Senators.

Quiet Canuck-land: Vancouver (vs. LA, SJ) has been home since Friday of last week, and that will continue throughout the rest of the month. A short remaining January schedule starts with two games against the Pacific Division this week. Though the Canucks are a combined 3-1 against the Sharks and Kings, they've been outscored 13-12 by these two teams this season.

Caps lock off: Washington (vs. NYI, @MON, CAR, PIT) plays host to the Islanders, before hitting the road on a progressively more difficult road trip. Their reward next week? Host the explosive Bruins. With Tom Poti already lost for the season, Mike Green and Nicklas Backstrom out indefinitely, there's no surprise Dennis Wideman (eight goals, 23 assists) thinks a call from his GM means he's being traded. Don't rest your shoulders yet Dennis, you may still get shipped.

Jet-setting?: The Jets look to snag a few wins and sneak back into the playoff picture against a few stumbling teams. Winnipeg (@OTT, NJ, vs. BUF, FLA), losers of their last three, play six games in the next 10 days as well. With four of those six on the road, only one of those games will be against an NHL elite (next week, Rangers). Hating to sound like a broken record (but doing it anyway), the Jets truly miss the presence of Dustin Byfuglien. Byfuglien recently had the following to say regarding his injury. "Rehab's going well right now, and I'll just hopefully get on the ice here in the next week. I guess we kind of hit a spot where we don't really know what's going on right now. It's just a matter of a couple days here, just get on a good streak and feel better and hopefully start skating. I'm just not feeling the best on it. I want to be a hundred percent with it. It's something I don't want to have nagging me later in the year." Byfuglien won't travel with the team on the two-game road trip to Ottawa and New Jersey.

TV Time (all games EST)

NBC Sports Network

Tuesday: Predators at Rangers, 7:30 p.m.
Wednesday: Sabres at Chicago, 7:30 p.m.

NBC

Sunday: Washington at Pittsburgh, 12:30 p.m.
Sunday: Boston at Philadelphia, 3 p.m.

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Player News
Patrick Marleau
Sharks Take Marleau's Alternate Captain Status
Patrick Marleau, C, SJ
3:04 PM
News: The Sharks announced Wednesday that they would enter camp without a captain, which includes taking the "A" off Patrick Marleau's sweater, the Mercury News reports.
Analysis: It had been rumored and hinted at all summer that Patrick Marleau and captain Joe Thornton would have their leadership roles passed to younger players. It has also been rumored that both were asked to waive their no trade clause. Neither did. The team wants the younger generation to take the torch, but as far as fantasy is concerned, you can't reduce the playing time of a player like Marleau, who scored 33 goals and 37 assists last season.

Joe Thornton
Sharks Strip Thornton Of Captaincy
Joe Thornton, C, SJ
3:01 PM
News: The Sharks officially announce Wednesday that Joe Thornton would not be the team captain entering training camp, the Mercury News reports.
Analysis: Coach Todd McLellan said that he doesn't consider it to be stripping Joe Thornton of anything, since he'll be given the opportunity to earn the "C" back. The team has talked frequently this offseason of passing the torch to the next generation and that's what this appears to be. Thornton was not only rumored to be losing his "C," but was involved in trade rumors as well. However, he has a no trade clause and doesn't seem interested in leaving San Jose.

Raffi Torres
Sharks' Torres To Miss Months With Knee Infection
Raffi Torres, LW, SJ
2:28 PM
News: Raffi Torres suffered an infection in his surgically-repaired right knee and is expected to miss the first few months of the season while he undergoes another operation on the knee, David Pollak of the San Jose Mercury News reports.
Analysis: Raffi Torres was limited to just five regular-season contests in 2013-14 after undergoing knee surgery and suffering a subsequent setback shortly after returning after the Olympics. He would ultimately rejoin the Sharks during the postseason and looked to be healthy heading into the upcoming campaign, but it seems the infection surfaced at some point over the summer. For the second straight season, he'll open on injured reserve as a result, with no concrete date for his return. Torres has been a useful player for the Sharks when he's been on the ice, but with two years still remaining on his contract, his durability concerns might dampen the remainder of his tenure with his team.

Dennis Seidenberg
Bruins' Seidenberg Eyes Training Camp
Dennis Seidenberg, D, BOS
1:15 PM
News: Dennis Seidenberg (knee) expects to be ready for training camp, NHL.com reports.
Analysis: Dennis Seidenberg, who last suited up on Dec. 27, had surgery in early January to repair an ACL/MCL injury in his right knee in. At the time, the estimated timetable for a return was in the 6-8 month range. With no reported setbacks since then, and given that the sturdy blueliner indicated that he probably could have returned to action had the Bruins advanced to the Eastern Conference Final, things appear to be on track for him to be at, or near, 100 percent in advance of the upcoming regular season.

Henrik Zetterberg
Wings' Zetterberg: Healthy Heading Into Camp
Henrik Zetterberg, LW, DET
8:40 AM
News: Coach Mike Babcock relayed that Henrik Zetterberg (foot) said he was "feeling the best he has in years" this offseason, suggesting he'll be a full participant in training camp, NHL.com's Dan Rosen reports.
Analysis: With both Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk missing 37 games apiece last season, the Red Wings were forced to get by with a patchwork forward ranks to so-so results. Now that both players are feeling healthy, the depth chart should enjoy more stability in 2014-15, but don't be surprised if Zetterberg notices a drop in ice time for maintenance purposes as he enters his age-34 season. Still, Zetterberg hasn't had many health issues prior to last season, and managed to supply 48 points over the 45 contests in which he suited up. There's plenty of value to be had in Zetterberg, even as he takes on a more deferential role to emerging wings Gustav Nyquist and Tomas Tatar in the years to come.

Pavel Datsyuk
Red Wings' Datsyuk Feeling Good Heaing Into Camp
Pavel Datsyuk, C, DET
8:30 AM
News: Coach Mike Babcock relayed that Pavel Datsyuk (knee) said he was feeling "the best he has in years" this offseason, suggesting he'll be ready to go for training camp, NHL.com's Dan Rosen reports.
Analysis: Considering Pavel Datsyuk hasn't played since late April, it's no surprise he's feeling spry, but there's serious questions he'll hold up for 82 games as he enters his age-34 campaign. He's missed a total of 76 games over his last four seasons, muting the impact of the nearly point-per-game production he provides when healthy. Considering his injury history, Datsyuk might not be worth the markup price his name will cost fantasy players on draft day.

Stephen Weiss
Red Wings' Weiss (Hernia) Feeling Healthy
Stephen Weiss, C, DET
8:23 AM
News: Stephen Weiss indicated he's feeling healthy following his April 21 surgery to repair his sports hernia, NHL.com's Dan Rosen reports.
Analysis: Stephen Weiss was a disaster in his first season with the Red Wings after inking a five-year, $24.5 million deal last summer, appearing in only 26 games and totaling four points. He ultimately required a pair of sports hernia surgeries that prevented a second-half return, but after spending the last four months recovering, he appears ready to go for 2014-15. Weiss will be given the opportunity to win back his job as the Wings' No. 2 center, but it seems dubious that he'll be able to return to the 50-point form he showed during his prime years with the Panthers.

Mike Mottau
NHLer Mottau Calls It A Career
Mike Mottau, D, FLA
8/19/2014
News: Mike Mottau announced his retirement from professional hockey Tuesday, Joe Haggerty of CSNNE.com reports.
Analysis: The Massachusetts native was exploring the option of playing with AHL Providence to stick with his hometown Bruins organization, but decided he was content to spend more time with his family. Mike Mottau, 36, appeared in 321 career NHL games with the Rangers, Flames, Devils, Islanders, Bruins and Panthers, with his most productive seasons coming in the late-2000s with New Jersey.

Josh Harding
Wild's Harding Cleared For Training Camp
Josh Harding, G, MIN
8/19/2014
News: Wild GM Chuck Fletcher said Josh Harding is "a go" for training camp, Michael Russo of the Minneapolis Star Tribune reports. "Everybody seems to be feeling pretty good, and at this stage, all of our players who were banged up at the end of the season are feeling better. Josh has felt good. Right now we're not expecting any issues for anybody with respect to passing training camp medicals."
Analysis: With an 18-7-3 record, 1.65 GAA and .933 save percentage, Josh Harding was playing as well as any goal in hockey before a setback in his treatment for multiple sclerosis sidelined him after the end of December. Because he's missed large chunks of both of the last two seasons while dealing with the effects of the illness, fantasy players shouldn't look to invest heavily in Harding. Even if healthy, he's no lock to open the season as the regular starter in goal for the Wild with Niklas Backstrom and Darcy Kuemper still around.

Niklas Backstrom
Wild's Backstrom Good To Go For Camp
Niklas Backstrom, G, MIN
8/19/2014
News: Wild GM Chuck Fletcher said Niklas Backstrom (abdomen, hip) is feeling good and and will be ready to participate in training camp, the Minneapolis Star Tribune reports.
Analysis: Any way you spin it, Niklas Backstrom had a miserable 2013-14 campaign, as the veteran netminder suited up for 21 games and posted a lousy 3.02 GAA and .899 save percentage before undergoing season-ending abdominal and hip surgery. Though he's ostensibly healthy, Backstrom is now 36 and doesn't appear poised to enter the season as the club's starter, especially with Darcy Kuemper and Josh Harding still around. His sizable contract may be the only thing keeping him around.

 
 
 
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