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Right on Schedule: Get ready for the stretch

by | Rotowire.com
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The next two weeks of hockey will be very busy. The most glaring trend could be 19 of the 30 NHL teams play on back-to-back nights this week. With 12 of the 15 Western Conference teams playing three games this week, we'll move most of this week's focus to the Eastern Conference where there's a bit more action.

NHL schedule

Six playing four

On the surface, you might assume Boston (vs. OTT, CAR, PIT, @WAS) has a generous schedule. Outside of their record against Ottawa (2-0) and Pittsburgh (1-0), the Bruins may have their work cut out for them. Boston is a combined 0-4 against Carolina and Washington this season, having been outscored 16-8 by the two teams. General Manager Peter Chiarelli says right-winger Nathan Horton's mild concussion symptoms leave him day-to-day. Rich Peverley replaced Horton on David Krejci line and showed an immediate impact last week. Boston is a combined 3-4 against this week's opponents.

No one expected Montreal (vs. BUF, @NJ, vs. WAS, WPG) to go into the break on the wings of a 7-2 win over Detroit. Helping create this explosion was rookie defenseman Alexei Emeli, scoring his first NHL goal, center David Desharnais (two goals, assist) and Max Pacioretty (goal, assist). With the win, the Canadiens are 3-0-2 over their last five games. Montreal is a combined 3-4-1 against this week's opponents.

Currently eighth in the East, New Jersey (vs. NYR, MON, @PHI, vs. PIT) is tied with Florida and Toronto at 55 points. The Devils are hoping to come out gunning and secure their spot inside the top eight of the East. They start with their red hot river rivals the Rangers, more on this later. After stumbling (three goals in three straight losses) into the AS break, Patrik Elias (26 points in last 23 games) and his Devils look to get things back on track. Adam Henrique, who recently came back from a groin injury, has been demoted off the first line. Henrique had this to say: "I feel good," he said. "It wasn't my best couple of games but I feel good," he said. "I obviously want to have a good second half when we get back." New Jersey is a combined 4-5 against this week's opponents.

After suffering an unforeseeable six-game losing streak Pittsburgh (vs. TOR, @TOR, BOS, NJ) earlier this season, Pittsburgh is now streaking in the right direction, having won seven in a row. Starting with a home-and-home against the Maple Leafs, the Pens will also visit the Bruins and Devils before the week is up. Games on back-to-back nights, twice this week, may prove to be an advantage. Perhaps it's noteworthy, after yielding three goals on eight shots, Brent Johnson (2-5-2) had to be pulled in his last start against Ottawa. Pittsburgh is a combined 1-4 against this week's opponents.

With so much emphasis on Philadelphia's (vs. WPG, NSH, NJ, @NYR) injured reserve right now, eight games over the next two weeks could prove detrimental to their potential playoff seeding. James van Riemsdyk (concussion) Danny Briere (concussion), Zac Rinaldo (upper-body injury) and Jaromir Jagr (groin) are all key players battling injuries. One of the few bright spots of the Breakaway Challenge this past weekend, Sean Couturier (five goals, four assists, plus-3 in 12 January games), has one more game to pad the stats of what has been a break out January. Philly's goalie tandem on Sergei Bobrovsky (3-2, 2.20 GAA in January) and Ilya Bryzgalov (4-2-1, 2.93 GAA in January) will be relied upon to help the team float while they get healthy. Philadelphia is a combined 2-6-1 against this week's opponents.

One of the hottest teams in the NHL, the Capitals (@TB, FLA, MON, vs. BOS) head into the second half 10-2 over their last twelve games. Washington not only plays two division rivals, but will play on back-to-back nights, twice this week as well. With that being said, neither Caps goalie has been overwhelmingly great in January. Tomas Vokoun (5-4, 2.67 GAA, SHO) has taken most of the starts, while Michal Neuvirth (1-0-1, 2.30 GAA, SHO) has been fairly dependable in just three appearances. Mathieu Perreault has almost doubled his season points total (four goals, two assists) in the last four games. Will it last? Deuces are wild for Caps Hockey, which is featured on NBCSports network twice this week. Washington is a combined 5-1 against this week's opponents.

Winnipeg (@PHI, TB, FLA, MON) is another Southeast team spending the first week after the break on the road and in very important divisional games. Center Eric Gagnon (eight goals, 12 assists in 35 games with St. John's IceCaps) made his Jets debut last week. Since Winnipeg is yet another team marred by injuries, he may stick around. Left-wingers Alex Burmistrov (upper body) and Evander Kane (concussion-like symptoms), center Tim Stapleton (lower body) and of course, defenseman Dustin Byfuglien (knee) are all still M.I.A. Winnipeg is a combined 5-4-1 against this week's opponents.

A trio of three

After the break, Chicago (@VAN, EDM, CAL) hits the road for nine straight road games to start the second half. Of the nine, only the last game (Columbus) is considered an "easy win". The road trip starts off with three against the Northwest division. Despite anchoring a line with two other rookie forwards, Marian Hossa is currently on a nine-game (three goals, eight assists) point streak. Jonathan Toews (wrist) will travel with the Blackhawks to Vancouver, no word yet as to whether he'll dress. Chicago has acquired veteran center Brendan Morrison (four goals, seven assists) from Calgary for minor league defenseman Brian Connelly. The NHL veteran of 15 seasons has spent time in Illinois with the AHL's Rockford IceHogs. Chicago is a combined 4-4 against this week's opponents.

Dallas (@ANH, SJ, vs. MIN), who has one of the busiest February's in the NHL, will play four games a week, three times next month. Totaling 16 games, the Stars will need Jamie Benn to build on his return to action. Starting off fresh, the Stars visit Anaheim, of whom they enjoy a 3-0 season series lead. From there, Dallas has their hands full, they'll travel to San Jose, who has outscored them 9-3 this season and Minnesota, who took the only game this season 5-2 over the Stars. Even with young gun Jamie Benn coming back, after going just 4-6-1 in January, the Stars are fizzling fast. Speculation has general manager Joe Nieuwendyk considering trades that will make them better beyond the second half of the season. This includes long-time Stars captain, 33-year old Brenden Morrow. Dallas is a combined 3-4 against this week's opponents.

Nine points out of the final playoff spot in the East, Tampa Bay (vs. WAS, WPG, FLA), currently riding a four-game winning streak, enjoys their next three from home. Albeit, against fellow Southeast teams, the Lightning have been bitten by the injury bug to some key role players this year. Good news is Vincent Lecavalier seems to be coming around, going into the second half riding a six-game (three goals, 10 assists) point scoring streak of his own. With nine players on the Lightning IR, sooner or later someone could come back. Both defenseman Marc-Andre Bergeron (upper body) and left-winger Ryan Malone (upper body) could possibly see action this week. Tampa Bay is a combined 4-3-2 against this week's opponents.

Three take two

All three teams playing two games this week will bounce back with four next week. For now, you may want to look the other way on players from St. Louis (vs. LA, @NSH), Calgary (vs. DET, CHI) and Phoenix (vs. ANH, SJ). However, let it be known, St. Louis plays both of its games on back-to-back nights.

Game of the week: Devils and Rangers. What better way to start the second half of the season than with a rivalry renewal? In the first two months of the season, many writers and fans alike had given up on the Devils. Lo and behold here come Brodeur's boys, geared up and ready to avenge their 4-1 loss to New York earlier this season.

TV TIME (all games EST/NBCSports Network)

Jan. 31: Capitals at Lightning, 7:30 p.m.
Feb. 1: Rangers at Sabres, 7:30 p.m.
Feb. 5: Bruins at Capitals, 12:30 p.m.

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Player News
Mike Green
Red Wings, Green Reach Three-Year Deal
Mike Green, D, WAS
12:57 AM
News: Mike Green signed a three-year, $18 million contract with the Red Wings on Thursday, ESPN.com's Pierre LeBrun reports.
Analysis: In need of some more offensive ability from the right side of their defense, the Red Wings decided to make a run at Mike Green, who is perhaps the most accomplished scorer of all the free-agent blueliners. Though injuries have slowed his production in recent years, Green stayed relatively healthy with the Capitals in 2014-15, playing 72 games and tallying 10 goals and 45 points. He saw his ice time decline in Washington as a result of last summer's signing of Matt Niskanen, but the Red Wings should have no trouble clearing out a regular role for Green on their second pairing. He's also a candidate to see time on the second-unit power play, which should help aid him to another 40-point season.

Richard Bachman
Canucks Sign Bachman
Richard Bachman, G, EDM
12:56 AM
News: The Canucks signed Richard Bachman to a two-year deal on Wednesday, NHL.com reports.
Analysis: Richard Bachman, who went 3-2-0 with a 2.84 GAA and .911 save percentage in seven games with the Oilers last season, gives the Canucks some added netminding depth (to go along with Jacob Markstrom ) behind starter Ryan Miller.

Alex Burmistrov
Former First-Rounder Burmistrov Returning To Jets
Alex Burmistrov, C, WPG
12:46 AM
News: Alex Burmistrov signed a two-year, $3.1 million contract with the Jets on Wednesday, Chris Johnston of Sportsnet reports.
Analysis: Alex Burmistrov, the former No. 8 overall pick by the Jets in 2010 when the franchise was still located in Atlanta, will make his return to North America after spending the past two seasons with Kazan Ak-Bars of the KHL. The 23-year-old bolted for Russia in the summer of 2013 due in part to his lack of harmony with coach Claude Noel, but with Paul Maurice since taking over the helm for the Jets, it appears any discord has dissipated. Burmistrov never turned in outstanding production during his previous time in the minors or in the NHL, but now that's a little older, he could be a potential second- or third-line asset for the Jets.

Viktor Tikhonov
Tikhonov Leaves KHL For Blackhawks
Viktor Tikhonov, LW, ARI
12:38 AM
News: Viktor Tikhonov signed a one-year, $1.04 million contract with the Blackhawks on Wednesday, The Hockey News reports.
Analysis: After suiting up for St. Petersburg in the KHL for the last four seasons, Viktor Tikhonov was apparently quite eager to test himself in North America, as he reportedly took a $2 million pay cut to leave Russia. With the Blackhawks desperate to create cap room for the start of the coming season, the low-cost signing Tikhonov could be exactly what they need to create salary relief. Despite his minimal price, Tikhonov isn't completely bereft of value, as he was a former first-round selection by the Coyotes in 2008 and showed some scoring ability with St. Petersburg last season, supplying eight goals and 16 assists in 49 games. The Blackhawks will take a long look at him during training camp and see where he fits in best.

Matt Lindblad
Rangers Sign Lindblad
Matt Lindblad, C, BOS
12:27 AM
News: The Rangers signed Matt Lindblad on Wednesday, the Boston Herald reports.
Analysis: The 25-year-old Matt Lindblad, who notched 22 points in 47 games for AHL Providence last season, gives the Rangers' organization added forward depth, but he remains a break or two from the fantasy radar in his new playing context.

David Warsofsky
Warsofsky Signs With Pittsburgh
David Warsofsky, D, BOS
12:22 AM
News: David Warsofsky signed a one-year, two-way deal with the Penguins on Wednesday, the Boston Herald reports.
Analysis: The smallish David Warsofsky, who recorded 15 points in 40 games for AHL Providence this past season, brings good mobility to the table, though ultimately his fantasy utility hinges on whether or not he sees power play duty if/when he sees action with the Penguins. If so, he carries some sleeper value in deeper formats.

John Moore
Devils Give Moore Three-Year Deal
John Moore, D, ARI
12:17 AM
News: John Moore signed a three-year, $5 million contract with the Devils on Wednesday, Rich Chere of the Newark Star-Ledger reports.
Analysis: After he was surprisingly non-tendered by the Coyotes on Monday, John Moore didn't take long to latch on with a new team in unrestricted free agency. The 24-year-old Moore offers a left-handed shot and ideal size (6-foot-3, 202 pounds) for a Devils defense that already has a good young core in place. The blueliner tallied two goals and 11 points across 57 games with the Rangers and Coyotes last season.

Greg Pateryn
Habs Extend Pateryn
Greg Pateryn, D, MON
12:16 AM
News: Greg Pateryn signed a two-year contract extension with the Canadiens on Wednesday, CTV Montreal reports.
Analysis: "Greg is a young defenceman who has developed very well. He enjoys the physical play and brings more depth to our defensive group," GM Marc Bergevin noted of the blueliner. In 17 regular season games with the Canadiens this past season, Greg Pateryn did not record a point, though the 25-year-old defender did manage three helpers in seven playoff games.

Barret Jackman
Preds Sign Jackman To Two-Year Deal
Barret Jackman, D, STL
12:13 AM
News: Barret Jackman signed a two-year, $4 million contract with the Predators on Wednesday, Adam Vingan of The Tennessean reports.
Analysis: After 12 years in St. Louis, Barret Jackman will join another franchise for the first time in his career. As was the case during his final few seasons with the Blues, Jackman will be suiting up for one of the league's deeper defensemen ranks, as he'll join a Predators roster that includes All-Stars Shea Weber and Roman Josi and promising youngsters Ryan Ellis and Seth Jones. Those four players figure to shoulder most of the offensive burden from the blue line, leaving Jackman to do what he does best -- agitating opposing forwards and providing sound decision-making in front of his own net.

P.A. Parenteau
Parenteau Signs With Leafs
P.A. Parenteau, RW, MON
12:08 AM
News: The Maple Leafs signed P.A. Parenteau to a one-year deal on Wednesday, TSN.ca reports.
Analysis: P.A. Parenteau, whose contract was bought out by the Habs, notched 22 points in 56 games for Montreal last season. He'll look to bounce back with the Leafs and if he secures a more prominent role with his new team -- a plausible outcome -- the 32-year-old forward is capable of a rebound in 2015-16.

 
 
 
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