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Right on Schedule: Who's hot, who's not?

by | Rotowire.com
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This week's NHL schedule features 11 teams playing four games, as more than half of the league is playing on back-to-back nights at some point. So let's get your lineups straight before you switch focus to your Valentine's Day.

NHL schedule

Spending time with those backups

Headlining those playing on back-to-back nights is Washington and San Jose. Washington, despite playing only three times this week, will technically play on back-to-back nights twice, starting with their game Monday against San Jose. All four of San Jose's games this week will occur on back-to-back nights, more on this later. Also playing on back-to-back nights will be Anaheim, Boston, Buffalo, Carolina, Chicago, Columbus, Dallas, Minnesota, Ottawa, Philadelphia, St. Louis, Toronto, Vancouver, Winnipeg.

I ain't missing you

Los Angeles, Ottawa and Philadelphia play only twice this week. The Sens go on back-to-back nights against the NHL's two Floridian teams, while the Flyers take on Sabres and Penguins from home. Meanwhile, the Kings will host the ‘Yotes and Flames. Of the three teams, only Ottawa will bounce back with four games next week.

True love plays

Anaheim (@MIN, PIT, NJ, FLA), which started out the road trip with an OTL (2-1) in Detroit, hopes to bounce back and avenge their 3-2 home loss to the Blue Jackets earlier this month. From there, the Ducks' road trip goes to slumping Minnesota. After their game with the Wild, it's time for the Ducks to take on three strong Eastern Conference teams. Will Teemu Selanne be moved before the trade deadline?

After squeaking by Nashville on Saturday, Boston (vs. NYR, @MON, WPG, MIN) enjoys a few days off. The Bruins will then host the Rangers on Tuesday and take to the road for three in a row to end the week. Bruins centers may be the reason for their lack of consistency lately. One of their key centers is David Krejci, who has one point in his last seven games.

Buffalo (vs. NJ, @PHI, vs. MON, PIT) looks to continue their new ways with four games this week. The Sabres shocked a few people, blowing out the previously mentioned Bruins 6-0 in Buffalo last Wednesday. In fact, if not for two one- goal losses, Buffalo could be 5-0 in February. We'll find out just how alert Lindy Ruff's bunch is with a four-game schedule this week. Defenseman Christian Ehrhoff is showing some spunk lately, registering a goal, an assist and two penalty-minutes in his last three games.

I'm just not sure things can get any uglier for the Hawks in February. Winless in their last eight games, Chicago (@NSH, NYR, CLS, vs. STL), has been outscored 24-10 in their five regulation losses this month. Granted, all five games has been a part of an eight-game road trip, but that road trip continues this week. The once favored Blackhawks now find themselves heading to the Music City and Manhattan with absolutely no steam. Literally adding injury to insult, two of Chicago's defenseman Niklas Hjarlmarsson (concussion) and Steven Montador (upper-body) are dealing with injuries.

As their schedule has heated up Dallas (@DET, vs. CAL, @PHO, vs. NSH) has shown flickers of youth, for good or ill. A disheartening OTL to Buffalo on Friday leaves them 11th in a very tight Western Conference race heading into their home game with the Kings. Including tonight's game with Los Angeles (seventh, 63 points), the Stars will need to start notching a few two-point nights against those they're battling for conference position. Perhaps Detroit is out of reach, but Nashville, Phoenix and Calgary all currently sit within 11 points of Dallas. Loui Eriksson finally broke the snide and registered his first point of the second half last Friday. Alex Goligoski had a productive week (11.5 points going into Sunday night) for CBS Fantasy owners. Kari Lehtonen had to be pulled halfway through back-to-back starts.

Minnesota (vs. ANH, WPG, @STL, vs. BOS), much like Dallas and Chicago, has found the month of February to be damning to their playoff-cause. Unlike the Stars and Blackhawks, the problem with Minnesota is they simply never had the offensive threats to get back to good in the first place. Our case-in-point is a 3-1 home loss to Columbus this past Saturday night. Niklas Backstrom (1-3-1, .911 save percentage, SHO) has started five consecutive games, but should get a break at some point this week.

After starting out February on a three-game losing streak, Montreal (vs. CAR, BOS, @BUF, vs. NJ) has seemingly found their groove. The Habs head into the week with a four-game winning streak capped off by ruining (5-0) Mats Sundin's jersey night in Toronto last Saturday. Montreal is outscoring their opponents 15-4 during this win streak. As long as players like Max Pacioretty (four goals in the last 34 minutes of ice time) keep producing, they have a good chance to extend it against this week's inconsistent opponents.

San Jose (@WAS, TB, CAR, DET) takes the cake of ugliest schedule over the next two weeks. Starting with this Sunday night in St. Louis, the Sharks head out on a nine-game road trip. Technically they have two back-to-back games this week, with the first coming on Monday and then a back-to-back set against the Southeast Division's Lightning and Hurricanes. They then close out the week with the Red Wings at 12:30 p.m. (EST) on NBC. San Jose backup, Thomas Greiss is 3-0-1, with a .942 save percentage in four starts since the beginning of the new calendar year.

It's been almost a month since Vancouver (vs. PHO, COL, TOR, @EDM) lost in regulation. Another team heavily dependent upon the one-goal win, the Canucks are 3-0-2 this month and have outscored their opponents 17-14 in that span. This week's schedule may suggest an offensive boost or two, as Vancouver is 8-1 against their opponents over the next seven days, outscoring those teams 36-16 in their previous contests. Just be mindful that Henrik Sedin has been playing through an ankle injury.

Up until the offensive showdown with Pittsburgh this past Saturday, Winnipeg (vs. NYI, @MIN, vs. BOS, COL) has been teetering on the one-goal decisions all month. Now .500 on the month heading into a very busy week, it appears the Jets most offensive weapon is warming up. Although he missed the end of December and all of January due to injury, it's a good sign when Dustin Byfuglien (two goals, two assists in last two games) has points in consecutive games.

Team of the Week

St. Louis (@CLS, vs. NYI, MIN, @ CHI), enjoying the month of February, is playing four games this week. Winners in four of their five February games, the Blues have preferred the one-goal win variety lately. Outscoring their opponents 12-9 in the month of the groundhog, St. Louis is getting the job done and is firmly planted within the top five of the conference. T.J. Oshie is on the rise again as well, three points in his last two games.

TV Time (all games EST)

Feb. 13: Sharks at Capitals; 7:30 p.m. on NBCSports Network
Feb. 14: Ducks at Wild; 7:30 p.m. on NBCSports Network
Feb. 15: Bruins at Canadiens; 7:30 p.m. on NBCSports Network
Feb. 19: Devils at Canadiens; 6 p.m. on NBCSports Network

Regional games on NBC Sunday

Feb. 19: Penguins at Sabres; 12:30
Feb. 19: Blues at Blackhawks; 12:30
Feb. 19: Sharks at Red Wings; 12:30
Feb. 19: Bruins at Wild; 3:30

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Player News
Boyd Gordon
Oilers' Gordon In Line To Serve As No. 3 Center
Boyd Gordon, C, EDM
9/18/2014
News: Boyd Gordon is expected to serve as the Oilers' No. 3 center to begin the season, ESPN.com's Pierre LeBrun reports.
Analysis: Though filling the hole at the second-line center spot is the more pressing need for the Oilers, it appears that rookie Leon Draisaitl or Mark Arcobello will be given the opportunity to do so before Boyd Gordon does. Gordon is serviceable two-way depth center for the Oilers, but he doesn't offer enough offensive upside to keep up with the likes of David Perron and Nail Yakupov on the wings. Look for Gordon to finish with another season where he hovers around the 20-point mark.

Ilya Bryzgalov
Wild Talking To Bryzgalov About Tryout
Ilya Bryzgalov, G, MIN
9/18/2014
News: Minnesota has approached Ilya Bryzgalov about coming into training camp on a tryout, the Minneapolis Star Tribune reports.
Analysis: With Josh Harding suffering an ankle injury this summer and Darcy Kuemper unsigned and threatening to play overseas, the Wild may bring back Ilya Bryzgalov to serve as Niklas Backstrom's backup.

Josh Harding
Wild's Harding Ruled Out Indefinitely
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3:17 PM
News: Josh Harding has been ruled out indefinitely with a fractured right foot sustained in an off-ice incident Sept. 14.
Analysis: Josh Harding will fortunately be able to avoid surgery on the foot, but the injury more than likely dashes his chances of playing in the Wild's season opener. More details surrounding the nature of Harding's injury should become available in the coming days, but expect his stock to fall considerably in drafts as the season approaches. Harding already came with plenty of built-in health risk due to his complications with multiple sclerosis that have prematurely ended each of his last two seasons, so the injury only further damages his standing. Look for either Niklas Backstrom, Darcy Kuemper or perhaps a currently unsigned goalie to compete for No. 1 duties in training camp.

Max Domi
Domi Could Make Big Contribution
Max Domi, C, ARI
11:24 AM
News: Max Domi, who had a brilliant 93 point campaign for London in the OHL in 2013, is being looked to crack the Coyotes' lineup and add scoring, according to Sarah McLellan of the Arizona Republic.
Analysis: Max Domi's offensive ability is not in question, but coach Dave Tippett will need to be assured that he can handle his defensive duties in order for Domi to get the kind of ice time he needs to reach his potential.

Jaden Schwartz
Schwartz Remains Unsigned
Jaden Schwartz, LW, STL
11:05 AM
News: Jaden Schwartz, a restricted free agent, remains unsigned with one day left before camp opens, reports Andy Strickland of Fox Sports Midwest.
Analysis: Reports suggest that Jaden Schwartz and the Blues remain far apart. The 22 year-old had a break out season with 56 points and a plus-28 rating. It is unlikely that he will miss time in the regular season and hopefully any time he misses in camp does not cause him to get off to a slow start.

Justin Braun
Sharks Sign Braun To Five-Year Extension
Justin Braun, D, SJ
10:53 AM
News: Justin Braun, who set career bests with 17 points, four goals, and 13 assists last season, has inked a five-year, $19 million extension with the Sharks, which will begin in the 2015-16 season.
Analysis: Justin Braun's strengths for fantasy lie in his 20:59 of average ice time last year, but his value in other categories is generally limited. Though he occupies a prominent place on the Sharks' penalty kill, the aforementioned career-highs are nothing that will get you drafting him in early rounds. It's a great signing for the Sharks, but strictly from a real-life perspective.

Nathan Horton
Jackets' Horton Still Fighting Back Issues
Nathan Horton, RW, CLB
10:44 AM
News: Though he's fully recovered from his abdominal and shoulder injuries, Nathan Horton will be limited in the early stages of training camp due to lingering back issues, Shawn Mitchell of the Columbus Dispatch reports.
Analysis: Nathan Horton appeared poised to enter his second training camp with the Blue Jackets at full health, but it didn't take long for him to succumb to another injury. While this latest ailment doesn't appear nearly as concerning as the abdominal and shoulder injuries that both required surgery over the last 14 months, it's difficult to rely on Horton staying upright over the course of a full season. If he's somehow able to dispatch the myriad health concerns that have plagued him the last several seasons, 50-point potential exists here. For right now, however, that projection probably appears overly optimistic.

Ryan Johansen
Jackets' Johansen Seems Headed For A Holdout
Ryan Johansen, C, CLB
9:06 AM
News: Blue Jackets GM Jarmo Kekalainen dropped strong hints that the club would stop negotiating with Ryan Johansen's agent once training camp begins on Thursday, the Columbus Dispatch reports.
Analysis: Meanwhile, club president John Davidson described agent Kurt Overhardt's contract proposals as "embarrassing" and "absurd", and said that while the Jackets are using Matt Duchesne's bridge deal as a reasonable point of comparison, Overhardt has been tossing around names like Stamkos and Toews. Public statements like these are clearly a negotiating tactic, but the Jackets do have enough depth at center that they could try to survive the loss of Ryan Johansen, last season's top scorer, by shifting Boone Jenner into the middle or possibly giving a prospect like Alexander Wennberg a long look.

Kris Letang
Pens' Letang At 100 Percent In Advance Of Camp
Kris Letang, D, PIT
9/16/2014
News: Kris Letang, who suffered a stroke nearly eight months ago, has been working out without any complications this summer and should be a full participant for the start of training camp, Josh Yohe of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reports.
Analysis: In addition to the stroke, Kris Letang was limited to 37 games last season due to a knee injury and an elbow infection. Though he's the ultimate health risk after missing 99 games over the last three seasons, but few blueliners possess as much skill offensively as Letang, who still accumulated 11 goals and 11 assists in limited action in 2013-14. Letang compiled 50 points in his last full season in 2010-11, and that peak could be in reach again if he can avoid any long-term health complications.

Derrick Pouliot
Pens' Pouliot Not Expected To Be Ready For Camp
Derrick Pouliot, D, PIT
9/16/2014
News: Penguins coach Mike Johnston said Tuesday that Derrick Pouliot (shoulder) likely won't be ready for training camp, Josh Yohe of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reports.
Analysis: Johnston said that Derrick Pouliot, one of the team's top prospects, would likely be able to take part in some skating at the start of camp, but he'll be held out of contact drills until further notice. The former No. 8 overall draft pick accumulated 17 goals and 53 assists over 58 games last season with the WHL's Portland Winterhawks.

 
 
 
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