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Right on Schedule: Use your time wisely

by | Rotowire.com
  •  

Efficient defense and goaltending is leading the way in the NHL this season. More interesting, each of the 10 teams in the Southeast and Pacific divisions are still in the playoff hunt. It's going to be an interesting final month to see which teams are the spoilers, contenders and pretenders. So let's see how the playoff bubble(s) could factor into your Fantasy lineups.

NHL schedule

Thick of the race (all points headed into Sunday's action)

Western Conference

7. Phoenix, 78 points Coming from a very tight Pacific division race both the Phoenix Coyotes (vs. NSH @VAN @CAL @EDM) and San Jose Sharks have a bit of an advantage playing four games this week. The strangest part of Phoenix's success as of late has been their ability to call-up youngsters and have them immediately impact the team scoring. With Martin Hanzal's status (upper-body) still day-to-day, the ‘Yotes brought up center Marc-Antoine Pouliot, who just like David Runblad last week, paid immediate dividends. In his first game back in the NHL, Pouliot had two assists in a big 3-0 win over San Jose this past Saturday, giving him four assists in 10 NHL games this season. The shutout over San Jose is a big momentum builder for Mike Smith as well, after starting out 0-3 (79 saves against 90 shots) in the month of March. Runblad and Pouliot are not the only fresh faces from Portland-AHL helping out. Defenseman Michael Stone has a goal and two assists (plus-3) in three games since being called up again. Left-winger Raffi Torres has a goal in consecutive games for the first time since October. Typically over the span of his career, Torres gets going in the month of March (21 career goals). Phoenix is a combined 8-3-1 against this week's opponents.

8. Colorado, 76 points: It's going to be a strange week for the Colorado Avalanche (vs. ANH @BUF @NJ @NYR), who are desperately trying to hang onto a playoff spot. Set aside the blitzing (9-1) of the lackluster Wild in a home-and-home series last week, the Avs lost 4-2 to the Preds and barely scathed by the Oilers 3-2 at home. That's after losing 2-0 and 5-1 to the Jackets and Penguins respectively to begin the month. Now Colorado will try to balance themselves inside the bubble while playing two teams for the first time this season. Bad news: Matt Duchene is out again after injuring his ankle against Minnesota. Good news: Steve Downie did return to the lineup in Saturday's 3-2 win over Edmonton, registering one hit. Semyon Varlamov (6-2, .957, 2 SHO since February 22nd) is finally starting to take command of this number one job. Do you have some Avs players? They can be seen on NBCSports network twice this week. Colorado is a combined 3-1 against this week's opponents.

9. San Jose, 75 points: Of all the teams still floundering around, the San Jose Sharks (@EDM @CAL vs. NSH vs. DET) are playing most like they just want to go home. For the Sharks, 2-8-3 over their last 13 games, the real challenge begins this week for the busy men in teal. Regardless of their record over the last few weeks, the Sharks have the most opportunity of any NHL team to turn things around, playing 15 games over final four weeks of the season. The problems begin with their power-play (six games without a goal) and end with the uncertainty of their goalies. Antti Niemi is 0-3-2 (.917) in his five starts this month. Meanwhile Thomas Greiss (15-12, 2.55 GAA) hasn't started since giving up four goals to Minnesota on Feb. 26. Having a hard time scoring (outscored 14-6 in March), right-winger Martin Havlat (hamstring) has begun skating with the team again. With a schedule that gets progressively harder, the Sharks will look to lean on Joe Thornton and Joe Pavelski for some offensive punch. The two have combined for 27 points this season against this week's opponents, including six from each against a very stingy Nashville team. San Jose is a combined 6-3-2 against this week's opponents

Eastern Conference

8. Washington, 74 points: On paper, of the three teams currently in the thick of the Eastern's eighth and final playoff seed, the Washington Capitals (@NYI @WPG @CHI) seem to have the most talent. But with Mike Green suspended, both Alexander Semin and Alex Ovechkin having been quieted after a February revival, things are looking more and more bleak. Brooks Laich has certainly chimed in with two important goals this month, but is it enough? Playing for the first time since Feb. 20, defenseman Roman Hamrlik (plus-1) returned to the lineup last Saturday. Hamrlik immediately soaked up 18 shifts for 13:29 of ice time in Green's absence. Obviously Coach Hunter is going to run with the "What have you done for me lately" goalie factor. With the Caps headed to the road, let it be known Tomas Voukon is 8-11-1 while Michal Neuvirth is 4-7-2 on the road. Washington is a combined 3-3-1 against this week's opponents.

9. Winnipeg, 72 points: It's do-or-die time for the Winnipeg Jets (vs. DAL vs. WAS vs. CAR). They're certainly glad to be back at home this week, as their 11-19-5 road record suggests they prefer to play hockey at the MTS Centre. Problem is, after three at home this week, Winnipeg will play seven of their last 10 games in white. After finally showing some life, grabbing 14 points in 14 February games, though Dustin Byfuglien has gone quiet (one assist) in March, he's still a plus-6. Blake Wheeler on the other hand is riding a four-game goal scoring streak and has been a offensive leader (eight goals, 15 asissts) by example. As for Ondrej Pavelec (17-9-3 at home), you're free to roll with him one last week. But consider ditching the weight headed into next week as his 8-14-4 and 3.38 GAA suggest a downturn. For now, two games against divisional opponents could make or break Jets' divisional title chances. Winnipeg is a combined 5-2-1 against this week's opponents.

10. Buffalo, 72 points: Someone smack me in the face, because somehow Lindy Ruff has the Buffalo Sabres (vs. MON vs. COL @FLA) still in this race. After all their injuries, it seems as if the Sabres may have enough momentum to beat out Winnipeg and Washington. The Sabres, 7-2-1 since late February, have seven of their remaining 13 games at home. Tyler Ennis has been playing center more as of late and it appears his production is running upward. The key will be getting fully healthy and staying there. Wingers Thomas Vanek (upper-body) and Patrick Kaleta (neck) as well as defenseman Andrej Sekera may come back this week. Cody Hodgson (-1) has yet to nab a point in a Sabres jersey. If Buffalo is going to leap into the playoffs, it's going to take more consistent production from Ennis (two goals, one assist), Ville Leino (two goals, one assist), Tyler Myers (one goal, one assist) and Jason Pominville (one goal, two assists) in March. On a positive note, Christian Ehrhoff is awakening, having registered four points (one goal, three assists) in six March games. Buffalo is a combined 5-1-1 against this week's opponents.

Four-Game Week

Last in their conference, the Montreal Canadiens (@BUF vs. OTT @OTT vs. NYI) have very little left to play for. After going 2-0-1 last week, defeating both division rivals Washington and Tampa Bay, the Carolina Hurricanes (@NYR vs. STL @MIN @WPG) are still hanging on, just seven points out of a playoff spot and eight points out of a division title. The Philadelphia Flyers (vs. NJ @NYI @BOS vs. PIT) have a fairly difficult schedule this week, taking on several conference favorites, including state-rival Pittsburgh on NBC Sunday action. Eight points out of the final playoff spot, the Anaheim Ducks (@COL vs. DET vs. LA vs. NSH) play four strong or determined teams, but three at home. The Calgary Flames (vs. SJ vs. PHO @EDM vs. CLS) are 3-1-1 this month and 7-3-4 against this week's opponents. Whose playoff chances will be spoiled by the Edmonton Oilers (vs. SJ vs. CLS vs. CAL vs. PHO)? Top ten in the NHL for least goals allowed, the Nashville Predators (@PHO @SJ @LA @ANH) are dying to get their hands on Alex Radulov, but what if they don't, can they make it to the conference finals anyway?

Back-to-back alert and short schedules

Carolina, Montreal, Ottawa, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Calgary, Colorado, Columbus, Dallas, Detroit, Los Angeles, Nashville, Phoenix and San Jose will all play on back-to-back nights, so stay alert if you own a goalie from any of the aforementioned teams. Meanwhile, both Vancouver and Minnesota will have light, two-game schedules.

TV Time (all games EST)

March 12: Ducks at Avalanche, 9 p.m., NBC Sports

March 13: Hurricanes at Rangers, 7:30 p.m., NBC Sports

March 14: Avs at Sabres, 7:30 p.m., NBC Sports

March 18: Penguins at Flyers, 12:30 p.m., NBC

March 18: Capitals at Blackhawks, 7 p.m., NBC Sports

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Player News
Zac Rinaldo
Rinaldo Traded To Bruins
Zac Rinaldo, C, PHI
12:47 AM
News: The Flyers traded Zac Rinaldo to the Bruins on Monday for a third-round draft choice in the 2017 NHL Draft, NHL.com reports.
Analysis: Zac Rinaldo, who tallied one goal and six points to go along with 109 penalty minutes in 58 games for Philadelphia this past season, adds depth and grit to the B's forward mix, but he's presumably ticketed for a fourth-line/agitator role that limits his fantasy utility to PIM-heavy formats.

Chris Pronger
Flyers Deal Pronger's Contract To Coyotes
Chris Pronger, D, PHI
12:30 AM
News: Chris Pronger was dealt to the Coyotes over the weekend along with defenseman Niklas Grossmann in exchange for forward Sam Gagner, a conditional fourth-round draft pick in 2016 or a third-round pick in 2017, Sarah McLellan of the Arizona Republic reports.
Analysis: Chris Pronger's playing career came to an end during the 2011-12 season due to post-concussion issues and an eye injury, but he still has two years remaining on the seven-year, $34.5 million contract he inked with the Flyers in the summer of 2009. His contract will cost the Coyotes $575,000 over both of the next two seasons and carries a cap hit of just under $5 million annually, which will help Arizona in their attempt to meet the league's salary-cap minimum. The 40-year-old Pronger, who was hired by the NHL's Department of Player Safety last season, is eligible to be voted into the Hockey Hall of Fame this week.

Carl Hagelin
Ducks Extend Qualifying Offer To Hagelin
Carl Hagelin, LW, ANA
6/29/2015
News: Carl Hagelin was given a qualifying offer by the Ducks on Monday, the Los Angeles Times reports.
Analysis: This was a foregone conclusion after the Ducks acquired Carl Hagelin, a restricted free agent, from the Rangers at the draft. He's likely in for a raise this season and could see an uptick in minutes in his new digs, but Hagelin's offensive limitations -- mostly his mediocre shooting ability -- make him best suited for a third-line role.

Jakob Silfverberg
Ducks Give Silfverberg Qualifying Offer
Jakob Silfverberg, LW, ANA
6/29/2015
News: Jakob Silfverberg was given a qualifying offer by the Ducks on Monday, the Los Angeles Times reports.
Analysis: After making $850,000 last season, Jakob Silfverberg looks to be in line for a significant raise following his 39-point regular season and 18 points in the playoffs. He should also be looking at regular second-line work for the Ducks next season, which could lead to a scoring breakout for the highly talented Swede.

Ryan Spooner
Bruins Give Qualifying Offer To Spooner
Ryan Spooner, C, BOS
6/29/2015
News: The Bruins have extended a qualifying offer to Ryan Spooner, Joe Haggerty of CSN New England reports.
Analysis: The nimble centerman is thus almost certain to return to Boston for 2015-16, and as things stand now, it looks like he's got the inside track on the third-line center job, with some power-play time to boot -- assuming the Bruins don't bring some depth in during free agency. If he does find his way into a regular role, Ryan Spooner's playmaking ability will make him useful in deeper fantasy formats.

Paul Postma
Jets Qualify Postma
Paul Postma, D, WPG
6/29/2015
News: Paul Postma has been given a qualifying offer by the Jets, the Winnipeg Sun reports.
Analysis: Despite huge offensive success in the AHL -- Paul Postma has 68 points in his last 87 games in the minors -- the Albertan blueliner has never been able to win himself more than bottom-pairing minutes with the Jets so far. As a result, he's never scored more than nine points in an NHL season. The Jets' depth on the blue line makes it likely that Postma doesn't enjoy a large role in 2015-16 either. However, he'll surely be recovered from the lower-body injury he suffered in March by the time training camp rolls around.

Klas Dahlbeck
Coyotes Qualify Dahlbeck
Klas Dahlbeck, D, ARI
6/29/2015
News: Klas Dahlbeck has received a qualifying offer from the Coyotes, Sarah McLellan of the Arizona Republic reports.
Analysis: The soon-to-be 24-year-old blueliner picked up three assists while going minus-7 in 19 games with Arizona last year after being acquired from the Blackhawks. He'll likely bounce between the AHL and NHL this season, but does have some upside -- Klas Dahlbeck picked up 10 goals and 35 points in 75 games for AHL Rockford back in 2013-14.

Brandon Gormley
Coyotes Retain Gormley
Brandon Gormley, D, ARI
6/29/2015
News: Brandon Gormley has been tendered a qualifying offer by the Coyotes, Sarah McLellan of the Arizona Republic reports.
Analysis: Thus it's fairly well assured that Brandon Gormley will spend next season in Arizona. It could be the first full NHL campaign for the No. 13 pick in the 2010 draft, who picked up four points to go with a minus-7 rating while seeing limited ice time in 27 games for the Coyotes last year.

Mikkel Boedker
Coyotes Qualify Boedker
Mikkel Boedker, LW, ARI
6/29/2015
News: Mikkel Boedker (spleen) has been tendered a qualifying offer by the Coyotes, Sarah McLellan of the Arizona Republic reports.
Analysis: The German winger saw last season end prematurely thanks to a ruptured spleen, but is expected to make a full recovery in time for training camp. It doesn't seem likely that another team will swoop in with an offer sheet for Mikkel Boedker, so he'll quite likely suit up for Arizona again in 2015-16. It could be a breakout year if he can stay healthy, as the Coyotes look like they'll have to lean heavily on Boedker, who was on an 82-game pace for his second straight 50-point season last year, picking up 14 goals and 14 assists in 45 contests.

Craig Cunningham
Coyotes Don't Qualify Cunningham
Craig Cunningham, LW, ARI
6/29/2015
News: Craig Cunningham didn't receive a qualifying offer from the Coyotes, Sarah McLellan of the Arizona Republic reports.
Analysis: He'll enter free agency coming off a season in which he recorded all of seven points in 51 games split between the Bruins and Coyotes. Craig Cunningham does have a pair of 40-plus-point seasons to his credit in the AHL, and at just 24 years old, the former fourth-round pick seems likely to catch on with another NHL franchise -- probably on a two-way deal.

 
 
 
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