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Right on Schedule: Use your time wisely

by | Rotowire.com
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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
Dustin Byfuglien
Jets' Byfuglien Collects 14 PIM In Loss
Dustin Byfuglien, D, WPG
12:54 PM
News: Dustin Byfuglien picked up 14 PIM in Saturday's loss to the Stars.
Analysis: Dustin Byfuglien is contributing in almost every fantasy category, racking up 12 goals, 33 points, 97 PIM, 152 shots on goal, and a plus-8 rating in 51 games this season. Averaging a whopping 23:05 of ice time, Big Buff is a great fantasy play in almost all formats. Keep him rolling.

Tyler Seguin
Stars' Seguin Cashes In On Power Play
Tyler Seguin, C, DAL
12:42 PM
News: Tyler Seguin dished out three power-play assists and had a game-high nine shots on goal in Saturday's win over Winnipeg.
Analysis: Tyler Seguin's superior season continues, as his 56 points are second-most in the league, while his 204 shots on goal are next to only Alexander Ovechkin. On pace for 90 points, Seguin is an automatic roll whenever he's in action.

John Klingberg
Stars' Klingberg Records Three PP Points In Win
John Klingberg, D, DAL
12:33 PM
News: John Klingberg recorded a goal and two assists on the power play and added an even-strength tally in Saturday's win over Winnipeg.
Analysis: What a monster night for the 22-year-old, who logged 22:23 of ice time, including a whopping 7:17 of man advantage time. He's got five goals and 11 points in his last eight games, giving him 24 points in 35 games on the season. This rising stud has had seven multi-point outings this season and is playing on the top power-play unit with Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn. Do you really need any more reasons to grab him off the waiver wire? Snag him while you can, as he's the real deal.

Curtis McElhinney
Blue Jackets' McElhinney Takes Loss
Curtis McElhinney, G, CLB
12:24 PM
News: Curtis McElhinney was beaten by the Lightning on Saturday, giving up three goals on 34 shots in a 3-1 loss.
Analysis: Curtis McElhinney has now surrendered three goals in each of his last three starts, managing a single win against Washington. Columbus has had a rotten go of it this season, with a plethora of injuries to key players like Brandon Dubinsky, Nathan Horton and -- on multiple occasions -- workhorse netminder Sergei Bobrovsky, who is currently sidelined for another three-to-five weeks with a groin ailment. McElhinney has never appeared in more than 28 games in a season during his seven-year NHL career, so it'll be interesting to see how he holds up if coach Todd Richards keeps turning to him in Bobrovsky's absence. As of now, he's carrying a 5-8-1 record, a 3.00 GAA and a .907 save percentage through 18 appearances.

Mike Cammalleri
Devils' Cammalleri Scores Power-Play Marker
Mike Cammalleri, LW, NJ
12:23 PM
News: Mike Cammalleri netted a game-winning power-play goal and had an assist in Saturday's win over the Panthers.
Analysis: Mike Cammalleri now has 16 goals in 38 games on the season, including a league-best six game-winning tallies. With 23 points in 38 games, the 32-year-old is a strong goal-scorer whose power-play capability make him a great fantasy option in most formats.

Steve Bernier
Devils' Bernier Tallies Two Points In Win
Steve Bernier, RW, NJ
12:19 PM
News: Steve Bernier scored an empty-net goal and had an assist in Saturday's win over the Panthers.
Analysis: Steve Bernier has picked it up of late, recording five goals and six points in his last six games. The third-liner, who has never surpassed 32 points in his career, is valuable in some very deep leagues. Considering Bernier averages just 11:31 of ice time and is known for being inconsistent, don't expect him to keep producing at this recent pace for much longer.

Ben Bishop
Bolts' Bishop Victorious Over Blue Jackets
Ben Bishop, G, TB
12:14 PM
News: Ben Bishop was solid against Columbus on Saturday, stopping 34 of 35 pucks sent his way in a 3-1 win.
Analysis: Big Ben was on track for his 10th career shutout until Jackets' stud Ryan Johansen potted his 19th of the season with less than four minutes remaining. Nonetheless, Ben Bishop has rattled off five wins in his last six starts and sits fourth in league victories with 26 on a very dangerous Lightning team. Keep rolling him.

Petr Mrazek
Wings' Mrazek Grabs Win
Petr Mrazek, G, DET
12:03 PM
News: Petr Mrazek earned his 11th victory of the season Saturday, turning aside 22 of 23 shots in a 4-1 win over the Islanders.
Analysis: Isles backup Chad Johnson coughed up four goals on 19 shots at the other end of the rink, making things rather easy for Petr Mrazek and the Wings in the matinee affair against one of the East's best clubs. The single goal against was a nice sign for owners, as Mrazek had given up 20 goals over the six prior contests. With the win, Mrazek is now 11-4-1 with pedestrian ratios (.907 save percentage, 2.66 GAA) and could continue to get the bulk of the starts in Motown while Jimmy Howard (groin) remains sidelined until approximately mid-February, though it's worth noting Jonas Gustavsson could return next week.

Adam Clendening
Canucks' Clendening To Debut Sunday
Adam Clendening, D, VAN
12:56 AM
News: Adam Clendening will make his Canucks debut Sunday against the Wild, Elliott Pap of the Vancouver Sun reports.
Analysis: The Canucks were motivated to acquire the young blueliner from the Blackhawks after Kevin Bieksa (hand) was ruled out for six to eight weeks. Adam Clendening will immediately assume a spot on the club's third pairing, joining Luca Sbisa. While he won't eat up all of Bieksa's 21:16 average TOI, Clendening should slot in on the second power-play unit, displacing Yannick Weber. The rearguard lacks much experience at the NHL level, but did show a dash of offensive potential during his four-game stint with the Blackhawks earlier in the season, tallying a goal and an assist.

Derek Dorsett
Canucks' Dorsett Returns To Practice
Derek Dorsett, RW, VAN
12:50 AM
News: Derek Dorsett (neck) took part in Saturday's practice, Jon Abbott of TSN Radio Vancouver reports.
Analysis: Derek Dorsett appeared to be a full participant in his first practice since suffering the injury Wednesday against the Ducks, taking part in battle drills with the team's other healthy skaters. Coach Willie Desjardins indicated Dorsett will be a possible lineup option for Sunday's game against the Wild, but his status likely won't be known until the Canucks hold pregame warmups.

 
 
 
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