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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
John Mitchell
Avs' Mitchell (Face) Out Second Straight Game
John Mitchell, C, COL
12:58 AM
News: John Mitchell (leg) will not play Tuesday against the Coyotes, Mike Chambers of the Denver Post reports.
Analysis: John Mitchell didn't even make the trip to Arizona for the game, as he continues to recover from the injury he's believed to have sustained last Thursday against the Capitals. Since it doesn't sound like he's resumed skating yet, it appears doubtful that Mitchell will be able to play in Wednesday's home date with the Blackhawks.

Alex Tanguay
Avs Reverse Course, Rule Tanguay Out Tuesday
Alex Tanguay, LW, COL
12:52 AM
News: Alex Tanguay (fractured jaw), who was expected to return to the lineup Tuesday against the Coyotes, will instead miss his second consecutive game, Mike Chambers of the Denver Post reports.
Analysis: After it was indicated a day earlier that Alex Tanguay wouldn't have to miss further time due to the jaw injury, coach Patrick Roy said the forward was still experiencing blurred vision and pain on the side of his head following Tuesday's morning skate. Fortunately, it doesn't sound like the setback is significant for Tanguay at the moment, so with an extra day off, the possibility exists that he could be ready to go when the Avs return home for a game Wednesday versus the Blackhawks.

Clayton Stoner
Ducks' Stoner Skates Tuesday Morning
Clayton Stoner, D, ANA
12:34 AM
News: Clayton Stoner (illness) took part in Tuesday's morning skate but doesn't think he'll be cleared to return until the weekend, Eric Stephens of the Orange County Register reports.
Analysis: Merely being on the ice amounts to a good sign for Clayton Stoner, as it was feared that he had been the latest Ducks player to succumb to the debilitating mumps virus. Stoner's symptoms were believed to be similar to the virus, but team doctors determined his particular illness wasn't contagious after he never experienced a fever. He's still need to skate for a few days to get his conditioning back up to par before coach Bruce Boudreau decides whether or not to use him Friday versus the Blackhawks.

Donald Brashear
Ex-NHLer Brashear Signs With Swedish Team
Donald Brashear, LW, ATL
12:18 AM
News: Donald Brashear signed a contract with MODO of the Swedish Hockey League on Tuesday.
Analysis: The move seemingly comes out of nowhere, as Donald Brashear hasn't played professional hockey since the 2009-10. It appears Brashear's relationship with former Flyers teammate Peter Forsberg, who serves as MODO's assistant GM, might have influenced the club's decision to bring him aboard. The long-time tough guy will be tasked with protecting MODO's stars, which most notably includes Maple Leafs prospect William Nylander, a top-10 pick in last June's NHL Entry Draft.

Sergei Bobrovsky
Jackets To Start Bobrovsky On Tuesday
Sergei Bobrovsky, G, CLB
12:10 AM
News: Sergei Bobrovsky will be in the net Tuesday against the Jets.
Analysis: Since holding the Sharks to one goal on 37 shots in his return from injured reserve Nov. 15, Sergei Bobrovsky has dropped his last three turns, yielding at least three goals in all of them. Fortunately, he'll have a good chance to turn the tide versus a struggling Jets attack that rank 29th in the NHL in scoring with 1.95 goals per game.

Bo Horvat
Horvat To Stick With Canucks
Bo Horvat, C, VAN
12:04 AM
News: Bo Horvat will remain with the Canucks rather than return to his junior team after his nine-game trial ends.
Analysis: Recalled by the Canucks earlier in November after missing the season's first month while recovering from a shoulder injury, Bo Horvat needed to impress out of the gate to warrant staying in Vancouver, and he was able to do just that. He's been especially superb over the Canucks' last two games, potting his first NHL goal on Nov. 20 and gathering three assists in Sunday's victory Sunday night. The 19-year-old could notice increased ice time after the three-assist performance, so it's certainly worthwhile to track him the next few games and possibly pick him up if he continues to thrive.

Erik Johnson
Avs' Johnson May Have Suffered Head Injury
Erik Johnson, D, COL
11/25/2014
News: Erik Johnson was knocked out of Tuesday's game, but coach Patrick Roy said Johnson seemed fine after the game, the Denver Post's Mike Chambers reports.
Analysis: The injury apparently looked pretty bad, and Chambers suggested that there would probably be tests to see if Erik Johnson sustained a concussion. It may be something that he plays through, but it's worth monitoring his status going forward.

Gabriel Landeskog
Avs' Landeskog Snaps 11-Game Goalless Drought
Gabriel Landeskog, LW, COL
11/25/2014
News: Gabriel Landeskog found twine twice in Tuesday's come-from-behind 4-3 OT win over the Coyotes.
Analysis: The tallies broke an 11-game goalless slump for the Swedish captain, who has easily been one of the biggest high-profile fantasy letdowns this season. Thankfully, Gabriel Landeskog appears to have shifted gears lately with six points, 15 shots and a plus-5 rating over the last four games. Not surprisingly, the Avs are 3-1 during that span, so things are looking up in Denver. We don't want to jump the gun, but it seems like Landy owners can finally exhale.

Brian Elliott
Blues' Elliott Out With Lower-Body Injury
Brian Elliott, G, STL
11/25/2014
News: Brian Elliott has a lower body injury and will not return to Tuesday's game, NHL.com's Lou Korac reports.
Analysis: He collided with a member of the Senators in Tuesday's game, and while the contact was incidental, it was enough to keep Brian Elliott from returning. He was replaced by Jake Allen and should be considered day-to-day.

David Jones
Flames' Jones Set To Return Wednesday
David Jones, RW, CGY
11/25/2014
News: Coach Bob Hartley said he expects David Jones (upper body) back in the lineup Wednesday versus the Sharks, Randy Sportak of the Calgary Sun reports.
Analysis: After he was able to practice fully Monday, it looked like David Jones might be an option for Tuesday's game against the Ducks, but the Flames elected to give him an additional day of recovery time. The Flames will need to send one of their current skaters to the minors in order to activate Jones, who missed four games with the upper-body injury.

 
 
 
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