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Right on Schedule: Full slates push Fantasy races

by | Rotowire.com
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Some of you owners with maximums and minimums on the mind definitely need to dissect the next 14 days carefully. With only two full weeks left in the season, a quick glance at the remaining schedule shows us 14 NHL teams are playing a full (four-game) schedule this week. Furthermore, 17 teams are playing four games next week, so it's certainly imperative to insert only the best players on your roster. Here it begins - the light at the end of the tunnel.

NHL schedule

Hanging On

Toronto (@BOS vs. NYI @NJ vs. NYR): The Leafs have merely a mathematical hope of making the playoffs. But the Jekyl-side of James Reimer (2-0 63-65) has appeared the past two games against Tampa Bay and Ottawa and has Maple Leafs loyal clammering about more than just mathematics. Toronto has games on back-to-back nights on two occurrences this week.

San Jose (vs. ANH @LA vs. BOS vs. PHO): With a tough road of fellow playoff-hungry conference rivals in their schedule, oddly enough, only Boston looks like an appealing game. Center Tommy Wingels has missed three straight games with an undisclosed upper-body injury while veteran right-winger Martin Havlat returned to the scoring sheet in a big way. Havlat grabbed two goals in just his second game back during the Sharks 3-2 win over Detroit.

Buffalo (@ TB vs. MON @NYR vs. MIN): The Sabres have been one of the most consistent teams since the trading deadline, causing a ruckus in their conference playoff hunt. Having lost two straight going into Sunday, this week's four-game schedule could put an end to that ruckus. Tyler Ennis has 15 points (seven goals, eight assists) in his last 16 games.

Los Angeles (vs. SJ vs. STL vs. BOS): Most concerning for Kings fans should be that their team will play San Jose (series tied 1-1-1) three times in the final three weeks. Right-winger Dustin Brown has not been the same since whispers of a possible trade began before the deadline. Despite being kept quiet in a 4-2 win over Nashville on St. Patrick's Day, the veteran winger has six goals and 11 assists in his last 13 games. Additionally, Brown has been a plus-9 for the Kings, who are tied for eighth in the conference headed into Sunday's action.

Tampa Bay (vs. BUF vs. EDM vs. NYI): After a showdown with the Sabres, the Lightning has a fairly low strength of schedule this week. Let's face it, though, even their GM started paying more attention to their AHL affiliate after the trading deadline. If the Lightning make the playoffs, I'll fly there for their first home game. At least the future looks good for Tampa Bay as the aforementioned Norfolk Admirals have won an AHL-record 17 straight games. What a number!

Calgary (@COL @MIN @DAL): Regardless of the fact that the Flames have half an army of role players on the injured reserve, they're hanging tough. Defenseman Mark Giordano (three goals, five assists in nine March games) appears to be heating up just in the nick of time and Lee Stempniak returned Sunday from an ankle injury.

Winnipeg (@PIT @WAS @NSH): Winnipeg had a commanding 5-2 win over Dallas, but as mentioned last week, they'll need to rely on Ondrej Pavelec, who has been less-than-stellar on the road.

Washington (@DET @PHI vs. WPG vs. MIN): If the Caps can survive the first half of their week, the second half may provide them with some breathing room on the eighth and final spot in the East. Mike Green is back, and Roman Hamrlik is back to street clothes.

Dallas (vs. PHO vs. VAN vs. CAL): Currently first in the Pacific has the Stars ranked third in the West. This can change quickly as the Stars will face three strong teams from home this week. Loui Eriksson (15 points in his last 11 games) is finally burning bright. Despite a 4-1 loss to Chicago, Kari Lehtonen is 8-1-1 in his last his last 10 starts.

Easy Pickings

Minnesota (vs. VAN vs. CAL @BUF @WAS): By far the team to pick on, players taking on the Wild could be considered easy fantasy points this week. Going into Sunday's action with Carolina, Minnesota is being outscored 32-14 in nine March games. All four of Minnesota's opponents this week have something to fight for and may bloody an already beat up Twin Cities squad. Mikko Koivu is still day-to-day for Monday's game against Vancouver. Meanwhilte, Wild.com is reporting Niklas Backstrom (groin) is nearing a return to action.

Columbus (vs. CHI vs. CAR vs. EDM): After starting out the month 5-0 and hanging tough with St. Louis and Vancouver, the Blue Jackets have lost four in a row heading into their Sunday match up with Calgary. Columbus heads home for three straight.

Losing Steam

New York Rangers (vs. NJ vs. DET vs. BUF @TOR): Losers of two in a row, the MSG faithful have their Stanley Cup contending boys at home for a busy, three of four at home. Rangers captain Ryan Callahan is back from injury and Mats Zuccarello is back from Connecticut of the AHL. Zuccarello scored the team's lone-goal in their loss to Colorado this past weekend.

Vancouver (@MIN @ CHI @ DAL @ COL): After squeaking out a 4-3 win over Columbus, no one is quite sure where to seed the Canucks. Let's see if four games away from home can help straighten the ship. Once again, talk around the British Columbia ice hockey club is to replace Roberto Luongo with Cory Schneider. Schneider (two assists this season) is 9-1-1 in his sporadic spot starts since the December 29. Defenseman Alexander Edler has three goals and an assist in his last five games. Left-winger Chris Higgins has two goals, seven assists in his last nine games and is currently riding a five-game point scoring streak.

Boston (vs. TOR @SJ @LA @ANH): Same goes here for the Bruins, who after hosting the hungry Leafs, will head out West for three games. Right-wingers Rich Peverley (torn MCL in right knee) has resumed skating, while deadline pickup Brian Rolston has a goal and an assist in last two games.

Building Momentum

Pittsburgh (vs. WPG vs. NSH @OTT vs. NJ): Though Sidney Crosby (17 points in 11 games this season) has yet to find the back of the net since coming back three games ago, he has notched five assists since Thursday. Pittsburgh has not lost in regulation since a 6-2 loss to Buffalo on Feb. 19.

Ottawa (vs. NJ @MON vs. PIT): As if Boston wasn't playing bad enough for the Sens to take over the lead in the Northeast Division, Ottawa can also attribute their new-found divisional lead to their GM Bryan Murray. In hindsight, they may turn out to have completed the most underrated trade in quite some time. Traded from St. Louis due to a traffic jam for a mere second-round draft pick (2012), goalie Ben Bishop (3-1-2) has been everything he was at the AHL level. The Sens are gearing up for a deep run this year with a rookie goalie that may have the chops to get it done. Last week the Canadian (TOR, MON) rivalry, this week a few east coast visitors for Bishop.

St. Louis (@ANH @LA @PHO): The Blues are the first team to eclipse 100 points in the 2011-12 campaign. How they handle this road-trip against those clawing to make the playoffs could make for an interesting week. Left-winger Jaden Schwartz made the most of first NHL shot on goal, scoring during his debut this past weekend. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports a bit of good new on the horizon as Jason Arnott (general soreness) should return to the Blues' lineup this week, possibly Wednesday against Anaheim. Andy McDonald began treatment for his injured shoulder and did some off-ice stick-handling drills.

Your CBS Stream

Still no return date for New Jersey's Travis Zajac (Achilles). Nashville's Paul Gaustad (upper body) did not play Sunday against the Ducks. Rene Bourque had a goal and five shots on net, Aaron Palushaj scored his first NHL goal and defenseman Andrei Markov played a season-high 21:49 of ice time in a losing cause as the Canadiens fell to Isles in a 3-2 shootout. Preds forward Colin Wilson was a healthy scratch for two games this past weekend. Taylor Hall (concussion) missed Sunday's night's game against Phoenix.

TV Time (all games in EST)

March 19: Devils at Rangers, 7:30 p.m., NBC Sports

March 20: Coyotes at Stars, 8 p.m., NBC Sports

March 21: Red Wings at Rangers, 7:30, NBC Sports

March 25: Wild at Caps, 5 p.m., NBC Sports

March 25: Predators at Blackhawks, 7:30 p.m., NBC Sports

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Player News
Derick Brassard
Rangers' Brassard Will Play Saturday
Derick Brassard, C, NYR
12:52 AM
News: Derick Brassard (illness) will play Saturday against the Hurricanes, Andrew Gross of The Record reports.
Analysis: Coach Alain Vigneault signed off on Derick Brassard's return after he was able to take part in the team's morning skate. The center missed the Rangers' last two contests with the mumps virus.

Ryan Carter
Wild Activate Carter (Upper Body)
Ryan Carter, C, MIN
12:50 AM
News: Ryan Carter (upper body) was activated from injured reserve Saturday, Rachel Blount of the Minneapolis Star Tribune reports.
Analysis: After missing the Wild's previous three games, Ryan Carter was cleared to return after practicing Friday. He'll be reinserted on the fourth line for Saturday's game against the Predators.

Jonathan Quick
Kings Tap Quick For Saturday Start
Jonathan Quick, G, LA
12:48 AM
News: Jonathan Quick led the Kings on to the ice for pregame warmups and will thus get the start Saturday against the Coyotes, Elliott Teaford of the Los Angeles Daily News reports.
Analysis: Jonathan Quick will likely be a heavy favorite to come away with the victory against a Coyotes squad that has lost eight of its last 10 games, with its lone two wins during that stretch coming against the sad-sack Oilers. The netminder hasn't been particularly sharp lately, so this should represent a good bounce-back opportunity for him.

Matt Cooke
Wild's Cooke (Hip) Activated For Saturday's Game
Matt Cooke, LW, MIN
12:44 AM
News: Matt Cooke (hip) was activated from injured reserve Saturday and will suit up against the Predators, Rachel Blount of the Minneapolis Stat Tribune reports.
Analysis: He'll replace Justin Fontaine in the lineup, joining Charlie Coyle and Nino Niederreiter on the Wild's third line. Matt Cooke last played on Oct. 28 before missing the last 22 games with a hip flexor.

Jonas Hiller
Flames To Start Hiller Saturday
Jonas Hiller, G, CGY
12:31 AM
News: Jonas Hiller will get the start in net Saturday, Scott Cruickshank of the Calgary Herald reports.
Analysis: Jonas Hiller and the Flames have hit the skids in December, as Calgary has lost seven straight and Hiller has lost six in a row. Until they right the ship, Hiller should be avoided, especially with his mates giving him a grand total of four goals combined in his last four outings.

Jake Allen
Allen, Blues Looking For Road Victory
Jake Allen, G, STL
12:16 AM
News: Jake Allen will be between the pipes Saturday against the Sharks, Jeremy Rutherford of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports.
Analysis: Things have started to turn ugly for Jake Allen here in December, despite the fact that he's won each of his last three starts. He's posted a horrid .884 save percentage in five outings this month, which has resulted in him yielding more work to Martin Brodeur than anticipated. Still, with a powerful offense and strong defense supporting him, the wins should keep coming rather steadily for the struggling netminder.

Antti Niemi
Sharks' Niemi To Take Aim At Seventh Straight Win
Antti Niemi, G, SJ
12:13 AM
News: Antti Niemi will be between the pipes Saturday night against the Blues, Kevin Kurz of CSN Bay Area reports.
Analysis: Antti Niemi will take aim at his seventh straight victory Saturday, though he hasn't been as consistently sharp as the winning streak would suggest. During that stretch, he's surrendered three goals or more on three occasions, but did manage to capture his second shutout of the season. He'll have his work cut out for him against the Blues, who rank sixth in the NHL in goals and fifth in shot attempts per game.

Jannik Hansen
Canucks' Hansen OK After Collapse
Jannik Hansen, RW, VAN
12/20/2014
News: After collapsing on the bench in the second period of Saturday's game against the Flames, Jannik Hansen was deemed okay after being checked out at a local hospital.
Analysis: This is good to hear after what was a scary incident. However, we still don't know exactly what caused the collapse or whether Jannik Hansen will be available for Monday's home matchup against Arizona. For now, he is considered day-to-day.

Brett Connolly
Bolts' Connolly Gets Sixth Goal Of Season
Brett Connolly, RW, TB
12/20/2014
News: Brett Connolly scored the Lightning's only goal in a 3-1 loss to the Islanders on Saturday night. The goal was a tip in.
Analysis: It was his sixth goal in 23 games, but funny enough -- those are the only points he has this season. And he hasn't picked up an assist since 2011-12. He has talent, but he needs to show more to be fantasy relevant.

Andrei Vasilevskiy
Bolts' Vasilevskiy: 45 Saves In Loss
Andrei Vasilevskiy, G, TB
12/20/2014
News: Andrei Vasilevskiy made 45 saves in Saturday's 3-1 loss to the Islanders. He allowed two goals.
Analysis: He was nursing a shutout until the 16:51 mark of the third period when the floodgates opened up. The Isles notched two goals in 12 seconds and then found the empty net, too. He has allowed just three goals in two games this season and is a solid activation while Ben Bishop is out.

 
 
 
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