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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
Sheldon Souray
Ducks' Souray Might Not Be Able To Keep Playing
Sheldon Souray, D, ANA
9/1/2014
News: GM Bob Murray said Sheldon Souray's career remains in jeopardy as a result of his season-ending wrist procedure in January, NHL.com's Curtis Zupke reports.
Analysis: With the beginning of training camp closing in on the Ducks, it sounds like the team is preparing for the possibility of life without Sheldon Souray for a second consecutive season. Souray hasn't received clearance to begin practicing in full, and his advancing age (he's 38 years old) certainly doesn't work to his advantage. Even if Souray is able to return to some semblance of health at some point this season, expect him to play much less than the 20:56 minutes per game he averaged in 44 contests during the lockout-shortened 2012-13 campaign.

John Gibson
Ducks' Gibson, Andersen To Battle For No. 1 Duties
John Gibson, G, ANA
9/1/2014
News: John Gibson will battle Frederik Andersen for duties as the Ducks' No. 1 netminder in training camp, NHL.com's Curtis Zupke reports.
Analysis: While Andersen, a fellow second-year goalie, probably has the advantage heading into camp since he played well in a larger sample of games than John Gibson, the 21-year-old certainly proved his mettle for the Ducks in the postseason. Thrust into action for the final four games of the team's second-round series with the Kings, Gibson saved 102 of 111 shots (.919 save%) and turned in a shutout in Game 4, convincing the Ducks to let veteran Jonas Hiller walk in free agency. With an outstanding showing in camp, Gibson could very well beat out Andersen, but there's an equally real possibility he could start the season in the minors. Both young goalies are best off playing regularly somewhere while they're still developing, so it wouldn't be surprise if veteran Jason LaBarbera ended up opening the campaign as the backup to the victor of the starting competition.

Frederik Andersen
Ducks' Andersen (Knee) Likely No. 1 to Open Camp
Frederik Andersen, G, ANA
9/1/2014
News: Frederik Andersen (knee) will likely be the Ducks' No. 1 goalie when training camp opens, NHL.com's Curtis Zupke reports.
Analysis: Both Frederik Andersen and fellow competitor for No. 1 duties John Gibson ended up surpassing incumbent Jonas Hiller on the depth chart for the Ducks during the postseason, but it was Andersen's MCL sprain in Round 2 against the Kings that allowed Gibson to leave the last impression. However, Andersen was nearly as good as Gibson over a much larger sample of starts last season, going 20-5-0 with a 2.29 GAA and .923 save percentage. The greater amount of experience confers an early advantage to Andersen in the job battle, but whomever opens the season as the No. 1 goalie will largely earn the gig based on training camp performance.

Shawn Horcoff
Stars' Horcoff Primed For Bottom-Six Duty
Shawn Horcoff, C, DAL
9/1/2014
News: Shawn Horcoff is expected to see most of his action as a bottom-six forward for the Stars this season, Mike Heika of the Dallas Morning News reports.
Analysis: Shawn Horcoff, 35, is entering the final campaign of a six-year deal and seems to have accepted his role as a depth player at this stage of his career. A former top scorer for the Oilers during his prime, Horcoff averaged just 12:51 of ice time over 77 games with the Stars in 2013-14, totaling seven goals and 13 assists. He'd do well to eclipse the 20-point mark again during the upcoming season.

Jordin Tootoo
Free Agent Tootoo Still Looking For Work
Jordin Tootoo, RW, DET
9/1/2014
News: Jordin Tootoo is unlikely to re-sign with the Predators, Joshua Cooper of The Tennessean reports.
Analysis: Jordin Tootoo, who became an unrestricted free agent in June when the Red Wings bought out his contract, is likely not a good fit to re-join the Preds, as the team has already made several free-agent pickups this summer to bolster depth. Tootoo recorded just a single assist in 11 games for Detroit last season, and spent most of his time in the AHL. His best days as an NHL forward - and viable fantasy option - are likely behind him at this point.

Nazem Kadri
Leafs' Kadri: Working To Improve Shot Release
Nazem Kadri, C, TOR
8/31/2014
News: Nazem Kadri has been working on his shot over the summer and is looking to put up a lot more points this season, reports Sportsnet.ca. "Every single year I like my production to go up and up, so I want to get better [in terms of] goals, points, assists, plus/minus, time on ice," he said. "These are all things I think about and can improve on."
Analysis: He's been in the gym working on wrist curls and strengthening his forearms and shoulders to improve his shot. "I've really been working on my shot and my release, knowing a lot of NHL goalies can't be beat without a quick release," said Nazem Kadri. "The power doesn't necessarily have to be there, but the release definitely does. I'm trying to score a few more goals and get more pucks on net." The center once potted 35 goals in 56 OHL games with the London Knights, but he will be hard pressed to replicate that scoring rate in the NHL. Still, he could certainly be in line for an improvement over his 20 goals from last season and 60 points could be in the offing.

Sheldon Brookbank
Flames Invite Brookbank To Training Camp
Sheldon Brookbank, D, CHI
8/31/2014
News: The Flames have extended a tryout to Sheldon Brookbank at their training camp in the fall, the Calgary Sun reports.
Analysis: Sheldon Brookbank spent the past two seasons with the Blackhawks, and collected two goals and five assists in 48 games last season. He will get a shot at the sixth or seventh defenseman spot, and his experience may give him an early edge.

Eric Staal
Canes' E. Staal (Abdomen) Back On Ice
Eric Staal, C, CAR
8/30/2014
News: Eric Staal (abdominal surgery) was back on the ice Friday at an informal skate with the Hurricanes, reports the Raleigh News Observer
Analysis: He had surgery in late July for a core-muscle issue that was described more as an abdominal wall injury rather than a sports hernia. He had changed his offseason training approach after delivering his lowest offensive numbers in a full season since his rookie year. The injury was characterized as a training injury, but it's behind him now and he's been on the ice for 10 days. "It was frustrating," he said. "At the time of the injury I thought I was in the best shape I've ever been in." If that's the case and if he can get out of the blocks strong, Eric Staal could be in line for a fantasy rebound. But he's going to turn 30 in October, so don't expect his output to recover to his previous best.

Kimmo Timonen
Flyers Planning On Season Without Timonen (Clots)
Kimmo Timonen, D, PHI
8/30/2014
News: Kimmo Timonen (blood clots) is back in the U.S. after undergoing treatment in Finland, but the Flyers are planning as though he won't be contributing to the squad this season, reports the Courier-Post.
Analysis: "We haven't had a chance to look at him yet," general manager Ron Hextall said, "but there's something going on there" when asked if Kimmo Timonen was on a regimen of blood thinners like warfarin or herparin. Both drugs are used to prevent clots from developing in the future, but put the patient at risk of bruising and make it hard to get bleeding wounds to clot. Hockey would definitely be off-limits because of the body contact, but Timonen is making good progress.

Nicklas Grossmann
Flyers' Grossmann (Ankle) Will Be Ready For Camp
Nicklas Grossmann, D, PHI
8/30/2014
News: Nicklas Grossmann (ankle) was on the ice this week and will be ready for training camp, reports the Courier-Post. "It's a matter of just getting better and better, but I'm feeling pretty good," said the defender.
Analysis: The surgery to repair tendons in his right ankle required six-to-eight weeks of rehab. The big Swede delivered one goal, 13 assists and 55 PIMs in 78 games with the Flyers last season and should replicated those totals this season. Unfortunately, that won't make him much of a fantasy play.

 
 
 
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