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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
Boyd Gordon
Oilers' Gordon In Line To Serve As No. 3 Center
Boyd Gordon, C, EDM
9/18/2014
News: Boyd Gordon is expected to serve as the Oilers' No. 3 center to begin the season, ESPN.com's Pierre LeBrun reports.
Analysis: Though filling the hole at the second-line center spot is the more pressing need for the Oilers, it appears that rookie Leon Draisaitl or Mark Arcobello will be given the opportunity to do so before Boyd Gordon does. Gordon is serviceable two-way depth center for the Oilers, but he doesn't offer enough offensive upside to keep up with the likes of David Perron and Nail Yakupov on the wings. Look for Gordon to finish with another season where he hovers around the 20-point mark.

Ilya Bryzgalov
Wild Talking To Bryzgalov About Tryout
Ilya Bryzgalov, G, MIN
9/18/2014
News: Minnesota has approached Ilya Bryzgalov about coming into training camp on a tryout, the Minneapolis Star Tribune reports.
Analysis: With Josh Harding suffering an ankle injury this summer and Darcy Kuemper unsigned and threatening to play overseas, the Wild may bring back Ilya Bryzgalov to serve as Niklas Backstrom's backup.

Victor Rask
Canes' Rookie Rask Invited To Training Camp
Victor Rask, C, CAR
5:16 PM
News: Victor Rask has been invited to the Hurricanes' training camp after impressing the coaching staff at the annual Traverse City prospects tournament, the Raleigh News & Observer reports.
Analysis: The 21-year-old Victor Rask will now compete for a roster spot after finishing the tournament with eight points in four games. "[Rask] played well all four games," GM Ron Francis said. "He has very good hockey sense and was good at both ends of the rink, and on special teams. He was consistent, every shift, every game." Bottom line, Rask will face some stiff competition in his attempt to crack the Canes' roster. It will be interesting to see how he fares in camp against seasoned NHL veterans. Monitor closely.

Josh Harding
Wild's Harding Ruled Out Indefinitely
Josh Harding, G, MIN
3:17 PM
News: Josh Harding has been ruled out indefinitely with a fractured right foot sustained in an off-ice incident Sept. 14.
Analysis: Josh Harding will fortunately be able to avoid surgery on the foot, but the injury more than likely dashes his chances of playing in the Wild's season opener. More details surrounding the nature of Harding's injury should become available in the coming days, but expect his stock to fall considerably in drafts as the season approaches. Harding already came with plenty of built-in health risk due to his complications with multiple sclerosis that have prematurely ended each of his last two seasons, so the injury only further damages his standing. Look for either Niklas Backstrom, Darcy Kuemper or perhaps a currently unsigned goalie to compete for No. 1 duties in training camp.

Max Domi
Domi Could Make Big Contribution
Max Domi, C, ARI
11:24 AM
News: Max Domi, who had a brilliant 93 point campaign for London in the OHL in 2013, is being looked to crack the Coyotes' lineup and add scoring, according to Sarah McLellan of the Arizona Republic.
Analysis: Max Domi's offensive ability is not in question, but coach Dave Tippett will need to be assured that he can handle his defensive duties in order for Domi to get the kind of ice time he needs to reach his potential.

Jaden Schwartz
Schwartz Remains Unsigned
Jaden Schwartz, LW, STL
11:05 AM
News: Jaden Schwartz, a restricted free agent, remains unsigned with one day left before camp opens, reports Andy Strickland of Fox Sports Midwest.
Analysis: Reports suggest that Jaden Schwartz and the Blues remain far apart. The 22 year-old had a break out season with 56 points and a plus-28 rating. It is unlikely that he will miss time in the regular season and hopefully any time he misses in camp does not cause him to get off to a slow start.

Justin Braun
Sharks Sign Braun To Five-Year Extension
Justin Braun, D, SJ
10:53 AM
News: Justin Braun, who set career bests with 17 points, four goals, and 13 assists last season, has inked a five-year, $19 million extension with the Sharks, which will begin in the 2015-16 season.
Analysis: Justin Braun's strengths for fantasy lie in his 20:59 of average ice time last year, but his value in other categories is generally limited. Though he occupies a prominent place on the Sharks' penalty kill, the aforementioned career-highs are nothing that will get you drafting him in early rounds. It's a great signing for the Sharks, but strictly from a real-life perspective.

Nathan Horton
Jackets' Horton Still Fighting Back Issues
Nathan Horton, RW, CLB
10:44 AM
News: Though he's fully recovered from his abdominal and shoulder injuries, Nathan Horton will be limited in the early stages of training camp due to lingering back issues, Shawn Mitchell of the Columbus Dispatch reports.
Analysis: Nathan Horton appeared poised to enter his second training camp with the Blue Jackets at full health, but it didn't take long for him to succumb to another injury. While this latest ailment doesn't appear nearly as concerning as the abdominal and shoulder injuries that both required surgery over the last 14 months, it's difficult to rely on Horton staying upright over the course of a full season. If he's somehow able to dispatch the myriad health concerns that have plagued him the last several seasons, 50-point potential exists here. For right now, however, that projection probably appears overly optimistic.

Ryan Johansen
Jackets' Johansen Seems Headed For A Holdout
Ryan Johansen, C, CLB
9:06 AM
News: Blue Jackets GM Jarmo Kekalainen dropped strong hints that the club would stop negotiating with Ryan Johansen's agent once training camp begins on Thursday, the Columbus Dispatch reports.
Analysis: Meanwhile, club president John Davidson described agent Kurt Overhardt's contract proposals as "embarrassing" and "absurd", and said that while the Jackets are using Matt Duchesne's bridge deal as a reasonable point of comparison, Overhardt has been tossing around names like Stamkos and Toews. Public statements like these are clearly a negotiating tactic, but the Jackets do have enough depth at center that they could try to survive the loss of Ryan Johansen, last season's top scorer, by shifting Boone Jenner into the middle or possibly giving a prospect like Alexander Wennberg a long look.

Kris Letang
Pens' Letang At 100 Percent In Advance Of Camp
Kris Letang, D, PIT
9/16/2014
News: Kris Letang, who suffered a stroke nearly eight months ago, has been working out without any complications this summer and should be a full participant for the start of training camp, Josh Yohe of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reports.
Analysis: In addition to the stroke, Kris Letang was limited to 37 games last season due to a knee injury and an elbow infection. Though he's the ultimate health risk after missing 99 games over the last three seasons, but few blueliners possess as much skill offensively as Letang, who still accumulated 11 goals and 11 assists in limited action in 2013-14. Letang compiled 50 points in his last full season in 2010-11, and that peak could be in reach again if he can avoid any long-term health complications.

 
 
 
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