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Right on Schedule: Final week offers fireworks

by | Rotowire.com
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While you're tempted to switch all your Fantasy energies over to the pending MLB season and you're thinking the rest of the NHL season is red tape, think again. For our last schedule analysis, we'll break down four teams in each conference, most of them vying for the remaining two playoff spots in each conference. With several of them playing each other, it's going to be a sizzling final week in the NHL's regular season.

NHL schedule

Going through the motions

First, let's take care of some variables. Playing four games, the Lightning (vs. WAS @MON @TOR @WPG) do not have much left to play for. Even with a full eight-point sweep of the week the Lightning still fall one point short of Washington's current team point total. ... If you own a goalie on any of the following teams playing two games this week you may want to re-think your roster. The barely squeaking Blackhawks (@MIN @DET) fortunately already locked up their playoff spot. The Flames (vs. VAN vs. ANH) will host two before closing up shop for the summer. The Avalanche (vs. CLS vs. NSH) are scheduled off until Thursday and have very slim playoff hopes even after beating Calgary 4-1 last Friday. Although they do play Columbus (@PHO, @COL vs. NYI) on Thursday, the Blue Jackets haven't exactly been pushovers, winning three straight heading into the final week.

Most likely candidates

Eastern Conference

Losers of two straight, the up-and-down Buffalo Sabres (vs. TOR @PHI @BOS) are currently trailing the Capitals by two points, and both teams have three games remaining. Buffalo is a combined 4-7-2 against this week's opponents. One to watch: Although Tyler Ennis continues to be one of the most productive Sabres, it's Jason Pominville and Thomas Vanek that may provide the most offense. Pominville (six goals, nine assists) and Vanek (six goals, six assists) have a combined 27 points this season against this week's opponents.

After surviving the weekend with not one, but two blown leads only to win in a shootout each time, the cardiac kids of the NHL are the Washington Capitals (@TB vs. FLA @NYR). The Caps will literally have fate in their own hands with not only a chance to make the playoffs but a chance to win the Southeast division. Washington is a combined 7-5-1 against this week's opponents. One to watch: With Nicklas Backstrom (concussion) just coming back, the offensive expectation is on Alex Ovechkin and Alexander Semin for the final week of the season. However you may be surprised that Jason Chimera could be the wild card for the Caps. Chimera has a combined five goals and four assists in 13 games against this week's opponents.

Also losers of two straight, if the Florida Panthers (vs. WPG @WAS vs. CAR) are to continue their spring slide and actually fall to second place in the Southeast, it could cause a domino effect of changes here. Florida is a combined 7-5-1 against this week's opponents. One to watch: Kris Versteeg has had a great year against Winnipeg, scoring six goals, grabbing two assists in just four games. Against Washington (0 points in 4 games) and Carolina (2 points) is a different story. Look for the usual contributors Tomas Fleischmann and Brian Campbell to be the big punch this week in Florida. In 15 games against this week's all divisional schedule, Fleischmann has seven goals and six assists while Campbell has 13 assists this season against this week's opponents.

With only three games remaining, the Winnipeg Jets (@FLA @NYI vs. TB) could end up the spoiler here, especially on Tuesday in Florida. Winnipeg is a combined 6-4-3 against this week's opponents. One to watch: Yes, Evander Kane has been quiet lately, but regardless of playoff berth, the Jets still have a bit of pride to play for and Kane figures to be a part of that. Kane has a combined seven goals, six assists in ten games against this week's opponents.

Western Conference

On the outside looking in, the Dallas Stars (vs. SJ @NSH vs. STL) had their chance last weekend to take over the eighth and final playoff spot. The Sharks won that game 3-0, leaving the Stars losers of two straight and limping into the final week. The Sharks lead the season series 4-1. Overall Dallas is 4-7 against this week's opponents. One to watch: Mike Ribeiro had a very streaky (four goals, 10 assists) March, registering a point in just about every other game. If the Stars are going to survive and go past the first round, there's no two ways, it's going to have to be cause of Ribeiro. Ribeiro particularly has liked the Predators this season, scoring three goals and two assists in just three games against Nashville.

Much like Washington, headed into Monday's action, the San Jose Sharks (@DAL @LA vs. LA) have the most control over their spring plans. With one game against aforementioned Stars and a home-and-home series with Los Angeles, it's going to be an exciting week for the NHL in California. San Jose is 6-3 against this week's opponents. One to watch: Logan Couture (30 goals, 30 assists) is in the midst of the biggest goal-scoring dry spell (10 games without a goal) in his short NHL career. Will it continue? Couture has a combined four goals and three assists in nine games against the Stars and Kings this season.

Of all the teams in the Pacific and Western conference still battling it out, the Los Angeles Kings (vs. EDM vs. SJ @SJ) have the most to lose. Currently first in the Pacific and third in the conference, the Kings will host the Oilers and then prepare for the Sharks. With Jeff Carter (ankle) out, the Kings may need their defense and goaltending to weather the storm. Los Angeles is a combined 3-2-2 against this week's opponents. One to watch: Drew Doughty and Willie Mitchell will be an integral part of any run the Kings have this season. Mitchell has two assists and is a plus-3 in four games against San Jose this season while Doughty has three assists against the Sharks.

Though tied with Los Angeles for the lead in the Pacific, the Phoenix Coyotes (vs. CLS @STL @MIN) are actually seventh in the conference. However, with a bit of determination and lower strength of schedule, it could be the Coyotes celebrating by the end of the week. After hosting the suddenly warm Blue Jackets (lead season series 3-0), the Coyotes will play the Blues and Wild on back-to-back nights to end the regular season. Phoenix is a combined 1-7-1 against this week's opponents. One to watch: While Ray Whitney (24 goals, 51 assists) has been the talk of the town in Phoenix this season, you may want to keep the other eye on Radim Vrbata. Vrbata (33 goals, 27 assists) has a combined 56 points in 95 career games against this week's opponents.

Resting for the road ahead

A lot of teams who have already clinched their ticket to the playoffs are now looking ahead of this week. Teams like the Rangers (@PHI @PIT vs. WAS) that are still attempting to lock up the President's Trophy may not rest as much as you think. However, be cognizant of teams like Nashville (vs. MIN vs. DAL @COL), who may elect to rest Pekka Rinne and in the process sharpen Anders Lindback for what is expected to be a deep run by Nashville.

TV Time

As for TV Time this week, it's chalk-filled with some terrific match-ups that include teams jockeying for a final playoff spot as well as some possible preview matches for what's to come in the post-season. A week of action so exciting you'll need to evict everyone from the living room to enjoy!

April 2: Capitals at Lightning, 7 pm (NBC Sports)

April 3: Penguins at Bruins, 7:30 pm (NBC Sports)

April 4: Red Wings at Blues, 7:30 pm (NBC Sports)

April 5: Rangers at Penguins, 7 pm (NBC Sports)

April 6: Coyotes at Blues, 8:30 pm (NBC Sports)

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Player News
Devan Dubnyk
Wild's Dubnyk Going For Game 3
Devan Dubnyk, G, MIN
5/6/2015
News: Devan Dubnyk will be between the pipes for Tuesday's Game 3 against the Blackhawks.
Analysis: Devan Dubnyk has hardly looked sharp in the first two games of the series, stopping just 58 of 65 shots (.892 save percentage). With the Wild now down 2-0 as the series shifts to Minnesota, the team will need the Masterson Trophy nominee to come up huge to keep their playoff hopes alive. During 20 regular-season starts at the Xcel Energy Center, Dubnyk went 12-7-1 with a 2.01 GAA and .922 save percentage.

Kris Versteeg
Blackhawks' Versteeg To Sit Out Game 3
Kris Versteeg, RW, CHI
5:00 PM
News: Kris Versteeg (lower body) will not play in Tuesday's Game 3 against the Wild, Tracey Myers of CSN Chicago reports.
Analysis: Kris Versteeg demonstrated some progress by traveling with the Blackhawks to Minnesota, but he'll sit out a third straight contest with the injury. Teuvo Teravainen, who has tallied a point in each of the first two games of the series, will continue to skate on Chicago's third line.

Justin Fontaine
Wild's Fontaine Out For Game 3
Justin Fontaine, RW, MIN
4:57 PM
News: Justin Fontaine (lower body) will not play in Tuesday's Game 3 against the Blackhawks, Chad Graff of the St. Paul Pioneer Press reports.
Analysis: Justin Fontaine will sit for a second straight game while he contends with the injury. Kyle Brodziak slots in as the Wild's fourth-line right wing.

Bryan Bickell
Hawks' Bickell Leads NHL In Hits
Bryan Bickell, LW, CHI
4:57 PM
News: Bryan Bickell leads the NHL in hits going into Game 3 off the Stanley Cup Western Conference semifinals on Tuesday night.
Analysis: Bryan Bickell has 58 hits through eight games which is overshadowing his lack of scoring in the playoffs which is only two assists. He had 11 hits and 12 hits in Game 1 and 2 respectively against the Wild. Coming into the series with the Wild, Bickell had Minnesota's number In 23 games against the Wild the past three seasons, Bickell has scored 15 goals, 20 points and is a plus-11, but it appears that Hawks' coach Joel Quenneville wants him to take a more physical approach.

Nathan Beaulieu
Habs' Beaulieu Practices Tuesday
Nathan Beaulieu, D, MON
4:19 PM
News: Nathan Beaulieu (upper body) took part in practice Tuesday for the Canadiens, Sportsnet.ca reports.
Analysis: The Canadiens have already ruled Nathan Beaulieu out for the next two games of their Eastern Conference quarterfinal series with the Lightning, but his return to practice could allow him to return as soon as Game 5. His progress will be monitored over the next several days.

David Desharnais
Habs' Desharnais Expected To Suit Up In Game 3
David Desharnais, C, MON
2:34 PM
News: David Desharnais (illness) has joined the team in Tampa and is expected to play in Wednesday's Game 3, Renaud Lavoie of TVA Sports reports.
Analysis: David Desharnais was hospitalized Sunday due to the illness, but after receiving some fluids, it looks like he's now approaching full health. Though the center isn't a primary scorer for the Habs, his proficiency in the faceoff circle and as an assist man are skills the team will need to overcome a 2-0 series deficit.

Andrew Ladd
Jets' Ladd To Have Hernia Surgery Friday
Andrew Ladd, LW, WPG
2:28 PM
News: Andrew Ladd will undergo surgery Friday to address a sports hernia, Paul Friesen of the Winnipeg Sun reports.
Analysis: With several months to go before training camp, Andrew Ladd's availability shouldn't be at risk to begin the season. Despite playing through the sports hernia prior to the Jets' elimination in the first round of the playoffs, Ladd still finished with a career season, netting 24 goals, 62 points, and a plus-9 rating over 81 regular-season contests.

Frederik Andersen
Ducks' Andersen Gets Nod For Game 3
Frederik Andersen, G, ANA
2:17 PM
News: Frederik Andersen will be in the crease for Tuesday's Game 3 against the Flames, Eric Stephens of the Orange County Register reports.
Analysis: John Gibson appears to be recovered from his bout with the flu at this point, but coach Bruce Boudreau won't think twice about going away from Frederik Andersen in goal. The netminder is a perfect 6-0 thus far in the postseason, posting a 1.64 GAA and .942 save percentage. He'll square off against Karri Ramo in the opposite net as the series moves to the Saddledome.

Raphael Diaz
Flames' Diaz Set To Return
Raphael Diaz, D, CGY
10:25 AM
News: Raphael Diaz (lower body) is slated to play Tuesday against the Ducks, Pat Steinberg of Sportsnet.ca reports.
Analysis: Based on the team's pre-game skate, Raphael Diaz -- who last suited up on April 2 -- figures to work on the Flames' third defensive pairing Tuesday, along with David Schlemko.

Eric Fehr
Caps' Fehr Still Out
Eric Fehr, RW, WAS
10:13 AM
News: Eric Fehr (shoulder) won't play in Wednesday's Game 4 against the Rangers, Alex Prewitt of the Washington Post reports.
Analysis: Coach Barry Trotz acknowledged that it might be tough to find a spot for Eric Fehr in the team's lineup right now, but that of course could change if a Caps' forward gets injured on Wednesday.

 
 
 
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