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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
Lars Eller
Habs' Eller Done With Lower-Body Injury
Lars Eller, C, MON
2/2/2015
News: Lars Eller suffered a lower-body injury in Sunday's game against the Coyotes and will not return, Dave Stubbs of the Montreal Gazette reports.
Analysis: Lars Eller returned to the bench after suffering the injury, but it must have been worse than he first thought, as he will now sit for the remainder of Sunday's tilt. His next chance to return will come Tuesday against the Sabres, and he should receive an updated status at some point prior to the opening faceoff.

Scott Hannan
Sharks' Hannan Misses Practice Sunday
Scott Hannan, D, SJ
2/2/2015
News: Scott Hannan did not skate in practice Sunday, Kevin Kurz of CSN Bay Area reports.
Analysis: It's unclear when exactly Scott Hannan's injury occurred, assuming that is the case, but he reportedly still could play tomorrow. Over 38 games this season, the blueliner has recorded just one point.

Devan Dubnyk
Wild's Dubnyk Gets The Start Sunday
Devan Dubnyk, G, MIN
2/2/2015
News: Devan Dubnyk will start in net against the Canucks on Sunday according to the Wild's telecast.
Analysis: Devan Dubnyk is coming off a great outing in which he stopped all of the 30 shots he faced en route to a 1-0 win over the Flames. He will look to find that magic again Sunday as the Wild wrap up a three-game road trip.

Derek Dorsett
Canucks' Dorsett (Neck) Playing Sunday
Derek Dorsett, RW, VAN
2/2/2015
News: Derek Dorsett (neck) is in the lineup Sunday against the Wild.
Analysis: Derek Dorsett took part in Saturday's practice, making it a decent bet he would return to the lineup. That is indeed the case, as he will look to add to his 14-point total he carries into the contest.

Johnny Boychuk
Isles' Trying To Sign Boychuk
Johnny Boychuk, D, NYI
2:39 PM
News: The Islanders and Johnny Boychuk have begun negotiations on a new contract, according to the Islanders Point Blank.
Analysis: These negotiations aren't expected to end anytime soon but where once it looked unlikely that Johnny Boychuk would end up re-signing with the Islanders, now it may be unlikely that he leaves. The Isles have also received inquiries if they would be interested in trading Boychuk should these negotiations break down, but that seems highly improbable at this time.

Tye McGinn
Sharks' McGinn (Undisclosed) Misses Practice
Tye McGinn, LW, SJ
1:08 PM
News: Tye McGinn (undisclosed) did not skate in Sunday's practice, Kevin Kurz of CSN Bay Area reports.
Analysis: Tye McGinn exited Saturday's contest against the Blackhawks in the first period and did not return due to the injury. His status for Monday's game against the Oilers appears to be in doubt, which could leave the door open for Daniil Tarasov to make his NHL debut.

Dustin Byfuglien
Jets' Byfuglien Collects 14 PIM In Loss
Dustin Byfuglien, D, WPG
12:54 PM
News: Dustin Byfuglien picked up 14 PIM in Saturday's loss to the Stars.
Analysis: Dustin Byfuglien is contributing in almost every fantasy category, racking up 12 goals, 33 points, 97 PIM, 152 shots on goal, and a plus-8 rating in 51 games this season. Averaging a whopping 23:05 of ice time, Big Buff is a great fantasy play in almost all formats. Keep him rolling.

Tyler Seguin
Stars' Seguin Cashes In On Power Play
Tyler Seguin, C, DAL
12:42 PM
News: Tyler Seguin dished out three power-play assists and had a game-high nine shots on goal in Saturday's win over Winnipeg.
Analysis: Tyler Seguin's superior season continues, as his 56 points are second-most in the league, while his 204 shots on goal are next to only Alexander Ovechkin. On pace for 90 points, Seguin is an automatic roll whenever he's in action.

John Klingberg
Stars' Klingberg Records Three PP Points In Win
John Klingberg, D, DAL
12:33 PM
News: John Klingberg recorded a goal and two assists on the power play and added an even-strength tally in Saturday's win over Winnipeg.
Analysis: What a monster night for the 22-year-old, who logged 22:23 of ice time, including a whopping 7:17 of man advantage time. He's got five goals and 11 points in his last eight games, giving him 24 points in 35 games on the season. This rising stud has had seven multi-point outings this season and is playing on the top power-play unit with Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn. Do you really need any more reasons to grab him off the waiver wire? Snag him while you can, as he's the real deal.

Curtis McElhinney
Blue Jackets' McElhinney Takes Loss
Curtis McElhinney, G, CLB
12:24 PM
News: Curtis McElhinney was beaten by the Lightning on Saturday, giving up three goals on 34 shots in a 3-1 loss.
Analysis: Curtis McElhinney has now surrendered three goals in each of his last three starts, managing a single win against Washington. Columbus has had a rotten go of it this season, with a plethora of injuries to key players like Brandon Dubinsky, Nathan Horton and -- on multiple occasions -- workhorse netminder Sergei Bobrovsky, who is currently sidelined for another three-to-five weeks with a groin ailment. McElhinney has never appeared in more than 28 games in a season during his seven-year NHL career, so it'll be interesting to see how he holds up if coach Todd Richards keeps turning to him in Bobrovsky's absence. As of now, he's carrying a 5-8-1 record, a 3.00 GAA and a .907 save percentage through 18 appearances.

 
 
 
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