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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
Brad Richards
Blackhawks' Richards Sets Up Kane In Game 4 Win
Brad Richards, C, CHI
5/25/2015
News: Brad Richards assisted on Patrick Kane's game-tying power-play goal in Saturday's double-overtime victory over the Ducks in Game 4.
Analysis: Brad Richards has recorded a point in each game of the series thus far, giving the Blackhawks the offensive presence at the second-line center spot that was sorely missing during the past postseason. The 35-year-old submitted a mediocre regular season, but if he can remain productive for just a few more games, he'll be well worth the investment the Blackhawks made.

Brent Seabrook
Blackhawks' Seabrook Nets Game 4 Goal
Brent Seabrook, D, CHI
5/25/2015
News: Brent Seabrook tallied a goal in Saturday's Game 4 triumph over the Ducks.
Analysis: It was an effective all-around game for Brent Seabrook, who finished with four shot attempts, four hits, and six blocks across 32:03 of ice time. With coach Joel Quenneville showing little trust in fifth and sixth defensemen Kimmo Timonen and Kyle Cumiskey, Seabrook should be poised to log big minutes for the remainder of the postseason.

Lubomir Visnovsky
Isles' Visnovsky Could Be Headed To Austria
Lubomir Visnovsky, D, NYI
6:58 PM
News: Lubomir Visnovsky is close to signing a deal to play in Austria, according to Islanders Point Blank.
Analysis: Lubomir Visnovsky is a free agent who has suffered several concussions over the past couple of seasons and was probably not going to be re-signed by the Islanders. The Isles will miss his offensive skills, especially his ability to quarterback the power play, but in the end this may be addition by subtraction.

Matt Carle
Lightning's Carle Good To Go
Matt Carle, D, TB
4:55 PM
News: Matt Carle (undisclosed) will play in Sunday's Game 5 against the Rangers, ESPN's Mike Mazzeo reports.
Analysis: As expected, Matt Carle will rejoin the lineup after missing Friday's Game 4. He figures to work on the third defensive pairing alongside Andrej Sustr.

Ben Bishop
Lightning's Bishop Starting Game 5
Ben Bishop, G, TB
4:48 PM
News: Ben Bishop led the Lightning onto the ice for warmups before Sunday's Game 5 against the Rangers, ESPN Boston's Joe McDonald reports.
Analysis: Lightning coach Jon Cooper said it would be "asinine" to bench Ben Bishop, who has allowed 10 goals over the last two games. Another weak outing could perhaps change Cooper's mind, but it would still be surprising if the Lightning turned away from the goaltender who carried them all season.

Henrik Lundqvist
Rangers' Lundqvist Starting Game 5
Henrik Lundqvist, G, NYR
4:46 PM
News: Henrik Lundqvist led the Rangers onto the ice for warmups before Sunday's Game 5 against the Lightning, ESPN Boston's Joe McDonald reports.
Analysis: As expected, it will be Henrik Lundqvist vs. Ben Bishop for Game 5 at MSG as both teams look to grab a 3-2 advantage in the series. Lundqvist was named first star of Game 4, after stopping 38-of-39 shots in a 5-1 victory.

Patrick Sharp
Blackhawks' Sharp Captures Assist In Game 4
Patrick Sharp, LW, CHI
1:12 PM
News: Patrick Sharp picked up an assist in Saturday's Game 4 victory over the Ducks.
Analysis: Patrick Sharp was given credit for setting up Antoine Vermette's game-winning goal, though the latter did most of the work in making the play happen. It still counts as the first point of the series for Sharp, who has nonetheless been one of the Blackhawks' best contributors this postseason. He's compiled four goals, six assists, and 45 shot attempts over the team's 14 playoff games.

Jonathan Toews
Chicago's Toews Gets Goal, Assist In Game 4
Jonathan Toews, C, CHI
1:09 PM
News: Jonathan Toews recorded a goal and an assist in Saturday's Game 4 victory over the Ducks.
Analysis: The physical Ryan Kesler has been a nuisance for Jonathan Toews all series, but the Blackhawks center finally got the better of his adversary in Game 4. He notched his first goal of the series at the 2:38 mark of the third period, then captured a secondary assist on Brent Seabrook's marker exactly five minutes later. He's now averaging a point per game in the playoffs, tallying five goals and nine assists across 14 contests.

Antoine Vermette
Chicago's Vermette Ties Series At 2-2
Antoine Vermette, C, CHI
1:05 PM
News: Antoine Vermette supplied the game-winning goal in double overtime of Saturday's Game 4 victory over the Ducks.
Analysis: After serving as a healthy scratch in Game 3, Antoine Vermette rewarded coach Joel Quenneville's decision to slot him back into the lineup by rebounding his own shot attempt and putting the puck past the Ducks' Frederik Andersen in the game's 85th minute. The center also won 14 of 20 faceoffs in the contest, which should be enough to guarantee his place in the lineup for the remainder of the series.

Patrick Kane
Blackhawks' Kane Comes Up Big In Game 4
Patrick Kane, RW, CHI
1:02 PM
News: Patrick Kane registered the game-tying goal in third period of Saturday's eventual 5-4 double-overtime triumph over the Ducks.
Analysis: Minutes after the Ducks raced back from a 3-1 deficit to take a 4-3 lead, Patrick Kane sent the United Center crowd into a frenzy when he finished off a power-play feed from linemate Brad Richards with 7:21 left to play. The 26-year-old has been spectacular in the Blackhawks' 15 playoff contests, recording nine goals and six assists.

 
 
 
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