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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
Ryan O'Reilly
Sabers Reach Extension With O'Reilly
Ryan O'Reilly, C, BUF
10:30 AM
News: Ryan O'Reilly, recently acquired by the Sabres over draft weekend, signed a long-term extension with the team Friday, The Buffalo News reports.
Analysis: The team paid a pretty hefty price for Ryan O'Reilly (and Jamie McGinn), moving defenseman Nikita Zadorov, forward Mikhail Grigorenko, prospect J.T. Compher, and the 31st overall pick in the 2015 Draft. So it's no surprise they wanted to lock him in for the long haul, in a deal that's expected to be for over $7 million a season when officially announced. O'Reilly is expected to center the top line, with rookie Jack Eichel quarterbacking the No. 2 line as the Sabres try to pull off a quick, successful rebuild.

John Ramage
Ramage Signs Two-Way Deal With Columbus
John Ramage, D, CGY
10:03 AM
News: John Ramage signed a one-year, two-way deal with the Blue Jackets on Friday, NHL.com reports.
Analysis: John Ramage was not tendered a qualifying offer by the Flames last month, making him an unrestricted free agent. The defenseman spent the majority of the season at AHL Adirondack, tallying three goals and 12 assists in 57 games. He'll likely spend the bulk of 2015-16 in the AHL.

Jake Allen
Blues' Allen Signs Two-Year Extension
Jake Allen, G, STL
9:59 AM
News: Jake Allen signed a two-year extension with the Blues on Friday, NHL.com repots.
Analysis: The 24-year-old led all goalies with 22 wins last season while posting a 2.28 GAA and .913 save percentage. He'll remain the unquestioned No. 1 goalie for the Blues going forward.

Luke Adam
FA Adam Agrees To Terms With Rangers
Luke Adam, C, CLB
8:01 AM
News: Luke Adam agreed to terms with the Rangers on Friday.
Analysis: The 25-year-old spent most of last season in the AHL, appearing in 73 games for the Rochester Americans and registering 16 goals and 26 assists. He saw time in only three NHL games for Columbus, recording four penalty minutes. Luke Adam will likely again see time at both the AHL and NHL levels next season.

Jordan Caron
Caron Signs Two-Way Deal With Blues
Jordan Caron, RW, COL
12:59 AM
News: Jordan Caron signed a one-year, two-way contract with the Blues on Thursday.
Analysis: Jordan Caron saw time with the Bruins and Avalanche last season, but failed to register a single point in 30 games. The Blues boast an overwhelming stable of talent at forward, so it seems unlikely that he'll be able to claim a roster spot with the team out of training camp. Look for him to head to AHL Chicago to open the 2015-16 campaign.

Robert Bortuzzo
Blues Agree To New Contract With Bortuzzo
Robert Bortuzzo, D, STL
12:56 AM
News: Robert Bortuzzo agreed to a two-year, $2.1 million contract with the Blues on Thursday, Jeremy Rutherford of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports.
Analysis: The Blues elected to retain both Robert Bortuzzo and Chris Butler in free agency, likely ensuring that both players will compete for the sixth defenseman spot during training camp. In 51 games spent with the Penguins and Blues last season, Bortuzzo compiled three goals, five assists, and 93 PIM.

Slava Voynov
Kings' Voynov To Spend Three Months In Jail
Slava Voynov, D, LA
12:51 AM
News: Slava Voynov (Achilles) accepted a plea deal Thursday for his domestic assault charges and will spend 90 days in jail and face three years of probation, ESPN.com's Katie Strang reports.
Analysis: Slava Voynov was arrested on charges of domestic violence back in October and suspended indefinitely by the league. The defenseman has yet to be reinstated by the NHL, which will conduct its own investigation before making a ruling on his eligibility. Further complicating matters is that the Kings have instituted their own suspension on Voynov for suffering a torn Achilles tendon in a non-hockey related activity this past spring. His future with the Kings and in the NHL remains up in the air, and it's uncertain when a resolution might be reached.

Tyson Strachan
Strachan Signs Two-Way Deal With Wild
Tyson Strachan, D, MIN
12:43 AM
News: Tyson Strachan signed a one-year, two-way contract with the Wild on Thursday, Chad Graff of the St. Paul Pioneer Press reports.
Analysis: Tyson Strachan was able to stick in the NHL with the Sabres all of last season, but he'll face a much more difficult ascent up the depth chart on a deep Minnesota squad. The 30-year-old didn't help his cause by registering only five points in the 46 games he played with the Sabres in 2014-15, production that doesn't hint at much upside if he's able to earn ice time with the Wild.

Cole Schneider
Sens Sign Schneider To One-Year Deal
Cole Schneider, LW, OTT
12:34 AM
News: Cole Schneider signed a one-year, two-way contract with the Senators on Thursday.
Analysis: The 24-year-old Cole Schneider will more than likely return to AHL Binghamton for the fourth straight season. He recorded 29 goals and 58 points in 69 games for Binghamton in 2014-15.

Cameron Schilling
Hawks Sign Schilling
Cameron Schilling, D, CHI
12:34 AM
News: The Blackhawks signed Cameron Schilling to a two-year, two-way contract Thursday, the Chicago Tribune reports.
Analysis: Cameron Schilling, who spent the bulk of the 2014-15 season with AHL Hershey, recording three goals and 15 assists in 63 games, will bolster Chicago's depth on defense, but he's off fantasy radar in all but the deepest of formats.

 
 
 
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