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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 McDonagh
Rangers' McDonagh Likely To Play Friday
Ryan McDonagh, D, NYR
12:45 AM
News: Ryan McDonagh (shoulder) appears likely to return from IR to play Friday against the Flyers, Andrew Gross of The Record reports.
Analysis: Out since Nov. 1 with a separated shoulder, Ryan McDonagh has been practicing since Tuesday and was paired up with regular partner Dan Girardi at Thursday's session, suggesting he'll be ready to go Friday. The Rangers won't hold a morning skate Friday due to the 1:00 p.m. ET puck drop, so McDonagh's return to lineup likely wouldn't be announced until pregame warmups.

Francois Beauchemin
Ducks' Beauchemin Questionable For Friday
Francois Beauchemin, D, ANA
12:41 AM
News: Francois Beauchemin (upper body) is questionable to play Friday versus the Blackhawks, Eric Stephens of the Orange County Register reports.
Analysis: Francois Beauchemin hasn't been practicing since exiting Tuesday's game against the Flames with the injury. The odds would seem against him suiting up Friday, but his outlook could change if he's able to take part in the team's morning skate.

Matt Hendricks
X-Rays Come Back Negative For Oilers' Hendricks
Matt Hendricks, C, EDM
11/27/2014
News: X-rays taken on Matt Hendricks' injured leg came back negative.
Analysis: Matt Hendricks took a puck off his kneecap in Thursday's game, but he avoided a serious injury, and was only having trouble bending his leg after the game. Consider Hendricks day-to-day moving forward.

Jussi Jokinen
Panthers' Jokinen Pointless In Last Four Games
Jussi Jokinen, LW, FLA
11/27/2014
News: Jussi Jokinen has not recorded a single point in his last four games and has only recorded two shots on goal.
Analysis: Although he has gone dry in the last four games, Jussi Jokinen is currently tied for the team lead in points with 12 (2G, 10A). Jokinen has found himself playing on the third line for most of the season, but his value comes on the power play, where he is averaging 2:45 minutes per game. He leads the team with four PP points and is second on the team with 18 PIM. Jokinen's career shooting percentage is 13.1% and this season he is only sitting at 6.5%, therefore his goal scoring totals should increase while his percentages move toward his career average.

Brandon Pirri
Panthers' Pirri With Assist In Debut On The Wing
Brandon Pirri, C, FLA
11/27/2014
News: Brandon Pirri notched an assist while playing his first game on the wing, in Wednesday's 1-0 win against the Hurricanes.
Analysis: The natural center was shifted to play on the right wing with Nick Bjugstad and Jonathan Huberdeau for Wednesday's game against Carolina. The good news for Brandon Pirri is he is playing on a line that features the two hottest players on the team right now in Bjugstad and Huberdeau, the bad news is we don't know how long it will last. When asked about the new line after the game, coach Gerard Gallant responded with "I loved [the newly formed line] in the first period; I didn't like it much the second and third because there were too many chances against them and they weren't skating the same". If that trend continues, Pirri could easily see himself playing on a bottom six line. For the time being, he should produce some points while playing with his new linemates.

Dan Boyle
Rangers' Boyle Claims First Point
Dan Boyle, D, NYR
11/27/2014
News: Dan Boyle collected his first point of the season with a first-period power-play goal in Wednesday's loss to the Lightning.
Analysis: Dan Boyle has yet to get going after a broken hand cost him entire month of action, but Thursday's goal could spark his production. Though he's long past his peak at 38 years old, Boyle's presence on a top power-play unit ripe with talent should allow him to finish the season as an above-average source of offense from the blue line.

T.J. Brodie
Flames' Brodie Dishes Out Two In Win
T.J. Brodie, D, CGY
11/27/2014
News: T.J. Brodie assisted on both of the Flames' goals in Wednesday's 2-0 victory over the Sharks.
Analysis: There hasn't been a more dynamic defensive pairing so far this season than Mark Giordano and T.J. Brodie, who have combined for an incredible 44 points over the Flames' 24 games. That level of production probably won't be sustained over the course of the full season, but it's clear that both blueliners are premier talents at their positions. Somewhere in the neighborhood of 45 to 50 points could be a realistic benchmark for Brodie.

Adam Lowry
Jets' Lowry Docked One Game For Boarding
Adam Lowry, LW, WPG
11/27/2014
News: Adam Lowry has been suspended one game for boarding the Sabres' Patrick Kaleta in Wednesday's match.
Analysis: As a rookie, Adam Lowry doesn't have any track record for malicious hits, so the league office went relatively light on him for the first-time violation. Lowry collected 15 penalty minutes for his transgressions Wednesday night, doubling his PIM total from the previous 23 games combined. He'll be eligible to return to action Dec. 3 against the Oilers.

Corban Knight
Flames Bring Back Knight
Corban Knight, C, CGY
11/27/2014
News: Corban Knight was recalled from AHL Adirondack on Thursday, NHL.com's Aaron Vickers reports.
Analysis: Corban Knight was assigned to Adirondack just a day earlier, but it sounds like he never left the team. The Flames were simply waiting for Devin Setoguchi to clear waivers, and since that situation is now resolved, Knight will take his spot back on the 23-man roster.

Ryan Garbutt
Two-Game Suspension For Stars' Garbutt
Ryan Garbutt, LW, DAL
11/27/2014
News: Ryan Garbutt was suspended two games for kneeing the Oilers' Taylor Hall in Tuesday's match, NHL.com's Mark Stepneski reports.
Analysis: As he is often wont to do, Ryan Garbutt was pestering the Edmonton star throughout the game but went a little overboard with eight minutes remaining in the third period, clipping Hall with his knee and earning a two-minute minor for tripping. The banishment will keep him out of action until the Stars' Dec. 2 game against the Maple Leafs.

 
 
 
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