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Right on Schedule: Final week offers fireworks

by | Rotowire.com
  •  

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 Miller
Canucks' Miller Makes 31 Saves In Preseason Loss
Ryan Miller, G, VAN
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News: Ryan Miller gave up four goals on 35 shots in Monday's preseason loss to the Coyotes.
Analysis: It was a strong outing for Ryan Miller, who saw his team get largely outplayed for the majority of the game. Miller is now 1-1-0 in the preseason and enters this season as the Canucks' clear-cut starting goaltender.

Al Montoya
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Al Montoya, G, FLA
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Analysis: Al Montoya had the inside edge for the gig by virtue of his contract being larger than Ellis', but his play in the preseason justified his emergence as the victor in the job battle. The 29-year-old proved highly capable as a backup for the Jets last season, posting a 13-8-3 record, 2.30 GAA and .920 save percentage. However, Luongo is a far better talent in goal than Montoya's chief competition in Winnipeg (Ondrej Pavelec), so the backup might actually notice a decrease in usage in his first season in South Florida.

Roberto Luongo
Panthers' Luongo Sharp In Preseason Debut
Roberto Luongo, G, FLA
12:50 AM
News: Roberto Luongo allowed one goal on 18 shots while working two periods in Saturday's exhibition loss to the Predators.
Analysis: The lone goal Roberto Luongo allowed was somewhat fluky, as the goalie's skate got caught on his uniform to prevent him from blocking the shot with his foot. All in all, Luongo was sharp in his first preseason tune-up. He'll be locked in for a large workload as the Panthers' No. 1 netminder this season.

Greg Zanon
Panthers Waive Zanon
Greg Zanon, D, FLA
12:45 AM
News: Greg Zanon was waived by the Panthers on Sunday, Harvey Fialkov of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel reports.
Analysis: The 34-year-old blueliner never had much of a chance at cracking the Panthers' Opening Night roster. Alex Petrovic, Colby Robak and MacKenzie Weegar remain in a battle for the team's seventh defenseman job.

Bobby Butler
Panthers' Butler Waived
Bobby Butler, RW, FLA
12:43 AM
News: Bobby Butler was waived by the Panthers on Sunday, Harvey Fialkov of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel reports.
Analysis: With Bobby Butler losing out on winning a spot on the Panthers' fourth-line, he'll likely clear waivers and report to AHL San Antonio. He compiled 22 goals and 25 assists in 69 AHL games last season.

Joey Crabb
Panthers Waive Crabb
Joey Crabb, RW, FLA
12:41 AM
News: Joey Crabb was waived by the Panthers on Sunday, Harvey Fialkov of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel reports.
Analysis: Joey Crabb is expected to clear waivers and report to AHL San Antonio, where he totaled 15 goals and 14 assists over 62 games. He appeared in nine games with the Panthers last season and could be up again at some point in 2014-15 if the team is need of depth on the fourth line.

Luke Gazdic
Oilers' Gazdic Gets In Full-Contact Practice
Luke Gazdic, LW, EDM
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News: Luke Gazdic (shoulder) took part in a full-contact practice Sunday, Derek Van Diest of the Edmonton Sun reports.
Analysis: Luke Gazdic, who is recovering from offseason shoulder surgery, finally seems to be nearing the finish line, though he's still not deemed ready to play. The 25-year-old hopes to get enough practice time in to be ready for Opening Night. He'll be tasked with playing an enforcer role for the Oilers on the checking line, making him a useful source for penalty minutes and little else.

Jakob Silfverberg
Ducks' Silferverg Expected To Land On Second Line
Jakob Silfverberg, RW, ANA
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News: Jakob Silfverberg is expected to serve as a second-line player for the Ducks this season, Eric Stephens of the Orange County Register reports.
Analysis: After earning the trust of coach Bruce Boudreau during the postseason, Jakob Silfverberg will have the opportunity to flank Ryan Kesler, which should allow him to surpass last season's totals of 10 goals and 13 assists over 52 games. A former MVP in the Swedish Elite League, the 23-year-old Silfverberg may not fully breakout this season, but a 60-point campaign could eventually be realized in the coming years.

Joshua Morrissey
Jets' Morrissey Jockeying For Roster Spot
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News: Joshua Morrissey remains in contention for an Opening Night roster spot with the Jets, Joanne Ireland of the Edmonton Journal reports.
Analysis: The 2013 first-rounder paired up with Jacob Trouba in Monday's exhibition against the Oilers, providing Jets fans with a glimpse of their future top pairing. Joshua Morrissey didn't do much in his 17:49 of ice time Monday (minus-2, one hit, one block) and is generally expected to head back to his junior team at the end of camp, but he's probably not far away from making an impact in the NHL.

Evander Kane
Jets' Kane Sits Out Monday's Preseason Contest
Evander Kane, LW, WPG
12:16 AM
News: Though he was generally expected to play in Monday's exhibition against the Oilers, Evander Kane ended up sitting out the contest.
Analysis: It's not believed that Evander Kane is dealing with any sort of injury, so perhaps the Jets just decided the winger could use a little more rest in advance of the regular season. He'll likely return to preseason action Tuesday and for the games thereafter, which should afford the coaching staff plenty of time to determine where he fits best. He's expected to receive an audition with Mark Scheifele and Blake Wheeler on the top line, a combination that could help Kane unlock the 60-point potential that exists within him.

 
 
 
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