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What's on Schedule: Looking for a sleeper?

by | Rotowire.com
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It's going to be a light week in the NHL, comparatively speaking. Before we can get to next week's busy schedule -- which will even feature the rare five-game schedule for one team -- let's find a trend in the calm before the storm. On the shallow end, Edmonton plays only twice this week and Washington has only seven left in the month of February. With 24 teams playing three games this week, perhaps we can find an advantage amongst the five teams playing four games.

Four Games

Name a position and the Flames have a problem there. Mikael Backlund is out 4-6 weeks with sprained MCL and Michael Cammalleri is day-to-day with a hip flexor issue. With Miikka Kiprusoff (lower body) still out after a win over Columbus Calgary (MIN, DAL, STL, @DAL) shuffled Leland Irving out there for another start against Vancouver. Not only did Irving disappoint in the 'Nucks 5-1 win, but Alex Tanguay and Dennis Wideman had their point scoring streaks snapped. Danny Taylor is also with the big club to back up Irving for now, that is of course if his skates are regulation. Your best bet this week is to bet with those playing Calgary. SLEEPER SIGHTING: Center Ben Street made his NHL debut in the Vancouver game, registering a minus-2 with two shots on goal. The 25-year-old Street has 31 points (12G, 19A) through 44 games with the Abbottsford Heat this season.

Dallas (@EDM, @CAL, @VAN, CAL), who plays Calgary in a non-traditional home-and-home this week, is starting to get some normalcy back. Alex Goligoski was back in the lineup Friday against the Ducks, and had two assists. So far, Jamie Benn is flourishing, having posted four goals, two assists in three games. Even Derek Roy (58% owned) is rolling, having posted five of his six points this season during this current four-game point streak. SLEEPER SIGHTING: He's been quiet lately, especially since he only logs about 11 or 12 minutes per game, but center Cody Eakin (8% owned) has five assists this season and is a bit of a spark plug. If the young Stars look to shake things up, Eakin might be the wrench in the normalcy spokes.

St. Louis (LA, @DET, @CAL, @VAN) is not devoid of their own issues, mostly between the pipes. Another one of the teams playing the troubled Flames will be the Blues. After the Blues face L.A. at home, it's three straight on the road. Ordinarily I'd be in their corner, especially against Calgary, but all bets are off with Brian Elliott struggling in Jaroslav Halak's (groin) absence. SLEEPER SIGHTING: When the Blues traded away Ben Bishop last season, it wasn't just because of their excellent tandem of Elliott and Halak, but to make room for Jake Allen. Allen, despite giving up two goals to a lackluster Preds team last week, it was done in relief for the pulled Elliott who struggled again this past Saturday as well. Reportedly Hitchcock was "disgusted" with Elliott's last performance. If Halak remains on the shelf, it's looking like Allen will face Los Angeles at least.

With a 2-1 win over Nashville Saturday, Minnesota (@CAL, @VAN, COL, DET) has stopped the bleeding of a three-game losing streak. Zach Parise (illness), who missed practice last week in between games, logged 30 shifts for nearly 25 minutes of ice time Saturday in the win, so his health is not a concern. However, with just one point in his last six games, his production of late is. SLEEPER SIGHTING: Former first-round pick, defenseman Jonas Brodin (three assists in 8 games) is a trendy uptick pick and I tend to agree. Keep an eye on this one.

Since their 3-2 loss in Washington on the first of the month, Philadelphia (@TOR, @WPG, @NJD, @MTL) is on the uptick themselves. The Flyers are 3-0-1 since losing to the Caps, including a 2-1 win over Tampa Bay. However, before making parade plans in Philly, they will exclusively play games on the road this week including two back-to-back occurrences as well. So you're likely to look to their goalie as a sleeper, or will you? BACK UP GOALIE STATUS: Michael Leighton gave up five goals on 26 shots faced in his only game this season. Though a small sampling, Leighton's combined GAA (2.39) in eight career games against New Jersey and Montreal is fairly decent, but not so much against Toronto or Winnipeg. Then again, don't be surprised if Ilya Bryzgalov plays three of four. Speaking of three games, the follow teams will play three games this week, at least one of which will land on ...

Back-to-Back

Having won five of their six games this month the Ducks are nearly as hot as the Hawks, who they'll travel to play Tuesday. Anaheim (@CHI, @DET, @NAS) will then play the Wings and Preds on Friday and Saturday. Viktor Fasth (54 percent) has definitely been a large part of Anaheim's February success, and now with Jonas Hiller (groin) day-to-day, Fasth moves up on the depth charts until otherwise notified. BACK UP GOALIE STATUS: If Hiller's groin issue proves to be bothersome, Jeff Deslauriers (owned by 1 percent in CBSSports.com leagues) was called up from Norfolk of the AHL where he has a 3.51 GAA with a 1-1-0 record thus far. His limited career numbers against any of this week's opponents average well above four goals a game allowed.

After posting consecutive 40-save efforts last week, Cam Ward allowed four goals in an OT-loss to the Flyers. Carolina (@NYI, @NJ, TOR) is going to need Ward to be sharp early and often with back-to-back road tilts against the Islanders (Monday) and Devils (Tuesday), before heading home to host Toronto Thursday and then nothing till next week. BACK UP GOALIE STATUS: Prior to being horrific (four goals allowed on 12 shots) in last week's 5-3 loss to Philly, Dan Ellis (11 percent) had allowed just two goals in three games. Perhaps he can right the ship.

Losers of two straight, Columbus (SJ, @LA, PHO) will host San Jose, go idle until Friday only to go back-to-back on the road with Los Angeles and Phoenix this weekend. Steve Mason (17 percent) has been fairly dependable, but a 4-2 loss to Los Angeles last Tuesday may have inspired a start for Sergei Bobrovsky (46 percent) against Calgary two nights later. BACK UP GOALIE STATUS: Of course, Bobrovsky lost that game 4-3 in overtime and neither he nor Mason has shown an aptitude in taking this job by the horns. Mason does seem to be a bit more stable, but you may want to stay away from both against this week's opponents.

New Jersey (CAR, PHI, @NYI) stays at home for Carolina, Philly on Friday then to Long Island on Saturday. BACK UP GOALIE STATUS: Not a lot to say for the most under-used back up in the NHL. Johan Hedberg (14 percent) has done well (1-0-1, 0.48 GAA) in his time played, your guess is as good as ours whether or not he plays this week.

Buffalo visits Ottawa (BUF, @PIT, TOR) for the second week in a row. The Sens will then travel to Pittsburgh the next evening. A few days rest later they'll take on Toronto for what should be a good match-up Saturday. Craig Anderson has been human (eight goals allowed, last three games) lately, but there is no dethroning going on here. BACK UP GOALIE STATUS: Ben Bishop (12%) was fantastic in the 1-0 loss to Winnipeg Saturday. Again, if we had to guess, Anderson back in between the pipes in Buffalo, leaving Bishop to take on the Pens.

Starting with Columbus (Monday) and Nashville (Tuesday), San Jose (@CLS, @NSH, @CHI) will spend the entire week on the road. The winless (0-2-2) for February Sharks will take two days off and travel to Chicago for one of Friday's marquee games. Although Antti Niemi (6-1-2) did allow four goals to Chicago earlier this month, the Sharks' woes have little to do with their netminders. BACK UP GOALIE STATUS: We stand corrected; Thomas Greiss (13 percent) is perhaps more neglected than Hedberg. The Cory Schneider of the 2013 season with a little less organizational drama is currently 1-1-0 with a scintilating 1.01 GAA in his only two starts backing up Niemi.

AROUND THE LEAGUE SATURDAY: Brent Burns (lower body) made his season debut against the Coyotes. Burns had two hits, a minor penalty and one shot on goal. What else weird could possibly get in the way of Max Pacioretty's career. This time, Mikhail Grabovski's teeth? Vancouver's Jordan Schroeder scored his first two NHL goals against the Flames. Colorado's Gabriel Landeskog (concussion) is now considered day-to-day. Despite a minus-2 against Toronto, Brendan Gallagher continues a solid stay in Montreal. Gallagher (four goals, two assists) is a plus-5 with 15 penalty minutes and 23 shots on goal in just 10 NHL games. Petr Mrazek made his NHL debut in goal last Thursday, winning 5-1 over the Blues. With Jimmy Howard's ups and downs, Detroit is certainly hoping Mrazek can provide a stability they haven't had on their bench in a long time. Both Josh Bailey (12 TOI) and Lubomir Visnovsky (20 TOI) made their season debut in the Islanders 3-2 loss to Buffalo. Ryan Nugent Hopkins (22 TOI) also returned to the Oilers line-up Saturday after missing a game last week with general soreness in his shoulder.

TV Time (all game times EST)

Monday, Feb. 11: Kings at Blues, 8 p.m., NBCSports
Tuesday, Feb. 12: Rangers at Bruins, 7:30 p.m., NBCSports
Wednesday, Feb. 13: Blues at Red Wings, 7:30 p.m., NBCSports
Thursday, Feb. 14: Capitals at Lightning, 7:30 p.m., NHL Network
Friday, Feb. 15: Ducks at Red Wings, 7:30 p.m., NHL Network
Saturday, Feb. 16: Lightning at Panthers, 3 p.m., NHL Network
Sunday, Feb. 17: Penguins at Sabres, 12:30 p.m., NBC
Sunday, Feb. 17: Kings at Blackhawks, 3:30 p.m., NBC
Sunday, Feb. 17: Capitals at Rangers, 6 p.m., 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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