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Right on Schedule: Ups and downs of a short season

by | Rotowire.com
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Not to beat a dead horse, but a lock-out shortened season can wreak havoc upon normalcy. A light week is behind us and we're begging for some "interleague" play that will never come. Get ready owners, it's time to pick apart 61 games and solidify your league lead.

Starting with the rare bird, the Halley's Comet of the NHL schedule ...

Playing five times in seven nights and eight times in 14 days will certainly provide the Islanders (PHI, @OTT, @MON, @BUF, CAR) with challenges. Though none of the five games are 'unwinnable', three straight of the five will be on the road against the Northeast Division. Last season, the Isles were 7-11-2 in such match-ups, thus far, 1-2-0. CAREER TRENDS: Evgeni Nabakov's 2.72 combined career GAA against those teams is encouraging, but can't play all five games. DiPietro (0-2-0, 4.60 GAA) has been less than pedestrian this season, losing his only two starts. However, DiPietro has a sub-3.00 career GAA against Montreal and Buffalo. Their back-to-back instances involve only Buffalo, so hang close to see how this plays out. Michael Grabner has 10 points in nine career games versus the Sabres. Matt Moulson's 25 points in 27 career games versus the Sabres and Canes is interesting as well considering his offensive prowess (goal, three assists) Saturday night.

Back-To-Back, Twice

Like the Islanders, Nashville (@COL, DET, VAN, @DET) will also play on back-to-back nights twice this week. Despite the fact that Patric Hornqvist (knee) is out, February has been pretty good for the Preds, posting a 5-2-1 record headed into last Sunday's action. This week will be their first meeting of the young season with any of the three teams. Though their combined record against them last season was 9-4-1, the absence of Hornqvist and departures of Ryan Suter and Anders Lindback leaves that stat skewed to a crisp under the circumstances. The Preds are 1-1 on the back-end of back-to-back thus far. CAREER TRENDS: Martin Erat has 84 points in 122 career games against this week's opponents. Neither Pekka Rinne nor Chris Mason are of concern to me, as Rinne is… well Rinne, and Mason has been solid in little action. I'd favor Rinne's career numbers (2.25 GAA) against Detroit, so look for Mason to possibly start against the Avs Monday and Canucks Friday.

Finding the Right Four

A depleted Red Wings squad is facing the Preds twice this week. Detroit (@NSH, CLS, NSH, VAN) can win every one of these games if they were healthy. Perhaps three at home will lift some spirits. Meanwhile, Johan Franzen's (hip) notepad update is day-to-day, Todd Bertuzzi (back) is out for again for a minimum injured reserve stay of three games. Jonas Gustavsson (groin) has been activated from the IR, so Petr Mrazek who was still slated to start against the Wild Sunday will head back to the AHL. Averaging just 12 minutes of ice time, Tomas Tatar has two goals and an assist over the last two games.

Despite their 5-1 loss to the Isles, New Jersey's (OTT, @WAS, @WAS, WPG) stingy defense has a good match up in our nation's capital, but be worried about the back end game, it could cause a kick-start to the Caps play. Marek Zidlicky, who has a goal and two assists in his last four games, has eight points in eight career games versus Washington. Look for Johan Hedberg to start at least once this week, possibly two.

After starting the week with back-to-back nights  against the Southeast, Toronto (@FLA, @TB, BUF, @OTT) will finish out the week against division rivals on regular (every other night) rest. Three on the road (6-2-0) suits the Buds just fine. Surprisingly, the biggest cog on paper is both active goalies' career record versus the Panthers. Toronto figures to start off with some bumps in the Florida games and finish out the week strong with two division rivalry matchups. Ben Scrivens is the biggest wild card, if he can keep up the good work, should be a good week for Leafs fans.

Avoiding the Wrong Four

Even after exploding for seven goals against Dallas last week, Calgary (@PHX, LA, MIN, PHX) is on our avoid list for the second week in a row. Mind you, the Stars were on the back end of a back-to-back road games and starting Richard Bachman. Not trying to hate, Michael Cammalleri (49% owned) has three goals, five assists heading into Sunday's action against the Stars. An option in some leagues, but we've all seen the technical hat trick from him before. Miikka Kiprusoff (sprained MCL) is expected to miss another two weeks at least. Things do not look good for Leland Irving (2-1-1. 3.33 GAA) as Danny Taylor has been called BACK UP from the AHL to assist recent waivers addition Joey MacDonald. MacDonald, who stopped 18 of 21 shots Saturday in the loss to St. Louis seems entrenched in the number one position until Kiprusoff returns.

Like a carcass awaiting the desert scavenger, the hopeless Columbus (@ANH, @DET, @STL, @CHI) ice hockey team could take one of the most brutal week long beatings we've seen in a long time. Their opponents combined schedule this week is 37-12-6. We went over Columbus' goalie situation last week and it's the same old song and dance this week. Still no time table on Artem Anisimov's foot/ankle, but he's just day-to-day for now. On Saturday, they had a few up and comers find twine, just don't expect too much consistency. Both Derek MacKenzie (two goals last three games) and Matt Calvert (goal, two assists last three games) contributed in Saturday's 5-3 loss to the scavenger Coyotes. If they can survive, starting next week, 10 of their next 12 games will be at home.

Things have not been good for Colorado, but the horizon is shining. Aaron Palushaj scored in his second game with the team. Matt Duchene has a three-game goal scoring streaking and five points total during that span. Jamie McGinn has a goal and three assists in his last two games. Also, Gabriel Landeskog has been skating in practice. As for the netminders, Semyon Varlamov took a beating (55 of 60) in Saturday's loss to the Oilers, but Jean-Seabastien Giguere is expected back from his personal leave on Sunday. That being said, I like Colorado's (NSH, STL, @LA, @ANH) chances at home, especially as inconsistent as the Blues have been. Though Jake Allen is no push over thus far, expect Jaroslav Halak to be back by then anyway, so could be a good game to watch. Obviously, Los Angeles doesn't scare you, but if Colorado doesn't get the momentum going early with a strong win over Nashville, the horizon could get gloomy quick.

Could go either way, but payroll-to-payroll (as always), Florida (TOR, @PHI, @PIT, BOS) has one of the toughest schedules this week. One bright spot in Miami is former first-rounder (2011) Jonathan Huberdeau has three goals in his last three games and has amassed six goals, three assists and a plus-1 in 14 games. The back-to-back road games with Philly and Pittsburgh are fairly straight up as Jose Theodore has a better career GAA against the Pens. So expect Scott Clemmensen to start against the Flyers.

Vancouver (@CHI, @DAL, @NSH, @DET) was a questionable call for this portion of our analysis. The fact that all four fairly quality opponents will be on the road pushed us off the fence. Already mired in the NHL's most talked about goalie controversy, Roberto Luongo is most likely to line up against unbeaten Chicago, then Dallas who scored four on Cory Schneider last Friday. Schneider most likely gets the start against the Preds, than back to Luongo in Detroit. No controversy at all, just a clear change in the guard. Ryan Kesler (minus-1) made his return last Friday as well, with an assist in 17 minutes of ice time.

March the Trend

Enjoy it now Edmonton (LA, MIN, PHX), your Oilers won't be home for a while. Starting next Monday, they begin a nine game road trip, including trips to the United Center TWICE. After visiting New Jersey, Ottawa (@NJ, NYI, NYR, TOR) enjoys three contests at home this week. Their home-stand ends with Montreal next Monday. At which point, the Sens will embark on a road trip that sees them play seven of their next eight games in a visitor capacity. The aforementioned Montreal (CAR, @NYR, NYI, NYR) team will embark on a very similar trip to start March. After spending the last six consecutive games on the road, the still winless (0-4-3) for February San Jose (@STL, @CHI, @DAL) ice hockey club will play three on the road this week, then three at the Shark tank next week before hitting the road again. Nine of their 15 March games will be on the road. Stretching into mid-March, Winnipeg (@BUF, @CAR, @PHI, @NJ) plays nine of their next 11 games on the road.

Little Action

Considering Washington's (NJ, NJ) struggles this season, then add in the strangest scheduled pair of consecutive home games against one of the NHL's stingiest teams. Though Braden Holtby has won three straight games, what this will most likely bring is the changing of goalie depth for Adam Oates. Using this series to decide which goalie he'll favor in running with the rest of the season would be brilliant. Same atmosphere, same team, within three days, so who ends up in front when the smoke clears, Holtby or Michal Neuvirth? Once again, that Mike Green guy is questionable for Sunday's game with a lower-body.

You think the Caps schedule is strange, wait till you see the Ducks schedule to start next month. After hosting the Wild from home March 1st, back-to-back-to-back games with the 'Yotes. As for this week, if there's ever been a team playing just twice in a week to bet on it should Anaheim's (CLS, COL) weak schedule. Bang for your buck is there considering Viktor Fasth has yet to lose an NHL start and of course his deeply (NHL ranked fifth) balanced scoring that features 11 players with at least five or more points. We wouldn't blame you if you chose Anaheim over, let's say…

Dallas (VAN, SJ) has certainly proved more comfortable (3-1-1 head into Sunday's action) working from home, but Vancouver and San Jose are no slouches. Especially with Kari Lehtonen's uncertain status, in the foreseeable future, Cristopher Nilstorp and Richard Bachman is the tandem in charge of nullifying two of hockey's biggest slumping giants. Regardless of how the Stars played last Friday in Vancouver, with the way the Stars defense is fading, these are not good match-ups.

Center Mikael Granlund has points in consecutive games. Josh Harding (illness) has officially been placed on IR, so Darcy Kuemper has been called to back up Niklas Backstrom. Justin Falk was also expected to miss Sunday's game with the Red Wings due to illness, stick close on this one. Of the four teams you weekly cats will want to exclude, Minnesota (@EDM, @CAL) will be the trickiest. Though both games will be on the road, neither is considered strong opponents. Either way, Backstrom will most likely start both games.

Tampa Bay's drought came to an end Saturday, albeit against their Florida competitors, the Panthers. Lightning can be the least of opponents' worries if this team explodes and they just got some confidence back. Boston (@TB, @FLA) was a combined 4-4-0 against the Southeast's Florida swing last season. Blue chip, blue-liner Dougie Hamilton (goal, five assists, minus-3) scored his first NHL goal Friday, but his first points in his six games. Second in team scoring, Milan Lucic (eight points) will be held out of Sunday's tilt with Winnipeg for personal reasons.

TV Time (all times in EST)

Tuesday, Feb. 19: Sharks at Blues NBCSports (8 p.m.) -- NBCSports
Wednesday, Feb. 20: Flyers at Penguins (7:30 p.m.) -- NBCSports
Wednesday, Feb. 20: Blues at Colorado (10 p.m.) -- NBCSports
Thursday, Feb. 21: Blue Jackets at Red Wings (7:30 p.m.) -- NHL Network
Friday, Feb. 22: Sharks at Blackhawks (8:30 p.m.) -- NHL Network
Saturday, Feb. 23: Devils at Capitals (Noon) -- NHL Network
Saturday, Feb. 23: Avalanche at Kings (4 p.m.) -- NHL Network
Saturday, Feb. 23: Predators at Red Wings (7 p.m.) -- NHL Network
Sunday, Feb. 24: Bruins at Panthers (3 p.m.) -- NHL Network
Sunday, Feb. 24: Lightning at Penguins (7:30 p.m.) -- NBCSports

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Player News
Mark Visentin
Coyotes' Visentin (Lower Body) Helped Off Ice
Mark Visentin, G, ARI
12:51 AM
News: Mark Visentin suffered a lower body injury during Sunday's training camp scrimmage.
Analysis: Mark Visentin was helped off of the ice, so it's possible the injury is something fairly serious, but it's too early to tell, as the report did not provide definitive details. Another update should be forthcoming once Visentin is evaluated by the team's medical staff.

Nathan Lieuwen
Sabres Start Lieuwen In Preseason Opener
Nathan Lieuwen, G, BUF
12:25 AM
News: Nathan Lieuwen will start and possibly play the whole game in their preseason opener Sunday against Washington.
Analysis: The Sabres are dressing their two AHL goalies with Nathan Lieuwen and Andrey Makarov. Lieuwen, a sixth-round pick, usurped the starting job from Matt Hackett in Rochester last year until a concussion shut Lieuwen down for the season, paving the way for Makarov to finish as Rochester's starter in the playoffs. Lieuwen finished his AHL season with a .922 save percentage and 17 wins in 32 appearances. Interesting to hear that head coach Ted Nolan will likely play Lieuwen the whole game, sending the message loud and clear that each goalie will get a fair shot and a fair look. It's open season in the organization right now as Lieuwen and Makarov vie for the starting job in Rochester while Michal Neuvirth and Jhonas Enroth battle for the big league gig.

Jon Merrill
Merrill To Sit Monday For Devils
Jon Merrill, D, NJ
9/21/2014
News: Jon Merrill (head) will not play Monday against the Rangers in the Devils' preseason opener after suffering a slight head injury Saturday.
Analysis: Jon Merrill collided with Ruslan Fedotenko on Saturday and appeared woozy. He will not play Monday simply as a precaution and will likely be limited in the coming week.

Cory Schneider
Devils To Rest Schneider Monday
Cory Schneider, G, NJ
9/21/2014
News: Cory Schneider will not play in Monday's preseason opener against the Rangers.
Analysis: Schenider's job as New Jersey's No. 1 netminder is massively secure, but the team needs to figure out who will be their backup netminder this season. That contest is between Scott Wedgewood, Keith Kinkaid and Maxime Clermont, two of whom will begin the season in the AHL. Schenider had some of the best peripheral statistics among NHL starting goaltenders last season despite just 16 wins in 45 games. He's a safe option after the netminders who will pile up wins are snagged.

Mike Cammalleri
Cammalleri Seeing Time On Devils' Top Line
Mike Cammalleri, LW, NJ
9/21/2014
News: Mike Cammalleri has been playing left wing on the team's top line alongside Travis Zajac and Jaromir Jagr, the Bergen Record's Tom Gulitti reports.
Analysis: Mike Cammalleri will be expected to challenge the 30-goal plateau and could have a decent shot if he is able to develop chemistry with Zajac and Jagr. The veteran sniper can also play center, but the Devils are starting him off on the wing where he will be expected to shoot often. Cammalleri had 26 goals in 63 games last year for Calgary, a season that saw him battle various nagging injuries.

Adam Larsson
Larsson Under Pressure At Devils' Camp
Adam Larsson, D, NJ
9/21/2014
News: Adam Larsson will need to earn the trust of the New Jersey coaching staff in order to secure a spot in the team's lineup.
Analysis: Adam Larsson has to have a strong camp in order to secure one of the open spots on the team's roster. With him on a one-way, one-year contract now, he'll have to pass through waivers if he is sent down, so he has a roster spot in theory. The fourth-overall pick of the 2011 draft has seen sparse ice time the last few seasons and will need to have a strong training camp along with fellow youngster Eric Gelinas in order to earn the trust of the team's coaching staff.

Eric Gelinas
Gelinas Needs To Impress Devils' Coaches
Eric Gelinas, D, NJ
9/21/2014
News: Eric Gelinas will need to earn the trust of the New Jersey coaching staff in order to secure a spot in the team's lineup.
Analysis: Eric Gelinas had a rather up-and-down rookie season, with the bulk of his 29 points coming early in his 60 games. He spent several stints in the minors and will need to play well in preseason games to earn a regular spot on the roster. He offers a ton of offensive upside, especially on the power play where he snagged 17 points, but him receiving regular ice time will come down to how he plays in his own zone. The Devils' coaching staff love their veterans and Gelinas had a rather short leash last season. He's worth a risk, just don't make it a sizable one in most leagues.

Erik Haula
Wild's Haula (Jaw) Back To Full Speed
Erik Haula, LW, MIN
9/21/2014
News: Erik Haula, who suffered a broken jaw at the World Championships in Belarus in May, is back to full strength at the start of training camp, the St. Paul Pioneer Press reports.
Analysis: Erik Haula looks set to center the Wild's third line. Huala had a strong showing in the playoffs with four goals and seven points in 11 games and looks set to build on that performance with a set job in the NHL this season.

Andre Burakovsky
Caps' Burakovsky Scores First (Unofficial) Goal
Andre Burakovsky, LW, WAS
9/21/2014
News: Andre Burakovsky scored the only goal in the Capitals' 1-0 over Buffalo on Sunday night.
Analysis: Andre Burakovsky scored a nice wrist shot from the face-off circle, and continued to build on his impressive offseason. While Burakovsky is likely destined for AHL Hershey for the balance of the season, the 19-year-old Swede has impressed his coaches throughout the summer. With the leg injury to Tom Wilson and Burakovsky's emerging skills as a potential scoring line center, Burakovsky might be able to secure a roster spot if he keeps this level of play throughout preseason. Keep an eye on him, as Burakovsky has some burgeoning sleeper potential in single-season leagues, and is a must own in keeper leagues.

Joel Ward
Caps' Ward Tallies Assist In Sunday's Win
Joel Ward, RW, WAS
9/21/2014
News: Joel Ward had an assist and two PIM's in 17:25 of ice time during the Capitals' 1-0 win over Buffalo on Sunday.
Analysis: Joel Ward played with Jason Chimera and rookie Andre Burakovsky at even-strength. Like Chimera, Ward had a banner year last season. Although the two have great chemistry, it wouldn't be surprising to see his production regress some this season. Keep an eye on him, but he's probably only worth drafting in deeper leagues.

 
 
 
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