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Week 1 schedule analysis

Rotowire.com
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We now return to your regularly scheduled programming of the Schedule Analysis. After an abbreviated campaign last season and an eternity of a summer, the landscape of the NHL has changed. Set aside last season's stats that are skewed and hard to analyze. Set aside all the normal variables, such as players with new sweaters, new lines, new coaches and the always useless trends of preseason standings.

This summer's realignment brings the most mysterious of obstacles. We won't profess to know how this is going to play out, but we're all in this together. With that out of the way, let's get back to basics and go from there.

Three of a Kind: Nine of the 30 NHL teams have three tilts on the docket this week. Of those 27 games in total, 18 will be on the road. Not one team playing three games this week will be exclusively from home.

Anaheim (@COL, @MIN, @WPG) started off last season's campaign with a bang. Teemu Selanne (two assists) and Daniel Winnnik each netted a pair of goals in the opening game versus Vancouver. The Canucks (@SJ, EDM, @CAL), Buffalo (@DET, OTT, @PIT), Calgary (@WAS, @CLS, VAN), Detroit (BUF, @CAR, @BOS), Philadelphia (TOR, @MON, @CAR) and Toronto (@MTL, @PHI, OTT) will all spend the week in road jerseys.

Washington (@CHI*, CAL, @DAL) and Winnipeg (@EDM, LA, ANH) have the most interestingly consistent schedules, lacing up nearly every other day. While it's feasible Braden Holtby and Ondrej Pavelec COULD play all three this week, percentages suggest even number one goalies will be eased into the new season like your star closer.

Two for 20: Aside from the Rangers one (nine game road trip to start the year) game this week, the rest of the NHL will play two tilts this week.

After the stabilizing Phoenix (NYR, @SJ) franchise hosts the aforementioned Rangers, six of their next seven will be on the road. Carolina (DET, PHI) starts with two, but ends up one of the busiest NHL franchises, contesting nine games in the first 15 days. Ottawa (@BUF, @TOR) begins a six-game road trip against Atlantic (pfft, weird) division rivals.

Back-to-Back: While the slow week allows you to gear up and shake the rust, 11 teams are playing on back-to-back days. This not only means your goalie management will need to be in mid-season form, but you could see a few number one goalies dethroned. Let's give you an idea of what we mean.

Both Anaheim and Los Angeles will play in Minnesota and Winnipeg on consecutive nights. Calgary plays back-to-back games on the road in Washington and Columbus to begin the season Thursday. Nashville will play in St. Louis and Colorado on consecutive nights. Buffalo will host Ottawa on Friday then travel to Pittsburgh on Saturday. Detroit, who hosts Buffalo on Wednesday, visits Carolina and Boston on Friday and Saturday night. Columbus will host Calgary on Friday then travel to play the Islanders on Saturday night. Vancouver will host Edmonton then visit Calgary. Toronto spends opening night in Montreal, followed up by travelling to Philadelphia. Philadelphia will be in Montreal, then Carolina the next night. Ottawa is in Buffalo, then Toronto the next night. New Jersey will travel to Pittsburgh, and then host Isles in Jersey. The Isles then head home for Columbus on the following night.

Low Percentage: Although, 5-1 (22 GF, 15 GA) the preseason record looks pretty nifty, Tampa (@BOS, @CHI) travels to play last year's Stanley Cup runner up and winner in the same week.

High Percentage: First of all, we usually exclude Devan Dubnyk from any good fantasy news out of Edmonton, but his combined career stats (7-4-3, 2.88 GAA in 15 starts) against this week's opponents are not too shabby.

Based solely on preseason efforts, we like the schedules of Dallas (FLA, WAS) and Edmonton (WPG, @VAN) for the most offensive punch of the opening week. After the offseason/preseason these two teams have had, look for the youngest legs and most creative coaches to come out of the gate running. But if I were you, I wouldn't count on either team playing any defense.

TV Time

The season begins on a slow, six-day week beginning Tuesday. For your viewing pleasure, the Stanley Cup champion Blackhawks will host the Capitals on NBCSports Network.

TUE OCT. 1, Caps @ Blackhawks NBCS

WED OCT. 2, Sabres @ Red Wings NBCS

SAT OCT. 5, Red Wings @ Bruins NHLN

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Player News
Jake Dowell
Wild Send Dowell To AHL
Jake Dowell, C, MIN
4/17/2014
News: Jake Dowell has been assigned to AHL Iowa.
Analysis: Jake Dowell, who will return to Iowa with 17 points in 54 AHL games to date, remains a candidate for recall if the Wild require added depth up front as the playoffs progress.

Brenden Dillon
Stars' Dillon Absent From Morning Skate
Brenden Dillon, D, DAL
4/17/2014
News: Brenden Dillon (lower body) wasn't on the ice for morning skate Wednesday and looks like a game-time decision for Game 1 against the Ducks, Mike Heika of the Dallas Morning News reports.
Analysis: Brenden Dillon was considered likely to play in Game 1 as recently as two days ago, but his inability to participate in practice since that time now has him looking questionable at best. The uncertainty of his injury situation probably makes him a defenseman to avoid in playoff pools.

Kari Lehtonen
Stars Roll With Lehtonen For Game 1
Kari Lehtonen, G, DAL
4/17/2014
News: Kari Lehtonen will be in the crease for Game 1 of the Stars' first-round series with the Ducks, Mike Heika of the Dallas Morning News reports.
Analysis: Frankly, it would be more surprising if Kari Lehtonen didn't make the start for every game throughout the playoffs than if he did. The Stars will lean heavily on their netminder as they return to the playoffs for the first time in five seasons.

Ilya Bryzgalov
Wild Roll With Bryzgalov
Ilya Bryzgalov, G, MIN
1:58 PM
News: Ilya Bryzgalov is slated to start Thursday's game against the Avs, Chad Graff of the St. Paul Pioneer Press reports.
Analysis: Ilya Bryzgalov heads into the postseason as the Wild's top netminder, with the report noting that coach Mike Yeo has yet to decide who will serve as Bryzgalov's backup for Thursday's contest.

Antti Niemi
Sharks Could Turn To Niemi
Antti Niemi, G, SJ
1:11 PM
News: While the Sharks have not named their starting goalie for Thursday's playoff opener against the Kings, Kevin Kurz of CSNBayArea.com suggests that Antti Niemi is probably the better bet to get the nod.
Analysis: The report points out that Antti Niemi -- who started five of the Sharks' last six games -- worked during special teams practice Wednesday, during which time fellow goalie Alex Stalock worked with some of the team's the lower profile players. We'll seek additional clarity on the situation after Thursday's morning skate.

Jan Hejda
Avs' Hejda To Play In Game 1
Jan Hejda, D, COL
11:44 AM
News: Jan Hejda (upper body) will be in the lineup for Thursday's Game 1 against the Wild, Adrian Dater of the Denver Post reports.
Analysis: The Avalanche confirmed his availability following his participation in Wednesday's practice. Expect him to rejoin Erik Johnson on Colorado's top defensive pairing.

Steve Downie
Flyers' Downie Out For Game 1
Steve Downie, RW, PHI
11:34 AM
News: Steve Downie (upper body) will not play in Game 1 of the Flyers' first-round series against the Rangers, Sam Carchidi of the Philadelphia Inquirer reports.
Analysis: It's not much of a surprise after Steve Downie was unable to take part in Wednesday's practice. Zac Rinaldo will take his spot on the Flyers' fourth line.

Jonathan Ericsson
Wings' Ericsson To Skate Thursday
Jonathan Ericsson, D, DET
11:31 AM
News: Jonathan Ericsson (finger) will resume skating on his own Thursday for the first time since undergoing surgery on his finger Mar. 19, Chuck Pleiness of the Macomb Daily reports.
Analysis: Jonathan Ericsson is not yet permitted to do any stick-handling due to the splint on his left hand, and it appears safe to rule him out for the Red Wings' first-round series against the Bruins. He's already had one of the pins in his fractured finger removed and will have the remaining three taken out in the next 10-to-14 days.

Joe Vitale
Pens' Vitale Expected To Play Wednesday
Joe Vitale, C, PIT
11:26 AM
News: Joe Vitale (upper body) is expected to play Wednesday against the Blue Jackets, Shawn Mitchell of the Columbus Dispatch reports.
Analysis: After missing the final 13 games of the regular season, Joe Vitale was back on the ice at morning skate and looks like he's check back in for duty as a bottom-six forward. Vitale finished the regular season with a goal and 13 assists over his 53 games.

Evgeni Malkin
Pens' Malkin Expected Back For Game 1
Evgeni Malkin, C, PIT
11:22 AM
News: Evgeni Malkin (foot) is expected back in the lineup for Game 1 of the Penguins' first-round series with the Blue Jackets, Aaron Portzline of the Columbus Dispatch reports.
Analysis: Evgeni Malkin missed the final 11 games of the regular season while nursing the foot injury, but after getting back on the ice for the last several days, he should be fully ready to contribute for the Penguins. He'll assume his usual spot as the second-line center.

 
 
 
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