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Week 25 schedule analysis

by | Rotowire.com
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With less than a month remaining in the regular season, the hard work and efforts that started way back in October are coming into focus. Whether you've got your league standings on bookmark to glance your stranglehold daily or you're destined for the consolation bracket of your league playoffs, hockey owners fill out their lineups until the last day of the season. So put away your baseball draft cheat sheets for a few minutes. There's just four weeks of hockey left for Fantasy owners and if the NHL schedule is any indication it's going to get tricky.

NHL schedule

*B2b (back-to-back occurrences) are in bold

Fives Are Wild

For the second time this season, an NHL team will engage in five games over a seven-day period.

There are several ways you can break down Minnesota's (at BOS, at NYI, at NJD, DET, at DET) five-game schedule. After hosting five of its first six games of March from the Excel Center, the Wild will now play eight of their next 10 tilts on the road where they are a dismal 12-15-5. Additionally, they'll end their tiresome week of travels with a traditional home-and-away series with the Detroit Red Wings. Minnesota has yet to play Boston or Detroit, while they hold contrasting GF/GA in one game against each the Islanders (4-5) and New Jersey (4-0).

Goaltending: Considering the Wild have not registered more than three goals in any contest since late January, we wouldn't suggest putting a lot of stock in their 26th overall ranked offense. While Darcy Kuemper's record in March (2-2-2) may not reflect his efforts, he has been very good since taking over the number one duties. That's good, because Ilya Bryzgalov's 9-8-5 (2.77 GAA) record in 22 career starts versus Detroit doesn't exactly instill confidence.

Offense: Mikael Granlund (three assists in last three games) seems to be gelling well on Minnesota's first line. Jason Pominville (40 points in 49 games) and Cody McCormick have a familiarity with the Bruins. Zach Parise (assist in one game) and Nino Niederreiter (goal and an assist in one game) look to build on burning their former organizations this week. Newcomer Matt Moulson has been quiet the last three games, but he and Niederreiter will likely have a spirited game on the Island. Moulson has also enjoyed (four goals, one assist in six games) his small career sampling against Detroit. Matt Cooke has eight points in 15 career games at TD Garden. Mikko Koivu (14 of 37 points) and Ryan Suter (16 of 36 points) just don't seem to produce as well on the road.

Back-to-Back Jacks

Minnesota is not the only team with two b2b occurrences this week.

Boston (MIN, at NJD, at COL, at PHX) is one of two other teams that will play four games all on b2b nights. After serving as a healthy scratch, Dougie Hamilton had an assist in Saturday's rout of Carolina. Matt Linbland (recalled from AHL Providence) played 8-plus minutes in place of Daniel Paille (concussion). However, Paille has not experienced any setbacks, so that ice time with the parent club should be short-lived for Lindbland.

What we were saying last week about James Reimer, will change this week as Toronto (at DET, TBL, MTL, at NJD) will certainly need two goalies with two b2b occurrences. While Jonathan Bernier's lower-body is reportedly not believed to be serious, it could be that Reimer gets the lion's share of duties this week.

Four Aces

Columbus (CAR, at MTL, NYR, at NYI) is trying to hang in there, and every one of their opponents this week has the same attitude. Fedor Tyutin (ankle) played 21-minutes in his return to the lineup on Saturday. The Jackets hold a season series edge with all of their opponents but Montreal (0-1-1).

Chicago (at PHI, STL, CAR, NSH) has a seemingly weak four-game schedule. Look again and you'll see they've outscored the Canes and Flyers by a combined total of 10-4 in two wins. But the Hawks have had their problems (combined 1-3-2, 16-23 GF/GA) against Nashville and St. Louis. Marian Hossa (upper body) was questionable for Sunday's tilt with Detroit, plan appropriately.

Detroit (TOR, PIT, at MIN, MIN) has a full plate ending with the aforementioned weekend against the Wild. Jimmy Howard (9-3-2, 2.10 GAA) is familiar with Minnesota, Jonas Gustavsson (1-1, 2.54 GAA) not so much. Jordin Tootoo has been recalled from Grand Rapids of the AHL. Tomas Tatar broke his silence in Friday's win over Edmonton. The Red Wings are 1-1 against Toronto and lost 4-1 in their only contest with Pittsburgh.

As if things are not bad enough for Florida (at SJS, at PHX, at LOS, at ANA), they take their show on a West Coast swing and end it with the Kings and Ducks on b2b nights. Although the Panthers enjoyed a 3-2 win over Anaheim earlier this season, something tells us things might turn out differently this time around. Florida is a combined 2-4-3 against the Pacific division this season.

New Jersey (BOS, MIN, NYR, TOR) plays all four from home. Eric Gelinas has served as a healthy scratch for two consecutive games. With a 3-1-2 record against the Rangers this season and a 4-0 win over Minnesota, the Devils are a combined 4-1-2 against this week's opponents.

Completely opposite of New Jersey and much like the Panthers, Nashville (at EDM, at VAN, at CGY, at CHI) begins to wind down another disappointing campaign with four on the road. Deduct their positive record (2-1, 11-7 GF/GA) against Chicago thus far this season and the Preds, who are a combined 4-4-1 against this week's opponents, seem scheduled for a very long week.

Pittsburgh (DAL, at DET, TBL, STL) has three-of-four at home, but all of these are quality opponents. While we won't guarantee he misses the entire week, James Neal (concussion) is out indefinitely. There was talk prior to Saturday's 4-0 loss to Philly that Brian Gibbons could center the Evgeni Malkin and Jussi Jokinen line, but he logged just 12 minutes in the game. Jayson Megna (recalled from Wilkes-Barre/Scanton) also played for nearly 12-minutes. Chris Kunitz (leg) did not play against Philly on Saturday, but should be back this week. While they're owning (3-0, 12-5 GF/GA) their opponents this week from their own conference, the Pens have had their struggles (0-2, 1-5 GF/GA) against this week's Western Conference opponents.

St. Louis (WIN, at CHI, at PHI, at PIT) has three on the road, but two are very winnable games on paper. Patrik Berglund (lower body) seemed just fine to us in Saturday's win over Nashville. Brenden Morrow played in place of Magnus Paajarvi (upper body) on Saturday. It should come as no surprise that the Blues are a combined 7-0-1 against the Jets, Hawks and Pens.

Tampa Bay (VAN, at TOR, at OTT, at PIT) also has three on the road, but with Vancouver to feast on, we think the Lightning will get their confidence and not look back. Nonetheless, the Lightning are a combined 3-5 against this week's opponents.

Three of a Kind

The following eight teams play their three games from a distinct advantage or disadvantage. Here are their records under the applicable circumstances.

Buffalo (at CGY, at EDM, at VAN) is 7-21-3 on the road this season. Alexander Sulzer is expected to miss at least a week with a head injury.

Carolina (at CBJ, at CHI, at WIN) is 12-16-4 on the road this season. Justin Faulk (upper body) returned to the tune of 20-plus minutes in Saturday's loss. Cam Ward was burned for five goals in the same game.

Edmonton (NSH, BUF, CGY) is 11-20-6 at home this season. Mark Fraser (groin) and Sam Gagner (ankle) did not play on Friday.

Los Angeles (PHX, WAS, FLA) is 19-12-3 at home this season. Marian Gaborik is off the schneid in Hollywood. Jonathan Quick (illness) missed practice on Friday allowing Martin Jones to absorb Saturday's 2-1 loss to Anaheim.

Rangers (at OTT, at CBJ, at NJD) are 20-13 on the road this season. Henrik Lundqvist is 2-3-1 with a 3.02 GAA and .901 save percentage since returning from the Olympics. Head coach Alain Vigneault has been juggling lines to get Martin St. Louis going. St. Louis (two assists in six games with the team) has most recently been playing alongside Derick Brassard and Mats Zuccarello.

Philadelphia (CHI, DAL, STL) is 15-13-6 at home this season. Steve Mason shut out the Pens on Saturday.

San Jose (FLA, ANA, WAS) is 19-13-3 at home this season. Despite his inconsistent presence in the lineup, Martin Havlat has three goals and an assist through five games played in March. Matthew Nieto has three goals in his last four games. Raffi Torres (soreness) is expected to return to the lineup in Sunday's game at the Rangers. Bracken Kearns was reassigned to AHL Worcester on Friday.

Washington (at ANA, at LOS, at SJS) is 12-16-5 on the road this season. Jaroslav Halak evened his record (2-2) with the Caps. After two quiet games, Evgeny Kuznetsov broke out in a big way on Friday averaging an assist for every three-and-a-half minutes of ice time.

One Pair

The rebuilding and John Tavares-less Islanders (MIN, CBJ) haven't been playing all that terrible since the first of the year. Nonetheless, there's no way they sneak into the conference playoffs, especially not since they'll play just two games this week and three next week, regardless of how many young guns (Anders Lee, Ryan Strome) are maturing at the NHL level.

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Player News
Kevin Connauton
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Kevin Connauton, D, CLB
3/1/2015
News: Coach Todd Richards said after Saturday's morning skate that Kevin Connauton (foot) likely wouldn't play for another week, Shawn Mitchell of the Columbus Dispatch reports.
Analysis: Assuming that timetable holds through the start of next week, Kevin Connauton will miss at least the next three games while he recovers from the foot injury. The Blue Jackets will lean on some combination of Cody Goloubef, Dalton Prout, and Jordan Leopold to cover for Connauton's absence.

Blake Wheeler
Jets' Wheeler Could Return Sunday
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News: Blake Wheeler (knee) was a full participant in Saturday's practice and looks like he could be ready to play Sunday against the Kings, Ken Wiebe of the Winnipeg Sun reports. "If Blake comes to the rink [Sunday] feeling the way he did [Saturday], he'll be in the lineup," coach Paul Maurice said after the practice.
Analysis: Blake Wheeler didn't skate with Andrew Ladd and Bryan Little during the practice like he has for much of the season, but did see regular work with the third line and on the Jets' top power-play unit. As Maurice alluded to, the Jets will check in on Wheeler's condition following Sunday's morning skate, after which he would likely be activated from IR if all goes well.

Craig Anderson
Sens' Anderson Still Not Ready To Play
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3/1/2015
News: Craig Anderson (hand) will not be available for Saturday's game against the Sharks, Don Brennan of the Ottawa Sun reports.
Analysis: Craig Anderson seemed to be trending toward a return by facing a number of shots during practices the last few days, but there's still no clear timetable for when he might be able to play. While the lack of clarity regarding Anderson's return date is undoubtedly an annoyance for fantasy owners, the Senators have done just fine without him. In the absence of Anderson and No. 2 goalie Robin Lehner (concussion), the Senators have stumbled into a hot goalie in Andrew Hammond, who has won four straight starts while posting a 0.75 GAA.

Curtis Lazar
Sens' Lazar To Sit Out With Illness Saturday
Curtis Lazar, RW, OTT
3/1/2015
News: Curtis Lazar will miss Saturday's game against the Sharks due to an illness, Don Brennan of the Ottawa Sun reports.
Analysis: Curtis Lazar wasn't on the ice for the Senators' morning skate after apparently acquiring the illness over night. Matt Puempel is set to assume Lazar's spot in the lineup Saturday.

Andrew Hammond
Sens Riding Hammond On Saturday
Andrew Hammond, G, OTT
3/1/2015
News: Andrew Hammond will make his fifth consecutive start Saturday against the Sharks, Don Brennan of the Ottawa Sun reports.
Analysis: Andrew Hammond has been the story of the NHL since taking over as the Senators' No. 1 goalie just over a week ago. After posting middling numbers at AHL Binghamton, Hammond has won his first four NHL starts, posting a 0.75 GAA and .976 save percentage. The matches haven't come against the dregs of the league either; he's posted shutouts his last two times out on the road against the Ducks and Kings. He'll try to continue his California dominance against the struggling Sharks, who will counter with Antti Niemi in goal.

Nathan MacKinnon
Demotion In Store For Avs' MacKinnon
Nathan MacKinnon, C, COL
3/1/2015
News: MacKinnnon, who was benched during the third period in Friday's game against the Stars, will be dropped to the third line for Saturday's game against the Wild, Mike Chambers of the Denver Post reports.
Analysis: Nathan MacKinnon entered Friday's game with four goals in his previous two games, but his play against the Stars clearly irked coach Patrick Roy. The young forward would finish without a single shot on goal in his 12:35 of ice time, and was bumped from the second line in favor of Cody McLeod by the tail end of the game. The Avalanche ultimately prevailed in a shootout without any participation from MacKinnon, prompting coach Patrick Roy to say after the game that McLeod would stick on the second line for Saturday's game. Don't expect MacKinnon's demotion to last long.

Stephane Veilleux
Veilleux Clears Waivers, But Remains With Wild
Stephane Veilleux, C, MIN
3/1/2015
News: Stephane Veilleux cleared waivers Saturday, but will remain with the Wild, Chad Graff of the St. Paul Pioneer Press reports.
Analysis: Rather than sending Stephane Veilleux to AHL Iowa after he went unclaimed, the Wild will likely keep the forward around as a healthy scratch for Saturday's game against the Avalanche. Despite being waived, Veilleux remains eligible to play in games with the Wild, and can be assigned back to Iowa at any time.

Lubomir Visnovsky
Visnovsky Won't Play Saturday For Islanders
Lubomir Visnovsky, D, NYI
3/1/2015
News: Lubomir Visnovsky will be a healthy scratch Saturday for the Islanders, according to Newsday's Arthur Staple.
Analysis: The Islanders and Lubomir Visnovsky played Friday, so this may be a case where coach Jack Capuano doesn't want the veteran defenseman to play back-to-back days. Brian Strait will enter the lineup in place of Visnovsky.

Brandon McMillan
Canucks Waive McMillan
Brandon McMillan, LW, VAN
3/1/2015
News: Brandon McMillan was placed on waivers Saturday, Elliotte Friedman of Sportsnet.ca reports.
Analysis: Brandon McMillan continued to practice with the Canucks after the transaction was announced, so there's a chance he could remain with the club even after he clears waivers Sunday. The team was likely motivated to make the move in an attempt to free up salary cap space ahead of Monday's trade deadline.

Cam Ward
Carolina's Ward To Get Nod Saturday
Cam Ward, G, CAR
3/1/2015
News: Cam Ward will be in the net for Saturday's game against the Islanders, Brian Compton of NHL.com reports.
Analysis: The Hurricanes elected to rest Cam Ward on Friday against the Capitals so he could be honored in a pregame ceremony for his 500th career appearance in the NHL, which he made in Tuesday's win over the Flyers. Though Anton Khudobin spun his first shutout of the season in Friday's win, Ward won't be bypassed for a start, as he's been quite excellent in his own right of late. Ward has won his last three starts while conceding a total of five goals, though none of the team he faced during that stretch were as strong as the squad he'll match up with Saturday.

 
 
 
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