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NHL Schedule Analysis: Strong Matchups in the West

Brian Rutherford

Brian Rutherford

A freelance writer of all things but mostly sports, music and politics, Brian Rutherford was raised on Long Island, NY and currently resides in a suburb of Dallas, Texas. His favorite teams are the New York Rangers, Texas Rangers, New York Giants and New York Knicks. "So the difference I think, boils down to this: you can either impose yourself on reality and then write about it, or you can impose yourself on reality by writing it." -Hunter S. Thompson "The Proud Highway"

NHL Schedule Analysis
by Brian Rutherford, RotoWire Writer

Last week, our focus was the soured teams of the Eastern Conference. This week, 10 teams will play four games. Of those 10, eight are in the Western Conference. Of those eight, three teams will have played eight games in 14 days. Most exciting ... we've got several teams gearing up for a home and home series.

(17-10-2) Dallas Stars - 6-3-1 L10 vs. (15-10-4) San Jose Sharks - 6-4-0 in L10

Aside from 'Sid The Kid', the hottest name around is San Jose rookie C Logan Couture who leads the San Jose Sharks with 14 goals. Apparently I waited too long to grab him on my CBS league, and have already received two offers for him in another league. Some could argue, LW, Ryane Clowe may be on an even more torrid pace as of late. Clowe, who leads team with 20 assists, has eight points (+7) over his latest four games.

However, the Sharks will face another exciting young talent, Dallas' James Neal. When Neal hit the lineup last season, the "real deal" label was a bit cheesy to me. Despite some shaky defensive work this year, James is also leading his team in goals (13) and more impressive has been held pointless in just nine of his 29 games. Needless to say ... I'm becoming a believer in this label. Head coach Marc Crawford loves to feed this young sniper, as Neal has registered 4 or more shots in a game, ten times this season.

Though neither team has a bone-jarring defense, the goaltending situation should be interesting as well. Going into this past Saturday night against Phoenix (five goals), Andrew Raycroft had made it an easy decision to rest Kari Lehtonen (lower-body). If the Finish goalie can't come back - no pun intended - this week, you could see a spot start by the by 23-year old, Richard Bachman. Bachman looked calm in his NHL debut cleaning up the mess left by Raycroft against Phoenix. As for the Sharks, they have their own Finish problems. Goalies Antero Niittymaki (9-3-0) and Antti Niemi (5-7-1) have dueled back-and-forth with neither having come out as a clear cut go-to-guy. Regardless of Niitymaki's edge in record, it appears Stanley Cup winner Niemi (played five of six games this month) may be head coach Todd McLellan's favorite. It's not a traditional home-and-home, but with four points separating five teams in the Pacific, this should be an exciting week for both San Jose and Dallas area fans.

Logan Couture in his last six games: six goals, two assists +7
James Neal is his last seven games: five goals, five assists, +3

O'yeah ... Brad Richards leads the Stars with 34 points and Dany Heatley has 29 points. While Dallas won this season series (4-2) last season, San Jose won the last meeting, 5-4, on the road.

Dallas this week: @SJ, vs. SJ @ CLS, DET
San Jose this week: vs DAL, @ NSH, DAL STL

(16-12-3) Chicago Blackhawks - 5-4-1 L10 vs. (15-10-4) Colorado Avalanche - 4-3-3 L10

The big news in Chicago over the last two weeks has been the absence of Marian Hossa and Patrick Kane, both out of the lineup with lower-body injuries. What's more concerning is Patrick Sharp's production since these two went down. Sharp, who was on tear, is a minus-1 and has only one goal since the loss of the other Patrick and Hossa. As for Colorado, everyone is clamoring about blue-chip defenseman, Kevin Shattenkirk, who recently saw a nine-game point scoring streak snapped. A former first-round pick (14th in 2007), Shattenkirk had registered four goals, thirteen assists (+2) over that span before posting a two-game donut. Expecting a rookie slump to follow? Think again, Shattenkirk took the second star of the game (one goal, one assist) this past Saturday, helping push the Avs to a 3-2 win over the struggling Capitals in D.C.

We now break into regularly scheduled reporting with our weekly Craig Anderson update. Having endured two overtime losses to Carolina and Florida, Anderson looked solid -40 of 42- winning his second straight start against the aforementioned Capitals squad. Corey Crawford is fulfilling the Blackhawks' offseason hopes by gradually taking the number one job from Dallas refugee Marty Turco. Since going 1-3 in his first four games, a nifty seven-game winning streak helped turn his record (8-4-1) right around.

O'yeah ... Patrick Sharp leads Chicago with 30 points and Milan Hejduk has 31 points. The last time these two went head-to-head was the NHL's opening night, when the Avs squeaked (4-3) out the win. Chicago went 3-0-1 last year's season series.

Colorado this week: vs. CHI @ CHI vs. OTT
Chicago this week: @ COL, vs CHI, DET, LA

Let's Play Four

Atlanta, Chicago, Colorado, Columbus, Dallas (second week in a row), Detroit (second week in a row), Los Angeles, Nashville, Ottawa, San Jose (second week in a row),

Let's Play Two

Edmonton, Florida, Minnesota, Pittsburgh, Tampa Bay and Vancouver

Daily Grind

Are you on a daily league? Do you have a backup goalie on one of the teams below? Dallas, Detroit and San Jose are about to show us their grit. While Detroit has their week spread out evenly once every other night this week, the Stars and Sharks are only two of the 19 NHL teams that will play on back-to-back nights.

ANH, ATL, BOS, BUF, CAR, CLS, DAL, LA, MON, NASH, NJ, NYR, OTT, PHI, PHX, PIT,STL, SJ, WAS.

You may need to finally get around to bookmarking your fantasy team page to your mobile device browser, and keep up with RotoWire's "Daily Puck" for projected starting goalies.

Full Schedule Grid

Atl 2 2 4
Chi 1 3 4
Cls 3 1 4
Col 1 3 4
Dal 3 1 4
Det 1 3 4
LA 4 0 4
Nsh 1 3 4
Ott 2 2 4
SJ 3 1 4
Anh 3 0 3
Bos 2 1 3
Buf 2 1 3
Car 2 1 3
Cgy 0 3 3
Mon 1 2 3
NJ 1 2 3
NYI 1 2 3
NYR 2 1 3
Phi 1 2 3
Pho 3 0 3
StL 1 2 3
Tor 3 0 3
Was 2 1 3
Edm 0 2 2
Fla 0 2 2
Min 1 1 2
Pit 1 1 2
TB 0 2 2
Van 0 2 2