NHL Schedule Analysis
by Brian Rutherford, RotoWire Writer
The All-Star game may be widely considered as halfway point of the year, but over the past few years, it's been the new year that has turned up the action. Of all citizens, airline pilots will be feeling the depth of the NHL schedule this first full week of the year. The following teams have a trendy schedule that should be considered when setting rosters.
CLB @PHO, ANA, LA - The Jackets (20-15-3) had won three in a row heading into Nashville this past Sunday.
DET @EDM, CAL, VAN - The Red Wings (24-9-5) play their first six of eight games on the road this month.
NSH @ANA, LA, SJ - Lost five of their last six, the Preds (18-13-6) are last place (two points out of second) in the Central.
BUF @COL, SJ, PHO - The Sabres (16-18-4) survived a high-scoring showdown with Boston, winning 7-6, final in a shootout, now they take the show on the road.
MIN @NJ, BOS, PIT, vs. DAL - After a game in the Meadowlands, the Wild (17-15-5) will have their hands full this week.
TB @WAS, PITT, OTT, NJ - Four games on the road for Tampa Bay (23-11-5) and both are back-to-back. The first part of the week is against arguably, best of the conference, Washington and Pittsburgh. Then after a two day rest, they go back-to-back with two weaker teams Ottawa and New Jersey.
COL vs.BUF, PHO, NYI is a part of their eight games in 13-night stretch. The Avs (20-13-5) look to make up ground on Vancouver this week with a weak opponent schedule.
Making their Western mark
Vancouver (23-8-5) went 11-1-2 in the month of December and exemplified a dominant NHL squad. Set-aside the Sedin brothers and Ryan Kesler, it may be the streaky scorers like Raffi Torres and Mason Raymond that keep this team atop of the conference. The Canucks have a torrid defense including offensive-minded Christian Ehroff and Alexander Edler. Add in an up-and-coming Kevin Bieska, two goals (+4) in his last three games and Dan Hamhuis who is a strong backbone to this defense as well.
Robert Luongo (17-8-3) is a Canadian national hero, and could easily be traded. It's foreseeable, even IF Luongo were to be lost to injury or traded for the longevity of budget control, Cory Schneider would be there to pick up the slack. Schneider (6-0-2), a 24-year old rookie, who was terrific for his New Years eve performance in Dallas, is now on a three-game winning streak and has a 2.38 GAA. The Canucks power-play (25.3%) was lethal against Dallas, going three-for-six. Vancouver plays five in their next seven nights. After this past Sunday's trip to Colorado, followed by a game in San Jose on back-to-back nights, the Canucks head home to play host for a bit.
VAN @SJ, vs. CAL, EDM, DET
Add to the scout team
Dwayne Roloson just made things a little more complicated for Dan Ellis and Mike Smith owners, and you have 'Stevie Y' to thank for it. I just retracted an offer for Ellis, as I see Roloson getting 65-70% of the nods from here on out. Rick DiPietro will now take back his starting job, no questions asked, for good or ill. Word around the campfire is the Islanders will call up Nathan Lawson.
Jonathan Cheechooo, once a 56-goal scorer has since been snake-bitten. Leaving aside the fact that San Jose is chalk-full of uprising talent (Logan Couture, Ryane Clowe), I wouldn't be surprised if you see a call-up involving the former Northern-Cali favorite. He should get another chance before possibly being dealt to the Blues or Panthers for a draft-pick? Thirty-four points (12 goals) in 32 games, Cheechoo should be on EVERYONE'S look-out list.
David Desharnais is first in the AHL's scoring, was just called up to Montreal. In 35 games at the AHL level, Desharnais has 45 points (10 goals).
Jason Krog (C) might not be big on shooting, but the Atlanta Thrashers (5th in the NHL) have plenty of those. Krog, is leading the Chicago Wolves with 37 points in the same amount of games. Darren Haydar (RW) is also in the top six of the AHL scoring. Second on a mediocre Chicago Wolves team, Haydar may see a call-up this year as well, featuring 13 goals (34 points), in 34 games.
Andrew Gordon's (Washington Capitals) call-up didn't last long, but you will see him again. The Capitals offense could go cold again, and some fresh blood will be needed. In the meantime ... I'd certainly add [Gordon] before Eric Fehr to my scout or 'watch player' team.
It's not just Eric Staal or Jeff Skinner for that matter, Carolina has youth production lately. Zach Dalpe is not just a regular 21-year-old just sitting back and enjoying the thrill of an NHL career, this kid has something special. In just over seven minutes of TOI, Dalpe managed a goal against the hapless Devils.
Kris Newbury is on his third NHL organization. Although the solid return of Marc Staal doesn't exactly increase his chances for a call to Broadway, if Michael Del Zotto were to continue his recent lack of productivity, you could see a shaking up of MSG's boys in blue. Newbury (35 points) is ninth in AHL scoring, so don't be surprised if the 28-year old joins the undrafted left-winger Mats Zuccarello (13 goals), who has 25 points in 33 games, on the big-club roster.
A note in regards to last week's Winter Classic ... was the Erskine vs. Rupp fight staged? I'm fairly certain many will be asking for Bettman's head if he had any knowledge of this. Any true and passionate Hockey fan worth their weight in gold is tired of hearing the jape, "Hey I went to a fight and a hockey game broke out." I'm certain this stinks of NHL staging, but NBC was obviously in on it when Rupp's offensive-end corner hit was so 'well-covered. Or should I just tip my cap to some fine network coverage of a very unpredictable game.
Nationally televised action - On the coat-tails of the great Swami (Chris Berman), I'll take this up a notch, keeping track of wins and +/-
Versus Jan 3rd, 2011 -- Chicago at Los Angeles - Last meeting at the Staples Center, Blackhawks won 2-1. Previously, the Blackhawks nipped the Kings 3-1 in the Windy City. Prediction: L.A. 4-1 over Chicago
Versus Jan 4th, 2011 -- Minnesota at New Jersey - The Devils won (5-3) the only meeting of the season last year. To say things are a bit different for both teams is an understatement. Prediction: Minnesota over New Jersey, 5-2
The Full Schedule Grid