It's finally here - no, not Christmas, but arguably the NHL's busiest schedule of the season so far. With every team playing three or more games this week, there's a ton of schedule data to analyze. As usual, Schedule Analysis will focus on the teams with the most opportunity for fantasy points.
B2B (Back-to-Back) occurrences in bold
Carolina (at VAN, at EDM, at CAL, at PHX) embarks on a five game road trip starting Monday. The 'Canes will take a tour of Canada starting in Vancouver before ending the week in Phoenix. After a strange strike-shortened campaign, the Zack Boychuck experience is off to a solid start in Carolina, again! We expect to see Cam Ward against a tougher Canucks squad and Justin Peters against the Oilers. As always, feel confident about your starting goalies by keeping up with RotoWire's Starting Goalies Grid.
Columbus (at PIT, NJD, at NYR, STL) has a hellacious schedule, despite being a team that has won three of their last four. Like the Hurricanes, Columbus begins the week with a b2b occurrence. Looks like Jared Boll (foot) suffered a setback. What kind of week would it be this season without a Matt Calvert (upper-body) and James Wisniekski (upper-body) injury report?
Calgary (BOS, CAR, at BUF, at NYR) plays their first two from home before heading East for their b2b occurrence. Reto Berra holds the upper-hand in his standoff with Karri Ramo after Saturday night's 2-1 win over rival Edmonton, but neither goalie inspires any kind of confidence. Nonetheless, the Flames are like many in the Western Conference, successful (5-2-2) against the Eastern Conference. Joe Colborne (illness) should be back the lineup. Though he'll wreck your plus/minus, Matt Stajan is warming up.
Detroit (at FLA, at TBL, PIT, TBL) plays their first two from the road before hosting the Penguins and Lightning, who they see twice this week. Good thing Jonas Gustavsson has been solid, as Jimmy Howard is going to need him this week.
Like the Flames, Edmonton (CAR, BOS, at VAN, at ANH) plays their first two in their home arena. No surprise Devan Dubnyk gave up six goals to Phoenix last week with Ilya Bryzgalov (concussion) firmly planted on the IR. Jason LaBarbera anyone? Well, now hold up a second, Richard Bachman (groin) could be nearing a return. Keep in mind the former prized prospect of the Stars is likely to head to Oklahoma City for conditioning first. Jeff Petry left Saturday's game with an apparent head injury.
Montreal (LOS, at PHI, at NYI, FLA) plays four this week, then their schedule dwindles to three next week, before getting an entire week off until the 28th. It's an important stretch for the NHL's hottest team, without a doubt. Tomas Plekanec is warming again. No question here about Carey Price and Peter Budaj's value with the Isles and Panthers ahead.
The Islanders (at ANA, at SJS, at PHX, MTL) finish their West coast trip and host the aforementioned Canadiens. Let's be honest, if you're strapping hopes on Isles' goaltenders for points this season, it may be time to abandon ship on the goalie category altogether or make a trade. Kevin Poulin and Anders Nilsson have been taking turns playing pass the cooties while Evgeni Nabokov (groin) continues to deal with his injury.
Despite this week's big schedule, Ottawa (PHI, at BUF, BUF, LOS) is the only team slated to play eight games over the next 14 days. Robin Lehner owners rejoice! As you'll notice, the Sens and Sabres head off in a home-and-home over a three-night stretch.
After a big 6-3 win over Detroit, it seemed Philadelphia (at OTT, at CHI, MTL, at WAS) was no longer an easy win against the big dogs. Despite their three road games this week, as far as we're concerned, there's only one big dog on the schedule. And that's what concerns us. Well there's more that concerns us, actually. Vincent Lecavalier (back spasms) is doubtful for Monday's games with the Sens and Steve Mason was torched by Tyler Seguin on Saturday night. Ray Emery could see two starts this week.
Tampa Bay (at WAS, DET, at NJD, at DET) also has three on the road, including a second tilt with the Red Wings to end the week in the Motor City. Anders Lindback was solid in Saturday's 2-1 loss to Winnipeg. It's unlikely for Ben Bishop to see the Red Wings twice in one week. Then again, Lindback could end up with Thursday's start and Bishop on Saturday. Watch carefully on this slippery slope. It's no help to your points now, but perhaps Steven Stamkos' February 6 date of return could help you reel in a trade.
In Back-to-Back Jacks this week, we have two teams not only playing four tilts this week, but both on B2B occurrences, and Toronto is your constant variable between them.
Chicago (at DAL, PHI -at TOR, LOS) has a fairly favorable schedule on their hands. Nikolai Khabibulin is still a "way" from returning to the ice, so Corey Crawford and Antti Raanta will certainly get their fair share this week. Kris Versteeg didn't bust out like we thought last week, but he's remained solid since his return to the Windy City.
Los Angeles (at MTL, at TOR- at OTT, at CHI) begins and ends a four-game road trip this week. They certainly received good play from Martin Jones (2-0, 0.97) since his call up. Ben Scrivens should be nice and rested when he draws the matchup against his former Leafs squad, so expect Jones in net against the Canadiens. As for the remaining two games, while Scrivens has shown terrific durability since Jonathan Quick's groin injury, head coach Darryl Sutter will likely want him fresh for Chicago, so expect Jones in net against the Sens the night before.
Three of a Kind
In Three of a Kind this week, we have four different teams who will likely have four very different outcomes.
Minnesota (at ANA, at SJS, at COL) has one of the strongest opponent schedules and all three are on the road. Don't get us wrong, we love Josh Harding, but NINE of his 15 wins have come against the weaker Eastern Conference. The more experienced Niklas Backstrom is likely to draw the Sharks on Thursday as Harding was due to face the Sharks on Sunday. Backstrom has an unsightly 6-12-3 (3.07 GAA) career record against San Jose.
New Jersey (at CBJ, at PIT, TBL) travels for two of their three, but we like the Devils' steam as they are coming off a 4-3 overtime win against the Rangers. Checking line forward Tim Sestito logged his first two points of the season in Saturday's win over the Rangers. Jaromir Jagr and Travis Zajac woke up from their slumber in the same game and Eric Gelinas (nine special team's points this season) is proving his worth on the power play.
Pittsburgh (CBJ, NJD, at DET) has won seven of their last 10 contests. Not only were we wrong about Pascal Dupuis breaking out against the Isles last week, he joins Brooks Orpik (concussion) and Evgeni Malkin (lower-body) on the mending list for the streaking Pens. Making things worse, the red hot James Neal is likely to face a suspension from Saturday's tussle after kneeing Brad Marchand in the head. Jayson Megna anyone?
As we mentioned in Back-to-Back Jacks, Toronto (LOS, at STL, CHI) gets the Blackhawks and Kings on the front and back end of games on b2b nights. What we didn't mention is the Leafs will see them on a b2b occurrence of their own. Yes, we cringed as well. Phil Kessell keeps chugging along, despite reports of an undisclosed injury. Unlike Joffrey Lupul (groin), who may return this week. As long as Jonathan Bernier and James Reimer don't start painting the town with Rob Ford, we think the Leafs will endure a very tough schedule this week.
OTHER ROTOWIRE REPORTS: Despite bouncing between the NHL and AHL, Frederik Anderson continues to perform admirably at either level. Nick Bonino continues his climb. Johnny Boychuck (back) could be out for the Bruins. No word on Shane Doan's (illness) status. Derek Dorsett (wrist) missed Saturday's game with the rival Devils. Loui Eriksson suffered a concussion on a hit that eventually landed Brooks Orpik in the hospital. With that news, Matt Fraser (16 goals in 23 AHL games) and Ryan Spooner (19 points in 21 games) have been recalled by the Bruins. Fraser came over with Reilly Smith and Eriksson in the Seguin deal. Tomas Hertl has picked things up again, posting five points over his last six contests. Morris owners breathe a sigh of relief, that DTD insignia you see is a "family matter," not another injury. Been patient with Valeri Nichushkin? It's paying dividends, BUY, BUY, BUY! Marc Staal (jaw) left Saturday's game against the Devils, dare we say, SELL, SELL, SELL or even DROP, DROP, DROP as it's been a rough season for the defenseman. If you're looking for a Ranger in shallow leagues, Mats Zuccarello (six points in four games) is riding high in the clouds, just don't get all bent-out-of-shape when he comes back down to earth.