With the hoopla of the New Year behind us, believe it or not, some truths are becoming more apparent as the break to Olympic action approaches. That's right, with a fairly busy schedule this week, and one of the strangest weekly schedules the NHL has ever published next week, it's put up or shut up time.
*B2B occurrences in Bold
Anaheim (BOS, at NSH, at PHX, DET) starts out with a big matchup against the B's before traveling to The Music City and Glendale. The Ducks then end the week right where they started by hosting Detroit at home. Andrew Cogliano got an extension, how will that impact his game? Ben Lovejoy has lived up to his name as of late. Kyle Palmieri is making a fool of us.
Calgary (at COL, at PHX, STL, PIT) will play two on the road against the Avs and Yotes. The Flames then go home for five of their remaining 7 games this month. Kari Ramo was the hard luck loser on Friday against the Lightning. With neither Ramo nor Reto Berra having yielded more than four goals in a game since November 29,it should be interesting to see how this week's schedule against four offensive juggernauts plays out.
The first of those juggernauts will be Colorado (CGY, OTT, NYI, at MIN), who will finish out their homestand with three of four from home, then play six of their remaining nine games this month in whites. Nathan MacKinnon is really starting to come into his own. Jamie McGinn has found twine in three straight games, but can that last? Semyon Varlamov let the Sharks back in Saturday night's contest, but still grabbed the win.
As you can see, Dallas (at NYI, at NJD, at NYR, NYI) has a very easterly schedule. Sergei Gonchar (concussion) is expected to return on Monday and Trevor Daley (ankle) is traveling with the team just in time for another Aaron Rome (upper body) injury. Rich Peverley and Shawn Horcoff each returned to the line up with Dallas' only points on Saturday. While Dan Ellis was pulled in the loss to Detroit, he'll be counted on for at least one game this week.
Minnesota (at LOS, at PHX, COL, at NSH) plays three of four on the road. It hasn't been pretty for Niklas Backstrom, but we're sure Josh Harding (illness) would trade places with him. With Justin Fontaine leaving Saturday's practice dazed, Brett Bulmer (14 points in 24 games with AHL Iowa) has been recalled. After leaving Saturday's win with two assists, Mikko Koivu (lower body) should be considered day-to-day. Jared Spurgeon (lower body) has been placed on IR.
New Jersey (PHI, DAL, FLA, at TOR) plays three of four in the Garden State. The return of Anton Volchenkov (soreness) got Eric Gelinas demoted to AHL Albany, well that and a bit of a quiet streak as of late. Adam Larsson (knee) should return this week as well. Martin Brodeur is the man, but Cory Schneider has looked good as of late. Despite Saturday's loss to Buffalo, we feel confident the Devils will have a solid week.
Nashville (SJS, ANA, OTT, MIN) is the only team with four games exclusively at their home arena. The more those dirty tabloids print, the better Mike Fisher gets. Mark Mazanec lost to Florida in a shootout, so Carter Hutton could gain steam again with this week's b2b occurrence. Shea Weber has four points in his last two games.
The Islanders (DAL, at TOR, at COL, at DAL) have a very tough schedule that starts and ends with the Stars. Though Evgeni Nabakov has been up to the task, notching wins against the Bruins and Blackhawks, he's going to need Kevin Poulin's help this week. Despite having his consecutive games played streak ended, John Tavares' point streak is intact. Thomas Vanek knows the feeling.
Three months into the season, larger than anything else that has happened (e.g. Stamkos, Malkin) Henrik Lundqvist's post-draft value has turned the fantasy hockey world upside down. Fifteen of the 18 forwards and defenseman the Rangers (CBJ, at CHI, DAL, PHI) sent out in their 7-1 rout of Toronto registered at least one point. As one beat writer pointed out, this team is 'Jekyll and Hyde' and we don't see any change in that coming. Despite the rare assignment of four games in seven nights without the back-to-back occurrence, Cam Talbot is a serious bet to get two or possibly three (eek Lundqvist owners) starts this week. Daniel Carcillo takes Derek Dorsett's (leg) place in this lineup. As for the strangest recommendation of the season, Benoit Pouliot has six goals and five assists in his last 14 games.
Philadelphia (at NJD, MTL, TBL, NYR) is the only team with two b2b occurrences. While Steve Mason is definitely the man, the Flyers hope Ray Emery can build on his solid win over Calgary, because they're going to need him this week. Michael Raffl (concussion) and Matt Read (upper body) did not play on Saturday.
Toronto (NYI, at CAR, at WAS, NJD) rebounds from a slow week with four games. Rebound will be the key word as the Leafs and Jonathan Bernier will need to recover from the aforementioned 7-1 loss. Adding injury to insult, David Clarkson (foot) left Saturday's game and should be considered day-to-day. Jerry D'Amigo filled in for him. At least Tyler Bozak managed to stretch his point streak to seven games. With Carl Gunnarsson leaving Saturday's game as well, Jake Gardiner played alongside Dion Phaneuf. Perhaps the debut of Tim Gleason can liven up this bunch?
Three of a Kind (Back-to-Back Jacks)
Carolina (at BUF, TOR, CBJ) has a nice problem once Cam Ward returns. Anton Khudobin has been worth the wait and something tells us the Justin Peters story has not been completed. Eric Staal (lower body) did not return in Saturday's win, but Patrick Dwyer had two assists and seven shots on goal.
Look out NHL, Columbus (at NYR, CAR, at WIN) is getting healthy. Sergei Bobrovsky is back, but Curtis McElhinney is playing well, ahem, or was until he met the Blues on Saturday. Nathan Horton's return displaced Cam Atkinson to fourth line duties. We're not sure that will last, so don't go dropping Atkinson just yet. Artem Anisimov snapped a three-game point drought on Saturday and Matt Calvert (shoulder) may return on Monday against the visiting Blueshirts.
And then there were three, Part 2. Chicago's (NYR, at MTL, EDM) Corey Crawford is back. With Jason LaBarbera headed back to AHL Rockford, what will become of the Antti Raanta and Nikolai Khabibulin (lower body) saga? Raanta gets a stay of execution, but what happens when The Wall returns?
Detroit (at SJS, at LOS, at ANA) will rest and travel west, with their first of three games in four nights beginning Thursday. That should give Pavel Datsyuk (lower body) plenty of time to get back in the lineup. Hopefully the lag will not change Henrik Zetterberg's phenomenal season. Patrick Eaves (jaw) returned on Saturday but Danny DeKeyser (lower body) and Darren Helm (groin) did not. Johan Franzen will travel with the team. Alexey Marchenko has been recalled from Grand Rapids. Jimmy Howard and Petr Mrazek remains the tandem as the monster, Jonas Gustavsson (groin) remains sidelined.
Pittsburgh's (at VAN, at EDM, at CGY) three games are not a problem. But combine a three-game schedule this week with one game next week and you have a recipe for disaster. Especially since Evgeni Malkin (leg) owners are already ticked off. Worth noting Malkin was a game-time decision on Sunday. Robert Bertuzzo has truly gained value, but what will happen when Paul Martin and Kris Letang return? Only head coach Dan Bylsma can say. Blysma probably doesn't have a ton of positives to say about Olli Maatta's play lately. Deryk Engelland played forward in Friday's win over the Rangers. Taylor Pyatt made his Penguins debut against his former team on Friday.
St. Louis (at EDM, at CGY, at VAN) has a road trip through Canada and is still missing Alexander Steen. With Jaroslav Halak (illness) battling to get back to the bench, Jake Allen has been recalled from AHL Chicago. David Backes had two assists in his return on Saturday. Patrick Berglund continues his Saturday night fever and Jaden Schwartz just keeps going regardless of what day it is.
Like the Red Wings, Washington (at TBL, TOR, BUF) players will remain stagnant until Thursday, then play three tilts in four nights. Braden Holtby stopped just six of his 11 total shots in Saturday night's loss to the Wild, yikes! Philipp Grubauer come on down.
Pair of Deuces
After posting wins in five of their last six games, the last thing Ottawa (at COL, at NSH) needs is a four-day break. Their last four-day break (holiday freeze) brought on their only loss (5-0 to Boston) in the last half-a-dozen tilts. Nonetheless, Jason Spezza (lower body) might benefit from the time.
Vancouver (PIT, STL) finds themselves with a freshly activated Roberto Luongo again, but owners are none-too-pleased as they only draw two games this week. Eddie Lack owners should likely cut bait. At least Ryan Kesler snapped his 10-game goalless drought.
It doesn't matter that Winnipeg (TBL, CBJ) continues to get spirited play from Dustin Byfuglien, his value is limited with a two-game slate. Doesn't matter that the Jets only get two games this week as Ondrej Pavelec owners have been left out in the cold for a while now. It does matter that Al Montoya could play both, but let's see how he handles the Lightning.
Speaking of Tampa Bay (at WIN, WAS, at PHI), with five games in seven nights next week, you may want to consider all Tampa Bay personnel as you prepare for next week's crazy schedule.
OTHER ROTOWIRE REPORTS: Nail Yakupov has come to an "understanding" with Dallas Eakins and now he's scoring? Mark Arcobello returned to action on Friday night. There has been an Ed Jovanovski sighting? Wait, what? Either way, Aleksander Barkov shouldn't be impacted. Could Daniel Briere be on the move? For Phoenix, Shane Doan (illness) has returned but Oliver Ekman-Larsson (upper body) did not while Max Domi is barking for his NHL debut. Loui Eriksson (concussion) has been practicing but without contact. It may be time to get back on the Mikhail Grigorenko train. Sorry folks, looks like the Martin Jones show is over, for now.