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NHL Schedule Analysis: Kings of the West

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"

The day of honoring brave veterans is barely in our rear view. It's an understated fact; the NHL has taken hits for freedom. Such as the 1942-43 season, when the league [NHL] was reduced to just six teams and 14 players per team. See the DallasStars recent blog movement for more on this wonderful sense of Hockey's importance as an American past-time.

Nowadays, the NHL is slowly increasing its attention on the goliath of Sunday television. But tiny steps, the NHL will take it's time this year. Despite the busty weekday schedule -all teams playing three or more games- you'll see four games or less on a Sunday till December 26th (11 NHL games). At that point, the All-Star game will be on your radar. This is when you'll notice the NHL is willing to publicly acknowledge your love of fantasy sporting. It's an important step to being disassociated from the Dungeons and Dragons (laughs) crowd.

Read about the newest of All-Star game formats. The players take over the 2010-11 All-Star game in Raleigh, N.C.

Back to this week, 10 teams will play four games in the next seven days. Your nights of serious decision making will be Wednesday (11/17), Friday (11/19) and Saturday (11/20). Atlanta and Edmonton are the only two teams on this PAST Sunday's (11/14/10) schedule (below), not planning a four game week. Perhaps Taylor Hall - 19 years of age on Sunday - will have his breakout party, as the Oilers take on the Rangers in a matinee at MSG.


Edmonton 4-8-3 (Road: 2-4-3) 12:30 pm EST at NY Rangers 8-7-1 (Home: 3-5-1)
Minnesota 7-6-2 (Road: 2-3-1) 5:00 pm EST at Tampa Bay 8-6-2 (Home: 4-1-1)
Atlanta 7-6-3 (Road: 4-3-2) 5:00 pm EST at Washington 12-4-0 (Home: 8-1-0)
Anaheim 10-7-1 (Road: 3-6-0) 7:00 pm EST at Chicago 8-9-1 (Home: 4-7-0)

Also this week: Boston, Nashville, Colorado, L.A., Philadelphia, San Jose and St. Louis have a four game week as well. It's certainly a week to browse the goaltending FA for catch and release points in the standings. Think...Madison Square Garden! You too will double back when you browse the next 10 days for New York's red, white and blue.

Red, white and blue
The New York Rangers (8-7-1) are an enigma slowed by harshly timed injuries. Marian Gaborik had three shots on goal in last Thursday's return to the lineup. Vinny Prospal is looking close to returning to practice in December. It's no surprise to Glen Sather and staff, Brandon Dubinsky is the scoring leader of this team. It will be interesting to see how Dubinsky and Ryan Callahan's free agency status impact the team's results this year. While Henrik Lundqvist has not been his usual greatness, a goalie of his caliber has allowed the position players to truly concentrate on becoming fluid. But, after a late King Henrik scratch (illness) Thursday vs. Buffalo, everyone worries a bit. You should be considering Martin Biron. Biron, earned the O.T. win and may deserve a second look for those in deep, one season leagues.

Both their captain (Chris Drury) and assistant captain Prospal are still on the injured reserve, and D Michael Rozsival is gone for another week at least. With 10 games remaining in the final 16 days of November, the New York Rangers are inspiring freedom, simply by retaining a mediocre record while they get healthy.
This week: @PIT, vs. BOS, @COL, MIN

Attack of the Ducks
At the beginning of the year you wouldn't have put a domain-renewal fiasco past the Anaheim Ducks. Once mighty, the Ducks looked awful early on this season. Not to say the Ducks (10-7-1), who apparently take home games (7-1-1) seriously, have righted the ship. Either way, no apologies will be made till they turn things around on the road (3-6). Watch as this tandem of Swiss and Canadian style goaltenders play off one another.

The overall ruling on the Ducks shows only five players with a +1 or higher status. Bobby Ryan has been solid and Teemu Selanne has seven goals and 18 total points. Seems like only yesterday Selanne used a stick to his shoot his airborne gloves out of the arena sky, see a clip here. Having averaged 27 goals the last two years, it's impressive to see a quick start from the 40 year-old. The former 1st round pick of the Winnipeg Jets is on pace to have his best season in nearly five years.
This week: @ DAL, MIN, VS. CLS, EDM

Western front
The Los Angeles Kings (11-3) have been a long time coming and finally all cylinders are going at once. However aggressive and prolific the Kings looked in my local TV action last week, their defense can be caught on the pinch or break down quickly. Jonathan Quick (9-1, 1.58 GAA) appears to be backing up last season's numbers, while his back up Jonathan Bernier hasn't been too shabby, posting a 2-2 record and a 2.26 GAA. No real surprises on the team leaderboard, except for Drew Doughty's (1 point) placement. Three games away from home this week for Los Angeles.
This week: @ SJ, vs. CLS, @BUF, BOS

The British are coming!
As much as it pains me to accredit their play, the Boston Bruins have been a well-oiled machine. The perfect mix of veteran goaltending (Tim Thomas 8-0, 1.39 GAA) and free-agency signings have panned out thus far. Nathan Horton is looking rejuvenated in Beantown with seven goals and six assists to lead the team. Mark Reechi has eight assists, and regardless of David Krejci's current status (concussion) he should be back in December, and should eclipse the 30 goal mark. They're not exactly as horrific as the New York Mets, but honestly, the last time the Bruins went to a conference final, it was known as the Wales Conference. Buyer beware of the last minute Bruin collapse.
This week: vs. NJ, @NYR, vs. FLA, L.A.

Also injured in battle
T.J. Oshie suffered a broken ankle, surgery is required. Early reports say a three month absence will necessary. St. Louis, who recalled C Nicholas Drazenovic prior to Oshie going down, has also summoned LW Chris Porter from the AHL affiliate in Peoria.

Craig Anderson (knee) could return in a week or two.

These Colors Don't Run
Because penalty minutes come in at a 2 for 1 ratio, I've always felt like if you are to make a move in your PIM category, it can be used as a late season spike. Owned by less than 50 percent of CBS owners, they've spent quite a bit of time in the box and their presence will manage a positive plus/minus.

L.A. (RW) - Wayne Simmonds +6 - 27 PIM
BUF (D) - Cody McCormick +3 - 40 PIM

The Full Schedule Grid

Team Away Home Total
Anaheim 2 2 4
Boston 1 3 4
Buffalo 1 3 4
Colorado 1 3 4
Los Angeles 3 1 4
New York Rangers 3 1 4
Philadelphia 2 2 4
San Jose 2 2 4
St. Louis 2 2 4
Vancouver 2 2 4
Atlanta 0 3 3
Carolina 1 2 3
Calgary 1 2 3
Chicago 3 0 3
Columbus 3 0 3
Dallas 0 3 3
Detroit 0 3 3
Edmonton 1 2 3
Florida 3 0 3
Minnesota 1 2 3
Montreal 0 3 3
New Jersey 3 0 3
Nashville 3 0 3
New York Islanders 1 2 3
Ottawa 3 0 3
Phoenix 3 0 3
Pittsburgh 0 3 3
Tampa Bay 3 0 3
Toronto 1 2 3
Washington 1 2 3