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NHL Schedule Analysis: Wild Week

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

If you're having some relationship issues, Valentine’s Day is a bit like spending two-minutes in the box. Either way, these two-minutes are likely to underscore your problems. Four of the top ten penalty-kill teams are playing four games this week. So, on the national holiday when we focus on candy-coated hearts and swanky restaurant reservations, let's peak into some teams using the penalty-kill to their advantage.

Minnesota Wild - 4-4 combined record vs. VAN @ CHI vs ANA, DET
They endured the home-and-home with the St. Louis Blues. First, taking a shootout 5-4 at the Scottrade Center then a confident 3-1 win at home, which ended in quite the scrum. Hanging in there, opening the bubble of Western Conference playoff-life, Minnesota is 5-1 in the young month of February and showing signs of late-season toughness. Including the upcoming week's schedule, the Wild will also see Anaheim (66 points) and Chicago (61) twice this month. Winners of nine in their last 11 games, five of their next eight will be at the Xcel Energy Center. Though Minnesota has won four in a row at home, the 14-11-2 record in their home arena is less than impressive. With a pending schedule full of favored conference rivals, the Wild will let their fans know this week if it's time to start focusing on the Twins. Kyle Brodziak, C, has 10 points (two goals, eight assists) and is a plus eight in his last eight games.

Philadelphia Flyers 7-4 combined record @TB, FLA, CAR, NYR
Now a few wins away from matching the swagger of the Vancouver Canucks, the Flyers are winners in eight of their last ten, and second in NHL with 77 points. The Flyers have endured injuries and withstood a pressing Penguins team. Looking more dangerous, last year's Eastern Conference Stanley Cup finalist has re-established their penalty-kill after giving up 14 power-play goals in last year's playoff run. In the last five seasons, the Flyers have been ranked in the top five for penalty minutes. Now ranked 11th in league penalty-minutes, the Flyers penalty-kill (8th in the league) has tightened up as well. More to come on their 09-10 Stanley Cup competitor. While Claude Giroux (51 points in 54 games) and the Flyers are a combined 6-0 against the Hurricanes and Rangers, the Flyers have struggled with Southeast teams like Florida (1-1) and Tampa Bay (0-3).

Vancouver Canucks 6-3 combined record @STL, MIN, NSH, vs. DAL
Scoring nearly 25 percent of the time this season, even elderly in the Southern United States are impressed with the Canucks man advantage. Not having given up a power-play goal in eight games, it's the NHL's fourth ranked penalty-kill that may be keeping Vancouver in the limelight. Only one-loss (4-3 Anaheim) in six games in February so far, the Canucks are beginning to look unstoppable. When one man (Alexander Edler) goes down to injury, another (Sami Salo) returns from one. When good luck charm like Jeff Tambellini (Canucks 30-3-7 with him in the lineup) goes cold, Mikael Sammuelsson (12 points in last six games) goes hot. Daniel Sedin has been held pointless in only three games since January 3rd, posting 26 points in 19 games. Alexandre Burrows appears locked in for the season, as he has eight goals in as many games. Kevin Bieksa is playing a solid (25 minutes) ice time, and Christian Ehrhoff has been as consistent as expected. Aside from their 3-0 season series lead of the Dallas Stars in 2010-11, the Canucks' schedule is a bit more competitive than it looks. St. Louis managed to split two previous games with Vancouver, while Minnesota has taken two of three this season. Vancouver, who plays three away from Rogers Arena this week, is 16-7-4 on the road this season.

Washington Capitals 1-1-2 combined record @PHO, ANA, SJ, BUF
No longer leaders of Southeast division, the Capitals are tied for first in at least one category. Joining the Caps, Atlanta has 10 overtime losses. Second (86.4) in NHL PK percentage, at the very least, Washington has posted six short-handed goals. Six different players have logged a SHG on the Capitals active roster. Despite a disappointing 4-1 loss to L.A; the Caps fans have seen Alexander Ovechkin score three game-winning goals in the last five weeks. Ovechkin is now second to Logan Couture (8) for the league lead. Though his consistency is still lagging -two points in last four games- it seems when he is cutting to center and drives to the net, it spells success for Washington. Mike Green (head) did return in the 4-1 loss to Los Angeles, registering 2 PIM. Tom Poti, D (lower-body), may also be ready to return to the lineup as they headed for the West Coast. The Capitals need a strong-showing from their big name players this week.

Game of the week;

Montreal leads series 1-0
The Heritage Classic will take place at McMahon Stadium when the Montreal Canadiens visit the Calgary Flames. The vibe of this game carries something very different of the NHL Winter Classic. It's a celebration of outside hockey, without the marketing of it all. Calgary is one the NHL's hottest teams going in, 10-2-2 in their last 14 games. It appears LW Curtis Glencross has finally found a home in his third year in Calgary. Glencross has 12 points in his last 10 games, including two game-winning goals during his current four game goal-scoring streak. As for the Canadiens, they are sixth in NHL penalty-kill. However there is dissension in the ranks, as Scott Gomez is back in head coach Jacques Martin's doghouse. Rookie center David Desharnais (six points in last three games) has been taking advantage of more playing time. When the Habs started (3-0) February it seemed more promising, since then Montreal is 1-2-1 over the last four games. As for fiery Calgary, going back to their 5-4 shootout loss (Jan. 17th) in Montreal, the Flames were then embarrassed at home (6-0) by Minnesota. Since then Calgary has been on a tear, posting only one loss (Vancouver) in their last 11 games.
MON combined record 4-0-1: vs. BUF @ EDM, CAL
CGY combined record 4-1-1: @COL, vs. DAL, MTL

Fading Fast

Chicago's 60 points is good for a weak hold on 11th place in the Western Conference. New addition Michael Frolik was on a three-game point streak until his trade to Chicago. In his Blackhawks debut against Dallas (4-3 S/O loss) last Friday, Frolik registered five shots and one hit in just over 17 minutes of ice time. Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane will keep this team at a certain level, but as redundant as this may sound, this is not the same team as last year. I'm not saying they won't make the playoffs, but their fight will be just like the Dallas Stars, on the last days of the season.

CHI combined record vs. MIN, CLB, PIT

Young Love (Rockford Icehogs of the AHL)

G Alex Richards -- 2.62 GAA and 10-16-1 is not reflective of his talent
D Shawn LaLonde -- 23 points, 77 shots in 43 games.
C Ryan Potulny -- 32 points leads team with 132 shots in 49 games.

Rebound Status

Dustin Penner and the Edmonton Oilers are quickly rebounding from a dismal first half. In the battle for the number one pick in 2011's entry draft, Penner had two of Edmonton's three goals this past Saturday. Seven points in as many games, despite the 5-3 loss to Ottawa, Penner and the Oilers look more in-tune with itself. Of 23 players active on their squad, the average age of the Oilers is barely 25 years-old. Of course their 38-year-old goalie has been less-than spectacular and a large stick-handling defenseman must be had at the draft this year. In the meantime, the Oilers will also play host three times this week.

EDM combined record vs. DAL, MON, ATL

Young Love (Oklahoma City Barons of the AHL)

LW Alexandre Giroux -- second in AHL scoring with 61 pts, 53 PIM and 191 SOG
C Brad Moran --32 assists (47 pts) in 54 games
RW Colin McDonald -- 24 goals (34 pts) in 54 games.

Nationally Syndicated Television Schedule in EST

14 -- Washington at Phoenix, 8:00
15 -- Buffalo at Montreal, 7:30
16 -- Minnesota at Chicago, 8:00
20 -- Montreal at Calgary, 6:00 -- Heritage Classic (McMahon Stadium)

The Full Schedule

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