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NHL Schedule Analysis: Cross-Coast Trips

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"

Christmas week brings a quiet time in the NHL, as only one team will play four games, while 11 teams will play merely two games for the week. As for this week, 14 teams will play on back-to-back nights. New Jersey (@TB, FLA vs. DAL @MON) has games on back-to-back nights, twice this week. Yes Alex, I'll take the Swedish back-up for two.

After Burner... After starting out December 3-0, Winnipeg suffered a demoralizing 7-1 loss to host Detroit this past weekend. What now? Winnipeg has 10 games remaining this month and nine of them are in Manitoba. Six in a row at home start with vs. MIN, WAS, ANH. Ondrej Pavelec is approaching the expectation, still have him?

East Coasting... Alex Goligoski returned last week from a month-long absence, and although he had a negative fantasy impact, is once quickly leading the Stars in ice-time. Good time to get their strongest defenseman back as Dallas heads on their annual East Coast trip @NYR, NYI, NJ. How will this type of trip look after the re-alignment? Hoping for an early Christmas gift on Kari Lehtonen? Stop holding your breath.

Kings Trip... Much like the Stars trip, Los Angeles heads to the road (5-3-3), but their strength of schedule (@BOS, CLS, DET) is a bit sharper.

Northeast... Montreal's month has been very distinct. If they're playing on Saturday, the Canadiens are masters (2-0) of their craft. Every other day this month (0-0-3), they're just happy to earn a point. This week, their three game (vs. NYI, PHI, NJ) home-stand starts off with an opportunity to even the season series with the Islanders.

Indifferent Predators... Nashville (vs. PHO @CLS vs. ANH) has been one of the most inconsistent teams of the last three weeks. The silver lining is Jordin Tootoo, who has eight of his 11 season points in the last eight games.

Still Clawing... Heading into Sunday's action, the Florida Panthers were tied for fifth in NHL team points. After beating San Jose (5-3), Washington (5-4) and Boston (2-0), is anyone still questioning the Panthers? We're no longer questioning their staying power, that's for certain. Is the Stephen Weiss (0 points in last two games) dry spell over? Weiss (11 goals, 18 assists) has gone pointless in three straight games only once thus far this season. Defenseman Dmitry Kulikov has that same mojo going on, only it's been just one game since Kulikov (3 goals, 17 assists) last production. Florida attempts to maintain the elite status of their 2011-12 with three home games vs. NJ, CGY, CAR.

Two Games... For the last couple of weeks, the Oilers were very busy, so-much-so that Devan Dubnyk (1-2, 3.42 GAA in December) was considerable. But after two losses in his past two starts, and then add in Edmonton's minimal but strenuous schedule (@PHO, SJ) this week and next week (vs. DET, MIN). Bottom line, Edmonton doesn't play on back-to-back nights until the new year, so Nikolai Khabibulin (10-6-3, 1.95 GAA, 2 SHO this season) should nearly own December for Oilers.

Four games

When you're worse than the Islanders and Ducks, things are bad. No rest for the weary as Columbus (NHL worst 20 points thru Sunday) takes on four very strong teams (vs. VAN, LA, TB, @STL), albeit three from home.

Off to a good start in December, Calgary (@NSH, TB, FLA, CHI) will take their three-game winning streak onto the road for eight of their 10 remaining games this month. Brendan Morrison (two goals, five assists over the last three games) will certainly need to continue his production.

Staff League Changes

Anyone else wait out Tomas Kaberle (20 points) only to bench him during a 20-fantasy-point week? All right, I'll gamble and toss him back in the lineup. Mason Raymond is back now, and I missed 9.5 points, Zdeno Chara's injury (leg) status is still up in air at the time of publishing, I'm nervous and am considering rolling with Phoenix (@ANH vs. EDM, NYR) defenseman, Oliver Ekman-Larsson, who has been quiet for far too long. The Blues (vs. NYR @NSH vs. CLS) don't play till Thursday, when they host the visiting Rangers. I'm sitting Alexander Steen and T.J. Oshie, who have a combined three goals between the two of them in five games. Two of those were by Oshie against the aforementioned sliding Ducks.

Home-and-Home... San Jose and Colorado start off the week with a home-and-home. San Jose leads (1-0) the season series.


NOV 12 - New Jersey @ Tampa Bay (7 PM)
NOV 13 - San Jose @ Colorado (9 PM)
NOV 14 - Chicago @ Minnesota (7:30 PM)