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NHL Schedule Analysis: Light Christmas Schedule

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"

It was the night before Christmas, not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse. In fact, buckle up, because this week's fantasy results will be played out by the end of Friday night. So choose wisely, 12 NHL teams will play only two games and not one team will play four times this week. Instead of hoping that Santa will help heal some of the NHL's concussed stars, perhaps a strange schedule can give you a competitive edge out there.

Deja Buffalo - Before an 8-3 defeat at the hands of Pittsburgh last week, Buffalo (@OTT, TOR) played host to Ottawa and Toronto. This week, they'll take to the road versus the same two teams. From there, the Sabres play four games in six nights to end the calendar year, including a third matchup in three weeks with Ottawa on New Year's Eve.

Fire or Ice - Headed into Sunday's match up with Chicago, Calgary still has an opportunity to put together a solid December record. After going 4-1-2 in their first seven games this month, the Flames lost three very tight road games last week, including a 2-1 loss to Nashville. Next week, Calgary looks for a little revenge as they play Nashville on New Year's Eve. As for this week, Calgary (vs. MIN, DET @VAN) plays host to several strong Western Conference teams before finishing out 2011 on the road.

What have you done for me lately - Arguably the NHL's most consistent (12-4-1) team over the last six weeks, Chicago (@PIT vs. MON) has a light week. Puzzling, as it's in little thanks to Corey Crawford, who hasn't seen action since December 5. Ray Emery has seemingly taken over the job for now, winning six of his seven December starts (GAA of 1.93 and save percentage of .933).

Home for the holidays - They won't be easy games, but Colorado (vs. PHI, STL, TB) and Dallas (vs. ANH, PHI, NSH) will not be required to travel at all this week. How will being home all week prior to the Christmas break affect their play? Meanwhile, Columbus (@NSH) gets a much needed one-game week.

Traveling Red Wings - After beating up on the leaderless Kings (@TOR vs. ANH @SJ) this past Saturday, the last two weeks of December are the prime example of what Detroit (@EDM, VAN, CAL) has been griping about during the fuss of realignment. Playing seven games (five on the road) in the next 12 days, six of them will be on back-to-back nights.

Leading the pack - Minnesota (7-1-2) follows in Detroit's footsteps with nearly the exact same itinerary this week. After losing 2-1 (S/O) to the Islanders, does the Wild (@VAN, CAL, EDM) have enough fire power to maintain the top position in the NHL through Christmas?

Estranged fresh slate - The good news? With Jacques Martin out and Randy Cunneyworth (interim rest of the season) in, there's hope Montreal's spiraling ways has hit rock bottom. The bad news? Although the Canadiens are headed out on the road where they seem to be more in control these days (8-6-1), unfortunately, it will be against three (@BOS, CHI, WPG) of the NHL's hotter teams.

Gifts under the tree - Both Ottawa (vs. BUF, FLA @CAR) and Phoenix (@FLA, CAR vs. STL) test out their new toys with very similar schedules. After some bad blood between forward Kyle Turris and Coyotes GM Don Maloney, the Sens acquired Turris from Phoenix on Saturday for defenseman David Rundblad and a second-round draft pick. Also noteworthy, Ottawa, who plays host to this year's ASG, will unveil yet another Christmas gift for their fans next week. A $5-million Panasonic video scoreboard that will feature two, 360-degree LED rings over the ice at Scotiabank Place.

Flying confidently - Boasting the best road record in the NHL, Philadelphia (12-3-1) has won eight of their last ten games. They'll need that kind of road-warrior confidence as they have a hard schedule (@COL, DAL, NYR) this week.

Blue calm before the storm - St. Louis (7-1-2) enjoys a two-game week, or at least they better enjoy it. Next week (vs. DAL, @DET, vs. NSH, @DET) could be the ugliest schedule for any NHL team all season, which includes two games at Joe Louis Arena in one week!

Cruising Canucks - Mason Raymond (three goals, three assists in seven games) has been consistent since coming back and Alexandre Burrows has four points (two goals, two assists) in his last two games. Since a 5-1 home loss to Chicago on November 16th, Vancouver (10-3) has been in complete control, outscoring their opponents 50-24 in that span.


December 19th  Anaheim @ Dallas 8 pm
December 20th Chicago @ Pittsburgh 7:30 pm
December 21st Philadelphia @ Dallas 7:30 pm