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NHL Schedule Analysis: Standing Alone

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"

Despite being several games behind the games-played pace of the rest of the league, both Boston and San Jose remain as Conference finals favorites. Fourteen teams are playing on back-to-back nights, with 11 teams playing four games this week and only one (Florida) playing just two games, there is plenty of fantasy action to decipher through. Let's get to it.


Anaheim (vs. DAL, @CAL, EDM, VAN) starts off the week hosting the Stars. After a night off, they play three road games in four nights against the Northwest division. The Ducks are 2-3 thus far against Northwest teams. Having scored five or more goals in five of their last 10 team games, the busting Boston Bruins have a weak schedule (vs. WPG, MON, @CAR) ahead. Simply a prelude to a rare five-game schedule next week, once they head to Carolina, the Bruins will play six of their remaining eight January games on the road. Pick up Tuukka Rusk (9-4-1, 3 SO, 1.49 GAA) if available, you're going to need him next week. Left-winger Benoit Pouliot has three goals and five assists in the last eight games.

After Buffalo (@TOR, vs. TOR, @NYI) starts off the three-game week with a home-and-home against Toronto, the Sabres then head to Long Island. From there, Buffalo plays out their remaining January games (7) in white jerseys. This week, three at home for the Flames (vs. NJ, ANH, LA), next week, three away, but not a back-to-back game to be found till the ground hog shows his face. Curtis Glencross (17 goals, 12 assists) has grabbed at least one point in nine of his last 12 games. Carolina (vs. PHI, @TB, vs. BOS, @WAS) has a very busy travel week, alternating one at home, one on the road, etc… Carolina's Brandon Sutter has two goals, two assists (plus-2) in his last three games.

Considered among the Western Conference favorites, let's see how Chicago (vs. CLS, MIN, @DET, vs. SJ) handles three quality teams gunning for them. Just like Buffalo, Colorado (vs. NSH, @NSH, @DAL) starts off hosting the opening of a home-and-home with Nashville, who took the season series (4-0) in 2009-10. Here comes the Varlamov roller coaster again. Semyon Varlamov tallied two wins (0.48 GAA, SHO) last week. The Avs' week finishes against the rival Stars on Saturday night. Dallas leads the season series 2-1.

Columbus (@CHI, vs. PHO, SJ) ends their four-game West Coast swing with a stop in Chicago this Tuesday. After a couple of days to recover, they host Phoenix and San Jose to end the week. Dallas (@ANH, LA, vs. COL) takes to the road for two against division rivals (Ducks, Kings) before heading home to host the Avs. For those have not picked up Richard Bachman (6-2, 253 of 276), now may be a good time to consider it. Whilst Kari Lehtonen has been Dr. Jekyl and Mr. Hyde in his last four starts (three goals allowed in two wins, eight goals allowed in two losses), also consider Dallas plays on back-to-back nights twice next week.

Dating back to the beginning of December, Detroit (@NYI, vs. PHO, CHI) has played 13 of their last 18 games on the road. How about one more (NYI on Tuesday) before heading home? Pavel Datsyuk has really turned his season around since November 30th. Datsyuk, currently on a three-game point streak, has six goals, 17 assists over his last 19 games. Johan Franzen, who was a shadow of himself in December, has a three-game point streak (two goals, two assists). Edmonton (vs. NJ, ANH, LA), another NHL team that has been racking up the frequent flyer miles, enjoys a few days off before hosting three from home starting Wednesday. Three of the Oilers four leading scorers have a total of 59 years of life experience. Jordan Eberle (17 goals, 26 assists), Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (13 goals, 22 assists) and Taylor Hall (14 goals, 15 assists) equate into 34 percent of Edmonton's point production this season.

Florida (vs. VAN, PIT) continues their slow start to the month with a second consecutive two-game week. Los Angeles' schedule (vs. WAS, DAL, @CAL, EDM) starts off with two home games, before beginning a road trip against the Northwest division, starting with two (of 3) to end this week. Montreal (vs. STL, @BOS, vs. OTT, NYR) has one of the toughest schedules in January. Aside from playing the Penguins and Red Wings late on this month, the Canadiens visit Boston and host the Rangers this week. Nashville (@COL vs. COL, PHI) begins the week on the road, hosting the aforementioned Avs, before heading home to host Colorado and Philadelphia. When Patric Hornqvist scores (11 goals, 7 assists), the Preds are 7-1-1. The fourth year man's production has been trending downwardly since 2009-10, but has 16 career goals in January, more than any other month in his career. The home-and-home will be the first match up(s) of the season for the two teams.

New Jersey (@CAL, EDM, WPG), doing its best to stay within the elite eight of the Eastern Conference, have rebounded from an 0-2 start to 2012 by owning the Panthers (5-2) and Pens (3-1) to end last week. The Islanders (vs. DET, PHI, BUF), who started the new calendar year riding a three-game winning streak, have lost two in a row again. Being outscored 9-3 by Anaheim and Phoenix is not exactly how the Islanders wanted to head into a week they play host to Detroit, Philadelphia and Buffalo. The Rangers (vs. PHO, OTT, @TOR, MON), still atop of the NHL in points, will be at home for two this week before they finish out with two on the road. Second worst in the league for shots on goal, New York is highly dependent on their goaltending. Ottawa (@PIT, NYR, MON) plays three difficult road games. It gets worse as nine of their remaining 10 games in January are seen from the visitor's bench. Still producing like a young buck, Sergei Gonchar (2 goals, 21 assists) is enjoying a four-game point streak.               
Just like Ottawa, the Flyers (@CAR, NYI, NAS) have three games on the road. The big difference is Philly's (fourth in Eastern Conference points) strength of schedule. Phoenix (@NYR, DET, CLS) is our third straight team trending the road and filling out this week's schedule. Oliver Ekman-Larsson (7 goals, 10 assists), still owned in less than (48%) half of CBS leagues, has registered three points in as many January games.

Losers of four straight games, adding insult-to-injury (Jordan Staal), the Penguins schedule is picking up as of late. Eight games in the next two weeks starts off with hosting Ottawa. Pittsburgh (vs. OTT, @WAS, FLA, TB) finishes out the week with three on the road against the Southeast division. Certainly one of the toughest schedules this week, San Jose (@MIN, WPG, CLS, CHI) hits the road for a four game road trip. Sandwiched in between two big conference matchups, the Sharks have two 'gimme' games. Dan Boyle (4 assists, plus-6, 19 SOG) has been among the more offensive defensemen in the NHL over the last seven days.

St. Louis (@MON, vs. VAN, MIN) looks to capitalize on the first of their only two road games (9 home) in the month of January, before heading back home to host the Canucks and Wild. Defenseman Alex Pietrangelo (six goals, 11 assists) has a goal, five assists, including four power play points so far in 2012. Tampa (@MON, vs. VAN, MIN) has a busy week ahead, hosting three of four from home. Their only road game will be against fellow under-performing Southeast Division rival Washington.

Toronto (vs. BUF @BUF vs. NYR) has that aforementioned home-and-home with Buffalo before hosting the red hot Rangers. In conjunction with last season's series (3-3), the Leafs and Sabres have continued their tight games as each team owns a win this season. Jonas Gustavsson played in three straight starts last week, notching (88 of 94) a shutout and three wins. Tim Connolly, who had his three-game point streak snapped in the Leafs 4-3 win over Detroit, has 24 career January goals. After a win in Boston to start their four-game road trip, Vancouver (@FLA, TB, STL vs. ANH) is second in NHL points. The Canucks visit the Panthers, Lightning and Blues before heading home to host the slumping Ducks. Savor the flavor, cause after this week, the Canucks play only four games in the final 15 days of January.

The next two weeks could prove to be a momentum changer for Washington (@LA, vs. PIT, TB, vs. CAR), who plays four road and four home games over the next 14 days. But first this week. Monday they finish their two game West Coast swing against LA and head home for the Penguins, Lightning and Hurricanes. Missing defenseman Dustin Byfuglien, who missed his sixth game Saturday night with a knee injury, nine of Winnipeg's 13 games this month are on the road. The Jets are really going to miss Buff's presence in Boston. After Boston, the Jets (@BOS vs. SJ, NJ) head home for the week.

AHL quick glance

Hersey Bears (WAS) - C - Keith Aucoin eight goals, 50 assists in 35 games played.
Lake Erie Monsters (COL) – G – Cedrick Desjardins 8-5-1, 1.85 GAA in 14 games played.
Norfolk Admirals (TB) – D - Mark Barberio four goals, 28 assists and 27 PIM in 34 games played.

TV Time (all games in EST)

NBC Sports Network

TUES JAN 10th Sharks at Wild 7:30 pm
WED JAN 11th Penguins at Capitals 7:30 pm
SUN JAN 15th Rangers at Canadiens 7:0 pm

NBC Sports

SAT JAN 14th Chicago at Detroit 12:30 pm