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NHL Schedule Analysis: Five in Beantown

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"

With Chicago having suffered their first regulation loss to Colorado of all teams, it's clear there's still plenty of parity in the NHL. Chicago will only play two games, so we'll have to get some other trends for you to lean on in this week's Schedule Analysis.


Let's Play Five The rare bird has been multiplying as three times in the last four weeks an NHL team has been strapped with the dreaded five-game schedule. Boston (@OTT, @PIT, FLA, WAS @PIT) will not only play five times in seven nights, but two of them will be against fellow conference favorite Pittsburgh. Additionally, two back-to-back occurrences means goalie utilization should be most intriguing to say the least. GOALIE IDEAS: If you don't have Tuukka Rask and Anton Khudobin handcuffed, now is the time. SLEEPER SIGHTINGS: Is Milan Lucic (three assists in last three games) coming out of his funk? Lucic has averaged a point-per-game (two goals, five assists) in seven games against the Penguins over the last two seasons. After Chris Bourque cleared waivers and returned to the AHL, Jordan Caron had an assist in his first game.

Back-to-Back Fours Buffalo (NYR, OTT @WAS), Detroit (@CAL, @EDM, @VAN) and New Jersey (PHI, @PHI, MON) are playing just three games this week, but still manage a back-to-back occurrence and you should consider a back-up goalie waiver wire in daily leagues. Including Boston, 10 teams will play on back-to-back nights this week. All six teams playing four games will have back-to-back occurrences. Let's get into the latest goalie situations in those locker rooms.

The week starts off at home for Los Angeles (CAL, @PHX, @SJ, SJ) Calgary on Monday, then off to Phoenix on Tuesday for a road game before beginning a home-and-home with divisional rival San Jose. Who isn't starting Slava Voynov right now and why? Hopefully it will last. We've not watched him play, but Collin Fraser may be worth a look in deep and complicated leagues. He's had high totals in hits and consistent penalty minutes recently as his ice time has increased. It may have been a fluke against the Flames, but in a game coach Darryl Sutter doubled the former 3rd-round (2003) pick's minutes, he was a plus-2 with a goal and an assist. GOALIE IDEAS: Jonathan Bernier choked (three goals allowed on eight shots before being pulled against St. Louis) on an opportunity that wreaked of the Luongo/Schneider drama in Vancouver. Jonathan Quick owners, exhale. We now resume your originally scheduled programming already in progress.

Four on the road for Nashville (@DAL, @VAN, @CAL,@EDM), including Vancouver on Thursday and Calgary on Friday. With Colin Smith's (upper-body) status uncertain, the Preds (4-7-2) are certainly going to need Zach Boychuck to continue chipping in. Though, Boychuck is on his third team in as many months, scored in his first game with the Predators last week. He should be considered immediately for deeper leagues given the patience and ice time Nashville is likely to lend to the former first-round (14th overall in 2008) draft pick. GOALIE IDEAS: Surprisingly, Pekka Rinne's career numbers against all of this week's opponents consist of a GAA above 2.40 or better. Chris Mason might get two nods, starting with possibly Dallas on Tuesday as Rinne has started nine straight contests.

Starting off with three divisional matchups, including two on the road, the week will prove to be long for Ottawa (BOS, @MON, @BUF, WPG), regardless of the results. Zack Smith has six points (goal, five assists) in nine games against divisional opponents this season. GOALIE IDEAS: Craig Anderson (ankle) is still skating in practice, but is not being rushed. With Ben Bishop having lost two in a row, there's no telling if we'll see him or Robin Lehner Monday when Boston comes to town. We do expect to see Lehner in Buffalo and Bishop against Winnipeg on Sunday.

WhilePittsburgh (BOS, @TOR, NYR, BOS) will play host most of the week, none of the games are gimmes. After they start out with Boston, they travel to Toronto Thursday. They'll take Friday off and prepare for the Rangers on Saturday and then the Bruins on Sunday. Chris Kunitz, has six goals and three assists in 13 career games versus Boston. GOALIE IDEAS: Tomas Vokoun has been stellar in two starts against the Rangers this season. Not to mention the Bruins game will be NBC's game of the week, so Marc-Andre Fleury should be your starter there, barring anything unforeseen.

Washington (CAR, @CAR, @BOS, BUF)  And maybe NOT so unforeseen, we're skipping the usual Mike Green injury update and going straight to 'he'll may back for a game or two before injuring something else or becoming ill at some point'. Few teams get John Carlson going like Carolina does. Carlson, who has a goal and two assists in his last two games, has registered nine points in 16 career games versus the Hurricanes. GOALIE IDEAS: Braden Holtby did not fare well against Buffalo earlier this season, so if Michal Neuvirth (illness) is better, we expect him to nab his first game action in over a month. If not, we could see Philipp Grubauer who stopped 40 of 45 shots in a 5-2 loss to the Islanders on Saturday.

Winnipeg (TOR, NYR, @TOR, @OTT) starts the week with two at home against the Maple Leafs and Rangers. After a day off they hit the road to visit the Leafs and Sens on back-to-back nights. Still no word on Tobias Enstrom (shoulder), but they really need his production. In the meantime, Grant Clitsome and Paul Potsma are the wild cards on the Jets blue line. Potsma, who had seven goals and 11 assists in 27 games with St. John's (AHL) should interest you if Enstrom's injury becomes more permanent. GOALIE IDEAS: Disregarding the results of Monday's home game with the Leafs while considering Pavelec's career numbers (2-2-0, 3.81 GAA in five starts) at the Air Canada Centre, we suspect Al Montoya to start Saturday night in Toronto and Pavelec on Sunday in Ottawa.

Sleeping Three's for those owners whose players will not play a full slate this week. Let's filter out some trends and news for players on teams playing three games this week.

Tampa Bay (@FLA, NYI, CAR) starts off the week in Miami before heading home to host the Islanders and hopefully make up ground in a tight Southeast division against the 'Canes. After being traded by the Canadiens to the Lightning for the second time in three years, Cedrick Desjardins played well for two periods, but eventually yielded three goals in the third period of the 4-3 loss to Montreal Saturday. With Mathieu Garon's (lower-body) issues and Anders Lindback's inconsistencies, Desjardins could see more action this week. SLEEPER SIGHTING: Just back from injury, Ryan Malone has 45 goals and 33 assists in 110 games against this week's opponents.

Next week's rare bird Vancouver (@CLS, NAS, DET), is slumping. However, with two this week from home, they have a chance to get things going. They begin with the week with a road game against the before heading back home to begin a four game home-stand starting with Nashville. What we're marking on the calendar is Saturday's affair in which the Canucks (6-3-3 at home) look to avenge an 8-3 loss to Detroit last month. Cory Schneider should be your starter against the Red Wings as Roberto Luongo was torched in that game. SLEEPER SIGHTING: We think third-line winger Chris Higgins (11 points in 10 career games against Columbus) will start off well against Columbus and taper off as the week progresses.

Thanks to Jiri Tlysty continuing his torrid pace-12 points (eight goals in 10 games), Carolina (@WAS, WAS @TB has quietly become one of the NHL's hottest teams. Having won six of their last eight games, Dan Ellis should continue the solid play as well. Things could certainly look good in Raleigh come this time next week if they can extend their divisional lead with two against Washington and the aforementioned game against the Lightning. SLEEPER SIGHTING: Chris Terry's first goal in his NHL debut also counted as Carolina's game-winner in the 6-3 win over New Jersey on Saturday.

Phoenix (LA, STL, @CLS) can't seem to decide what to do with Rob Klinkhammer who has been recalled again. Then again, this is par for the course in the desert as the 'Yotes can't seem to string together any kind of consistency. Well, Klinkhammer decided to force their hand, scoring the game-winner against Dallas with the help of former AHL teammate Boyd Gordon's shot. Speaking of their win over Dallas, anyone see OEP's (Oliver Ekman-Larsson) spin move to create Shane Doan's team-leading eighth goal of the season? Also, Matthew Lombardi (upper body) was held out of the Dallas game. SLEEPER SIGHTING: David Moss, who had an assist Klinkhammer's goal, has eight goals and four assists in 16 career games against the Blues.

Losers of their last five, Edmonton (@COL, DET, NAS) just can't seem to put it together. After a hellish road trip to begin the month, having been outscored 21-7 in March, the Oilers play six of their remaining 8 games this month at Rexall Place. In addition to their homecoming, Ales Hemsky, Shawn Horcoff and Teemu Hartikainen all return to the line-up Sunday against Chicago SLEEPER SIGHTING: Taylor Hall has registered a minus-4 the past two games, but has five assists in three games against the Avs this season while Hemsky has three goals and an assist in three games versus Colorado. When these two go, so does the slick.

Anaheim (@MIN, @DAL, @STL) Bad news for Kyle Palmieri (upper body)Bobby Ryan moved into his spot with Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf and they've been clicking. Nonetheless, the Ducks are 7-2-3 on the road and shouldn't have a problem with this week's schedule. SLEEPER SIGHTING: Daniel Winnik has nine of his 12 points this season on the road.

Blackhawk Down Taking a look at their schedule, Chicago's (@CLS, @DAL) chances of beginning another winning streak this week are highly likely. However, Chicago, Montreal (OTT, @NJ), Philadelphia (@NJ, NJ) and the Islanders (@TB, @FLA) all have two-game schedules and applicable players should not be considered for weekly play.

NOTES FROM AROUND THE LEAGUE SATURDAY: Cal Clutterbuck returned to the line-up with eight hits in just under 13 minutes of ice time in the Wild's 2-1 win over Nashville. Matthew Hackett was recalled from Houston of the AHL, mainly to back up Niklas Backstrom. Additionally, Hackett was slated to start Sunday against Vancouver. Tommy Wingels returned to the lineup with an assist in 16-plus minutes of ice time for San Jose. After a hat trick in the same game, St. Louis center Vladimir Sobotka has six goals and an assist in his last five games. Matt Frattin had an assist in his first game back against the Penguins on Saturday.

TV TIME (all games EST)

MAR 12 - TUE - Bruins at Penguins - 7:30 pm - NBCSports
MAR 13 - WED - Flyers at Devils - 7:30 pm - NBCSports
MAR 14 - THUR - Capitals at Hurricanes - 7:00 pm - NHLNetwork
MAR 15 - FRI - Devils at Flyers - 7:00 pm - NHLNetwork
MAR 16 - SAT - Rangers at Penguins - 1:00 pm - NHLNetwork
MAR 16 - SAT - Hurricanes at Lightning - 7:00 pm - NHLNetwork
MAR 16 - SAT - Red Wings at Canucks - 10:00 pm - NHLNetwork
MAR 17 - SUN - Bruins at Penguins - 12:30 pm - NBC
MAR 17 - SUN - Sabres at Capitals - 7:00 pm - NBCSports