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NHL Schedule Analysis: Rare Bird in Vancouver

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 just six weeks remaining in the season, while we're seeing some teams trending in the wrong direction, no team in the league is more than 11 points from a playoff spot. With that being said, there are 50 NHL games to plan for this week, so let's get to it.


Rare Bird - The rare bird is our team with five games in 7 nights, good for fantasy owners, or is it?

Vancouver (MIN, STL @PHX, @LA, @COL) - The Canucks have five games, but all against tough teams. Alexandre Burrows finally broke his goal scoring drought of 10 games, but still the Canucks could not muster much else and were beat 5-2 by Detroit. David Booth can't catch a break, or can he? Poor choice of words - he left Saturday's game against Detroit with a lower body injury. Zack Kassian (back) missed all of Saturday night's game and is considered day-to-day. GOALIE IDEAS: The week for Cory Schneider and Roberto Luongo owners will get interesting. You should see Schneider in Minnesota on Monday. Luongo would take on the Blues on Tuesday. Depending on how they play in those home games will most likely determine who plays two of three on the road. PREDICTED WEEKLY RECORD: 2-3

Four Of A Kind - All teams playing four or more games (for good-or-ill) this week and their latest goalie news for their b2b (back-to-back) occurrence.

For Good:

Los Angeles (PHX, PHX, DAL, VAN) and the Rangers (CAR, @NJ, FLA, WAS) play almost exclusively at home against weak opponent schedules. Don't question it, just go with it. Here are some others:

Anaheim (SJ, CHI, DET, DET) - The Ducks play four from home (11-1-0) this week, including two with Detroit on Friday and Sunday. Saku Koivu ended a three-game pointless streak Saturday. GOALIE IDEAS: Although the 2-1 loss to St. Louis on Saturday was anything but damaging, it certainly allows for Viktor Fasth to get back into the pipes as coach Boudreau is clearly going with the hot hand. After Hiller's loss, it's Fasth's turn to earn and burn. But Fasth has beaten Chicago this season. Monitor this one closely, but if we had to guess, Fasth gets that Chicago start on Wednesday.

Colorado (CHI, DAL, @DAL, VAN) - No, it doesn't look pretty on the surface, but after the Chicago game (the team they beat handily last week), you've got a Stars squad showing its kinks and the Canucks. The Avs are 8-4-1 at home and we think it's going to be a good week for those in Denver. Matt Duchene is really beginning to heat up. GOALIE IDEAS: Considering Semyon Varlamov is one of just two NHL goalies to beat the ‘Hawks in regulation this season, so he's likely to get the nod. In fact, after Jean-Sebastien Giguere's showing against the Wild, he will likely only play the road game in Dallas this Saturday.

Calgary (@DAL, @NAS, @CLS, STL) - Although they're on the road (3-6-2) for the first three games this week, Calgary is finally on our go list. Calgary has manhandled Dallas this season and also beat Columbus. Our only worry will be the Blues, when they're at home. Michael Cammalleri is a no brainer this week with four goals and four assists in four games this season against this week's opponents. Lee Stempniak is your back-up plan. GOALIE IDEAS: Miikka Kiprusoff is a winner of two (Nashville, Detroit) straight, but he can't do it alone, at least not this week. The Flames will probably give Nashville another look in Joey MacDonald, then back to Kiprusoff in Columbus.

Winnipeg (BOS, WAS, WAS, TB) - The Jets have won three in a row and seven of their last 10. Although their schedule shows weakness in three of four games, all four of them will be from home, where the Jets (6-6-0) simply have not gotten it done. Continued production from sleepers like Kyle Wellwood (goal, 3 assists in last three games) and Antti Miettinen (two goals last two games) will be needed and most likely had. More importantly will be the return of Tobias Enstrom who is expected back sometime this week. GOALIE IDEAS: Ondrej Pavelec is 4-0-1 in his last five starts. Eddie Pasqual is up as Al Montoya aggravated a lower-body injury this past week.

For Ill (likely to lose the majority of their games):

Dallas (CAL, @COL, @LA, COL) - The Stars were on this list prior to getting manhandled by Chicago. Regardless of whether head coach Glen Gulutzan can use this 8-1 loss to his advantage, they just don't have the talent moving forward. Add in Dallas's issues with the second half of b2b games, so look for them to get torched by the Kings. The other three games are intermittent shows of success by Jaromir Jagr, Jamie Benn (played against Chicago) and Cody Eakin dragged down by a young blue-liner core earning their stripes this season. GOALIE IDEAS: There's a solid chance you'll see Richard Bachman take two games this week. As for the b2b, it's likely you'll see Bachman against the Avs Wednesday and Kari Lehtonen in Los Angeles Thursday.

Florida (@CAR, @NYR, @NJ @NYI) - There are very few certainties in this league of parity, but the Panthers as opponents are usually one that will benefit fantasy owners. No, they're not the same team as last season, but perhaps four on the road will turn them into the David versus Goliath. Last season, the Panthers were an amazing 11-4-3 versus this week's opponents. GOALIE IDEAS: Both Jacob Markstrom and Scott Clemmensen have been pedestrian as of late. Look for Markstrom to start the week in Carolina and end it in Long Island.

Tampa Bay (PHI, @TOR, @OTT, @WPG) - Two more young forward for the Lightning have popped up. Ondrej Palat scored his first career goal in his seventh career game and Tyler Johnson had a goal and an assist in just his second career NHL game. GOALIE IDEAS: Despite a rollercoaster record in March, Anders Lindback seems to have regained his confidence. Mathieu Garon won over Carolina Saturday night. That being said, Garon has a career 5-1-0 (1.60 GAA) record against the Jets franchise, so look for Lindback on Saturday against the Sens.

Islanders (OTT, MON, PIT, FLA) - Most teams enjoy the thought of a four game homestand. It seems the Islanders (5-8-2 at home) have already checked into the Barclay Center. GOALIE IDEAS: Kevin Poulin looks good (10-for-11) in replacing Evgeni Nabokov against the Pens last Sunday. Look for Nabokov to play against the Canadiens (2-0, 2.92 GAA this season) and Poulin to get thrown to the wolves, whoops, we mean, Pens.

Washington (@PIT, @WPG, @WPG, @NYR) - We don't see any one of the Caps' opponents this week struggling, and you may want to make their opponents your focal point, especially the streaking Jets. GOALIE IDEAS: Career numbers suggest Michal Neuvirth has had a bit more success against the Jets, but that won't stop head coach Oates from playing his number one goalie Braden Holtby the next night against the same team.

Three's Company- Breaking down teams playing three games or less with a tilted schedule.

Montreal (BUF, @NYI, BUF) and Nashville (@CLS, CAL, CLS) have juicy schedules and players from their teams should be considered over other three game players. Here are a few more.

Minnesota (@VAN, @DET, SJ) - Devin Setoguchi is certainly looking good. Six goals, two assists in 8 games this month. More importantly, 10 of his 17 points this season have come on the road, he should continue. Also Pierre-Marc Bouchard has three points in two games since returning from being a healthy scratch.

Pittsburgh (WAS, @NYI, PHI) - No definitive word on Kris Letang's official injury, who some are reporting as a lower-body one; others say it's a wrist or hand issue. Consider him day-to-day for now. Good thing Beau Bennett is making waves floating between the Pens' second and third lines. He has two goals, five assists in his last 10 games. Also keep an eye on Dustin Jeffrey who is soaking up Evgeni Malkin's (upper-body) minutes and had two assists on Saturday against the Rangers.

San Jose (@ANH, @EDM, @MIN)-  Brent Burns has two goals and three assists since returning to the lineup three games ago. San Jose is just 1-2 in that span. Burns and company hit the road this week, including a tilt in Burns' old stomping grounds. Dan Boyle (four goals, five assists in 11 games) is another Sharks defenseman who enjoys playing in Minnesota. As for Thomas Greiss, it looks like he'll miss most of their current five-game road trip. Alex Stalock is Antti Niemi's backup.

St. Louis (@VAN, @EDM, @CAL) - Although he should be considered day-to-day, T.J. Oshie (ribs) was placed on the injured reserve Saturday. Alex Pietrangelo (flu) is considered day-to-day as well. In his first game back in over a month, Vladimir Tarasenko (concussion) played in 12-plus minutes and had an assist. Jake Allen is riding high, but the Blues Northwest division road trip could change that quick. With Jaroslav Halak rebounding from losses to Los Angeles and Anaheim, it's possible we could see Allen, and then Halak and Brian Elliott each starting a game this week.

Toronto (TB, @BUF, BOS) - Phil Kessel has four goals and seven assists during his current four-game point streak. Nazem Kadri broke a three game pointless streak with two assists against Winnipeg. The same game, Joffrey Lupul scored his first two goals of the season. James Reimer is likely to get the start at home against the Lightning on Tuesday. Though Ben Scrivens was pulled after two periods against the Jets on Saturday, expect to see him in Buffalo (1.53 GAA in two games) Sabres on Wednesday.

Two's and Three's to Bench - If you could take Chicago (@COL, @ANH), Edmonton (SJ, STL) and Philadelphia's (@TB, PIT) schedule and combine them for your players, you'd be in great shape. But each of these teams' players will likely yield you very few results. Here are a few others to consider benching this week.

Carolina (@NYR, FLA, NJ) - Though neither impact you owners, we like Carolina's pick up of Adam Hall, but cringe at the thought of veteran defenseman Joe Corvo (lower-body) missing time. We know, it looks like a favorable schedule, but something does not sit right. At most the ‘Canes will take out the Panthers and even that is questionable.

Detroit (MIN, @ANH, @ANH) - With Kyle Quincey (upper-body) out indefinitely, Jakub Kindl's ice time will increase. Kindl leads the team with a plus-14 rating and has eight points. Damien Brunner has been held without a goal for nine straight games. The Red Wings will host the Wild then head to LaLa land for the rest of the week. We think this will cause a continuance of their fuzzy season.

Phoenix (@LA, @LA, VAN) - The Coyotes have a short but compact week. After playing in Los Angeles on back-to-back nights starting Monday, they host Vancouver on Thursday and take the rest of the week off; look elsewhere for production.

OTHER NEWS AND NOTES: Martin Brodeur is expected to return to practice by the middle of next week. Ville Leino (hip) had an assist in nearly 16-minutes of ice time in his season debut.

TV Time (all games in EST)

MAR 18 - Flyers @ Lightning 7:30 NBCSports
MAR 19 - Capitals @ Penguins 7:30 NBCSports
MAR 20 - Wild @ Red Wings 7:30 NBCSports
MAR 20 - Stars @ Avalanche 9:30 NHLNetwork
MAR 21 - Devils @ Hurricanes 7:00 NHLNetwork
MAR 22 - Penguins @ Islanders 7:00 NHLNetwork
MAR 22 - Red Wings @ Ducks 10:00 NHLNetwork
MAR 23 - Canucks @ Kings 4:00 NHLNetwork
MAR 23 - Bruins @ Maple Leafs 7:00 NHLNetwork
MAR 24 - Flyers @ Penguins 7:30 NBCSports