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NHL Schedule Analysis: Big Matchups This Week

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"

The month of April brings more hockey than you can shake a stick - pun intended - at, as every team in the NHL plays 25-percent of their schedule in the next 27 days. For the second straight week, Anaheim's four game schedule is void of a b2b occurrence. However, in a lockout shortened season, three consecutive games with one team have been common? Let's break down a few pairs of teams playing each other at least twice this week.

Anaheim vs. Dallas
Series tied 1-1 (Dallas leads in goals for: 4-3)

Dallas (ANH, @ANH, @ANH, @SJ) has some bright points for you fantasy owners, like Cody Eakin, but in real life, they're having personnel problems. Role player Vernon Fiddler (lower body) brings a feisty grind and is missed. Alex Goligoski's defense stinks, but he did just have a four-game point streak halted by Minnesota. Loui Eriksson has a goal and two assists against the Ducks this season while Jaromir Jagr has been shut out. Wipe out Kari Lehtonen's loss to Minnesota and he's doing well since the embarrassing loss to Chicago. Lehtonen is 1-0-1 (0.96 GAA) against Anaheim this season. Anaheim (@DAL, DAL, DAL, LA): Francois Beauchemin now has four points in the last three games. Matt Beleskey (upper body) is out with an unknown ailment. After a 2-1 victory over Chicago, Jonas Hiller seems to have the edge over Viktor Fasth this week.

Chicago vs. Nashville
Chicago leads series 1-0 (Chicago leads in goals for 3-0)

Nashville (@CHI, COL, CLS, CHI, @CHI is barely hanging on in the Western Conference playoff race. Three games with Chicago, including a traditional home and home, could spell the end of that hang. They're going to need Pekka Rinne now more than ever. Chris Mason should definitely be a consideration if he's available. Martin Erat (a goal, seven assists in last five games) is maintaining his warmth and Mike Fisher (upper-body) is day-to-day. Chicago (NAS, STL, @NAS, NAS): Patrick Sharp (shoulder) is not far from returning. Marian Hossa (upper-body) is eligible for activation at any time, but no word when that will be. Ray Emery has been outplaying Corey Crawford, however, Crawford has a shutout against the Preds. Either way, look for Emery against the Blues as he is 2-0 with a 1.50 GAA against them this season.

Calgary vs. Edmonton
Calgary leads series 1-0 (Calgary leads in goals for 4-3)

Calgary (@ EDM, EDM, @SJ, @VAN): Miikka Kiprusoff has no intention of playing the final year of his contract next season. His play against Columbus this past Friday reflected that decision. Joey MacDonald could be a big part of this week. With the departure of Jarome Iginla, the trio of Michael Cammalleri, Curtis Glencross and Alex Tanguay are so very vital to the future leadership of the Flame. Cammalleri has 11 goals and 12 assists in 25 career games against the Oilers while Tanguay has 53 points in 63 career games versus Vancouver. Edmonton (CAL, @CAL, @VAN, @LA): Heading into Saturday's action with Vancouver, in large part thanks to a big week by Jordan Eberle and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, the Oilers had won two straight and could sneak up the standings with a few wins this week. After Nikolai Khabibulin was yanked last week against Columbus, look for the Oilers to go to Devan Dubnyk

Detroit vs. Colorado
Detroit leads series 1-0 (Detroit leads in goals for 2-1)

Colorado (@ DET, @NAS, DET, @PHX): Though they eeked out a 1-0 overtime win over Nashville, Avs fans have very little to cheer about. Milan Hejduk left Saturday's game with a shoulder issue and is day-to-day. Gabriel Landeskog has just one goal in his last three games. Semyon Varlamov continues to be streaky. Add in the fact that the Avs have two back-to-back instances this week and you may want to set your sights on them as opponents. Detroit (COL, @PHX, @COL, STL) The future certainly looks bright as the highly touted two-way defenseman, Danny DeKeyser agreed to a hometown contract and is considered NHL-ready. Heading into Sunday's game with rival Chicago, Mikael Samuelsson (finger) and Johan Franzen (lower body) had been cleared to play.

Pittsburgh vs. New York Rangers
Pittsburgh leads series (Pittsburgh leads in goals for 12-3)

New York (WPG, PIT @PIT, @CAR) Mats Zuccarello is in for the Rangers. Keeper managers, consider stashing Conor Allen who just made the move from Umass. Marian Gaborik saw fourth line designation in Saturday's 3-0 loss to Montreal. Clearly this did not jump start the stagnant offense. Well, at least Lundqvist got a night off. Pittsburgh (BUF, @NYR, NYR) setting aside the acquisition of Brenden Morrow and Jarome Iginla, the Pens have a quickly revolving door to their roster right now. Kris Letang (lower-body) is out at least a week and Sidney Crosby left Saturday's game against the Isles after taking a slap shot to face. Newly acquired Douglas Murray teamed with Mark Eaton against the Isles. Marc-Andre Fleury (neck) was available in that game, but did not start. Voukon (two shutouts last week) could get two or all three starts this week. Tuesday's game at the Garden will be on NBCSports while Thursday in Pittsburgh will be televised by NHLNetwork.

Clearly, you'll want to avoid Toronto players as they play just two games (PHI, @NJ) this week. However, in this week's Four Of A Kind,we give you some teams playing four games with a b2b occurrence (noted in red) and an arguably tilted schedule.


Los Angeles (@PHX, MIN, EDM, @ANH) GOALIE IDEAS: Not a lot of thought here as the situation settles. Jonathan Quick has stepped up in his last handful of games. If Jonathan Bernier is still a King after the deadline, look for him to play Edmonton and Quick to get the marquee match up.

Minnesota (STL, @SJ, @LA, CLS) GOALIE IDEAS: Matthew Hackett made his first start Friday, but did not fare well. However, look for him against the slumping Sharks. Niklas Backstrom should get at least two starts, possibly three.

Tampa Bay (FLA, @CAR, @NYI, @WAS) GOALIE IDEAS: Anders Lindback is still day-to-day with a high ankle sprain. Mathieu Garon has won two straight starts. Cedrick Desjardins (0-3) is getting a bad rap as far as we're concerned and is due, plain and simple. Look for Desjardins to make a move this week, possibly take starts against the Panthers and Islanders.

St. Louis (@MIN, @CHI, CLS, DAL) GOALIE IDEAS: It seems too many hens in the Blues house has finally come full circle. After a poor showing against Edmonton, Jake Allen was dumped by more than just a ton of fantasy owners, St. Louis has sent him back to Peoria. St. Louis has vowed to go back to Jaroslav Halak and Brian Elliott exclusively for the rest of the season. Deduct a shutout over Edmonton earlier this month and Halak was 2-4 going into Saturday's action. Regardless, we like this move and think St. Louis will settle down. Look for Halak in Chicago and Elliott to regain his confidence against a Columbus team that has been finding the net as of late.


Carolina (@MON, WAS, TB, NYR) GOALIE IDEAS: Dan Ellis is out 7-10 days with laceration near the knee. Justin Peters should get three starts, while John Muse (just called up from Charlotte) will likely make his NHL debut against the Caps. Does Carolina desperately need a goalie right now? Absolutely, their playoff lives depend on it. Will they part with young talent just to acquire a goalie while Cam Ward heals? Not likely.

Montreal (CAR, @PHI, WPG, BOS) GOALIE IDEAS: Carey Price's record in the last five games might not look good. However, even after allowing four goals to Boston last week, his team still found a way to win. You're likely to see a split this week with Price taking Carolina and Winnipeg and Peter Budaj playing Philly and Boston.

Rangers (WPG, PIT, @PIT, @CAR) GOALIE IDEAS: As mentioned before, the Rangers are nearly in do-or-die time, especially with two tilts against the loaded Pens. Look for King Henrik to get three starts again this week, and Martin Biron for the road game in Pittsburgh.

Winnipeg (@NYR, @NYI, @MON, PHI) GOALIE IDEAS: Forget about that loss to Carolina, Ondrej Pavelec. Get back on that horse and try, try again. Pavelec is likely to get the start Monday against the Rangers, but it would be interesting to see if Claude Noel goes to Al Montoya for the former team chip. Doubtful, look for Pavelec (2.13 career GAA) against the stronger Rangers team and Montoya on the Island. However, one surprise to keep an eye out for is Montoya to play Philly as Pavelec has a 3.66 career GAA against the Flyers.

Other news and notes from your beat writers:

-Thomas Greiss (neck) has been assigned to AHL Worcester for a conditioning assignment.
-Craig Anderson (ankle) will travel with the Sens next week, but not play.
-Kevin Bieska, who has been playing through a minor groin issue, got a maintenance day, Friday.
-Nazem Kadri has 25 points,including two hat-tricks in his last 18 games.
-After being hit from behind by Chris Kunitz, Josh Bailey also had to leave the bloody game with the Pens on Saturday.
-Jonathan Huberdeau has one goal and seven assists in anemic Florida's last 8 games, and is on pace for 57 points.
-Lauri Korpikoski (upper body) is day-to-day.
-Jared Spurgeon is a plus-6 over that span and has six points over the last five games.
-T.J. Oshie (upper body) is day-to-day.
-P.K. Subban has 27 points in 28 games, wow!

TV TIME (all games in EST)

APR 1 - Avalanche @ Red Wings 7:30 pm NBCSports
APR 2 - Sabres @ Penguins 7:30 pm NBCSports
APR 3 - Penguins @ Rangers 7:30 pm NBCSports
APR 4 - Devils @ Bruins 7:00 pm NHLNetwork
APR 5 - Rangers @ Penguins 7:00 pm NHLNetwork
APR 6 - Oilers @Kings 4:00 pm NHLNetwork
APR 6 - Rangers @ Hurricanes 7:00 pm NHLNetwork
APR 6 - Flames @ Canucks 10:00 pm NHLNetwork
APR 7 - Blues @ Red Wings 12:30 pm NBC
APR 7 - Stars @ Sharks 4:00 pm NHLNetwork
APR 7 - Devils @ Sabres 7:30 pm NBCSports