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NHL Schedule Analysis: Taming the Wild

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"

Look, we're all still recovering after last Tuesday's trade deadline. So make sure to check out Janet Eagleson's latest Frozen Fantasy and get yourself caught up. It will be important to seek out some of the possible sleepers and role players Eagleson mentions, especially with this week's dip in total games (47) scheduled. Despite the slower (comparatively speaking) week, the league as a whole will stay busy and balanced starting Monday going all the way through till Saturday night. With three weeks remaining in the season, the NHL will play a minimum of five games or more per night. Let's see if we can find you some trends to follow.


Three of a Kind 

Anaheim splits their remaining games this season between home and the road. They'll play Edmonton three times in the next three weeks, including back to- back in Alberta. Colorado, Calgary and Columbus once a piece as well. TABLE TALK: Jonas Hiller (flu) is considered day-to-day. Ryan Getzlaf was a game-time decision on Friday versus Dallas, but did not play, consider him day-to-day. Nick Bonino (lower body) won't put a timetable on his return, but has reportedly been feeling better. After going pointless in six games, Andrew Cogliano gives him three points in his last four games.

Chicago (@MIN, DET, STL) has very little to worry about regardless if they're on the road at home or whomever they are playing. TABLE TALK: Bolland is day-to-day beyond Saturday. Michael Handzus is fitting in quite well. Chicago coach Joel Quenneville said. "He was good on face-offs. He was big. He had some scoring chances. You like his instincts." Marian Hossa saw his ice time dip into the mid-teens in his second game back last week. Patrick Sharp (shoulder) didn't travel with team to Nashville.

Los Angeles (@DAL, COL, ANH) have slightly more home games remaining and at least four of them considered weaker opponents. TABLE TALK: Drew Doughty has points in consecutive games for only third time this season. Jonathan Bernier recorded his first shutout of the season last week and it's possible you'll see him more as the regular season winds down. Justin Williams had his five-game goal scoring streak snapped but has 13 points in his last 13 games, including seven points during his current six game point streak.

Minnesota (CHI, STL, CLS) plays six out of their remaining 10 at home. After this week -including those pesky Jackets- the Wild's schedule eases up with Calgary and Edmonton twice and Colorado to end the season. TABLE TALK: After allowing two goals on two shots, Niklas Backstrom was pulled from Thursday's loss. Darcy Kuemper's stock is rising, especially after the Matt Hackett trade. Matt Cullen (lower body) is expected to miss Sunday's showdown with Chicago. Mikael Granlund should be back in the lineup after playing on Thursday. General manager Chuck Fletcher says Dany Heatley (wrist) is expected to miss at least a couple weeks of action while head coach Mike Yeo believes Heatley will miss a couple of games. You may want to look for a replacement with just 10 games remaining.

Montreal (WAS, @BUF, @TOR) has Washington twice, six of the remaining 10 from the road. TABLE TALK: P.K. Subban is a beast, that is all. Well, maybe a little more. Alex Galchenyuk scored his first goal in 18 games. Max Pacioretty didn't miss any playing time after taking a puck to his foot.  According to CBC's Hockey Night in Canada, Alexei Emelin (lower body) was seen leaving Montreal's Bell Centre on crutches Saturday with a brace on his left knee. Michael Ryder is doing just fine and dandy, are you enjoying the ride?

Nashville (STL, DAL, DET) has blood in the water with five of eight remaining from home, including Detroit twice. TABLE TALK: Paul Gaustad (upper body) will miss the next few games, while Gabriel Bourque has already missed some time.

Islanders (PHI, @BOS, NYR) are winners in six of their last 8 games. Boston is their only tough opponent in this week's schedule, others are beatable. But the fish play six of their final 9 games from the road. TABLE TALK: Anders Lee, two points in two career games, but also a minus-3. Josh Bailey, two goals, three assists in four games this month, Isles 3-0-1. Matt Moulson (flu) did not play Saturday night and is day-to-day.

Rangers (@TOR, TOR, NYI): Now that they're beyond the Penguins, outside of the fact that six of their remaining 10 are road games, the Rangers are definitely a stick team. TABLE TALK: Derek Stepan is one of the biggest developments of the fantasy season as he consistently contributes. Ryane Clowe has fit in nicely and even Brad Richards is going again. J.T. Miller (wrist) missed another game on Saturday night. Henrik Lundqvist alluded to tweaking his hamstring in Friday's 2-1 shootout loss to Pittsburgh, but seemed fine (and tired) en route to a 48-save win against Carolina the following night.

Philadelphia (@NYI, OTT, @BUF) has five of 9 remaining from home. TABLE TALK: Adam Hall (plus-1) logged ice time with Sean Couturier in his first game with Philly. Luke Schenn has points in consecutive games for the second time this year. His brother Brayden Schenn has awoke as well with his first goal since February and points in three of his last four games. After Ilya Bryzgalov's brain fart last week, he could be available on a waiver wire near you. Kimmo Timonen (undisclosed) returned to the lineup Saturday to the tune of 23 minutes of ice time.

Phoenix (@VAN, @EDM, @CAL) has seven of their remaining 10 on the road. Hopefully that will help rid themselves of a locker room flu going around. TABLE TALK: Mike Smith was perfect in his return to the pipes. Oliver Ekman-Larsson snaps out of slump with two assists. Martin Hanzal goal and assist in each of the last two games. Shane Doan has six points in the Coyotes (4-0-2) last four games. Chris Conner, former Red Wings prospect, has been skating with Mikkel Boedker and scored his first NHL goal. Chad Johnson performed well (34-of-36) against the Red Wings. Lauri Korpikoski (upper body) is nearing a return.

Pittsburgh (@CAR, @TB, @FLA) will play six of remaining 9 on road, Boston only tough game. Southeast this week TABLE TALK: Head coach Dan Bylsma said Friday that Crosby (upper body) has not experienced concussion-like symptoms, reports the team's official website. Jussi Jokinen skated with Chris Kunitz and Pacal Dupuis and scored in his debut Friday. Kris LeTang (broken toe) skated on Friday, but not with the team. No word yet on James Neal's (upper body) status, but seemed off kilter after taking an elbow to the face against the Rangers' Michael Del Zotto.

San Jose (@CLS, @DET, @DAL) are winners of seven in a row. Then again, their next four will be on the road, then four at home and end the season with two on the road. Fairly weak schedule, can they continue their bond? TABLE TALK: T.J. Galiardi has four points during the Sharks' current winning streak. Dan Boyle has goals in consecutive games and three points in his last four games. Brent Burns is producing even when being utilized as a forward. Logan Couture had an assist, two penalty minutes, and a plus-1 rating Friday night.

Toronto (NYR, @NYR, MON): Toronto has all winnable games in their remaining schedule. More importantly is the home-and-home they have coming up with the Rangers who are just four points behind them in the standings. Will Brian Burke regret staying put at the deadline? TABLE TALK: Joffrey Lupul (upper body) didn't play against the Devils on Saturday, but Leo Komarov scored a goal in his return to the lineup. Clarke MacArthur (upper body) has been skating with Nazem Kadri and Nikolai Kulemin during practice.

Vancouver (PHX, @CAL, @COL) have three weaker opponents this week. After Phoenix, they'll embark on a five game road trip after which they'll head home for three games with some of the best the West has to offer. TABLE TALK: Zack Kassian scored a goal in his initial return to the lineup last week. Mason Raymond (shoulder) logged 15-minutes of ice time in his return on Saturday night. Derek Roy had an assist in his debut on Thursday, but was pointless on Saturday night.

Washington (@MON, CAR, TB) plays six of their remaining 9 from home, including a matchup with Boston to close out the season and two with Montreal starting with one this Tuesday. TABLE TALK: Alexander Ovechkin had a hat trick and assist in edging Panthers on Saturday night. Ovechkin has 19 points in his last 11 games. Nicklas Backstrom has 15 points in his last nine games. Who's hotter? Either way, here come the Caps to prove us wrong again.


Boston (CAR, @NJ, NYI, @CAR) will play seven of their final 11 games from home. GOALIE IDEAS: Tuukka Rask has been fantastic (4-0, 125-of-129) against both the Devils and Isles this season. However, the Bruins have only the divisional crowning on the line at this point, so wearing out Rask is not an option. Why bother, especially since Anton Khudobin has been one of the most trustworthy backups in the league. He's never faced either team in his career, so let's go with the Isles at home, where he's likely to feel more comfortable.

Buffalo (@WPG, MON, PHI, TB) are winners of two in a row and have decided to play spoiler at the season winds down. With five of nine remaining at home, you can't blindly look past them GOALIE IDEAS: We're all fairly certain Ryan Miller is none-too-pleased about not being dealt; however, he's playing well his last handful of games. Expect to see Miller versus the Jets, at home against Canadiens. Jhonas Enroth is likely to play against the Flyers with Miller closing out the week against the Lightning.

Calgary (@COL, VAN, PHX, @EDM) has a split (home/road) tough schedule. GOALIE IDEAS: Sure the Flames' defense is horrible, especially now that Jay Bouwmeester is gone. However, Miikka Kiprusoff is already retired, go ahead and scroll the waiver pool for someone to replace the man who has lost five straight and seven of his last 10 starts. If you remain loyal, its possible Kiprusoff gets the Avs and Oilers while Joey Macdonald is likely host the Canucks and Coyotes.

Carolina (@BOS, PIT, @WAS, BOS) has Pittsburgh and Boston twice each in their remaining 11 games. As much as we love the small market 'Canes, we just have to warn you, it's going to be a long three weeks. GOALIE IDEAS: Dan Ellis (27 saves on 30 shots) was pulled in Saturday's 4-1 loss to the Rangers. Justin Peters stopped all eight shots he saw in the final period. With this week's schedule, look for help elsewhere. Neither goalie has played the Penguins or Bruins this year. Career numbers suggest Ellis isn't half bad (2-0, 2.85 GAA) against Pittsburgh and quite the opposite (0-2, 4.35 GAA) against Boston. You make the choice, if you must lean on Carolina.

Colorado (CAL, @ANH, @LA, VAN) plays six of their remaining 10 from home. A fairly decent schedule, but not this week. GOALIE IDEAS: Semyon Varlamov is the Western Conference equivalent to Ondrej Pavelec; he just doesn't ever show that he truly wants to be a number one goalie. To top it off, it's the former number one draft pick of the Hartford Whalers that actually took the Ducks to overtime earlier this season. Nonetheless, Varlamov is the number one goalie on an underperforming Avs roster, so he'll continue to get most starts. Look for Jean-Sebastien Giguere in Anaheim and Pavelec, oops, Varlamov in Los Angeles.

Columbus (SJ, STL, @MIN) is at home for Sharks and Blues, after that, a six game road trip, until hosting Preds at home to close out season. GOALIE IDEAS: Michael Leighton, who hasn't started a game since late January, might continue to wait. With Leighton having not seen a Western Conference puck since the 2010-11 season, you've got to know Columbus is gunshy to send him out there. After posting some very shaky performances in the final week of March, Sergei Bobrovsky has seemingly settled down these past three games. Put your stock in Bobber!

Dallas (LA, @NAS, SJ) is splitting their remaining games on the road and at home. The spunky little club mostly fresh from the AHL mustered a 3-1 win after two losses to Anaheim last week. No surprise to us here at SA, Vernon Fiddler was a big part of that win. Lane MacDermid (acquired in Jaromir Jagr deal) has scored his first two NHL goals in as many games since landing deep in the heart of Texas. Alex Chiasson scored his first NHL goal as well.  GOALIE IDEAS: Neither Kari Lehtonen nor the Stars have enjoyed games on back-to-back nights. You should see Richard Bachman against Nashville, but there's no telling with Dallas still hanging on for playoff life. Monitor closely.

Detroit (SJ, @CHI, @NAS) splits their remaining games at home and away and enjoys a mostly easy schedule remaining. After taking the first three days off this week, they'll play three games in four nights starting with hosting San Jose on Thursday. GOALIE IDEAS: After the fiasco on March 31st, it's highly unlikely to see Jimmy Howard against the 'Hawks. Or is it? Jonas Gustavsson wasn't much better when he relieved Howard of his duties in that 7-1 loss to Chicago. Oh my, the web we weave when we draft the streaky Jimmy Howard's of the world. Gustavsson's career numbers against the Sharks are much better and include a solid performance earlier this season. Look for Howard against Chicago.

Ottawa (@TB, @PHI, @NJ) is currently enduring a seven game road trip, including three this week, but none are considered unbeatable opponents. After this they'll play five of their remaining seven from home, albeit against the Northeast. GOALIE IDEAS: Craig Anderson is likely starting tonight's game against Florida, especially in light of Robin Lehner's loss to Buffalo on Friday. But Lehner is definitely the man immediately behind Anderson. Its possible Lehner gets two starts this week as Anderson could be eased back for the playoffs, watch this one closely.

St. Louis (@NAS, @MIN, CLS, CHI) has arguably the busiest NHL schedule remaining. Currently on a four game road trip, the Blues will then have seven of their final eight from home. They'll play Chicago twice, but also a home-and-home with Colorado as well as tilts with Columbus, Dallas and Nashville to start this week off. All bets on Blue. GOALIE IDEAS: Jake Allen maintains a bit of an advantage here. However, Brian Elliott has a 2-0 record against the Wild. Look for Hitchcock's alternating net minders until most likely Elliott against the Hawks on Sunday.

Tampa Bay (OTT, PIT, @WAS, @BUF) splits their remaining games this season at home and on the road. It's a fairly tough schedule, only Florida and Buffalo to beat up and we've already talked about the Sabres. The rest will be tight affairs. GOALIE IDEAS: We were excited to talk about this one, but then Ben Bishop lost to the Isles on Saturday. Then again the Isles aren't exactly pushovers lately. Regardless, Stevie Y didn't ship off Cory Conacher so Mathieu Garon could carry the heavy workload. Bishop to get three starts this week, including Washington, who Garon wasn't able (four goals allowed) to beat earlier this season. Anders Lindback (ankle) began practicing again.


Florida (@WPG, PIT) should have never really been a focus for anyone. However, I'm a sucker for up-and-comers (Nick Bjugstad, Jonathan Racine) getting a chance. Fact is the Panthers play six of their final nine on the road, you make the call. But keep in mind, Jacob Markstrom was pulled from his last start against the Capitals on Saturday night.

Nashville (STL, DAL, DET) is playing three games this week, but from there have just five games in hand before their long strike-shortened season comes to an miserable end. Forget about 'em.

New Jersey (BOS, OTT) has five of final nine from home, however, battles with Pittsburgh. Montreal and two with the Rangers in the final seven days of the week, you may want to jump ship shortly.

Winnipeg (BUF, FLA) has the fewest the games in hand left in April. However, only game is considered a tough opponent and its Montreal to close out the season. Additionally they'll play six of their final eight from home. You don't necessarily want to drop the big names here, but role stat specific players will disappoint you in the stretch run.

OTHER DEADLINE WAVES AND LEAGUE NOTES: Despite flames four game losing streak, Matt Stajan has two goals, two assists in his last three games. Jay Bouwmeester has three assists in two games with the Blues. Marian Gaborik has a goal and two assists since his stunning departure from New York. Cory Conacher skated for nearly 14 minutes (plus-2) in his Ottawa debut with Jakob Silfverberg and Mika Zibanejad. Chris Conner, former Red Wings prospect, has been skating with Mikkel Boedker. Jordan Hecht had a goal and added an assist in Buffalo's 4-2 win over Ottawa. Adam Pardy had two assists on Friday. He has three assists in his last two games and four points in seven games this season. Jerred Smithson played nearly 10-minutes in his debut with the Oilers. Carl Soderberg (60 points in 54 games with the Swedish Elite League)

TV Time (all games EST)

APR 8 - Hurricanes @ Bruins - 7:00 - NHLNetwork
APR 9 - Blackhawks @ Wild - 8:00 - NBCSports
APR 10 - Bruins @ Devils 7:30 - NBCSports
APR 11 - Penguins @ Lightning - NBCSports
APR 12 - Red Wings @ Blackhawks - NHLNetwork
APR 13 - Canucks @ Avalanche - NHLNetwork
APR 13 - Ducks @ Kings - NHLNetwork
APR 14 - Blackhawks @ Blues - NBC
APR 14 - Red Wings @ Predators - NBCSports