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NHL Schedule Analysis: All Bets Are 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"

The regular season closes in five days folks and you have either switched most focus to baseball or lingering on the lead in one way shape or form. Either way, unless you're in a league that includes playoff action, your season is coming to a close. Despite this year's scheduling chaos, the final week of the NHL's regular season ends on quite the normal note as 24 teams play three times this week. Tuesday, Thursday and the final day of the regular season, Saturday will be the busiest nights. However, a handful of teams play either four or two games could provide you with a slight advantage. We've got a lot to do in this week's Schedule Analysis, so let's get to it.

*CRAW (combined record against this week's opponents)


"Three's Are Wild" will provide you a breakdown of teams playing three games and could have the ability to nab some FA pool points from teams playing on the wild side. Back-to-back occurrences are in red.

Dallas (@SJ, CLS, @DET)
CRAW of 5-1-1

They are certainly going to need to win out, but at least the Stars hold their own fate with three games against two teams in their immediate way. San Jose, who they've outscored 10-6 in three victories, is just eight points ahead of the Stars. With no back-to-back games, its conceivable Kari Lehtonen's health could hold up and the team who traded nearly all of their firepower sneaks into the playoffs. Trevor Daley (upper body) missed Saturday's practice. Jamie Benn is not likely available to you. Alex Chiasson could be still available, but you better check his injury status first. Vernon Fiddler has two assists in three games against San Jose. SA's favorite ginger, Cody Eakin, has a combined five points (goal, four assists) in four games against the Jackets and Red Wings.

Los Angeles (@MIN, @DET, SJ)
CRAW 3-2-2

They'll play one from each division this week. Oddly enough, in the month of April, the Kings have a 0-4 record on games played between Sunday and Wednesday. However, their 5-0 record Thursday through Saturday suggests they could go 1-2 this week. Jonathan Quick, who hasn't given up more than two goals in his last four (3-0-1) starts, hasn't been all that solid against Minnesota or Detroit. Meanwhile, Jonathan Bernier has stopped a combined total of 55 saves in 56 shots for a win against each team. Justin Williams and Jeff Carter have a combined five goals in two games against Minnesota, while Williams and Dustin Brown have eight combined points in three games against the Sharks.

Minnesota (LA, EDM, @COL)
CRAW: 7-1-1

All bets are on the Wild, who have dominated (6-0-1, plus-11 GF) the Oilers and Avs all season. Aside from Zach Parise (goal and five assists) and Mikko Koivu's (four goals and five assists) numbers against Colorado and Edmonton, Kyle Brodziak (two goals in three games against the Oilers) might be worth a look. Although, Niklas Backstrom is 3-0 against each Colorado and Edmonton, his GAA against the Avs (2.94, 12 GA) is much more concerning than (2.00, 6 GA) against the Oilers. Backstrom has not done so well against the Kings either. You may see Darcy Kuemper against Los Angeles as he allowed just one goal in 57 minutes of play against the Kings. All of that said Josh Harding began a conditioning stint with Houston of the AHL. It's entirely possible to see all three goalies this week in order to select who will back-up Backstrom for Minnesota's long over-due run at Lord Stanley's Cup.

New York Islanders (@CAR, @PHI, @BUF)
CRAW: 4-2-0

The first of two NY metro teams vying for a playoff spot, one could say their only handicap is living out of a suitcase, but then one should check out the fishermen's record (13-5-2) on the road. No wonder they're moving. Collin McDonald should be yanked from the pool quickly and quietly around Monday or Tuesday. In five combined games against the Flyers and Sabres, McDonald has four goals and two assists. Evgeni Nabakov has been a beast and nothing less will be expected from him this week.

New York Rangers (@FLA, @CAR, NJ)
CRAW: 4-2-0

After the 14-goal, two-game explosion against notably weaker Florida and Buffalo, you have to limit your expectations. However, the Rangers play four games in the final six days of the season and Florida is one of their final opponents. You should consider some sleepers on their team, just not against an always spirited effort by the Devils. Mats Zuccarrello, Anton Stralman, Ryan Callahan even Brad Richards could be available. Not sure how head coach John Tortorella is handling Lundqvist, but he started -and won- on consecutive nights last week. In case you're still hand-cuffing Martin Biron, his services are not likely to be needed.

San Jose (DAL, @PHX, @LA)
CRAW: 5-3-2

Although you shouldn't expect much from the Sharks against Dallas (0-2-1, minus-4 GA), San Jose is 5-1-1 against the ‘Yotes and Kings this season. Phoenix in particular has been outshot 143-120 and outscored 12-6 in those four games. Battling for seeding mostly, but playoff life early, San Jose has found the point column in eight of 10 games this month. Brent Burns has two of San Jose's six goals in the season series against Dallas. Add another two goals and four assists in three games against Los Angeles. However, Burns is not on the list of 12 different Sharks that have at least one point in three contests against Phoenix this season.

Winnipeg (@BUF, @WAS, MON)
CRAW: 3-5-0

The Jets give you a chance to dump and run as their regular season officially ends on Thursday. Stack up for Monday's tilt with the Sabres, then tread lightly or possible jump ship starting Tuesday at Washington with Montreal to follow in the finale on Thursday. The Jets have been outscored a combined 24-9 and are a combined 1-5 against the Caps and Habs. Andrew Ladd, Bryan Little and Zach Bogosian are all heated up. Grant Clitsome has been warming up and may be available, but he's burned us too often. Clitsome is a minus-4 against Washington and has a combined two assists in eight games against this week's opponents. Also warm from last week, Blake Wellwood shows similar numbers. Looks like it's time for Ondrej Pavelec to grow up. Al Montoya has not seen enough pucks this season to take on the Caps, regardless of what happened in the Jets' 6-1 loss to Washington last month. Montoya on Monday in Buffalo, Pavelec against the Capitals on Tuesday.

"Deuces" delves into a few teams playing just a couple of games this week. From a fantasy perspective, you may want to consider dropping any of the players on these rosters. If you just can't do it, let's see what you can expect.

Buffalo (WPG, NYI)
CRAW 1-3-0

After their deadline action, the top three remaining (Thomas Vanek, Cody Hodgson, Tyler Ennis) scorer's on roster have a combined two goals and two assists in four games against the Jets and Isles. Ryan Miller is 1-3 with a 2.76 GAA in four starts. Drop.

Columbus (@DAL, NAS)
CRAW: 4-1-1

While they own a 4-1-1 record against Dallas and Nashville, and they are still our favorite dark horse for the playoffs, the goal differential against their two opponents combined is just plus-one.  However, it appears Vinny Prospal may be worth the flier or keeping as he has a combined goal and five assists in six games against the Stars and Jackets. Mark Letestu has a goal and three assists in five applicable games. Sergei Bobrovsky is a combined 4-1-1 with 3.01 GAA. Push.

Calgary (@NAS, @STL, @CHI)
CRAW: 2-3-1

Miikka Kiprusoff is likely to go out in a blaze of glory, but it's going to have to be on the road. According to Kiprusoff's (1-8, 3.91 GAA on the road) retirement plans, he's played his last NHL game on Calgary ice. The Flames are on the road to close the season, starting with tonight's tilt at Minnesota. A couple of Romans to make note of ... obviously, Roman Cerenkov is on everyone's radar, though he has cooled off a bit. Sophomore winger, Roman Horal is a plus-5 with a goal and two assists over the last three games. Nonetheless, Calgary's schedule gets progressively worse and you can just start dumping after Nashville.

"Four of a Kind" is ordinarily a much more prevalent portion of the Schedule Analysis. However, this week, it involves just four teams, three of which are just collecting red tape.

Chicago (@ VAN, @EDM, CAL, @STL)
CRAW: 7-1-2

Vancouver and Edmonton provide a fairly balanced opponent this week.  However, feel free to break the bank of remaining games against the Flames and Blues. Chicago has outscored Calgary and St. Louis a combined 16-8 en route to a 5-0-1 record against the two teams. The ‘Hawks are resting a ton (such as Patrick Sharp, Michal Rozsival) of bruised talent and you should plan accordingly. Viktor Stalberg has two goals and an assist in three games against the Blues. GOALIE IDEAS: Neither backstop has lost in April, but Corey Crawford is 3-0-1 against St. Louis. That being said, you're likely to see Carter Hutton against Calgary, as Ray Emery is still dealing with a lower body injury and head coach Joel Quenneville doesn't want to rush him.

Detroit (PHX, LA, NAS, @DAL)
CRAW: 5-3-1

Based on this season's numbers, the most success Detroit is likely to have is Thursday when they host Nashville. Detroit is 2-0-1 and outscoring the Preds 10-4 in the season series. Dan Cleary and Pavel Datsyuk have combined for 11 points in three games against Nashville. Cleary has just a goal and an assist in a combined six games against the other three teams. Datsyuk has two goals and four assists in those six games. GOALIE IDEAS: Jimmy Howard is likely to take on three of four starts this week with the playoffs on the line. Howard has been solid against the Kings this season, so look for Jonas Gustavsson against Nashville.

Edmonton (ANH, CHI, @MIN, VAN)
CRAW: 3-5-2

Expect the slick to stand tall this week as their young legs outshine teams transitioning to the postseason. To put it further in perspective, the Oilers have a combined minus-1 goal diff in 7 games against the Ducks, Hawks and Canucks combined. Taylor Hall has four goals and four assists in eight games against this week opponents. GOALIE IDEAS: Devan Dubnyk has lost four in a row. What's worse is Dubnyk has been terrible (0-3-0, 4.14 GAA) against the Wild. However, Dubnyk has been very dependable (2-0-1, 1.58 GAA) against Vancouver where Nikolai Khabibulin has faulted. The Wall is likely to start against the Wild and Dub against the Canucks to end another disappointing season in hockey's best little town.

Phoenix (@DET, SJ, COL, @ANH)
CRAW: 6-4-1

Despite being outshot, the Coyotes have outscored the Avs 7-2 this season. So what about the rest? Not much confidence here, considering the Sharks have outscored Phoenix 12-6 and Detroit is grinding for playoff life. Anaheim can beat them asleep if they cared to. Don't get us wrong, we've got love for desert hockey, but outside of Mike Smith, there's just not much here to hold. Shane Doan has five points in two games against the Avs. In three previous match ups with the Ducks, Oliver Ekkman-Larsson has three assists and Lauri Korpikoski has two goals. Derek Morris did not play Saturday against Chicago and is considered day-to-day with a lower-body injury. GOALIE IDEAS: Not sure who will get the start in Anaheim as the ‘Yotes have very little hope of qualifying for the playoffs, but don't be surprised if it's Jason LaBarbera on the final night of the regular season.

Good luck in your final week!


-Tom Pyatt (head), Sami Salo (back) and Anders Lindback (ankle) all expected to return Sunday.
-Marc-Andre Fleury is expected to start three of Pittsburgh's four final games starting Monday at Ottawa.
-Chris Higgins (lower body) and Keith Ballard (back) should be treated as day-to-day moving forward.
-Raphael Diaz had a shot on goal, a hit and a blocked shot. Yannick Webber skated a season-high of 18-minutes in Saturday's loss to Washington.
-Nazem Kadri snapped an eight-game goal drought with his 18th of the season in Saturday's 4-1 win over the Senators.
-Justin Faulk extended his four-game point scoring streak and Jeff Skinner (upper body) picked up a goal in over 20 minutes of ice time in a loss to Philly.
-Steve Mason led the Flyers to a 5-3 win over Carolina Saturday night. Matt read and Wayne Simmonds combined for seven points on the night.
-Martin Brodeur allowed two goals on 13 shots and Patrik Elias scored twice in Saturday's win over Florida. Ryan Carter has three points in his last two games.

TV Time (all games in EST)

APR 22 - Coyotes at Red Wings - 7:30 - NBCSports
APR 22 - Blackhawks at Canucks - 10:00 - NHLNetwork
APR 23 - Bruins at Flyers - 7:30 - NBCSports
APR 24 - Kings at Red wings - 7:30 - NBCSports
APR 25 - Penguins at Devils - 7:30 - NBCSports
APR 25 - Ducks at Canucks - 10:00 - NHLNetwork
APR 26 - Oilers at Wild - 8:00 - NHLNetwork
APR 27 - Devils at Rangers - 3:00 - NBC/NBCSports
APR 27 - Red Wings at Stars - 7:00 - NBCSports
APR 27 - Coyotes at Ducks - 10:00 - NBCSports REGIONAL OPTION
APR 27 - Sharks at Kings - 10:30 - NBCSports REGIONAL OPTION