RotoWire Partners

NHL Schedule Analysis: Going Out With a Bang

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"

B2B- Back-to-Back occurrences


Back-to-Back Jacks

Hanging onto the final wild card in the Eastern Conference, Columbus (PHX, at DAL, at TBL, FLA) will have their hands full this week. Ryan Murray (knee) returned on Friday.

Four of a Kind

Twenty of the 30 NHL organizations will go out with a bang. It's the final week of the NHL season and the four-game schedule has never been more prevalent. Here are a few teams you'll want to know about.

Calgary's (at NJD, LOS, WIN, at VAN) schedule is evenly spread out. We're not sure what that means for Karri Ramo and Joey MacDonald who both enjoyed solid wins last week. Their combined record against this week's opponents is 4-5-2.

Minnesota (at WIN, BOS, STL, NSH) has all but sewn up their ticket to the Stanley Cup playoffs. After travelling to the slumping Jets on Monday, the Wild host Boston on Tuesday, which begins a three-game homestand to end their regular season. Ilya Bryzgalov is turning out to be the deal of a lifetime, especially with Darcy Kuemper still out. Mikael Granlund (upper body) remains out as well. Their combined record against this week's opponents is 6-6-1.

Philadelphia (at FLA, at TBL, at PIT, CAR) will endure the Florida swing then end with a b2b occurrence. Steven Mason has performed admirably against the Panthers, Pens and Canes this season, but had to be pulled after allowing five goals to the Lightning in early-January. Their combined record against this week's opponents is 4-6-1.

It appears Detroit (at BUF, at PIT, CAR, at STL) has control of their own destiny with games against Buffalo and Carolina on their horizon. Of course, wins against Pittsburgh and St. Louis will do wonders for chemistry. Jonas Gustavsson blew it against Montreal on Saturday. Jimmy Howard will be leaned on. Their combined record against this week's opponents is 6-2.

New Jersey (CGY, at OTT, NYI, BOS) has been playing well and a quick glance at their schedule suggests that will continue. Whether or not they will need a win against Boston to get into the playoffs remains to be seen. While Stephen Gionta (ankle) returned in Saturday's win, Patrik Elias (head), Adam Henrique (undisclosed), Bryce Salvador (lower body), Jacob Josefson (leg) and Ryane Clowe (head) all remain out. At least Travis Zajac and Dainius Zubrus are going well. Their combined record against this week's opponents is 4-3-2.

Phoenix (at CBJ, at NSH, SJS, DAL) is on the outside looking in. Set aside their tilts with fellow playoff-hungry Columbus, streaking Nashville and coasting San Jose, by Sunday we could have a play-in game between the Coyotes and Stars. Kyle Chipchura has five points in his last seven games. Thomas Greiss gave up a late-goal to Edmonton and then lost the shootout. He's been solid in Mike Smith's return, but the struggling Phoenix offense has just three goals in three games this month. Their combined record against this week's opponents is 2-5-1.

Dallas (NSH, CBJ, STL, at PHX) is currently on the insider's track by one point. The Stars will also play the Preds and Jackets before hosting the Blues and the aforementioned regular-season ending matchup with Phoenix, who they are 2-0 against this season. Jamie Benn has 10 points (five goals) in his last nine games. After missing seven games, Erik Cole returned on Saturday, playing in nearly 14-minutes of action. Their combined record against this week's opponents is 6-4-1.

Given their strength of schedule, Washington (at STL, at CAR, CHI, TB) is a long-shot for a spot in the playoffs. Mike Green left Saturday's game with an upper-body injury. Dustin Penner (upper body) missed Saturday's game. We're not sure why, but we're expecting a big week from Evgeny Kuznetsov. Their combined record against this week's opponents is 4-3-1.

Three of a Kind

Two original six teams are hoping three games will be enough to seal their fate, but they begin the week under very different circumstances.

The Rangers (CAR, BUF, at MTL) simply need a tie to clinch their spot, but need more than that to ensure the home-ice advantage. Ryan McDonagh (arm) did not play on Saturday. John Moore is logging power-play time as a result. Brian Boyle played on the team's second line with Brad Richards in Saturday's loss. Their combined record against this week's opponents is 5-2.

Toronto (at TBL, at FLA, at OTT) is one point out of the final Wild Card spot and without their number one goalie. While the Leafs have had fairly indecisive results against the Lightning (2-1) and Panthers (1-2) they seem to enjoy tilts against the Sens (3-0, 15-10 GF/GA) this season. Drew MacIntyre (27-15-3, 2.49 GAA in 46 games with AHL Toronto) is James Reimer's backup. Phil Kessel logged his first goal in six games on Saturday. Their combined record against this week's opponents is 6-3.

OTHER ROTOWIRE REPORTS: Rene Bourque was a plus-2 in his return to the lineup. Dustin Byfuglien left Saturday's game with an upper-body injury. With Roberto Luongo back from his concussion, Scott Clemmensen was sent back to AHL San Antonio. Not only did Carter Hutton shutout the Sharks, Matt Cullen, Patric Hornqvist and Mike Fisher have continued their late-season awakening and will likely give Phoenix and Dallas goalies a run for their money this week. Calvin de Haan left Saturday's game with an upper-body injury. Michael Grabner (concussion) returned on Saturday, only to leave Saturday's game with an unknown upper-body issue. Johan Sunstrom (17 points in 38 AHL games) and Scott Mayfield (17 points in 69 AHL games) have been recalled from AHL Bridgeport. Drew Doughty (upper body) did not practice on Saturday. Jonathan Huberdeau (upper body) has cleared for contact. Jarome Iginla (lower body) got a rest on Saturday. Tim Jackman's (hand) injury will require surgery. Jussi Jokinen (upper body) is reportedly day-to-day. Evander Kane served as a healthy scratch on Saturday. Zack Kassian (knee) logged an assist in Saturday's win. Niklas Lundstrom was recalled from AIK of the Swedish Hockey League. Andrej Sekera (lower body) did not play on Saturday.