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NHL Hockey Column: The Week Ahead

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February 22, 2013
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Habs lead the way in the East

Mike Finewax
Senior Writer, Rotoworld.com

It is surprising to see that three teams in the Eastern Conference that did not make the playoffs last season are in a playoff spot thus far as Montreal, Carolina and Toronto are in. What is even more surprising is that the Canadiens and Hurricanes lead their respective divisions with the Habs first overall in the East.

 

The Western Conference has two teams in a playoff spot as the Anaheim Ducks and Minnesota Wild are in as of Friday morning while Detroit and the defending Stanley Cup champion Los Angeles Kings are currently out.

 

Happy Birthday to my mom as well as my brother Howie.

 

Don't forget to tune in on Thursday to Google+Hangout when I will join Matt Cubeta, Pete Jensen and Chris Foster, all of NHL.com for our regular fantasy chat. You can send your fantasy hockey questions through Twitter at #NHLHangout. You can watch our last chat by clicking here.

 

Don’t forget to purchase Season Pass by clicking here and while you’re at it, it’s not too late to play Yahoo! hockey.

 

Now to The Week Ahead.

 

WEEK OF FEBRUARY 25-MARCH 3

 

 4 Games– Anaheim, Boston, Buffalo, Carolina, Chicago, Dallas, Edmonton, Florida, Minnesota, Montreal, Ottawa

 

3 Games – Calgary, Colorado, Columbus, Detroit, Los Angeles, Nashville, New York Islanders, New York Rangers, Philadelphia, Phoenix, Pittsburgh, St. Louis, San Jose , Tampa Bay, Toronto, Vancouver, Washington, Winnipeg

 

2 Games - New Jersey

 

Edmonton plays all four games on the road.

 

Boston, Florida, Minnesota, New York Islanders, New York Rangers, Philadelphia and San Jose play three games at home this week.

 

Buffalo, Montreal, Ottawa and Pittsburgh play three games on the road.

 

Follow me on twitter!

 

INJURIES

 

Cal Clutterbuck suffered a knee-on-knee hit when Taylor Hall caught him on Thursday and could be out indefinitely. (Click here to see the rest of the injury list.)

 

ANAHEIM

 

Games this week

@ Los Angeles, vs. Nashville, vs. Minnesota, @ Phoenix

 

Notes

The Ducks play four times this week including three games in four nights so it is likely that Jonas Hiller and Viktor Fasth will split the net. The Ducks are the tired team twice this week and are rested once. Anaheim is tired on Monday when they are in Los Angeles after playing at home Sunday against the Avalanche, and Saturday in Phoenix as they host Minnesota Friday. They are rested Friday when they take on the Wild who are in Phoenix Thursday. The Ducks signed Fasth to a two-year/$5.8 million contract this week. Nothing like an 8-0 start to get you a nice contract. The Ducks also signed former GM Brian Burke to act as their pro scout. Cam Fowler is looking to return by Feb. 24 from an upper body injury that has kept him out of action for three weeks.

 

BOSTON

 

Games this week

@ New York Islanders, vs. Ottawa, vs. Tampa Bay, vs. Montreal

 

Notes

The Bruins play three games in four nights so expect to see Anton Khudobin play once in place of Tuukka Rask. A flu bug was going through the Bruins dressing room this past week. It's a good thing they only played twice. Rich Peverley has only two goals and five points in 13 games this season. The Bruins are the best team in the NHL at killing penalties, allowing only three goals in 54 attempts but are tied for the worst power play, along with Colorado, scoring only six times. Milan Lucic missed one game due to personal reasons but apparently all is well now.

 

BUFFALO

 

Games this week

@ Tampa Bay. @ Florida, vs. New Jersey, @ New York Rangers

 

Notes

The Sabres play three times in four days. Jhonas Enroth should get at least one start for the Sabres with Ryan Miller picking up the rest. The Sabres are tired Sunday when they face New York as Buffalo hosts New Jersey Saturday. The Sabres fired coach Lindy Ruff this past week after 15-plus years behind the Buffalo bench and replaced him on an interim basis with their AHL coach Ron Rolston. Drew Stafford has only one goal this season and was put on the fourth line Tuesday. Rookie Mikhail Grigorenko has only a goal and three points in 14 games this season and has been a healthy scratch three times.

 

CALGARY

 

Games this week

@  Minnesota, @ Colorado, vs. Vancouver

 

Notes

The Flames are rested Sunday when they take on the tired Canucks who play the Kings Saturday. Jarome Iginla has scored only once on 57 shots this season and has scored only twice in his last 26 games going back to last season. The Flames have put Roman Cervenka, Jiri Hudler and Roman Horak together to form the 'Czeching Line' as all three are natives of the Czech Republic. Steve Begin scored on Sunday for the first time in almost three years.  Michael Cammalleri has four goals and 11 points in 12 games with six points coming on the power play. Joey MacDonald and Daniel Taylor are splitting the goaltending with Miikka Kiprusoff out of action with a MCL sprain.

 

CAROLINA

 

Games this week

@ Washington, vs. Pittsburgh, vs. Florida, @ Florida

 

Notes

The Hurricanes play three games in four nights as part of a four game week. Expect to see Cam Ward play three times with Dan Ellis getting one start. The Hurricanes play the Panthers in a home-and-home series on the weekend. Kevin Westgarth could pick up some minutes via a fight. Former first round pick Ryan Murphy was recalled on an emergency basis as fellow defensemen Tim Gleason, Joni Pitkanen and Jamie McBain are all out with injuries. Jeff Skinner is out indefinitely with a concussion, his second in the last two seasons. I wonder if it is time to worry about his long-term health. Eric Staal had an 11 game point streak end on Monday.

           

CHICAGO

 

Games this week

vs. Edmonton, @ St. Louis, vs. Columbus, @ Detroit

 

Notes
The Blackhawks finish a seven game home stand and will play three games in four nights as part of a four game week. Corey Crawford and Ray Emery should split the net. The Blackhawks are the tired team twice this week, first on Monday when they host Edmonton after playing Columbus Sunday, and then Friday against the Blue Jackets after playing in St. Louis Thursday. The Blackhawks have tied the NHL record for most games without a loss from the start of the season as they are currently are at 16, with the 2006-07 Anaheim Ducks. Marian Hossa suffered another head injury on Tuesday but is hoping to return Friday.

 

COLORADO

 

Games this week

@ San Jose, vs. Calgary, @ Columbus

 

Notes

Gabriel Landeskog is getting close to returning after suffering a concussion. He has skated for a week and is hoping to participate in a full contact practice on the 22nd. Matt Duchene is back to his form of 2010-11 as he has four goals and eight points in his last five games. He has 17 points in 15 games this season. Tyson Barrie has four points in his last four games and leads all Colorado defensemen with four points this season. Ryan O'Reilly and the Avs still do not have a deal and the restricted free agent's dad got involved this week as he said that negotiations have not been concluded because the management of the team do not value his character. Both sides seem at an impasse and a trade seems like the only alternative.

 

COLUMBUS

 

Games this week

vs. Dallas, @ Chicago, vs. Columbus

 

Notes

The Blue Jackets are a rested team twice this week, first against the Stars Tuesday as Dallas are in Nashville Monday, and then they play a tired Chicago team Friday after the Blackhawks play in St. Louis the night before. The Blue Jackets lost two of three players they received for Rick Nash but Artem Anisimov is returned Thursday after missing two games while Brandon Dubinsky is likely out a couple of weeks with a knee injury. Anisimov suffered a head injury Thursday in his first game back and had to be taken off the ice on a stretcher. Sergei Bobrovsky and Steve Mason are splitting the netminding and have similar stats heading into action on Thursday as Bobrovsky is 3-5-2 with a 2.79 GAA and a .902 save percentage while Mason is 2-5-0 with a 3.00 GAA and a .900 save percentage.

 

DALLAS

 

Games this week

@ Nashville, @ Columbus, vs. Edmonton, vs. St. Louis

 

Notes

The Stars play four games this week including three in four nights so look for Kari Lehtonen, if he is able to return from a groin injury to split duties with Richard Bachman. If not, then Cristopher Nilstorp should get a start. The Stars will be tired on Tuesday when they are in Columbus after playing in Nashville Monday. Boy what a difference a couple of centers make. Derek Roy was hurt early in the season and Jamie Benn was a restricted free agent and since they returned Roy has nine points in 12 games while Benn has 11 points in 12 games. Ryan Garbutt has been a surprising fantasy asset of late with two goals and three points to go with 12 penalty minutes (including two fights) in his last five games.

 

DETROIT

 

Games this week

@ Los Angeles, @ San Jose, vs. Chicago

 

Notes

The Red Wings will be tired Wednesday in San Jose after playing in Los Angeles Tuesday. Jimmy Howard had a scary time on Tuesday when his vision became blurry and he had to take himself out of the game in the first period. He was cleared to play again by doctors on Wednesday. Mikael Samuelsson was slated to replace Damien Brunner on the first power play but injured his hand and is out of action. Twenty-two year-old Tomas Tatar could find himself as a top-six forward before too long. Todd Bertuzzi has been confined to bed rest to help him get over his back woes.   

 

EDMONTON

 

Games this week

@ Chicago, @ Dallas, @ St. Louis, @ Minnesota

 

Notes

The Oilers play three games in four nights as they begin a nine game road trip. Devan Dubnyk and Nikolai Khabibulin should share the net. The Oilers will be rested Monday when playing the Blackhawks who entertain Columbus Sunday. Ryan Whitney's career as an Edmonton Oiler may be winding down as he has now been a healthy scratch in four of his last eight games. It's surprising with all their firepower up front that the Oilers are only 27th in goals for and it would be far worse if the Oilers power play wasn't so prolific as they are third in the NHL with 17 goals having the man-advantage. Sam Gagner and Taylor Hall lead the team with 16 points in 16 games. Hall may be in hot water as he could face a suspension for his knee-on-knee hit on Cal Clutterbuck of the Wild.  Do not forget about Oscar Klefbom next season. An Oilers first round selection in 2010,  19th overall, is out the rest of the season after undergoing shoulder surgery while playing in Sweden during the lockout, but Edmonton brought him over for a fortnight to bond with his teammates and watch other Oiler defensemen play. It should benefit him next season.

 

 

 FLORIDA

 

Games this week

vs. Pittsburgh, vs. Buffalo, @ Carolina, vs. Carolina

 

Notes

The Panthers play three games in four nights so you have to think that Jose Theodore will get into at least one game in place of Jacob Markstrom. Markstrom was recalled this past week as the Panthers have not received good goaltending this season. Florida takes on Carolina in a home-and-home series on the weekend so look for George Parros to add to his minute totals. Jonathan Huberdeau leads all rookies with eight goals and is second in points with 13, trailing Cory Conacher of the cross-state Tampa Bay Lightning by two. Alexei Kovalev has been a healthy scratch in three of the last seven games and has only a goal and an assist in 12 games since his opening night goal and two assist effort. After a 23 goal, 54 point effort last season, Kris Versteeg has only played seven games this season, potting a goal and two assists with a poor minus-seven rating. He has missed the last four games with a chest injury.

 

LOS ANGELES

 

Games this week

vs. Anaheim, vs. Detroit, @ Vancouver

 

Notes

The Kings are the rested team on Monday when they face Anaheim who host Colorado Sunday. Simon Gagne was a healthy scratch twice this past week as coach Darryl Sutter had reduced his ice time in recent games before sending him to the press box. He has only five assists in 11 games and nothing in his last five before the benching. Drew Doughty is minus-10 but has three assists in his last three games and now has seven points. Jonathan Bernier has played the last three of five games, all victories as the Kings have won four of five.

 

MINNESOTA

 

Games this week

vs. Calgary, @ Phoenix, @ Anaheim, vs. Edmonton

 

Notes

The Wild play four times this week and play three games in four nights. Look for Darcy Kuemper to play at least once with Niklas Backstrom getting the remainder of the starts. Josh Harding is struggling to get his medication right as he deals with multiple sclerosis and will not go between the pipes until he is feeling better.  The Wild will be tired Friday when they are in Anaheim after playing the Coyotes in Phoenix the night before. The Wild are pleased with the play of 19-year-old Jonas Brodin and love his composure on the blueline. Zenon Konopka is the only Wild player over 12 penalty minutes as he has 52.

 

MONTREAL

           

Games this week

@ Ottawa, @ Toronto, vs. Pittsburgh, @ Boston

 

Notes

Brendan Gallagher is out with a concussion. The flu bug was must have been going through the Montreal dressing room as both P.K. Subban and Carey Price were stricken with it. After going the first 10 games of the season without a goal, Max Pacioretty now has a three-game goal scoring streak. After a great start in which he had 10 points in 10 games, Andrei Markov is now pointless in his last seven. Perhaps the return of Subban has put a damper on his season. The Habs were the worst team in the Eastern Conference last season but are 11-4-2 this season and atop the East.

 

NASHVILLE

 

Games this week

vs. Dallas, @ Anaheim, @ San Jose

 

Notes

Pekka Rinne continues to be absolutely outstanding between the pipes as he has a 7-3-4 record to go with outstanding peripherals as his GAA is 1.67 with a .935 save percentage. Patric Hornqvist returned to action after missing 10 games with a knee injury and pumped 12 shots on goal in his return, but could not score. Shea Weber has turned his season around of late as he has three goals and six points in his last four games. Nine of the Predators 17 games have gone into overtime and Nashville has picked up five points in overtime and shootout losses. Brian McGrattan has one week remaining on a two-week conditioning stint with the Milwaukee Admirals.

 

NEW JERSEY

 

Games this week

@ Winnipeg, @ Buffalo

 

Notes

The Devils play only twice this week so I suggest benching all your New Jersey players in weekly transaction pools with the possible exception of Ilya Kovalchuk and Patrik Elias. David Clarkson's back tightened up on Monday but he was all right to go back into the lineup Thursday. Unfortunately he suffered a wrist injury and his status is unknown at this time. Ryan Carter is out with a head injury and was replaced in the lineup by Stefan Matteau. Jacob Josefson was sent to the minors after picking up only one point in 15 games. Patrik Elias has been terrific this season with four goals and 19 points to go with a plus-10 rating in 16 games. He also has nine power play points.

 

NEW YORK ISLANDERS

 

Games this week

vs. Boston, vs. Toronto, vs. Ottawa

 

Notes

The Islanders are the rested team twice this week as they host Toronto Thursday after the Maple Leafs host Montreal Wednesday and then again on Sunday against the Senators who are in Philadelphia Saturday.  John Tavares had a great seven days last week and was named the first star of the week as he had five goals and seven points with five points coming on the power play.  Matt Moulson has five goals and nine points in his last six, and was held off the scoresheet in three of those games. All five goals came with the man-advantage. Brian Strait is could be gone for the year after breaking his ankle. He was the only Islander who was a plus player as he was a plus-three.

 

NEW YORK RANGERS

 

Games this week

vs. Winnipeg, vs. Tampa Bay, vs. Buffalo

 

Notes

The Rangers are rested Sunday when they face the Sabres after Buffalo hosts the Devils Saturday. Rick Nash has missed the last two games with an undisclosed injury. Marian Gaborik is slumping with only two goals and an assist in his last 11 games. After an amazing playoff run last season, rookie Chris Kreider has only a goal and an assist in nine games this year. A poor start hurt the stats of Henrik Lundqvist but he has picked it up of late and is now 7-6-0 with a 2.32 GAA and a .915 save percentage. Carl Hagelin is second on the Rangers with six goals. He also has four assists in 15 games.

 

OTTAWA     

 

Games this week

 vs. Montreal, @ Boston, @ Philadelphia, @New York Islanders

 

Notes

The Senators play three games in four nights so we will likely see Ben Bishop at least once in place of Craig Anderson who the Senators are hoping is fine after suffering a leg injury Thursday. If Anderson is unable to go then Robin Lehner will get the call up. The Senators will be the tired team on Sunday when they travel to Long Island after playing in Philadelphia Saturday. The top three stars on the Sens are now hurt as Anderson joins Erik Karlsson and Jason Spezza on the shelf. Daniel Alfredsson has taken over for Karlsson on the point during the power play. Chris Neil does not have a point in his last eight games but has picked up 42 penalty minutes during that span, retaining fantasy value in pools that use the penalty minute category.

 

PHILADELPHIA

 

Games this week

vs. Toronto, vs. Washington, vs. Ottawa

 

Notes

The Flyers are rested Wednesday when they host the Capitals as Washington hosts Carolina Tuesday. Jakub Voracek is the player to have of late as he has four goals and eight points in his last three games. He has been one of the few bright lights on the Flyers this season. Matt Read is out for six weeks with a torn rib cage muscle. It was bad luck for Read as he just moved to the top line with Voracek and Claude Giroux. Scott Hartnell has a chance to return for the Ottawa game as his recovery from a broken foot continues. He has been practicing with the Flyers farm club in Adirondack.

 

PHOENIX

 

Games this week

@ Vancouver, vs. Minnesota, vs. Anaheim

 

Notes

The Coyotes are the rested team when they face Anaheim on Saturday at home as the Ducks host Minnesota Friday. Matthew Lombardi is expected to return to action on February 23 after missing a month with an upper body injury. Radim Vrbata is also due back on the 23rd after missing one game with an upper body injury. Martin Hanzal has been a pleasant surprise in the scoring department with seven goals and 10 points in 12 games. Oliver Ekman-Larsson and Keith Yandle lead the Coyote defensive corps with 10 points apiece. The Coyotes have been getting some secondary scoring from David Moss who has a couple of goals and eight points in 16 games.

 

PITTSBURGH

 

Games this week

@ Florida, @ Carolina, @ Montreal

 

Notes

Tomas Vokoun has been a bit of a disappointment as the Penguins were hoping he would be a strong backup but the netminder has given up at least three goals in five of his six starts in place of Marc-Andre Fleury. Fleury has won three in a row and it could be a while before Vokoun sees the ice again. Pascal Dupuis has been a nice addition for the Sidney Crosby line and has seven goals and 12 points in 17 games. Evgeni Malkin has four goals and 20 points this season but three goals and 10 assists have come with the man-advantage. James Neal has 12 goals in 17 games.

 

ST. LOUIS

 

Games this week

vs. Chicago, vs. Edmonton, @ Dallas

 

Notes

The Blues play three games in four nights so look for the struggling Brian Elliott to get one start instead of Jaroslav Halak. Jake Allen played well but was sent to the minors Thursday. Vladimir Tarasenko suffered a head injury on Wednesday but there was no update as of this writing. The Blues are getting balanced scoring as they have 10 players between 11 and 15 points in just 17 games. Patrik Berglund has nine goals this season as he puts last season's 19 goal and 38 point effort behind him. Jamie Langenbrunner had successful season-ending hip surgery and at age 37, he may have played in his last NHL game.

 

SAN JOSE

 

Games this week

vs. Colorado, vs. Detroit, vs. Nashville

 

Notes

The Sharks will be rested on Thursday when they play Detroit as the Red Wings are in Los Angeles to take on the Kings Wednesday. Martin Havlat has not put a point on the board in his last seven games and has been demoted to fourth line duty. Brent Burns return from off-season sports hernia surgery is off to a slow start as he has a minus-four rating and no points in four games. Scott Gomez has only two assists in 10 games this season. Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau got off to great starts with nine points each on the power play in the first nine days. It has almost been a month since the hot start and Thornton has just one power play point since while Marleau has none.

 

 

TAMPA BAY

 

Games this week

vs. Buffalo, @ New York Rangers, @ Boston

 

Notes

As per usual, Steve Stamkos and Martin St. Louis are leading the Lightning in scoring with 24 and 22 points respectively and are sitting third and tied for fourth in league scoring. After missing two weeks, Ryan Malone (lower body) will be checked out by doctors on Monday. Anders Lindback is 7-4-1 but his peripherals are nothing to write home about as he has a 3.12 GAA and a .895 save percentage. Have a look at Benoit Pouliot in your pool. He has five goals and 13 points with two goals and seven points coming in his last five games. He is owned in only 14 percent of Yahoo! pools.

 

TORONTO

 

Games this week

@ Philadelphia, vs. Montreal, @ New York Islanders

 

Notes

The Maple Leafs play three games in four nights. James Reimer (knee) could still be on the sidelines this week, so Ben Scrivens will get most of the starts, although Jussi Rynnas could get one if Reimer is still unavailable. The Leafs will be tired Thursday on Long Island after hosting Montreal Wednesday. Toronto has the weekend off after Thursday's game against the Islanders.  James van Riemsdyk is only one goal off the NHL lead as he has 11 in 18 games. Phil Kessel has only three goals but has 15 points and the puck will start going in for him with more regularity shortly as he has hit nine posts this season. If you use plus/minus and penalty minutes in your pool, Mark Fraser is someone to watch as he has a plus-13 rating (second best in the NHL) and 29 penalty minutes which is good for 37th. He is owned in only five percent of Yahoo! pools.

 

VANCOUVER

 

Games this week

vs. Phoenix, vs. Los Angeles, @ Calgary

 

Notes

The Canucks are tired Sunday when they travel to Calgary after hosting the Kings Saturday. David Booth may be worth stashing as he finally returned after missing all season with a groin injury. He started off on the fourth line but could start seeing second line duty before too long. Zack Kassian had his chance on the top line with the Sedin twins but has now been demoted to fourth line duty and he has only two assists in his past eight games although he did get into a fight on Thursday for the first time since January 27. After a slow start, Cory Schneider is now 4-3-1 with a 2.64 GAA and a .915 save percentage. Those numbers pale in comparison to Roberto Luongo who is 4-0-3 with a scintillating 1.63 GAA and .934 save percentage.

 

WASHINGTON

 

Games this week

vs. Carolina, @ Philadelphia, @ Winnipeg

 

Notes

The Capitals are tired Wednesday when they travel to Philadelphia to play the Flyers after hosting the Hurricanes Tuesday. Troy Brouwer has been a gem lately with four goals and six points with 12 penalty minutes in his last four games. Mike Green is out with a lower body injury but could return this week. Brooks Laich has still not played this season due to a groin injury but is progressing. Marcus Johansson has been a huge disappointment this season and has only one goal in nine games while missing the last five games with an upper body injury that could be lingering effects of a back injury suffered while playing in Sweden during the lockout. Alex Ovechkin has five goals and 10 points this season with a minus-six rating. Teammate Joel Ward, who likely was not drafted in most pools, has five goals and 11 points with a plus-seven rating.

 

 WINNIPEG

 

Games this week

@ New York Rangers, @ New Jersey, vs. Washington

 

Notes

It was an ugly scene at practice Wednesday with Zach Redmond getting cut on the back of the leg and being transported to hospital where he underwent three hours of surgery. Olli Jokinen has not registered a point in the month of February, a span of nine games. Chris Thorburn leads the Jets with 39 penalty minutes. Zach Bogosian returned from a wrist injury and has one assist in four games. He has a lot of offensive talent and should be looked at as he is owned in only 19 percent of Yahoo! pools. Ondrej Pavelec is 5-8-1 with a 2.97 GAA and a .896 save percentage.

Michael Finewax has been covering hockey since 2005 and is the Hockey Editor for Rotoworld. You can follow him on Twitter.

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