Right on Schedule: Examining all angles for an edge
Yes, the trade deadline will pass on Monday and it's time to focus in on the six weeks remaining in the regular season. Though the deadline will take most of the attention on Monday, the only two games on the docket should not be a disappointment.
CHI @ MIN - After the Sunday night showdown with Phoenix, Chicago heads to Minnesota for a hugely important match with Minnesota. The Wild are currently sixth (72 points) in the Western Conference while Chicago's, 70 points is good for ninth place. Corey Crawford and Niklas Backstrom , arguably two of the top five fantasy goalies in 2010-11 campaign, should put on a great show for the VERSUS broadcast. Chicago leads this season series 2-1.
DET @ L.A. - It may surprise you to read that the Kings (8-2 in GF/GA) are the only team to have given Detroit troubles thus far this season. The Red Wings may be without top-six winger Johan Franzen , who is due to head back to Detroit, where their first-born is expected to be delivered. Perhaps this is what Franzen (five assists in last 12 games) needs as he's been quiet since his explosive five-goal performance on the February 2. The Kings, who have a 8-1-3 February record, will put their three-game winning streak up against Detroit. Los Angeles leads this season series 2-0
No other action Monday,2.28.2011
CLB @ VAN - Scroll through the history of the Blue Jackets and you're hard-pressed to find a bigger game in their franchise history. Battered and bruised, Vancouver will host a Columbus team just three points (four spots) out of the final playoff spot in the Western Conference. One of just five straight road games against conference opponents, the Columbus Blue Jackets will sink or swim with their season starting in Vancouver on Tuesday. The Canucks are attempting to get healthy; last week they watched Sami Salo notch his first goal of the season. The simple fact of the matter is more than a few forwards are slumping currently. Ryan Kesler (two points in last seven games) is cold, and Alexandre Burrows, fresh off a 10-game point streak looks to be headed there as well. Though Mason Raymond has shown signs of awakening, the problem is consistency. Raymond, who had eight points in four February games that he managed a point. The other eight games he was just plain pointless. Did Columbus miss out on McCabe and upgrading their goalie situation? Vancouver leads this season series 1-0-1.
Other action Tuesday, 3.1.2011" |NYI@WAS|DAL@PHO|NAS@EDM|MON@ATL|CAL@STL|BUF@NYR|BOS@OTT|COL@SJ|FLA@CAR
CGY @ CHI - As mentioned before, Chicago is on the outside looking into the tight halls of the Western Conference. By the time the resurgent Flames come into town, their showdown with Minnesota will have already set in. Regardless of the outcome against the Wild, the Windy City's defending champs should take control of this game. Will the Blackhawks tie this season series and be permanently revived by the return of head coach Joel Quenville? A three-goal shutout of Nashville surely suggests such a movement. The Flames lead this season series 2-1.
Other action Wednesday, 3.2.2011: DET@ANH|TB@NJ|MIN @ NYI|PIT@TOR
STL @ WAS - With two squads capable of an offensive explosion and both with questionable goaltending situations currently, this should be a seesaw game. Despite a 2-3 record since last week's big trade, St. Louis has been carrying a much bigger stick. The three losses are more reflective of Ty Conklin (see More Notes) performance as of late. Back-up rookie Ben Bishop stood in between the pipes against Edmonton and drew his first shutout (5-0) over the hapless Oilers. Todd Ford was called up from the AHL as Semyon Varlamov is currently day-to-day with a knee injury. The Caps look to Michal Neuvirth (19-10, 2.54 GAA) to take the goalie reigns from here on out. One streaky team meets another, as the Capitals (3-1 last week) will look to take hold of their playoff contention. Washington handily (4-1) took the only other meeting of this season series.
Other action on Thursday 3.3.2011: OTT@ATL|TB@BOS|BUF@CAR|MON@FLA|PHO@LA MIN@NYR|NAS@VAN|TOR@PHI|CLB@EDM| STL@WAS|DET@SJ
CLB @ CGY - Calgary was 13-3-5 heading into their Sunday night match up with St. Louis. Columbus, who has played Calgary tight (1-1-1) all season, is on a very important road-trip. There are very few distinct advantages to weigh out in this series, so perhaps basics, like face-offs (95-82 Columbus) will be the difference. Blue Jackets rookie left-winger Matt Calvert is showing signs of offensive spark (hat trick against Phoenix), having scored 13 points in 20 games since his call-up to the big show. The Flames have their own left-winger on a mission, as Niklas Hagman passed through waivers last week. He responded with this sweet move against the Sharks
Other action Friday, 3.4.2011: |CAR@CHI|NYR@OTT|PIT@NJ|DAL@ANH
DAL @ SJ - Flip the calendar back a month and it was San Jose near the cellar of the Pacific, waiting to arise from their simmer. Dallas had a steady hold of first place in the division, and only a Brad Richards drama to deal with. Since then, Dallas has lost 10 of their last 15 games, and traded away their future for the next few seasons. Sure, Alex Goligoski registered his first-goal in an important win against Nashville, but the Stars are just not as fluid without James Neal and the aforementioned concussed Richards in the lineup. San Jose went 11-2 in February and have won 14 of its last seventeen games since snapping their six-game losing streak in January. Thanks to early-season struggles, Antti Niemi's numbers (.919 SV%, 2.43 GAA) look fairly pedestrian. Don't be fooled, Niemi, who has been the definition of backbone, has started every Sharks game since January 15th. Going 14-2-1 in the last six weeks, with four games at home this week, it would behoove head coach Todd McLellan to grant Niemi a rest here soon. Don't be surprised if McLellan gives backup Carter Hutton his first NHL start this week. San Jose, is out-shooting Dallas this season 115-90 and leading the season series (1-0-2) with four points.
Other action Saturday, 3.5.2011: BUF@PHI|CHI@TOR|EDM@COL|DET@PHO|MON@TB|STL@NYI|VAN@LA|PIT@BOS|FLA@ATL
PHI @ NYR - NHL on NBC returns this week with a fine rivalry. Perhaps being spiteful of Al Montoya success on Long Island, the Rangers picked up former Isles-legend-to-be-hopeful, defenseman Bryan McCabe . McCabe (30 points in 53 games with FLA) will gel the young-core of Rangers blue-liners suited to anchor the Broadway Blues for years to come. It's their forwards that are concerning all of a sudden, as Marian Gaborik (concussion) is day-to-day, and Ruslan Fedetenko is back to mending. Not even five minutes into his return (4:55 of TOI) against the Capitals, Fedetenko may have re-injured his shoulder. The Flyers will be a week separated from a 4-1 loss to Craig Anderson and the Ottawa Senators of all teams. The Flyers matched the Rangers, by adding defenseman Nick Boynton off of waivers from Chicago. Additionally, defenseman, Chris Pronger (24 points in 46 games) is still listed as day-to-day. Philadelphia takes a commanding 4-0 series lead into Manhattan.
Other action Sunday, 3.6.2011: BUF@MIN|WAS@FLA|NAS@CAL|VAN@ANH|NJ@NYI
TEAM(S) TO FOCUS ON
Detroit Red Wings: I hate to say it -Jimmy Howard on both of my fantasy teams- but I think Andrew Fiorentino may be right. Howard, though already a 30-win goalie this season, has shown (four of more goals allowed 15 times) signs of inefficiency this season. Luckily for my fantasy teams, the Red Wings are a mere $600,000 under the cap, and likely to not make any moves. Most position player gaps have been filled by return from injury like Mike Modano . Detroit heads out West for pretty big road trip.
Combined 6-4-1 record this week against: @L.A.,ANH, S.J., PHO
New York Islanders: As I hesitantly sneered on last week's column, Al Montoya has filled the gap left by oft-injured Rick DiPietro , further sparking an Isles team who won nine of 14 games for the month of February. Montoya, has been solid, despite a 3-2 loss to the Caps this past Saturday, in seven games played, Montoya has stopped 274 of 296 shots behind a very shaky defense on the Island. More interestingly, I picked up 2 PIM and an assist this week thanks to the American born goalie. Mark Streit has resumed non-contact practice and Travis Hamonic (owned by 20% of CBS owners) has been a big part of the Islanders resurgence in February. Hamonic has scored three goals, eight assists and 62 PIM in the last 14 games. As for The Islanders attendance issues, they apparently have an old-school resolution for that. Free tickets to the rematch with the Penguins!
Combined 2-4 record this week against: @ WAS, vs. MIN, STL, NJ
Columbus Blue Jackets
Playing an enormous schedule that could have an impact on team morale for the rest of the season, Columbus has its hands full. Their 3-3-2 combined record against their three opponents makes for a very nervous week in Ohio's state capital. Columbus did claim Buffalo waiver-wire drop defenseman, Craig Rivet , who had three points in 23 games with the Sabres. If the Jackets are to pick up a few wins this week, it will take a boost from the power play unit, who is 3-25 this season against these three Northwest division teams.
Combined 3-3-2 record this week against: @VAN, EDM, CAL
Nine teams will play four games in the next seven days ... Daily league-kids will look for goalie-points with back-ups in Buffalo, Calgary, Chicago, Detroit, Florida, Minnesota, New York (Islanders), New York (Rangers) and Vancouver ... Back-up goalie points from Ty Conklin (St. Louis), Pascal Leclaire (Ottawa) and Curtis McElhinney (Tampa Bay) will be hard to come by as all three were placed on waivers this past weekend. Droppers beware of who may claim ... The Capitals haven't won more than five games in a month since November. Washington has claimed Kings reject Marco Sturm perhaps in hopes that Ovechkin and Semin can awaken his skills one last time ... What's this? By the time this article publishes, John-Michael Liles may be donning a different sweater. Early this season, Liles (39 points) was the d-man every fantasy owner needed, on the scoreboard, every night. Since December 3rd, Liles has registered only 16 of his 39 points. Since the trade that Peter Stastny labeled an organization setback, more-importantly, since his minus-6 against Calgary, Liles has six points in the last five games. If Liles does get traded to the right team, you could see combustion. Either way, Liles plays before Mike Green ... Speaking of Green, weekly owners have a decision to make as he is headed to Calgary for a death in the family ... Looking for a right-winger? Aside from a resurrected Craig Anderson , Ottawa right-wingers are something of a hot commodity right now. Erik Condra scored his first NHL goal, while Bobby Butler (after scoring five goals in as many games) has gone two games without a goal.
NATIONALLY TELEVISED SCHEDULE IN EST
VERSUS Feb. 28 -- Chicago at Minnesota, 8:00
VERSUS Mar 1 -- Buffalo at NY Rangers, 7:00
VERSUS Mar 2 -- Pittsburgh at Toronto, 7:00
NBC Mar 6 -- Philadelphia@ NY Rangers, 12:30