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The Week Ahead

Fighting past hope

by Ryan Dadoun
Updated On: October 4, 2018, 4:04 pm ET

Motivation can be hard to come by when your team is already out of the playoff race, but some players manage to excel in spite of that.  For example, in Winnipeg Mark Scheifele has scored eight goals and 12 points in nine games this season, even as the Jets' continued to slide, making a late season playoff push look less and less likely until now where we've reached the point that it's a near impossibility.

 

Arizona's situation isn't quite as dire, but sports club stats puts the chances of the Coyotes making the playoffs at 1.5% and that's after a three-game winning streak.  Antoine Vermette has still managed to score five goals and 10 points in seven contests despite that though.

 

That being said, the leader this month has been Sidney Crosby with six goals and 13 points in nine games as he battles to push the Penguins into the playoffs in the face of far more reasonable odds.

 

Don’t forget, for everything NHL, check out Rotoworld's Player News, and follow @Rotoworld_ HK and @RyanDadoun on Twitter.

 

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Now to The Week Ahead.

 

WEEK OF MARCH 21-27

 

4 Games - Carolina, Los Angeles, NY Islanders, NY Rangers, Philadelphia, Vancouver.

 

3 Games - Anaheim, Arizona, Boston, Calgary, Chicago, Columbus, Dallas, Detroit, Edmonton, Florida, Minnesota, Montreal, Nashville, New Jersey, Ottawa, Pittsburgh, San Jose, St. Louis, Tampa Bay, Washington, Winnipeg.

 

2 Games - Buffalo, Colorado.

 

Arizona, Carolina, Nashville, NY Rangers, San Jose, and Vancouver play three games at home.

 

Anaheim, Dallas, Edmonton, Florida, and Los Angeles play three games on the road.

 

Philadelphia will play in four road contests.

 

INJURIES

 

Tyler Seguin will miss the next three-to-four weeks with a cut Achilles. (Click here to see the rest of the injury list.)

 

ANAHEIM

 

Games this week

@ Montreal, @ Toronto, @ Ottawa

 

Notes

Since their slow start to the season, the Ducks have been consistently dominant this season...until recently.  Anaheim suffered its first three game losing streak for the first time since November from March 7-11.  The Ducks did bounce back with a commanding 7-1 victory against New Jersey, but then again the Devils are a badly battered team that will miss the playoffs.  Anaheim followed that win up with a 2-1 loss to the Rangers, so we'll have to see if this proves to just be a blip or if the Ducks are in serious danger of limping into the playoffs.

 

 

ARIZONA

 

Games this week

vs. Edmonton, vs. Dallas, vs. Philadelphia

 

Notes

It will be interesting to see how the goaltending duties are split next week.  Arizona's games are on Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday, so the Coyotes could simply lean on Mike Smith.  However, it wouldn't be surprising to see Louis Domingue get some work.  Coyotes coach Dave Tippett said that he would use both of them going forward and this seems like a good test to see if this is indeed a 1A and 1B situation.

 

BOSTON

 

Games this week

@ NY Rangers, vs. Florida, @ Toronto

 

Notes

Acquiring Lee Stempniak from New Jersey paid immediate dividends as he had a goal and six points in his first four games with the squad.  He's followed that up with a four-game slump though, which has likely poured some cold water on the early enthusiasm about him.  Stempniak is a solid addition to the Bruins, but he won't be a game changer on most occasions.

 

BUFFALO

 

Games this week

@ Carolina, vs. Winnipeg

 

Notes

The Sabres fired Ted Nolan, drafted Jack Eichel, and had an otherwise busy summer in the hopes of fast forwarding the team's transition from rebuilding to competitive.  While it was never fair to expect big things from Buffalo this season, it's important that the squad didn't fall into the same spiral that Edmonton has been stuck in for a decade.  Now that the season has drawn to a close, we can say that the results of 2015-16 have been largely inconclusive.  Eichel's had a fine, but not amazing rookie season while summer acquisition Ryan O'Reilly has been pretty much exactly what the Sabres were hoping for.  The same can't be said about Evander Kane though, who has 19 goals and 33 points in 60 contests.  Overall, this squad is an obvious improvement over the 2014-15 Sabres, but they still have a fair ways to go before they're competitive.

 

CALGARY

 

Games this week

@ Toronto, @ Minnesota, vs. Chicago

 

Notes

It's hard to paint this season as anything other than a disappointment for Calgary, but it hasn't been without its silver linings.  Johnny Gaudreau has reinforced his status as a top-tier forward with 26 goals and 70 points in 69 contests while Sam Bennett has had a decent rookie campaign.  There's a lot of potential in Calgary, though unless Joni Ortio really excels over the final weeks of the season, the team's goaltending will be a huge question mark going into the summer.

 

CAROLINA

 

Games this week

vs. Buffalo, @ Columbus, vs. NY Islanders, vs. New Jersey

 

Notes

In the battle for the two Wild Card spots in the Eastern Conference, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, and Detroit are rightly getting most of the attention, but Carolina can't be ignored entirely.  The Hurricanes have hung in there, even after trading away Eric Staal and Kris Versteeg.  The Hurricanes were put in the difficult position at the deadline of having to choose between building for the future and betting on the idea that they could eke out enough points to barely come ahead in the Wild Card race.  They ultimately - and smartly in my opinion - decided to invest in their future rather than concentrate on this mediocre campaign, but there's still a small chance that they'll be able to have their cake and eat it too.  That said, a strong showing next week will be absolutely vital.

 

CHICAGO

 

Games this week

vs. Dallas, @ Calgary, @ Vancouver

 

Notes

This has been a rough stretch for Chicago as its dropped four of its last five games and then on Thursday it was announced that Corey Crawford is out with an upper-body injury.  Chicago is all-but guaranteed a playoff spot, but it would be false to suggest that these games don't matter to the Blackhawks.  The difference between first and third place in the Central Division is razor thin and Nashville is close enough that a prolonged slump could lead to the Blackhawks falling to a Wild Card seed.

 

COLORADO

 

Games this week

vs. Philadelphia, vs. Minnesota

 

Notes

The Avalanche will play Edmonton on Sunday March 20, but then they will be off until Thursday.  That puts them in a strong position against the Flyers and they'll have a day off after that before facing Minnesota.  The Avalanche are in a tight battle for  a Wild Card spot, so they might not appreciate having a stretch off right now, but it does give their players something of an advantage if you're looking for pickups later in the week.  The downside is that there's a glut of games on Thursday (11) and Saturday (14), so there will be plenty of competition for those roster spots in fantasy leagues.

 

COLUMBUS

 

Games this week

vs. Philadelphia, vs. Carolina, @ Nashville

 

Notes

Similar to the situation in Arizona with Mike Smith, it will be interesting to see how much Columbus uses Sergei Bobrovsky now that he's returned.  There are some clear differences of course.  First off, the man that was largely filling in for Bobrovsky during his absence, Joonas Korpisalo, is now in the minors so there's no real question as to who the number one netminder is.  At the same time, Bobrovsky has suffered three groin injuries this season, so is it worth it to push him from a workload perspective for the sake of the closing games of a failed season?

 

DALLAS

 

Games this week

@ Chicago, @ Arizona, @ San Jose

 

Notes

This month has been a prime example of just how many offensive weapons the Stars have at their disposal going into the playoffs.  Jamie Benn has been his usual dominant self with four goals and 10 points in eight games, but at the same time Jason Spezza has scored an incredible eight goals and nine points.  Ales Hemsky has six points in the last eight games too while Cody Eakin has eight points.  That's all while Patrick Sharp has been largely absent due to injury (he returned Thursday).  They are missing Tyler Seguin now with a cut Achilles, but he should be back either by the start of the playoffs or at some point early in the first round.

 

DETROIT

 

Games this week

@ Tampa Bay, vs. Montreal, vs. Pittsburgh

 

Notes

The Red Wings picked up a key 3-1 victory against Columbus on Thursday, but at this point they'll only have key contests going forward.  Detroit is in a despite fight to secure a Wild Card spot.  If they fail, they'll be bringing down a postseason streak that's lasted 24 consecutive seasons.  It's the fourth longest in NHL history and the Red Wings will tie St. Louis if they advance to the 2016 playoffs.  Chicago and Boston own the top two streaks at 28 seasons and 29 seasons respectively.

 

EDMONTON

 

Games this week

@ Arizona, @ San Jose, @ Los Angeles

 

Notes

With a win against St. Louis on Wednesday, the Oilers at least guaranteed that they'll finish the 2015-16 campaign with more points than they had last season and realistically they should top their 2013-14 record as well.  So to an extent you could paint this season as a step forward and there's no denying the talent there.  Plus watching Connor McDavid since he's returned from a broken collarbone has provided fans with another reason to be optimistic.  It's just really hard to get over the history though.  Can you trust Edmonton to find their way to the other side of a rebuild after a decade of failure?  Logically yes because the people leading the way have changed, but even still...

 

FLORIDA

 

Games this week

@ NY Rangers, @ Boston, @ Tampa Bay

 

Notes

Of course the Oilers can always look towards Florida to see what a general manager change can do for a franchise.  There was a long time there where the Panthers looked like a hopeless franchise too, but GM Dale Tallon, who joined the team in 2010, guided them to their first playoff berth in 2012 since 2000 and oversaw a rebuilding effort that has led to the Florida Panthers leading the Atlantic Division.  It's been a messy process, but the Panthers are certainly relevant again.  One thing Florida did though was add veteran players in key positions to complement their young core.  Jaromir Jagr is their leading scorer and Roberto Luongo is their starter, so you can't claim that this team lacks experience going into the playoffs.  It's something that Edmonton might consider as it re-evaluates its roster over the summer.

 

LOS ANGELES

 

Games this week

@ Nashville, @ Minnesota, @ Winnipeg, Edmonton

 

Notes

Not only are the Kings kicking off the week on a road trip, but that stint will feature three games in four days, so it's a safe bet that Jhonas Enroth will play in one of those contests.  Beyond that, I might be a little weary of using Kings players by the time they get to Winnipeg as it wouldn't be surprising if fatigue was a factor at that point.  That said, the Kings haven't secured the Pacific Division yet, so every point is still valuable to them.

 

MINNESOTA

 

Games this week

vs. Los Angeles, vs. Calgary, @ Colorado

 

Notes

Devan Dubnyk was yanked for the second time in his last four starts in Thursday's game against New Jersey.  Darcy Kuemper did no better, leading to a 7-4 loss as Minnesota fell short of the W for the fourth time in five games.  If this was the middle of the season I'd tell Dubnyk owners not to worry because he'll rebound, but the Wild have just 11 games left and are one point behind Colorado for the final Wild Card spot, so they can't afford to be patient with Dubnyk right now.  It wouldn't be surprising if he starts again on Saturday against Carolina, in part because it's the first contest in a back-to-back set anyways.  But if Dubnyk does poorly in that contest and Kuemper has a strong showing against Chicago on Sunday, then Kuemper might get the starting job until he gives Minnesota a reason to switch back to Dubnyk.  This is the time of year that you ride the hot hand if you got one - now we just have to see if the Wild do in fact have a hot hand.

 

MONTREAL

 

Games this week

vs. Anaheim, @ Detroit, vs. NY Rangers

 

Notes

If we were doing a list of the most disappointing teams of 2015-16, Montreal would have to top that list.  They came into this season as a potential Stanley Cup contender, but then goaltender Carey Price got hurt and the Canadiens fell apart.  You could say that this is a case where that's a correlation and not a causation, but it certainly plays into the narrative that Montreal is dependent on Price.  Regardless, it seems like at this point Montreal just needs to run out the clock, but if you want an example of a player that's not doing that then I'll direct you to Alex Galchenyuk.  He has nine goals and 11 points in eight March contests despite the fact that his team has nothing left to play for.

 

NASHVILLE

 

Games this week

vs. Los Angeles, vs. Vancouver, vs. Columbus

 

Notes

I mentioned above that Chicago is in danger of falling into a Wild Card position and the obvious flip side of that is Nashville's potential to rise to the Central Division's third seed.  The Predators and Blackhawks don't play again this season, so Nashville can't attack them directly, but this coming week is nevertheless a good opportunity for them to potentially gain some ground.  Nashville has been hot lately with a 9-1-2 record dating back to Feb. 22 and after playing in Washington on Friday, they'll open a four-game homestand.  Los Angeles will be a tough contest of course, but the Predators other three opponents over that stretch will be teams they're beating significantly in the standings.

 

NEW JERSEY

 

Games this week

@ Pittsburgh, vs. Washington, @ Carolina

 

Notes

New Jersey is coming off of a strong 7-4 victory against the Wild, but they got a tough week ahead of them.  Pittsburgh and Washington are never easy and certainly not friendly teams for backup goaltender Keith Kinkaid, who is filling in for the injured Cory Schneider with at best mixed results.  Carolina is obviously a different beast, but the Hurricanes aren't completely out of the playoff race, so they might be tough competition.  Then again, New Jersey has the same outside chance of pulling off a miracle finish so the Devils aren't devoid of motivation either.

 

NY Islanders

 

Games this week

vs. Philadelphia, vs. Ottawa, @ Tampa Bay, @ Carolina

 

Notes

The Islanders have dropped four of their last five games and thanks to the hot play of Pittsburgh and Philadelphia, there's an outside chance that New York will miss the playoffs entirely if it doesn't snap out of this slump.  To that end, Monday's game against Philadelphia will be a particularly important opportunity for the Islanders to create some further distance from the Flyers and make the final weeks of the season significantly less stressful for them.  The Islanders are also scheduled to play against Pittsburgh on April 2 and then close the campaign with a potentially decisive game against Philadelphia.

 

NY Rangers

 

Games this week

vs. Florida, vs. Boston, @ Montreal, vs. Pittsburgh

 

Notes

Four games in a week is obviously always hectic, but it's worth noting that there's no set of three games in four days over that stretch.  They do have a back-to-back over the weekend with Montreal and Pittsburgh, so look for Antti Raanta to start in one of those games.  That's not a bad thing though as Raanta has allowed two or fewer goals in five of his last six starts.  By contrast Henrik Lundqvist has allowed three or more goals in each of his last four outings.

 

OTTAWA

 

Games this week

vs. Washington, @ NY Islanders, vs. Anaheim

 

Notes

It looks like there will be more miracle comeback for the Senators this season, but if you're looking for players that are finishing on a high note, Ottawa has a few of those.  Mark Stone has been great lately with two goals and nine points in eight games.  That gives Stone 58 points in 69 games, reinforcing that his 64-point rookie campaign wasn't a fluke.  Zack Smith has stood out too with five goals and eight points in eight games.  The 27-year-old forward has set new career highs with 21 goals and 30 points in 70 contests this season

 

PHILADELPHIA

 

Games this week

@ NY Islanders, @ Columbus, @ Colorado, @ Arizona

 

Notes

The Flyers have forced themselves into the playoff conversation by going 10-2-2 dating back to Feb. 16, but next week will be a big test for them.  Obviously it's a full schedule, but the Flyers are also a mediocre 15-14-5 on the road.  Homestands are where the Flyers have made their mark this season, but if they are to overcome Detroit or Pittsburgh in their pursuit of a Wild Card spot, Philadelphia will likely have to do more on the road going forward.

 

PITTSBURGH

 

Games this week

vs. New Jersey, @ Detroit, @ NY Rangers

 

Notes

That game against Detroit couldn't be much more important as the Penguins primarily battle the Red Wings and Flyers for one of two Wild Card spots.  Momentum is certainly on Pittsburgh's side, although that could change in a hurry, especially seeing as Pittsburgh has tough contests against Philadelphia and Washington ahead of them this weekend.  They'll have to hope, among other things, that Sidney Crosby stays hot as the superstar forward is on a 10-game point streak.

 

SAN JOSE

 

Games this week

vs. St. Louis, vs. Edmonton, vs. Dallas

 

Notes

Erik Karlsson has a comfortable nine-point lead in the race for the scoring title among defensemen, but Brent Burns has been doing everything in his power lately to close that gap.  He has six goals and 13 points in his last nine games, bringing him up to 26 goals and 38 assists in 70 contests this season.  Karlsson will likely still finish as the highest scoring blueliner for a third consecutive season, but the fact that Burns has reached the 60-point mark for a second straight campaign is incredible.  His 26 goals are also the most scored by a defenseman since Mike Green had 31 in 2008-09.

 

ST. LOUIS

 

Games this week

@ San Jose, vs. Vancouver, @ Washington

Notes

St. Louis has been a fairly stingy team when it comes to allowing goals for most of the season, but that hasn't consistently been the case lately.  St. Louis has surrendered an appalling 17 goals in its last three games and has allowed at least three goals in seven of its last 12 games.  As you might imagine, that hasn't reflected well on Jake Allen and the Blues goalie does have a 3.29 GAA and .900 save percentage in seven games this month.  Netminder Brian Elliott might be able to return from his lower-body injury as soon as Saturday though.

 

TAMPA BAY

 

Games this week

vs. Detroit, vs. NY Islanders, vs. Florida

 

Notes

Like the New York Islanders, the Lightning are a team that has been struggling lately and will need to reverse course quickly to maintain their playoff spot.  From a record perspective Tampa's situation is a bit worse as they have 85 points in 71 contests whereas the Islanders' have the same amount of points in 69 games.  However, Tampa Bay has the advantage of being in the Atlantic Division, which is a touch less threatening as the two surging teams right now - Pittsburgh and Philadelphia - are both in the Islanders' Metropolitan Division.  Even still, dropping five of their last six games has put the Lightning in a more fragile position and a game against Detroit on Tuesday is their opportunity to correct that.

 

TORONTO

 

Games this week

vs. Calgary, vs. Anaheim, vs. Boston

 

Notes

The only question left for Toronto this season is "Will they finish in the NHL basement" and right now the answer is "probably."  The Leafs set the bar very low going into this season and that's really been the big different this season.  Toronto has only made the playoffs once since the salary cap era started and even then the team got booted in the first round, but for a lot of those seasons, Toronto was at one point or another seen as a legitimate contender to make the postseason.  They've had a few near misses along the way and some tremendous late season collapses.  So if nothing else, this is a year they delivered on their promise: Pain.  And hey, at least William Nylander seems to be heading in the right direction and the Toronto Marlies have been great.

 

VANCOUVER

 

Games this week

@ Winnipeg, vs. Nashville, vs. St. Louis, vs. Chicago

 

Notes

The Canucks are meandering towards the finish line of what has been a disappointing campaign for the organization.  They're going into the summer with plenty of questions, not the least of which is: Who will be the Sedin twins successors?  The Sedins haven't had a bad season by any stretch of the imagination, but it was a step back from their 2014-15 showing and given that they're now 35 years old, you have to wonder how many good seasons they have left.  Vancouver is almost completely devoid of alternative offensive threats though, as evidenced by the fact that their leading scorer after the Sedins is Jannik Hansen, who has 32 points in 57 contests.  Vancouver does have some promising youngsters like Bo Horvat, Jake Virtanen, and - in the NCAA - Brock Boeser, but it remains to be seen if any of them can fill the sizeable void the Sedins will eventually leave.

 

WASHINGTON

 

Games this week

@ Ottawa, @ New Jersey, vs. St. Louis

 

Notes

Washington doesn't have much left to play for from a team perspective.  The Capitals are almost a lock for the Presidents' Trophy given their 12-point lead over Dallas coupled with the fact that Washington has played in three fewer games.  Consequently the focus is on individual achievements.  Can Braden Holtby get the seven wins he needs to break Martin Brodeur's record of 48 victories in a single season?  Will Alex Ovechkin maintain his grip on the Rocket Richard Trophy?  He currently has a four-goal edge over Patrick Kane.  This would be the fourth straight year he's won the award if the status quo persists.  Ovechkin is also climbing up the all-time goals scored chart.  He ranks 36th with 517 career goals and just needs one more to match Dale Hawerchuk and is five behind Pat Verbeek.

 

WINNIPEG

 

Games this week

vs. Vancouver, vs. Los Angeles, @ Buffalo

 

Notes

Winnipeg has gone 4-9-2 dating back to Feb. 16, effectively killing what playoff aspirations the squad might still have had.  That makes this season a step back from 2014-15 when they at least reached the playoffs, although did lose in the first round.  The Atlanta/Winnipeg franchise has had just two playoff berths in 16 seasons, including this one, and has never won a single postseason series.

Ryan Dadoun
Ryan Dadoun is an Associate Editor for Hockey on Rotoworld. Feel free to follow him on Twitter or check out his blog.