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The Week Ahead

Vegas Baby!

by Michael Finewax

I’m in Las Vegas for a few days and went to see the Golden Knights host the Blackhawks on Thursday. If you have never been to a hockey game at the T-Mobile Arena, I suggest you put it on your bucket list.

 

The atmosphere at the game is amazing (although the music does vibrate through your entire body). The pre-game show, the crowd and everything else was tremendous in Sin City.

 

They certainly know how to put on a show! It was quite the experience.

 

 

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There is a lot of information to get to so let’s get started.

 

WEEK OF DECEMBER 10-16

 

 

4 Games – Arizona, Buffalo, Carolina, Chicago, Detroit, Edmonton, Los Angeles, Pittsburgh, Vancouver, Winnipeg

 

3 Games – Boston, Calgary, Colorado, Columbus, Dallas, Florida, Minnesota, Montreal, Nashville, New Jersey, New York Islanders, New York Rangers, Ottawa, Philadelphia, St. Louis, San Jose, Tampa Bay, Toronto, Vegas, Washington

 

2 Games – Anaheim

 

Arizona and Los Angeles play all four games on the road.

 

Dallas, Edmonton, Ottawa, Philadelphia, Toronto and Vegas play three games on the road.

 

Carolina, Chicago, Columbus, Minnesota, Nashville, the New York Islanders, St. Louis and Winnipeg play three games at home.

 

INJURIES

 

Matt Duchene could be out for a while with a lower-body injury. (Click here to see the rest of the injury list.)

 

Note: A tired team is one that has played the day or night before and is going against a team that did not play the previous day or night. The reverse is true for a rested team.

 

ANAHEIM

 

Games this week

vs. Dallas, @ Columbus

 

Rested Team: None

Tired Team: None

 

Notes

The Ducks are in dire need of some secondary scoring so they dealt for Daniel Sprong from Pittsburgh and gave up Marcus Pettersson in the deal. Sprong hadn’t scored in 16 games with Pittsburgh but potted his first of the season in his Ducks debut. The Ducks hope that Sprong works out as well as Pontus Aberg who was acquired off waivers from Edmonton before the start of the season and had nine goals and 15 points in 24 games. Rickard Rakell missed practice on Thursday with a lower-body injury. Adam Henrique has been hot of late and is on a six-game points streak. Look for Corey Perry to return to action around the beginning of March. He has missed all season after undergoing knee surgery for a torn meniscus in training camp.

 

ARIZONA

 

Games this week

@ Boston, @ Buffalo, @ New York Rangers, @ Carolina

 

Rested Team: None

Tired Team: @ New York Rangers (Thursday)

 

Notes

The Coyotes play all four games this week on the road including three games in four nights. Adin Hill has been outstanding of late as he was the NHL’s second star of the week and has won his last four starts. If Antti Raanta is not ready to go, then Hill will play three games and if Raanta can play, the duo will likely split the net. Darcy Kuemper practiced Wednesday and was the backup to Hill Thursday night as Raanta was unable to go. Nick Schmaltz has two goals and five points in four games since his trade from Chicago. Michael Grabner is out of action after he suffered an ugly eye injury. Mario Kempe has been playing in his spot on the third line. Grabner is out indefinitely.

 

BOSTON

 

Games this week

vs. Arizona, @ Pittsburgh, vs. Buffalo

 

Rested Team: vs. Buffalo (Sunday)

Tired Team: None

 

Notes

The Bruins finally got defenseman Charlie McAvoy back after he missed the previous 20 games with a concussion. He started the season off with a goal and five assists in seven games. The Bruins were hurting on the blueline with McAvoy, Zdeno Chara and Kevan Miller all out of action but at least McAvoy, the best of the bunch, is back. Miller was placed on the injured reserve list with a cartilage injury to his larynx. Boston claimed Gemel Smith off waivers from Dallas but don’t expect a lot fantasy-wise as he is a bottom-six forward. Jaroslav Halak is 8-4-2 with a 2.25 GAA but has given up eight goals in his last two starts, both losses.

 

BUFFALO

 

Games this week

vs. Los Angeles, vs. Arizona, @ Washington, @ Boston

 

Rested Team: vs. Los Angeles (Tuesday)

Tired Team: @ Boston (Sunday)

 

Notes

The Sabres play three games in four nights as part of their four-game week. Carter Hutton should get the call in net three times with Linus Ullmark playing once. Rasmus Dahlin was the first overall pick in the 2018 Draft and he certainly was playing like it in November as he was named the NHL’s rookie of the month. He had a goal and 10 points in 15 games and certainly at the tender age of 18, looks like a game-changing defenseman. The Sabres have a good one in Dahlin who will be great, sooner rather than later. Jake McCabe is week-to-week with an upper body injury. Patrik Berglund has only two goals and four points in 22 games heading into action Thursday but wasn’t worried about his slow start. He should be. Conor Sheary returned from an upper-body injury and is playing with Casey Mittelstadt and Kyle Okposo.

 

CALGARY

Games this week

vs. Philadelphia, @ Minnesota, @ St. Louis

 

Rested Team: None

Tired Team: @ St. Louis (Sunday)

 

Notes

It was a wild one against Columbus on Tuesday as the Flames outscored the Blue Jackets 9-6. There were some big nights on the scoresheet as Johnny Gaudreau and Sean Monahan each had four points while Matthew Tkachuk and Mark Giordano had three apiece. It wasn’t so great for goaltender David Rittich who gave up three goals on only 14 shots before he was pulled for Mike Smith. Smith has regained the net as he has started four of the last six games. Michael Frolik has had a setback from his lower body injury and has not skated for the past week. Travis Hamonic is one tough hockey player. He broke his nose in Sunday’s game, finished the contest and was back in the lineup Tuesday.

 

CAROLINA

 

Games this week

vs. Toronto, @ Montreal, vs. Washington, vs. Arizona

 

Rested Team: None

Tired Team: vs. Washington (Friday)

 

Notes

The Hurricanes play three games in four nights as part of their four-game week. Curtis McElhinney and Petr Mrazek could split the net this week but if there is a three/one split, then it is likely that McElhinney gets the nod. The Hurricanes have moved Martin Necas, their first-round pick and 12th overall last season, from center to the right side in the AHL and the results have been great as he has four goals in his last five games. He could be back with Carolina shortly. The Canes welcomed back Brett Pesce to the lineup on Wednesday. He had been out with a lower-body injury and although he has little fantasy value, his presence on the blueline was sorely missed.

 

CHICAGO

 

Games this week

@ Winnipeg, vs. Pittsburgh, vs. Winnipeg, vs. San Jose

 

Rested Team: vs. Winnipeg (Friday)

Tired Team: vs. Pittsburgh (Wednesday)

 

Notes

The Blackhawks play four games this week including three games in four nights. Corey Crawford should get three starts in net with Cam Ward getting one start. Crawford was in net Thursday in Vegas and had his losing streak extend to seven games. The Blackhawks power play has been horrible of late as they have scored only once in their last 23 opportunities. As I have written before in the last couple of weeks, I don’t understand why the Arizona Coyotes gave up on Dylan Strome so quickly.  They thought so highly of him just three years ago to pick him over Mitch Marner, Noah Hanifin, Ivan Provorov etc. etc. and then just gave up. He has three goals in six games with Chicago after scoring seven in 48 games over three seasons with the Coyotes.

 

COLORADO

 

Games this week

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

 

Rested Team: None

Tired Team: vs. Dallas (Saturday)

 

Notes

The Avalanche welcomed Tyson Barrie back to the lineup on Tuesday after he missed four games with a lower-body injury. His return put Samuel Girard back on the second power play. The Avs won Thursday 5-2 but it was the lesser lights who led the way as Mikko Rantanen and Nathan MacKinnon combined for only two points. Rantanen’s goal was his 12th but he leads the NHL in points with 47 while his centerman MacKinnon is second with 44. Rantanen has a 10-game scoring streak. Soderberg had a pair of goals Thursday and has 11 this season with 10 helpers in 29 games. His career high is 16, set in 2013-14 and tied last season but he is well on his way to crushing that mark.

 

COLUMBUS       

 

Games this week

vs. Vancouver, vs. Los Angeles, vs. Anaheim

 

Rested Team: None

Tired Team: None

 

Notes

Seth Jones should be a future Norris Trophy winner. Thursday was a good example as he scored twice, including the overtime winner, to lead the Blue Jackets to a 4-3 win over the Flyers. Jones missed the start of the season with a knee injury but still have five goals and 16 points in only 21 games this season.  Add to Jones, Zach Werenski and Ryan Murray and unless one gets dealt, that will be some blueline for years to come. Cam Atkinson is showing that last season was the anomaly as he has 19 goals and 31 points this season. He is on a 12-game scoring streak and has been the Blue Jackets best offensive player, topping even Artemi Panarin this season.

 

DALLAS

 

Games this week

@ Anaheim, @ San Jose, @ Colorado

 

Rested Team: @ Colorado (Saturday)

Tired Team: @ San Jose (Thursday)

 

Notes

The Stars play three games in four nights so look for Ben Bishop to play twice with Anton Khudobin playing once. Martin Hanzal has been cleared to return to action. He has been out all year with a back injury. Hanzal was an off-season signing for Dallas in the summer of 2017 and has been hurt the majority of his time with the Stars. When healthy, he is a strong third center but those times have been few and far between. John Klingberg has been out of the Dallas lineup since November 8 as he had surgery on his hand but is expected to return around Christmas. His return will hurt the progression of rookie defenseman Miro Heiskanen as Heiskanen has been seeing first power time with Klingberg injured.  Valeri Nichushkin has only four assists in 22 games and has been a healthy scratch at times. He looks lost out there.

Michael Finewax

Michael Finewax is entering his 16th season as the Senior Hockey Writer and Editor for Rotoworld. You can follow him on Twitter @mfinewaxhockey.