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Schedule Analysis: April 4-10

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"

Whether your league ended this week and you're looking for some DFS advice, making final evaluations for your dynasty team or you're in the championship match and final week of your re-draft league, the final week of the NHL regular season is here. Although the Eastern Conference has more playoff uncertainty than the Western Conference, both conferences have teams with plenty to fight for.



Fishing for Production
Five games in seven days:

New York Islanders
Hopefully you saw this one coming when we posted the final month's outlook and slowly stocked up on Islanders. If not, there may be some producers on your waiver wire, and I highly recommend pulling the trigger now. Attempting to leap frog the rival Rangers for the final playoff spot in the Metropolitan division, the Isles have plenty to play for, and all five opponents should provide some competition, especially the Rangers, who have had their problems with the Islanders.



Four Aces
In the scenario you've scoured the pool for all productive Islanders and come up with zilch, avoid two-game teams (Dallas, Edmonton, Minnesota) and stock up with players with four games.

1. Florida Panthers
Still two points behind Tampa Bay for the Atlantic division title and Floridian supremacy, the Panthers have the edge in strength of schedule as they play four of the Eastern Conference's five bottom feeders and boast a combined 10-2 against this week's opponents.

2. Anaheim Ducks
Still caught in a three-way battle for the Pacific division crown, the Ducks will play three of four on the road, where they are a bit more pedestrian (19-14-5) this season. The first of their final three will be against the Pacific division leading Kings, who Anaheim leads the season series against 3-1.

3. Washington Capitals
With the Presidents Trophy locked up, the Caps have zero to play for. Three of four games will be at home (29-7-2) and all four opponents bring their own agendas and inspiration for victory. Still, the Caps need to avoid the usual tune-up week and stay in the groove as they look to prove they're the real deal this season.

4. Los Angeles Kings
Currently leading the Pacific division, the Kings will need to ward off one of their division competitors in the aforementioned Ducks on Thursday and a pesky Jets squad who has knotted (1-1, 5:5 GF:GA) things up with L.A. That said, the Kings are outscoring the Canucks (3-1) and Flames (3-0) by a combined 21-7.

5. New York Rangers
If the Rangers are to hold onto the final Metro division playoff spot and avoid fighting for wild card positioning, it won't be easy. The good news? After what should be a gimme game on the road against the Jackets, the team will then host three straight at Madison Square Garden (25-9-4) to end the regular season. The bad news? New York hasn't exactly owned the three teams coming into MSG, especially the Islanders (0-2-1, 11:6 GF:GA), who will look to snag their spot on Thursday.

6. Philadelphia Flyers
Hoping to ward off the Bruins for the final wild card spot in the Eastern Conference, the Flyers are the only four-game team playing exclusively on back-to-back nights. More concerning, however, is all four games come on the final five days of the regular season.

7. Tampa Bay Lightning
If we had suggested at the beginning of the year the Atlantic division title would come down to Tampa Bay and Florida in the final week and Tampa Bay (4-4-1 against this week's opponents) would have the underdog positioning, you probably would have scoffed. The Lightning will play all four games on the road and three in four nights, including the Isles and Rangers on back-to-back nights when the final spot in the Metro is up for grabs.

8. Arizona Coyotes
It's a blessing in disguise the 'Yotes are not hoping they can sneak into the playoffs in the final week, because their four-game road (13-21-3) trip is looking ugly. Bouts against the Blues and Blackhawks on back-to-back nights, and Arizona is a combined 2-7-1 against this week's opponents.

9. Toronto Maple Leafs
Reality has set in on the young Leafs, who are now looking toward next season as the new era. However, it should be interesting to see if Toronto attempts to play spoiler, as two of the final four games are against teams (Florida, Philadelphia) vying for playoff seeding and contention respectively. Still, the Leafs come into the week tied with Edmonton for 30th in overall points, perhaps team tank is in full effect for Toronto.

10. Vancouver Canucks
The Canucks will close out the season with the Kings and a home-and-home with the Oilers (1-1-1) separated by a contest with Calgary.

11. Columbus Blue Jackets
The Blue Jackets enter the final week with a combined 1-7 record against this week's opponents, including 0-3 against the Rangers.

Three of a Kind

Hold'Em

San Jose Sharks

The Sharks have had a tight season series against Minnie and Winnie (combined 2-2 9:10 GF:GA) but have handled the Coyotes (3-1, 11:5 GF:GA) well. Having already clinched a playoff berth, San Jose should have plenty of bite as they look to walk away with the Pacific division title. Though they are at a disadvantage as both the Kings and Ducks have a game in hand, it's all the more reason to believe they come prepared for all three games.

Fold'Em

Winnipeg Jets

The Jets will not only head west for their final three games, they'll play all three teams battling for the Pacific division title. Although they have held their own (combined 2-3-1) against all three opponents this season, the stakes are a bit higher and the Jets could be looking to lower their league ranking for better draft placement.

The Flop

Monday -
While neither team has a threatening power play (CLB 2-11, NYR 1-5) the Jackets are 0-3 (5:11 GF:GA) against the Rangers this season and much like Winnipeg, likely looking to solidify their status at the bottom of the league. Not to say they're looking to tank, but there's one team with something to fight for in this contest and it's not Columbus.

Tuesday - The Kings have outscored the Flames 9-3 and lead the season series 3-0.

Wednesday - A spine tingling build-up to this game, as both the Red Wings and Flyers are entangled in the tight standings of the Eastern Conference. While Detroit currently holds the final position in the Atlantic, Boston is just one point behind. Meanwhile, Philadelphia (7-2-1 over their last 10) is also trying to hold off Boston for their wild card spot. Although the Flyers lead the season series 2-0, they have won both games by one goal. A searing high-voltage atmosphere usually produces a ton of hits and penalty minutes, much less against two teams with some history.

Thursday - Possibly battling it out for the Pacific division crown, while Anaheim is outscoring Los Angeles 13-9, both team's power play (ANH 6-15, LA 5-14) have been robust against each other.

Friday - The only game of the night, the Blue Jackets are being outscored 8-2 (four PPG) by the surging Sabres (6-2-2 over their last 10).

Saturday - The Sharks are outscoring the Coyotes 11-5 and are 4-14 on the power play against Arizona.

Sunday - While we're hoping for a different result, in what could easily be a preview of the Stanley Cup finals, the Caps and Ducks face off on the final night of the season. Washington has won five of the last six games between the two dating back to the 2011-12 season, including a 2-1 shootout win over Anaheim last month. Additionally, depending on how the rest of the week goes for the Islanders, it should be an interesting grudge match as Philly and New York square off for possible seeding. Although the Flyers hold a slight edge (2-1-1) in the season series, they are outscoring the Isles 13-8, but don't expect much action on special teams, as the two teams have just a goal each in a combined 31 opportunities.