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It's the holidays and Michael Finewax breaks down the schedule in The Week Ahead

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to everyone!

The NHL will be dark for three days as there will not be any game action Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, but there will be 14 games played on Monday with only Montreal and Vancouver getting the day off.

The NHL returns with a bang on Friday evening as there will be 10 games played while there are 17 games on the weekend.

Enjoy the holidays and don’t forget to watch the World Junior U20 Championships that are on TSN in Canada and the NHL Network in the United States starting December 26. Here is the NHL Network’s schedule.

I was on the NHL.com’s Google+ Fantasy Hangout on Thursday with Matt Cubeta, Pete Jensen and Justin Goldman of NHL.com and Yahoo!’s Scott Pianowski. Click here to watch as there was plenty of interesting chatter in the 30 minutes.

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

 

Now to The Week Ahead.

WEEK OF DECEMBER 23-29

3 Games–Anaheim, Boston, Buffalo, Calgary, Carolina, Chicago, Columbus, Dallas, Edmonton,  Florida, Minnesota, Nashville, New Jersey, New York Islanders, New York Rangers, Ottawa, Phoenix, Pittsburgh, San Jose, St. Louis, Tampa Bay, Toronto, Washington

2 Games- Colorado, Detroit, Los Angeles, Montreal, Philadelphia, Winnipeg

1 Game - Vancouver

Calgary and Florida play three games at home.

Pittsburgh plays three games on the road.

INJURIES

Johan Franzen suffered a concussion and is day-to-day. (Click here to see the rest of the injury list.)

ANAHEIM

Games this week

@ Washington, vs. Phoenix, @ San Jose

Rested team: vs. Phoenix (Saturday)

Tired Team: @ San Jose (Sunday)

Notes

Ryan Getzlaf’s 16 game point scoring streak ended on Tuesday. The NHL credited him with only a 14 game streak as he missed a couple of games with an injury. Andrew Cogliano is hot of late with two goals and seven points in his last five games heading into action on Thursday. Jakob Silfverberg scored Tuesday in his first game back from a broken hand suffered on October 25.   It looks like Jonas Hiller is back as he has won five straight and has given up nine goals on 129 shots in that span. He has improved to 14-4-4 with a 2.45 GAA and a .914 save percentage.

BOSTON

Games this week

@ Nashville, vs. Ottawa, @ Ottawa

Rested team: None

Tired Team: None

Notes

The Bruins play a home-and-home series with the Senators this week so expect to see some fireworks unless everyone is still in the Christmas spirit. Milan Lucic and Brad Marchand should add to their penalty minute count if there are any shenanigans. Marchand’s name has been bandied about in trade rumors but GM Peter Chiarelli denied the rumors. Loui Eriksson is still experiencing concussion symptoms as he has had two in the last couple of months. There is no timetable for his return. Shawn Thornton is appealing his 15 game suspension for his slewfoot and subsequent punching of Brooks Orpik.

BUFFALO

Games this week

vs. Phoenix, @ Toronto, vs. Washington

Rested team: None

Tired Team: None

Notes

Cody Hodgson was back in the Sabres lineup after missing a couple of games with a lower body injury but left Thursday’s game in the middle stanza with an upper body injury. Look for the Sabres to deal Matt Moulson at or before the trade deadline as well as Ryan Miller if they are unable to re-sign him. Buffalo picked up Linus Omark from the Oilers for a sixth round pick and that was a good move as Omark has offensive upside for a team that is lacking in scoring up front. Steve Ott ended a 12 game points draught on Tuesday with a goal.

CALGARY

Games this week

vs. St. Louis, vs. Edmonton, vs. Vancouver

Rested team: None

Tired Team: None

Notes

The Flames have split up their top line as they look to have more balanced scoring so Michael Cammalleri, Lee Stempniak and Matt Stajan will not play together. Calgary is now using Karri Ramo as their number one goalie but with the Flames goaltending in such a state of flux, Reto Berra could still grab a number of starts the rest of the way. Sean Monahan returned to action last weekend after missing seven games with a broken foot. Mikael Backlund has three goals and six points in his last 10 games.

CAROLINA

Games this week

vs. Columbus, vs. Pittsburgh, @ Toronto

Rested team: None

Tired Team: None

Notes

Anton Khudobin is getting close to returning to action as he has been out since October 13 with a lower body injury. He partook in part of practice on Thursday but will likely need a conditioning stint in the minors before returning. The Hurricanes will then have a dilemma as Justin Peters has been terrific in replacing Khudobin and Cam Ward when he was hurt. Carolina will loan first round selection Elias Lindholm to Sweden for the World U20 Championships this week. Jiri Tlusty has gone six straight games without a point. Eric Staal has two goals and five points in his last three games.

CHICAGO

Games this week

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

Rested team: None

Tired Team: @ St. Louis (Saturday)

Notes

Bryan Bickell returned to the Chicago lineup on Tuesday forcing Brandon Saad to move from the left to the right wing and the duo joined up with Andrew Shaw to form the third line. The Blackhawks sent Jeremy Morin back to the minors with the return of Bickell to the lineup. Antti Raanta continues to play well in relief of the injured Corey Crawford and is 7-1-1 this season with his only loss coming against the Toronto Maple Leafs.  Patrick Sharp has played very well this season and with the plethora of good forwards in Chicago, he has been overlooked by some. He has 16 goals and 34 points with a plus-10 rating in 37 games.

COLORADO

Games this week

@ San Jose, @ Chicago

Rested team: None

Tired Team: None

Notes

Matt Duchene has been on fire of late with four goals and 10 points in his last five games. He is up to 15 goals and 28 points in 30 games. Duchene has had only one poor season in the NHL with that coming in the 2011-12 season. He is only 22 and is one of the stars in the NHL. Erik Johnson is being talked about a lot lately as he has started to score a bit. The big feature of his fantasy value is his plus-18 rating and when he chips in with four goals and 12 points as well, he makes a good 3-4 defenseman in deeper leagues. Johnson was off the radar going into this season after a four assist season in 2012-13 so he has made a significant jump into fantasy relevance.  

COLUMBUS

Games this week

@ Carolina, @ New Jersey, vs. Pittsburgh

Rested team: None

Tired Team: None

Notes

Cam Atkinson has scored in his last two games and is now up to 10 goals. Look for Marian Gaborik to return on Saturday after missing over a month of action with a knee injury. If Gaborik is available for any reason in your pool, he will make a great gift pickup heading into the holiday season. The Blue Jackets could also return on Saturday after missing eight games with an upper body injury. Sergei Bobrovsky (groin) skated by himself on Wednesday and is looking to return in early-mid January. Ryan Johansen had his nine game scoring streak snapped on Thursday but the former fourth overall selection in the 2010 draft should not be available in any deeper pool at this time.

DALLAS

Games this week

@ Los Angeles, vs. Nashville, vs. St. Louis

Rested team: vs. St. Louis (Sunday)

Tired Team: None

Notes

Kari Lehtonen continues to play well enough to be considered for Finland’s Olympic team but the Finns have so many capable goalies playing in the NHL (Tuukka Rask, Antti Niemi and Pekka Rinne to name a few) that he may not make the squad. He is 13-8-5 with a 2.57 GAA and a .918 save percentage. Sergei Gonchar has yet to find the back of the net this season but has six assists in his last four games including a four point effort last Saturday against Winnipeg. Ray Whitney had a pair of goals on Tuesday but that gives him only three on the season.

DETROIT

Games this week

vs. New York Islanders, @ Florida

Rested team: None

Tired Team: None

Notes

Daniel Alfredsson was an offensive force on Thursday with two goals and an assist to lead the Red Wings to a 3-2 overtime win over Calgary. Jonas Gustavsson is 10-3-2 but won for the first time in five games in the same game. Dan DeKeyser is hoping to return to action on Saturday from a shoulder injury that forced him to miss the last month. Johan Franzen is out with a concussion. Henrik Zetterberg is still out with a back injury but he is expected to return after Christmas and in time for the Winter Classic. With all the injuries, the Red Wings recalled energy player Jordin Tootoo from the minors. Look for him to increase his penalty minute totals while up with the big club.

EDMONTON

Games this week

vs. Winnipeg, @ Calgary, vs. Philadelphia

Rested team: vs. Winnipeg (Monday)

Tired Team: vs. Philadelphia (Saturday)

Notes

Devan Dubnyk could be sitting on the bench a lot more than he wants to as the Oilers may be going to Ilya Bryzgalov more often than not. Dubnyk is 9-15-2 this season with a 3.38 GAA and a .892 save percentage, not exactly a great endorsement for starting in the NHL. David Perron is not happy with his teammates lack of anger with their losing results. Ales Hemsky will not be surprised if he is traded before the deadline, especially considering he is an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season. Corey Potter was suspended for a couple of games for boarding Nick Bonino, but will return this week.

FLORIDA

Games this week

vs. Tampa Bay, vs. Detroit, vs. Montreal

Rested team: None

Tired Team: None

Notes

Tim Thomas is likely to return this week, if not earlier, as he has missed the last four games with a groin injury. The good news is that he is back on the ice. Jonathan Huberdeau was the rookie of the year last season but is slumping in 2013-14 with only seven goals and 15 points in 34 games. Erik Gudbranson is worth considering if you need penalty minutes as he has 72 in 36 games. He has chipped in offensively a bit with two goals and seven points but the defenseman’s minus-seven rating hurts. Tomas Fleischmann leads the team with 14 points while Brad Boyes leads in goals with nine.

LOS ANGELES

Games this week

vs. Dallas, @ Nashville

Rested team: @ Nashville (Saturday)

Tired Team: None

Notes

Martin Jones picked up his seventh straight win on Thursday and is just one win away from the all-time record to start a career. He has allowed only six goals in seven games. Anze Kopitar leads the Kings with five power play goals. He had none last season. Jeff Carter is up to 10 goals and 20 points in 26 games this season. Slava Voynov has started to pick up his pace as he has four assists in his last six games. He has three goals and 15 points this season. Dustin Brown has only seven goals and 12 points in 36 games this season but does have a plus-14 rating and 43 penalty minutes, giving him some value in traditional pools.

MINNESOTA

Games this week

@ Philadelphia, @ Winnipeg, vs. New York Islanders

Rested team: vs. New York Islanders (Sunday)

Tired Team: @ Philadelphia (Monday)

Notes

Josh Harding has been placed on the injured reserve list and should return for the game against Winnipeg as he needs an adjustment in his medication for multiple sclerosis. The netminder has been sensational this season with a 18-5-3 record to go with a .939 save percentage and a scintillating 1.51 GAA. It was hoped that Mikael Granlund would be able to return on December 18 from a concussion that has cost him the last 11 games but he was unable to go so look for him to play this week barring any setbacks. He has two goals and 12 points in 24 games. He is worth looking at in keeper leagues as he has plenty of offensive upside.

MONTREAL

Games this week

@ Tampa Bay, @ Florida

Rested team: None

Tired Team: None

Notes

George Parros is skating once again after suffering a concussion on December 14. It was his second concussion this season and both happened in fights so you have to wonder about the long-term effects on Parros. He has played in only nine games this season with a minus-five rating, no points and 42 penalty minutes. Daniel Briere was a healthy scratch on Thursday as he had gone the previous seven games without a point. He has five goals and 10 points in 26 games this season. Lars Eller is in a big slump as he is pointless with a minus-four rating in his last eight games. Alex Galchenyuk has been impressive in his sophomore season with 10 goals and 22 points in 37 games.

NASHVILLE

Games this week

vs. Boston, @ Dallas, vs. Los Angeles

Rested team: None

Tired Team: vs. Los Angeles (Saturday)

Notes

Carter Hutton was the NHL’s third star of the week and started both games this past week but was pulled Thursday after giving up four goals on 14 shots. Colin Wilson was a healthy scratch on Thursday after compiling only one assist in his previous six games. The Predators sent Filip Forsberg back to the minors on Wednesday after he recovered from a concussion. Craig Smith scored twice on Thursday and is now tied with Shea Weber for the lead among Nashville skaters with eight goals. Richard Clune leads the Predators in penalty minutes with 74.

NEW JERSEY

Games this week

@ Chicago, vs. Columbus, @ New York Islanders

Rested team: None

Tired Team: @ New York Islanders (Saturday)

Notes

Ryane Clowe is hoping to return this week from a concussion suffered on October 13. Damien Brunner has been hot of late with four goals and six points in his last four games. This comes on the heels of a 17 goalless streak, so activate him while he is hot. Jaromir Jagr potted his first power play goal of the season Wednesday and it was his 693rd career goal moving him into eighth overall, one ahead of Steve Yzerman. Adam Henrique has not scored in his past nine games but does have four helpers. Adam Larsson is skating after suffering what coach Peter DeBoer said was a ‘fairly significant injury’ on November 23 when he crashed into the boards. He should be back within a couple of weeks at most. 

NEW YORK ISLANDERS

Games this week

@ Detroit, vs. New Jersey, @ Minnesota

Rested team: vs. New Jersey (Saturday)

Tired Team: @ Minnesota (Sunday)

Notes

The Islander season started with such hope, especially when they dealt for sniper Thomas Vanek early in the season but they currently have the third worst record in the NHL with only 25 points in 35 games. John Tavares was so upset after they blew a 2-0 lead with less than three minutes to go in the third period, eventually losing in a shootout to the Lightning on Tuesday. On a bright note, Ryan Strome played in his first two NHL games. He was held off the scoresheet but is worth looking at as he was leading the AHL in scoring before his recall and had 17 points in his last eight games. There is no update on the return of Lubomir Visnovsky who suffered a concussion on October 19.

NEW YORK RANGERS

Games this week

vs. Toronto, @ Washington, @ Tampa Bay

Rested team: @ Tampa Bay (Sunday)

Tired Team: vs. Toronto (Monday)

Notes

Chris Kreider was red hot but has come back down to Earth as he has only two goals and no assists in his last eight games. Henrik Lundqvist continues to struggle this season with a 10-14-2 record, a 2.71 GAA and a .908 save percentage which is average for most goalies but way below average for King Henrik. Diminutive Mats Zuccarello has been scoring of late with four goals and five assists in his last nine games. He has seven goals and 23 points in 34 games this season with two goals and nine points coming on the power play. After scoring only one goal in his previous 17 games, Carl Hagelin has two in his last two games.

OTTAWA     

Games this week

vs. Pittsburgh, @ Boston, vs. Boston

Rested team: None

Tired Team: None

Notes

The Senators play the Bruins in a home-and-home series this week so look for Chris Neil and Zack Smith to pick up some penalty minutes if there is any rough stuff. Jason Spezza’s goal on Thursday was his first in 13 games. Craig Anderson has been a huge disappointment this season with a 9-9-3 record, a 3.39 GAA and a .897 save percentage after an outstanding 2012-13 campaign in which he was 12-9-0 with a 1.69 GAA and a .941 save percentage. If you grabbed Anderson high in your pool, chances are you are not challenging for the league lead. Erik Karlsson is hot again with a goal and four assists in his last four games. He has nine goals and 34 points in 37 games but a minus-nine rating hurts his fantasy value.

PHILADELPHIA

Games this week

vs. Minnesota, @ Edmonton

Rested team: vs. Minnesota (Monday), @ Edmonton, (Saturday)

Tired Team: None

Notes

Claude Giroux now has 10 points in his last five games as he is back to the form he had shown over the previous three seasons. After starting the season with only seven assists in 15 games, he is now up to nine goals and 30 points in 35 games. Vincent Lecavalier is practicing and he could return this week.  Jakub Voracek is hot as well, as he has six goals and 10 points in his last six games but Brayden Schenn has not found the back of the net in his last 13 contests. Lecavalier has been out since November 30 with a non-displaced fracture in his lower back. He said that the spasms are decreasing every day.

PHOENIX

Games this week

@ Buffalo, vs. San Jose, @ Anaheim

Rested team: None

Tired Team: @ Anaheim (Saturday)

Notes

Mike Smith made a correction in his game and is now full of confidence. He made the correction three games ago and is 0-2-1 but has allowed only five goals on 86 shots in those three games so look for a big improvement in his stats the rest of the way. Shane Doan is still out with an illness but is feeling better as his medication is now working. He could return to the Phoenix lineup this week. Derek Morris was out of action for 16 days before returning on Thursday. Martin Hanzal scored on Thursday for the first time in eight games. He is having a fine fantasy season with nine goals and 23 points in 31 games to go with 39 penalty minutes.

PITTSBURGH

Games this week

@ Ottawa, @ Carolina, @ Columbus

Rested team: None

Tired Team: None

Notes

The Penguins are getting battered on the blueline but they keep on winning despite a defensive corps that should be playing in the AHL. Kris Letang, Brooks Orpik, Rob Scuderi, Paul Martin and Deryk Engelland are all out of action although Engelland is out with a suspension with the rest of the unit injured. Matt Niskanen and rookie Olli Maatta have really taken on the responsibility and Maatta had his best offensive game of his career on Thursday with a goal and two assists. James Neal completed his five game suspension for kneeing Brad Marchand on Thursday and had an assist and seven penalty minutes in his return.

ST. LOUIS

Games this week

@ Calgary, vs. Chicago, @ Dallas

Rested team: vs. Chicago (Saturday)

Tired Team: @ Dallas (Sunday)

Notes

Alexander Steen inked a new contract this past week and celebrated with a couple of goals in the Blues’ 5-1 win over Montreal Thursday. Jaroslav Halak faced his former Montreal teammates for the fourth time since he was traded and he is still perfect against them with a 4-0 record, a 0.98 GAA and a .960 save percentage. David Backes suffered a possible concussion on December 14 but the good news is that he skated before practice on Thursday and could be close to returning. He is having an outstanding season in traditional fantasy pools with 16 goals, 30 points, a plus-11 rating and 62 penalty minutes in 32 games. Backes has also excelled on the power play with six goals and nine points.

SAN JOSE

Games this week

vs. Colorado, @ Phoenix, vs. Anaheim

Rested team: vs. Anaheim (Sunday)

Tired Team: None

Notes

Jason Demers was a healthy scratch on Thursday after going six games without a point. Scott Hannan returned from an upper body injury and replaced Demers on the blueline. Logan Couture has been struggling of late with two assists in his last eight games and a minus-two rating. He has 10 goals and 30 points in 35 games with a plus-11 rating and a turnaround should be coming shortly. The Sharks sent Matthew Nieto to the minors this past week. Mike Brown is back after being out with a lower body injury and the Sharks could use the extra grit in the lineup.

TAMPA BAY

Games this week

@ Florida, vs. Montreal, vs. New York Rangers

Rested team: None

Tired Team: vs. New York Rangers (Sunday)

Notes

Alex Killorn has struggled since Steve Stamkos went down with a broken leg as he has only two goals and two assists in his last 16 games but he has two goals and three points in his last three.  The Lightning got Victor Hedman back in the lineup on Thursday as he played for the first time in two weeks after suffering a lower body injury. Put him back in your fantasy lineup in deeper pools. Ben Bishop continues to excel with an 18-5-2 mark, a 1.96 GAA and a .932 save percentage. Valtteri Filppula has vaulted into second place in Lightning scoring, one ahead of Stamkos, but Filppula has played 18 more games than the injured Stamkos.

TORONTO

Games this week

@ New York Rangers, vs. Buffalo, vs. Carolina

Rested team: @ New York Rangers (Monday)

Tired Team: None

Notes

The Maple Leafs are still hurting down the middle with Trevor Smith (broken hand) joining Tyler Bozak and Dave Bolland on the sideline. Phil Kessel is pointless in his last three games and has only one goal in his last seven. He is a streaky player so look for him to break out with some gusto soon. Peter Holland has been a pleasant surprise offensively with two goals and five points in his last four games. Jonathan Bernier has an ailment that forced him to be the backup on Thursday. The Leafs will be keeping Morgan Rielly and not send him to Sweden to play for Canada at the upcoming World U20 Championships.

VANCOUVER

Games this week

@ Calgary

Rested team: None

Tired Team: None

Notes

The Canucks only play once this week as they get the longest Christmas break of any NHL team, so I suggest benching all your Canucks in weekly transaction pools. Mike Santorelli continues to be a fantasy asset with eight goals and 26 points in 37 games. He is also a plus-14 but has yet to pick up a power play point despite playing 51:51 minutes with the man advantage. The puzzling thing is that the Canucks have not scored with the extra man while Santorelli has been on the ice. David Booth has five goals and nine points in 25 games with two goals coming in last three games.

WASHINGTON

Games this week

vs. Anaheim, vs. New York Rangers, @ Buffalo

Rested team: None

Tired Team: None

Notes

Michal Neuvirth (ankle) has finished his conditioning stint in the minors and look for him to play once this week. Tom Wilson did not receive any supplemental discipline for his charge on the Flyers Brayden Schenn. Mikhail Grabovski has missed the last two games with the flu. Alex Ovechkin was named the NHL’s first star of the week for his five goals, including four in one game against the Lightning. Ovechkin is first in the NHL in goals, power play goals and shots on goal but his minus-12 rating hinders his fantasy value a bit.

WINNIPEG

Games this week

@ Edmonton, vs. Minnesota

Rested team: None

Tired Team: @ Edmonton (Monday)

Notes

Zach Bogosian is expected back in the lineup on Friday after missing the last 15 games with a groin injury. He has struggled offensively with only one goal and three assists in 21 games. The Jets might have a goaltending controversy as Ondrej Pavelec has struggled of late with a 0-4-1 record in his last five as his save percentage is at a weak .850 in those games. Backup Al Montoya has played well of late, winning his last three while going 5-2-1 this season with a 2.23 GAA and a .920 save percentage. Coach Claude Noel gave Pavelec a vote of confidence but if he continues to struggle, I can’t see Noel sticking with Pavelec while Montoya continues to play well. Evander Kane returned to the lineup on Monday after missing six games with a lower body injury and had a goal and a helper upon his return.

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