Studying the NHL schedule is very important to any fantasy hockey owner. Fortunately, NHL.com will provide a weekly look at certain players who are entering a favorable stretch in their schedule. This NHL Fantasy All-Access column will spotlight the players who should be picked up or played for that week.
Knowing the schedule for your draft is more important this season, as the NHL has realigned its divisions (http://www.nhl.com/ice/news.htm?id=678456) and will feature a balanced schedule that ensures that all 30 NHL teams will play in all 30 arenas at least once.
Here are some fun facts about the 2013-14 NHL schedule that will help you on fantasy draft day.
Devils legend Martin Brodeur was 0-1-2 with a 2.93 goals-against average and .885 save percentage last season in the second game of back-to-backs. Cory Schneider was acquired on Draft Day by the Devils and last season won his only appearance in the second half of a back-to-back, giving up two goals and stopping 26 of 28 shots.
FANTASY IMPACT: The acquisition of Cory Schneider looks even better for fantasy owners with this schedule in mind. With so many back-to-backs, expect a complete split of those games, with the younger Schneider potentially playing both contests instead of the 41-year-old Brodeur. New Carolina backup Anton Khudobin is another goalie to watch with the Hurricanes having so many back-to-backs, not to mention Cam Ward's injury history.
FANTASY IMPACT: Jets starter Ondrej Pavelec played in a League-high 44 games last season and his San Jose counterpart, Antti Niemi, was right behind him with 43 games played as he earned his first Vezina Trophy nomination. With so few back-to-backs, Niemi is in line to play in over 60 games for the third time in four years. If Pavelec stays healthy, he could become a fantasy sleeper considering how many games he'll likely start.
- The New York Rangers are on the road for nine of their first 10 games to start the season.
Derek Stepan led the Rangers in road points (23), road assists (14) and road plus-minus (plus-11) last season, while Rick Nash led the team in road goals (10). Last season, Henrik Lundqvist was 8-10-2 with a 2.28 GAA and .922 save percentage on the road.
FANTASY IMPACT: Look closely at the home-road split in targeting certain Rangers players. In the early part of the season, they could see a spike in their production right off the bat. And have some patience with the players that have favorable home splits. They'll have plenty of time to turn things around after that marathon road trip.
- The Boston Bruins play at home 17 times in the first two months of the season.
Brad Marchand led the Bruins in home points (23) and home goals (10) and tied for the team lead in home plus-minus (plus-19) last season, while Milan Lucic led the team in home assists (14) and home penalty minutes (48). Last season, Tuukka Rask was 12-5-2 with a 1.91 GAA and .932 save percentage at home.
- The St Louis Blues open the season with five straight home games and will play host 14 times in the first two months of the season.
Chris Stewart led the Blues in home points (22) and home goals (13) last season, while David Backes led the team in home assists (12) and home plus-minus (plus-8) and was second on the team in home PIMs (32).
FANTASY IMPACT: Similar to the Rangers road splits, pay close attention to the home-road splits of the Bruins and Blues and enjoy the earlier production from these players. Another strategy to employ is to consider trading for a player on these teams who might start the year slow but have more production as the season goes on.
- Here are the Detroit Red Wings' top players' career numbers against the Eastern Conference:
Daniel Alfredsson - 914 GP, 342 G, 873 Pts
Stephen Weiss - 528 GP, 121 G, 323 Pts
Pavel Datsyuk - 148 GP, 56 G, 146 Pts
Henrik Zetterberg - 132 GP, 51 G, 128 Pts
Johan Franzen - 78 GP, 39 G, 52 Pts
Jimmy Howard - 39 GP, 23-10-2, 2.30 GAA, .923 save percentage
- Here are the Columbus Blue Jackets' top players' career numbers against the Eastern Conference:
Nathan Horton - 492 GP, 263 G, 332 Pts
Marian Gaborik - 313 GP, 134 G, 269 Pts
Brandon Dubinsky - 315GP, 71 G, 174 Pts
R.J. Umberger - 272 GP, 73 G, 155 Pts
Sergei Bobrovsky - 68 GP, 35-19-7, 2.84 GAA, .908 save percentage
- Here are the Winnipeg Jets' top players' career numbers against the Western Conference:
Andrew Ladd - 198 GP, 48 G, 118 Pts
Dustin Byfuglien - 251 GP, 54 G, 122 Pts
Devin Setoguchi - 319 GP, 98 G, 184 Pts
Bryan Little - 69 GP, 24 G, 41 Pts
Blake Wheeler - 68 GP, 19 G, 46 Pts
Ondrej Pavelec - 36 GP, 13-17-4, 2.67 GAA, .919 save percentage
- With divisional realignment, Alex Ovechkin will no longer be playing against Southeast Division teams. He can't be too thrilled about that, considering he collected 270 points in 203 career games against those teams. But he's still in the same division as the Carolina Hurricanes, against whom he has 65 points in 52 career games. The Tampa Bay Lightning are the only division opponent that have seen Ovi score more career points (66).
FANTASY IMPACT: The Red Wings, Blue Jackets and Jets all made moves to acquire players with experience in their new conferences. Daniel Alfredsson stays in a very similar division and will benefit from that familiarity. Same goes for the Blue Jackets' Dubinsky, Gaborik, Umberger and Bobrovsky, who all played in the old Atlantic Division before Columbus moved to the new Metropolitan Division. Lastly, League MVP Ovechkin moves to a division that has the last two Vezina winners in Lundqvist and Bobrovsky. There's also future Hall-of-Fame goaltender Brodeur and his new counterpart, Schneider, who could both affect his production.
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