James O'Brien

Hockey Daily Dose

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Dose: Metro Sensibles

Tuesday, January 21, 2014



NEW YORK RANGERS


15 home games remaining, 16 road games remaining

Toughest stretches: The Rangers have had a really weird season and that's only likely to get stranger thanks to their schedule. Depending on their road heartiness, we could go from "Hey, the Rangers are back!" to "Oh, the bad version of the Rangers are back."


The bad times begin in mid-March:


March 11-14: Three road games.


March 16-22: One home contest (though against the dangerous Sharks) and then three more away contests.


March 24-April 3: Two home games, but then four road contests through the Pacific Northwest.


Could be a troubling stretch for a notably unpredictable team.


Lucrative stretches: I'd say that their golden opportunities are mostly gone, although late January and the very beginning of the post-Olympic break provide opportunities.


Jan. 31-Feb. 7: They play three in a row at home and then one contest on the road before the Olympic break.


Feb. 27-March 5: Three of four home games.


April 5-10: Three straight contests at Madison Square Garden.


As you can see, not a particularly lucrative run.


Olympic factor: Seven players.


The Rangers will probably experience some wear and tear, especially since Sweden will lean heavily on Henrik Lundqvist. Still, a few of these selections might play smaller roles or get eliminated early, so it might be a "medium" impact instead of a big one.


PHILADELPHIA FLYERS


19 home games remaining, 13 road games remaining


Toughest stretches: Honestly, life could get even better for the stunningly improving Flyers.


They have a three-game road trip through California from Jan. 30 - Feb. 3 that could cause problems. They also play three in a row on the road lae in the season from April 8-12, and four of five if you stretch the span back to April 5. Still, it seems like Philly has passed the toughest tests of its season, at least on paper.


Lucrative stretches: With six more home games remaining than road contests overall, it's not surprising that the Flyers' remaining games seem promising.


Jan 21-28: Pretty standard three out of four games at home.


Feb. 6-8: A two-game homestand that looks better than it really is because of the Olympic break ...


Feb. 27-March 15: Still, it stretches out pretty well even considering that caveat, as they play two in a row and three of four at home. It gets more impressive if you take the notably long view, though.


Feb. 27-March 30: They play 11 out of 15 contests in Cream Cheese City in that span. I doubt they'll threaten Pittsburgh thanks to that span, but the Rangers probably won't be second in the Metro once that swing is over.


Olympic factor: Five players


Assuming Jakub Voracek shakes off his hand injury (and Claude Giroux doesn't squeeze back in because of injuries), the Flyers face a reasonable set of five players going overseas. Nicely, no goalies going to Sochi.

 

PITTSBURGH PENGUINS


17 home games remaining, 16 road games remaining


Toughest stretches: The Penguins' most difficult challenges come early on in their remaining schedule.


Jan. 23 - Feb. 1: They play four of five games on the road, largely (but not solely) focusing on the Pacific Division.


March 1-10: They'll play five straight contests away from Pittsburgh and six of seven games on the road.


April 3-6: Three straight road games in early April represent the last bit of obvious challenges for Pittsburgh.


Lucrative stretches: Mid-March is where the Penguins could make some gains (relatively, they're always gaining).


March 16-27: The Penguins play six of seven games at the Consol Energy Center through this span, including four home games in a row from March 22-27.


April 9-13: Three straight games end the Penguins' season, which could give them a chance to wrap up the Eastern Conference or Metropolitan Division, depending.


Olympic factor: Seven players


The Penguins get some borderline-choice breaks from Marc-Andre Fleury and (especially surprising) Kris Letang not making it.


And, really, Chris Kunitz might not have produced at this level if he didn't have an Olympic berth to charge, so the Penguins have little to complain about. That doesn't mean the Olympic Games won't be costly for Pittsburgh, however.


WASHINGTON CAPITALS


15 home games remaining, 18 road games remaining


Toughest stretches: The Capitals really need to get things together, as their schedule isn't getting any easier. And it's ramping up quickly.


-- After tonight's contest at home against the Senators, they face five straight road games with two back-to-back sets.


-- From Feb. 27 - March 5, the Capitals play four of five games on the road, with two away contests against Boston and a home-and-road against the Flyers.


-- March 18-22: The dreaded three-game road trip against the California teams.


-- April 5-10: Four straight road games (and five of six stretching back to March 30 - April 10).


Lucrative stretches: Nothing too extreme in Washington's regard, but some positives.


-- Four straight games in DC from Feb. 2-8.


-- Four out of five home games from March 8-16.


-- March 25 - April 1: Nothing special, yet three out of four home games.


So, generally, things aren’t breaking the Caps' way, so they need to straighten things out.


Olympic factor: Three players


The Capitals might not have a lot of people going to Sochi, but it's hard to deny that Ovi will be carrying a mountain of pressure on his shoulders in Russia. Tough to imagine a situation in which he doesn't putter out a little (or a lot) in that span. But we'll see.


For a full list of injuries and suspensions, click here.



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James O'Brien is the Hockey Daily Dose's author and has been a contributor to NBC's Pro Hockey Talk for more than four years. Follow him on Twitter.
Email :James O'Brien



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