Phoenix Coyotes v Pittsburgh Penguins

Penguins’ schedule indicates that they could finish strong

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With the 2011-12 season rapidly approaching, the gang at PHT decided to take a look at all 30 NHL teams’ schedules. Each team’s highs and lows will be studied in detail to give you an idea of what the future might hold for each squad.

Note: Mileage figures via On the Forecheck’s “Super Schedule.”

Pittsburgh Penguins schedule analysis

Total mileage: 33,439 (fourth lowest in the NHL, third highest in the Atlantic Division)

Back-to-back games: 15

Toughest stretches

The Penguins schedule starts off in remarkably balanced way. They play three games on the road, then three at home, followed by two away games and two games in Pittsburgh and then they alternate solo games. That seems fitting, since there aren’t a lot of marathon runs at home or away.

Generally speaking, though, the Penguins’ tougher part of the schedule comes in the first half.

Starting with a home-and-home with the Islanders in late October (Oct. 25 at the Islanders, Oct. 27 at home) the Penguins play seven of 10 games on the road. Late November is tough as well, as they play six of seven (including four in a row) away from Pittsburgh, with their sole home game coming against the defending champion Bruins on Dec. 5.

Again, the second half of the year should be more promising for Pittsburgh, but a late January/early February stretch could present one more hurdle. They’ll play five of six on the road, including four consecutive away games to begin February.

Easiest periods

The first strong run of games begins with a Dec. 13 home game against the Red Wings. The Penguins will play eight of 11 games at the Consol Energy Center during a run that bridges into 2012.

Pittsburgh could really being a lovely run in February, though. Beginning with a Feb. 21 game in which they host the Rangers, the Penguins will play three games at home, two on the road and then four more at home.

Don’t be surprised if they make a mad rush in the end of the season, either. The Penguins’ final 11 games look like this:

March 20: home vs. Winnipeg
March 22: home vs. Nashville
March 24: away vs. Ottawa
March 25: home vs. New Jersey
March 27: home vs. NY Islanders
March 29: away vs. NY Islanders
March 30: away vs. Buffalo
April 1: home vs. Philadelphia
April 3: away vs. Boston
April 5: home vs. NY Rangers
April 7: home vs. Philadelphia

Playing eight of their last 11 games at home is nice, but the context makes that closing set even better. They’ll play against division opponents six times, with just one of those contests being a road game. All but one of the 11 contests are against Eastern Conference teams, too, so they can gain ground with that end schedule.

Overall outlook

The Penguins’ schedule seems pretty balanced and manageable. Again, it seems like they’ll probably make their biggest gains in the last couple months of the season, especially in their final 11 games.

Like their Atlantic Division rivals, their travel schedule is relatively light and their back-to-back games total is reasonable. Ultimately, the Penguins have a lot of things up in the air, but their schedule shouldn’t be a reason to bet against them.

Blues place Bortuzzo on IR, he will miss at least six weeks

DALLAS, TX - APRIL 03:  Robert Bortuzzo #41 of the St. Louis Blues at American Airlines Center on April 3, 2015 in Dallas, Texas.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
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The St. Louis Blues are going to be without defenseman Robert Boruzzo for more than a month due to a lower body injury that he suffered in their most recent game against the Winnipeg Jets.

Blues general manager Doug Armstrong announced on Tuesday that Bortuzzo has been placed on injured reserve and that he will be re-evaluated in six weeks.

Bortuzzo has only appeared in 11 games for the Blues this season but has played well when he has been on the ice, mostly in a third pairing role. He only has two points on the year, but offense has never been a big part of his game. He is mostly more of a stay-at-home defender and his defensive numbers this season have been mostly impressive. The Blues have allowed just 1.31 goals per 60 minutes of 5-on-5 play with Bortuzzo on the ice this season (the best mark on the team) and only 48 total shot attempts per 60 minutes (third best on the team).

With Bortuzzo heading to injured reserve, the team also announced that Joel Edmundson has been activated from IR after he missed the past 12 games with an upper body injury. Edmundson has one assist in 13 games this season for the Blues.

The Blues acquired Bortuzzo from the Pittsburgh Penguins during the 2014-15 season in exchange for Ian Cole.

In 64 games with the Blues since the trade he has four goals and three assists.

Goalie nods: Habs start Montoya for first time in over two weeks

MONTREAL, QC - NOVEMBER 02:  Al Montoya #35 of the Montreal Canadiens looks on during the warmup prior to the NHL game against the Vancouver Canucks at the Bell Centre on November 2, 2016 in Montreal, Quebec, Canada.  The Montreal Canadiens defeated the Vancouver Canucks 3-0.  (Photo by Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images)
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And for the eighth game, Carey rested.

Tonight in St. Louis, Al Montoya will be in goal when the Habs take on the Blues at Scottrade. The decision will end Carey Price‘s streak of consecutive starts at seven, and give Montoya his first nod since allowing three goals on 18 shots in a loss to Carolina on Nov. 18.

Since then, it’s been all Price, all the time.

The former Hart and Vezina Trophy winner closed out November in style — finishing the month with a .944 save percentage — but could definitely use a break, especially after a wild game on Sunday in which he beat the Kings, 5-4, in a shootout.

It’ll be really interesting to see how Montoya does tonight.

He was infamously left in for every goal during a 10-0 destruction in Columbus on Nov. 4, and things haven’t been the same since. The journeyman was terrific going into that Columbus game (3-0-1, .955 save percentage, one shutout), but has found it difficult to reclaim that form, and has lost each of his last two starts.

For the Blues, Jake Allen goes tonight.

Elsewhere…

Cam Talbot, coming off a 33-save win in OT against the Ducks on Sunday, goes for the Oilers in Buffalo. The Sabres are going with Anders Nilsson after Robin Lehner started the last two.

— Vancouver’s turning to Jacob Markstrom after Ryan Miller started each of the last three games. The Canucks will face a familiar foe in ex-Vancouver netminder Cory Schneider, who starts for the Devils.

— Tonight’s Battle of New York will see Henrik Lundqvist and the Rangers take on Jaroslav Halak and the Isles.

James Reimer gives Roberto Luongo the night off in Philly (or, he’s expected to, given Luongo played last night). The Flyers are going with Steve Mason, the NHL’s reigning first star of the week.

Semyon Varlamov will look to snap a three-game losing streak when the Avs visit Nashville. Looks as though the Preds are going with Pekka Rinne.

Petr Mrazek, who has played well since Jimmy Howard went down to injury (posting a .935 save percentage), will start in Winnipeg. The Jets counter with Connor Hellebuyck, who beat the Red Wings earlier this season on the strength of a 30-save effort.

— It’s Mike Smith versus Scott Darling as the Coyotes take on the ‘Hawks in Chicago.

— Calgary will keep rolling with Chad Johnson when it takes on the Stars in Dallas tonight. Lindy Ruff has confirmed that Kari Lehtonen, fresh off his first shutout of the year on Saturday against the Avs, will be back in goal.

McDavid, Crosby, Price and Kane lead All-Star voting through first week

DENVER, CO - NOVEMBER 23:  Connor McDavid #97 of the Edmonton Oilers skates against the Colorado Avalanche at Pepsi Center on November 23, 2016 in Denver, Colorado. The Oilers defeated the Avalanche 6-3. (Photo by Justin Edmonds/Getty Images)
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Voting for the 2017 NHL All-Star game has been underway for more than a week now, and on Tuesday afternoon the league announced the early leaders from each division.

The game, which will take place in Los Angeles on Jan. 26, will feature the same format as last year’s game with the four divisions taking part in a 3-on-3 tournament.

Connor McDavid, the NHL’s leading scorer, is the top vote-getter in the Pacific Division, while Sidney Crosby, currently the NHL’s leading goal scorer, is leading the Metropolitan Division.

Montreal’s Carey Price and Chicago’s Patrick Kane, the past two MVP winners, are leading the Atlantic and Central divisions respectively.

Unlike last season when John Scott dominated the voting, there are no surprise players in the early results. The league put new voting guidelines in place this season and limited voting only to players that are on an active NHL roster.

Here are is an early look at the top-five vote getters from each division.

Montreal (Price and Shea Weber), Pittsburgh (Crosby and Phil Kessel), and San Jose (Brent Burns and Joe Thornton) are the three teams that currently have two players in the top five of their division.

Atlantic
1. Carey Price, Montreal
2. Jaromir Jagr, Florida
3. Shea Weber, Montreal
4. Jack Eichel, Buffalo
5. Patrice Bergeron, Boston

Central
1. Patrick Kane, Chicago
2. P.K. Subban, Nashville
3. Jonathan Toews, Chicago
4. Patrik Laine, Winnipeg
5. Vladimir Tarasenko, St. Louis

Metropolitan
1. Sidney Crosby, Pittsburgh
2. Alex Ovechkin, Washington
3. Phil Kessel, Pittsburgh
4. John Tavares, NY Islanders
5. Taylor Hall, New Jersey

Pacific
1. Connor McDavid, Edmonton
2. Brent Burns, San Jose
3. Johnny Gaudreau, Calgary
4. Anze Kopitar, Los Angeles
5. Joe Thornton, San Jose

James Neal could return to Predators lineup tonight

DENVER, CO - MARCH 05:  James Neal #18 of the Nashville Predators celebrates his goal against the Colorado Avalanche to tie the score 2-2 in the third period at Pepsi Center on March 5, 2016 in Denver, Colorado. The Predators defeated the Avalanche 5-2.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
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The Nashville Predators lineup could be getting a big lift on Tuesday night against the Colorado Avalanche with the possible return of winger James Neal.

Neal, who has been sidelined since Nov. 25 with an upper body injury, returned to practice on Tuesday for the team’s morning skate and has been activated from injured reserve according to Adam Vingan of the Tennessean.

The original diagnosis for Neal was to be sidelined on a week to week basis, but it appears he is on the verge of making a return to the lineup after just 10 days.

If he returns on Tuesday he is expected to skate on a line with Colin Wilson and Mike Fisher, according to the team.

Prior to the injury Neal had been on quite a scoring tear for the Predators with 10 goals and four assists over a 13-game stretch. It was during that stretch that the Predators had started to turn their season around after a slow start and were quickly climbing the Western Conference standings. They were then hit by a series of injuries that took both Neal and Ryan Ellis out of the lineup. Since Nov. 25 the Predators have now lost three out of their past four and sit in 10th place in the Western Conference, two points behind Winnipeg for the second playoff spot (the Predators, though, still have four games in hand).

Neal’s 10 goals are still tops on the team. Nobody else has scored more than seven.