Balanced schedule gives Nashville no excuses this season

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.”

Nashville Predators schedule analysis

Total mileage: 39,534 (16th most miles in NHL and 3rd most in the Central Division)

Back-to-back games: 11

Toughest stretches

The Predators are lucky in that there are no glaring tough stretches to speak of this season. The toughest run is most likely early in the season as they have ten games in a row against teams that made the playoffs last season. Within the stretch, the last five are on a season-long five game road trip. The tough patch starts with games at home against the Sharks, Lightning, and Ducks. Once they pack their bags, they head to Chicago for a game before battling most of the Pacific Division. Dates against Phoenix, San Jose, Los Angeles, and Anaheim will definitely keep the Predators attention. When they return, they face a couple more playoff teams in the Montreal Canadiens and Washington Capitals.

Easiest periods

The Predators have two stretches during the season where they’ll need to do some damage if they want to make the playoffs (and get a decent seed). Between December 3-15, they’ll play six of seven games at the Bridgestone Arena. Then to start 2012, they play four of five games at home against the likes of Calgary, Dallas, Carolina, and a back-to-back with Colorado. They need to earn a few victories here—they’ll need them later.

Overall outlook

Based on pure numbers, the Predators have the easiest schedule in the Central Division. The 11 back-to-back games is by far the fewest in the division (closest in Detroit with 14). Looking at the way the teams stack up, they will have a good rhythm throughout the season of playing a few games at home and getting on the road before malaise sets in. The longest road trips are only five games (twice), and they’ll have both of those done by December 1.

If the Predators are in the midst of a playoff battle towards the end of the season, they should like the way their schedule wraps up. They’ll have a three game homestand between March 31 – April 5. If they can’t get their business done at home, they have a final game against the Avalanche.

Who knows if the Predators will lock down yet another playoff spot—but one thing we know for sure is that if they miss out, it won’t be because of their schedule.

Video: After blowout loss in Dallas, struggling Sharks off to slow start vs. Predators

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Last night, we asked: What is wrong with the San Jose Sharks?

Well, a day later, with the Sharks looking to avoid a sixth straight loss, the struggle continues.

After a blowout loss last night against the Dallas Stars, the Sharks have fallen behind the Nashville Predators by a score of 2-0 after the opening period.

Colton Sissons opened the scoring for Nashville.

It didn’t get any better for the Sharks.

Roman Josi walked right around Brent Burns, hitting the cross bar with his shot. Cody McLeod was right there for the tap-in to increase Nashville’s lead.

Maple Leafs goalie Andersen suffers upper-body injury vs. Sabres

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Anxious times right now for the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Facing the Buffalo Sabres and looking to extend their winning streak, Curtis McElhinney took over in net for Toronto to begin the second period.

Adding to the situation was the fact Frederik Andersen, who started the game, was reportedly not on the bench when the teams came back out following the intermission.

And now we know why. The Leafs have announced Andersen suffered an upper-body injury and will not return.

Andersen faced 16 shots in the opening period, making 14 saves.

The Maple Leafs are third in the Atlantic Division with 85 points.

Video: Ovechkin joins elite company with this goal vs. Coyotes

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Barring a miraculous barrage of goals in the final stretch of games, Alex Ovechkin very likely won’t hit the 50-mark this season.

Now 31 years old, there has been talk that this could be the beginning of the decline for Ovechkin.

But on Saturday, he scored the 30th goal of his season, letting that famous Ovechkin shot rip from his favorite spot on the power play.

For Ovechkin, that’s 12 straight seasons with at least 30 goals scored. He has been consistently prolific since joining the league in 2005-06. He’s an elite player, as everyone has known for years, and he once again joined elite company with this latest goal.

Per the Capitals, Ovechkin joins Mike Gartner and Wayne Gretzky — he was good — as the only three players in NHL history to score at least 30 goals in each of their first 12 seasons in the league.

Sharp to undergo hip surgery, expected recovery is 4-5 months

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Patrick Sharp‘s difficult season is now over.

The Dallas Stars announced on Saturday that the 35-year-old forward will undergo hip surgery on Tuesday. The recovery time, according to the club, is between four and five months.

Sharp is in the final year of a five-year contract with a $5.9 million cap hit, per CapFriendly

“We are going to get the surgery done and let him heal. He’s going to train and let’s take a look at him,” said Stars GM Jim Nill, per NHL.com. “We’ve had conversations. If he comes back, he wants it to be Dallas. He thinks he’s a Dallas Star.”

Not only has Sharp dealt with injuries on the ice, but he is dealing with a personal matter off it.

From the Dallas Morning News:

But in battling through two concussions, hip pain, and his dad’s fight with leukemia, Sharp has shown significant fortitude. The Dallas chapter of the Professional Hockey Writers Association nominated Sharp Saturday as its candidate for the Bill Masterton Trophy, given each season to a player who displays the attributes of perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication to hockey.

“It shows what kind of person he is and what kind of hockey player and leader he is,” said Stars captain Jamie Benn. “I think that’s why he’s a winner at every level he’s played at. I think that’s why he’s a great leader for this team and a great guy for a lot of these young guys to look up to.”

Sharp was first sidelined with a concussion in October. He was then placed on injured reserve with another concussion in December.

He has been held to just 48 games, with eight goals — his lowest total since the lockout-shortened season — and 18 points.