San Jose Sharks v Anaheim Ducks

Back-loaded schedule should help Sharks start strong

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.”

San Jose Sharks schedule analysis

Total mileage: 43,994 (11th most miles in NHL, but least in the Pacific Division)

Back-to-back games: 14

Toughest stretches

The Sharks have two separate trips to the East Coast that could prove to be their toughest stretches of the season. From October 21 – October 31, the Sharks travel East for a six game road trip (five in the Eastern time zone). Later in the season, San Jose will face a much stiffer test with a difficult 9-game road trip in the middle of February. Starting on February 12, the Sharks will face teams from the Central, Southeast, Northeast, and Northwest Divisions. All on the same trip.

Easiest periods

The Sharks are going to have every opportunity to finish the 2011 calendar year with a bang. Between November 3 and December 8, the Sharks will play 12 of 15 games at the Shark Tank. A week later, San Jose will host a six-game homestand that kicks off against the Avalanche and Oilers. The rest of the homestand will be against teams that made the playoffs last season—but the Sharks are an incredibly tough team to play against at the Tank.

Overall outlook

One of the overwhelming positives for the Sharks is that they have a noticeably lighter travel log than any other team in the Pacific Division. November and December will provide the Sharks with a chance to get off to a strong start before the holiday break. They’ll need it too—the nine game road trip in February will loom large if they’re in a battle for playoff positioning.

If the prognosticators are correct, the final two games of the season against the Los Angeles could decide the Pacific Division.

Wild must overcome Alex Ovechkin’s 14th career hat trick

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Death, taxes and Alex Ovechkin winning the Maurice Richard Trophy.

OK, the third thing on that list isn’t technically inevitable. It just feels that way lately in the NHL.

It’s unclear if the Washington Capitals can hold on against the Minnesota Wild, but we know for certain that Ovechkin already has a hat trick, the 14th of his high-scoring career.

This propels Ovechkin to the goals lead as of this writing, as he already has 34. As impressive as Patrick Kane has been, No. 8 is heating up, and may just edge No. 88 if Ovechkin can remain healthy.

One has to feel a little sympathy for the struggling Wild. They played well but lost against the Dallas Stars earlier this week and now must deal with Ovechkin and the just-as-hot Capitals.

Bylsma believes league will look at Gudas’ hit on Catenacci

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Rugged Philadelphia Flyers defenseman Radko Gudas may get in trouble with the league once again.

At least, it will be that way if Buffalo Sabres head coach Dan Bylsma has his way regarding Gudas’ five-minute charging major hit on Daniel Catenacci.

“I think there’s no question it’s head hit,” Bylsma said, according to the Buffalo News’ John Vogl. ” … I know the league will look at that hit and deal with it.”

As far as the injury portion of possible suspension considerations go:

Marcus Foligno‘s analysis of Gudas was … well just check it out.

The Flyers ended up winning 5-1. Gudas was a busy man overall, racking up 17 penalty minutes.

Fight video: Patrice Bergeron vs. Blake Wheeler (seriously)

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Regular Selke winner Patrice Bergeron can do it all on the ice, it seems. Apparently that means he’ll even drop the gloves.

That was the unlikely scene during Thursday’s Boston Bruins – Winnipeg Jets skirmish, as Bergeron fought fellow finesse forward Blake Wheeler.

Perhaps unusual feisty behavior was just in the air, as Tyler Myers squared off with Matt Beleskey.

(Not as unlikely, but still.)

Video: Dion Phaneuf’s assist is his first point with Senators

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Dion Phaneuf‘s first home game as a member of the Ottawa Senators is going more smoothly than his debut did on Wednesday.

Ottawa fell 3-1 to the Detroit Red Wings last night, and they need another goal to tie up the Colorado Avalanche. Still, Phaneuf’s making a bigger impact on Thursday, collecting two assists … his first two points in a Sens’ sweater.

You can see his crowd-pleasing first helper above.

Here’s his second assist for good measure:

Update: The Avalanche held on, taking a 4-3 edge. Even so, Phaneuf’s getting a warm welcome in his new hockey city.