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Capitals could deal with small highs and lows during cyclical 2011-12 season

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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.”

Washington Capitals schedule analysis

Total mileage: 37,969 (10th lowest in the NHL, least in the Southeast)

Back-to-back games: 13

Toughest stretches

The Capitals’ schedule almost seems broken up into segments of mostly home runs and mostly away stretches, making it difficult to pinpoint too many huge streaks. For the most part, there are a lot of little periods that are easier or tougher.

That being said, there are two long runs that seem a little more difficult than others.

Mid-October to mid-November is one of the most challenging periods. They play four of five games on the road to kick things off, alternate a home game, road game and home contest and then are visitors three consecutive times.

Again, every month seems to have its quirks, but one of the standout strings comes from Jan. 18 to Feb. 4. The Caps play six of seven games on the road, with five contests against 2011 playoff teams. After a five-in-six run in February, the last significant stretch comes in March, where they play six of seven away from home again.

Easiest periods

The Capitals play four of their first five regular season games at the Verizon Center. Late November to early December represents a nice opportunity, as Washington plays six of seven at home. January includes a four-game homestand while February features four of five games at home.

March includes a six of seven at-home streak as well as a four-of-five run.

Overall outlook

The Capitals’ schedule is staggered, which might encourage cyclical highs and lows. That being said, they’re a genuine Stanley Cup contender, so it’s likely that they might defy the games in front of them. The schedule’s advantages and disadvantages would become more pronounced if the team suffers serious injuries, though.

Their travel schedule is in the bottom third of the NHL and their back-to-back sets are at a reasonable 13. Forgive the Caps a lull or two (surely someone somewhere will use a schedule-related slump as evidence of a lack of intangibles), but they shouldn’t find themselves in too many rough patches – or gold mines – next season.

Stars end Capitals’ winning streak, pass Blackhawks for West lead

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For two periods, the Dallas Stars seemed to say, “Are you sure the Washington Capitals are the best team in the NHL?”

They chased Braden Holtby and built a 4-0 lead through those first 40 minutes, and that was enough … but barely. The Stars beat the Capitals 4-3 on Saturday, which accomplished the following:

  • Dallas ended Washington’s winning streak at five games. The Stars have now won three straight.
  • This win slides the Stars ahead of the Chicago Blackhawks for first place in the highly competitive Central Division. While both teams sit at 77 standings points, Dallas holds three games in hand.
  • By passing Chicago, the Stars now lead the Western Conference as a whole.

Impressive stuff. Some might even call it a statement game, although others may hold that nail-biting ending against them (possibly arguing that the Stars’ flaws may come back to haunt them in the playoffs).

Dallas’ biggest concern likely has little to do with doubters. Instead, they must monitor the statuses of forwards Tyler Seguin and Cody Eakin.

Long story short, the Stars are red-hot, yet bigger challenges likely lie ahead.

Blackhawks fall to Ducks in OT, lose Hossa to injury

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The Chicago Blackhawks are on edge on Saturday, and it’s not because of what’s currently a close game against the Anaheim Ducks.

(Not that they’re indifferent toward a match against their opponents from last year’s conference final match, mind you.)

Instead, the Blackhawks are quite concerned about the health of Marian Hossa, who needed help off of the ice following an awkward, scary-looking crash into the boards. (Hampus Lindholm delivered the hip check that sent Hossa sprawling, in case you’re wondering.)

You can see that moment in the video above, while My Regular Face’s GIF also captures that troubling moment:

It’s too early to tell if Hossa will bounce back or miss some time from this. Stay tuned for potential updates.

Update: Joel Quenneville seems optimistic about Hossa, broadly speaking:

Ryan Getzlaf scored the overtime game-winner as the Ducks won 3-2 (OT).

Understatement: Saturday was a rough night for Panthers

Nashville Predators center Colin Wilson (33) checks Florida Panthers center Jonathan Huberdeau (11) during the second period of an NHL hockey game, Saturday, Feb. 13, 2016, in Sunrise, Fla. (AP Photo/Alan Diaz)
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If it weren’t for Mike Yeo and the Minnesota Wild, you could argue that the Florida Panthers suffered from the worst night so far.

You can see that Saturday was unpleasant merely from looking at the scoreboard: the Nashville Predators pummeled the Panthers by an unkind score of 5-0.

The pain goes beyond that … literally so.

For one thing, Quinton Howden suffered an upper-body injury and did not return. That’s no good, but if you want to feel sick to your stomach, footage of Brandon Pirri‘s likely lower-body injury (ankle maybe?) may do the trick.

(Seriously, you may be happier if you don’t look.)

The Panthers didn’t make an announcement about Pirri one way or another, so we’ll see if he somehow avoided anything significant.

Either way, it was a night this team would like to forget.

Fractured jaw from fight sidelines Chris Stewart for 4-8 weeks

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It’s unlikely that Chris Stewart will generate another 30-goal season in the NHL, but he still might be missed by the Anaheim Ducks.

The team announced that the ornery forward is expected to miss four-to-eight weeks with a fractured jaw. If that’s the recovery window, Stewart may go into the playoffs a little rusty (if he can get in any regular season games at all).

The Ducks didn’t elaborate, but the Columbus Dispatch’s Aaron Portzline believes that the injury happened during a fight with Dalton Prout of the Columbus Blue Jackets. You can see that brawl in the video above.

One bright side for Anaheim: if they believe that they need to replace what Stewart brings to the table (rugged play with a dash of offense), then at least this injury happened before the the Feb. 29 trade deadline.