After a win Monday, Flames coach Darryl Sutter spoke about just how tough the NHL schedule is — especially on top players that play big minutes. He wasn’t just talking about his team, either, and he was smart to point out that opponents are also dealing with fatigue. The Flames are among four teams short on rest this week:
Minnesota Wild: Heading into the season, I was skeptical that Cam Talbot and Kaapo Kahkonen would be able to provide the Wild with adequate goaltending. Later, I was surprised to see Kahkonen playing so well, and about a month ago I was really starting to question things with Kahkonen building a case to become the starting goaltender. However, Kahkonen has undone all of his good work from earlier in the season, and Talbot has continued to struggle. The two have combined to post the second-worst save percentage (.863) in the league since the All-Star break. Minnesota is working their way through a tough portion of the schedule, too, and they will likely be very tired when they play a set of back-to-back games later this week. The Wild have a big homestand coming up, but first they’ll hit the road to play the Red Wings on Thursday and the Blue Jackets on Friday. The Wild will be playing their sixth game in nine days when they take on Columbus, but the Blue Jackets will be playing their second game in as many nights as well.
Vegas Golden Knights: The Golden Knights kicked off a five-game Eastern Conference road trip on Tuesday in Philadelphia. It was the first of three games in four days, as Vegas will play Buffalo and Pittsburgh back-to-back on Thursday and Friday. The Penguins game will be Vegas’ sixth game in nine days. I’m going to guess that Laurent Brossoit will get the start in Buffalo while the team keeps Robin Lehner fresh for the Penguins, which should lessen the fatigue factor, but defeating the Penguins on home ice is no easy task. The Golden Knights were not playing well without Max Pacioretty and Mark Stone, but with Pacioretty back in the lineup alongside Jack Eichel, we should expect some improvement. Since the All-Star break, only three teams have scored fewer goals than Vegas on a 60-minute basis, and fatigue will only make things more difficult.
Calgary Flames: Saturday’s 4-3 overtime win in Colorado marked the first of six games in nine days for the Flames, and it comes full circle when they return to the Mile High City on Sunday for a rematch against the Avalanche. The Flames were able to defeat the Avalanche with backup goaltender Dan Vladar over the weekend, and bettors will have to monitor their goaltending usage closely. Vladar will almost certainly play another game or two during this stretch. Starting Jacob Markstrom in the other five would be a tough ask. Calgary is in a very good position in the standings, and this is a good time to get Markstrom some rest.
St. Louis Blues: The Blues will host Winnipeg on Sunday in what will be their sixth game in nine days. St. Louis will be in Nashville on Saturday, so you can add travel to the list of things working against them in that game. Winnipeg won’t have much of an edge, as it will be their third game in four days, but the Blues will be at a disadvantage nonetheless. This will be an important game for both teams, as the Blues will look to widen the gap in the Central Division, and the Jets will be looking for two points to aid them on their quest to make the playoffs.