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Sunday, December 30, 2007
Fantasy Forecaster: Flame out?

By Tristan H. Cockcroft
ESPN.com

All statistics are through Friday's games.

On Tap

Stacked! -- Teams with four-plus games, regardless of locale

Atlanta Thrashers (@BOS -- Mon, @CAR -- Wed, CAR -- Fri, BUF -- Sun)
Calgary Flames (VAN -- Mon, NYR -- Wed, @SJ -- Thu, @LA -- Sat)
Carolina Hurricanes (NYI -- Mon, ATL -- Wed, @ATL -- Fri, @STL -- Sat)
Chicago Blackhawks (@LA -- Tue, @PHO -- Thu, @ANA -- Fri, DET -- Sun)
Columbus Blue Jackets (EDM -- Mon, @ANA -- Wed, @LA -- Thu, @SJ -- Sat)
Dallas Stars (NAS -- Mon, @DET -- Wed, @MIN -- Thu, DET -- Sat)
Detroit Red Wings (STL -- Mon, DAL -- Wed, @DAL -- Sat, @CHI -- Sun)
Edmonton Oilers (@CLM -- Mon, @STL -- Wed, @NAS -- Thu, NYR -- Sat)
Phoenix Coyotes (COL -- Mon, @COL -- Wed, CHI -- Thu, ANA -- Sat)

Home Cookin' -- Teams with three-plus home games

Boston Bruins (ATL -- Mon, WAS -- Thu, NJ -- Sat)
Los Angeles Kings (CHI -- Tue, CLM -- Thu, CGY -- Sat)
Phoenix Coyotes (COL -- Mon, @COL -- Wed, CHI -- Thu, ANA -- Sat)

Short Stick -- Teams with two games, one-plus road

Philadelphia Flyers (@NJ -- Fri, @TOR -- Sat)
Vancouver Canucks (@CGY -- Mon, NYR -- Thu)

The Long Haul -- Teams with three-plus games, all road

Florida Panthers (@NJ -- Wed, @NYI -- Thu, @PIT -- Sat)
New York Rangers (@CGY -- Wed, @VAN -- Thu, @EDM -- Sat)
Tampa Bay Lightning (@TOR -- Tue, @MON -- Thu, @OTT -- Sat)

The Matchups

Lightin' the Lamp -- Good Scorers' Matchups

Montreal Canadiens (TB -- Thu, WAS -- Sat): A two-game week, when only three teams in the league play that few, isn't a great one most of the time. But when both are at home and against two of the six worst defensive teams in the league (Lightning, tied for last, 3.32 goals allowed per game, and Capitals, 25th, 3.00), it's not that bad a schedule for an offense. Christopher Higgins (five goals, seven assists in 13 games in December), Andrei Kostitsyn (4 G, 6 A in 13) and Tomas Plekanec (4 G, 7 A in 13) are A-OK to keep active. … Ottawa Senators (@WAS -- Tue, @BUF -- Fri, TB -- Sat): There are those Capitals and Lightning again, but the Senators get the benefit of a third game against the Sabres, against whom they have 10 goals in three meetings this season. You know the obvious Senators to use, but also take a look at Mike Fisher (6 G, 2 A in 11 games in December, Andrej Meszaros (5 points, plus-4 rating in 13) and Antoine Vermette (4 G, 5 A in 13). … Toronto Maple Leafs (TB -- Tue, @PIT -- Thu, PHI -- Sat): I know, I keep ripping on the Lightning, with all their troubles in net, but the Penguins aren't much better, with Ty Conklin and Dany Sabourin combining to allow 33 goals in 10 games since Marc-Andre Fleury got hurt. The Flyers' Martin Biron, meanwhile, hasn't won a road game since Nov. 28. Call it a good week to slot Nik Antropov (6 G, 6 A in 12 games in December), Alexei Ponikarovsky (3 G, 5 A in 12) and Alexander Steen (3 G, 3 A in 12) into your active lineup.

No, It's a Trap! -- Bad Scorers' Matchups

Calgary Flames (VAN -- Mon, NYR -- Wed, @SJ -- Thu, @LA -- Sat): The Canucks' Roberto Luongo and Sharks' Evgeni Nabokov are two of the hottest goalies in the league, and the Rangers' Henrik Lundqvist, despite allowing 28 goals in his past nine games, remains a clear top-10 -- if not top-five -- goalie accounting for year-to-date performance. Matthew Lombardi (2 G, 2 A in 12 games in December) and Alex Tanguay (2 G, 6 A in 12) have to be wondering when the Flames' schedule will get any easier. … Dallas Stars (NAS -- Mon, @DET -- Wed, @MIN -- Thu, DET -- Sat): No team is as strong defensively as the Red Wings, ranked first for the season (2.13 goals per game allowed) and in December (1.69). In addition, the Wild's Niklas Backstrom is a top-10 goalie on the Player Rater, increasing the level of difficulty. Keep your expectations low for Jussi Jokinen (2 G, 2 A in 12 games in December), Niklas Hagman (3 G, 1 A in 12) and Mike Modano (3 G, 4 A in 12). … Minnesota Wild (SJ -- Mon, DAL -- Thu, @NAS -- Sat): The Sharks rank second in the league defensively (2.16 goals allowed per game), while the Stars' Marty Turco is 8-2-0 with a 1.96 GAA in 10 games in December. Since the Wild aren't known for being too deep offensively, avoid guys like Pierre-Marc Bouchard (1 G, 9 A in 12 games in December) and Brian Rolston (5 G, 5 G in 12).

Stone 'Em Cold -- Good Goalies' Matchups

Anaheim Ducks (CLM -- Wed, CHI -- Fri, @PHO -- Sat): Jean-Sebastien Giguere is 12-6-1 with a 2.35 GAA and .915 save percentage in his past 19 contests, and of his three scheduled opponents, the Blackhawks are the only one ranked better than 24th in terms of goals per game. Giguere handled them on Dec. 7, stopping 39 of 42 shots in Chicago, so no worries here. … Columbus Blue Jackets (EDM -- Mon, @ANA -- Wed, @LA -- Thu, @SJ -- Sat): The Blue Jackets' goalies have led the team to a No. 5 rating in the league on defense (2.32 goals allowed per game), even if they leave a lot to be desired in the win column. Those are four winnable games for Pascal Leclaire and Fredrik Norrena, though, and each could get two starts and be No. 2-worthy. … Colorado Avalanche (@PHO -- Mon, PHO -- Wed, NYI -- Sat): Peter Budaj didn't lose a regulation game in four meetings with the Coyotes in 2006-07, and the Islanders, well, they rank 28th in goals per game (2.33) for the season. Budaj is 5-2-1 with a 2.24 GAA in eight games in December, so continue to ride the hot streak, at least as a No. 2 option.

The Sieve -- Bad Goalies' Matchups

Atlanta Thrashers (@BOS -- Mon, @CAR -- Wed, CAR -- Fri, BUF -- Sun): It's not so much that I doubt Kari Lehtonen's raw talent, it's more that he gets very little defensive support in front of him. And when that's the case, a schedule in which three of his four games come against top-five offenses (Sabres, third, 3.20 goals per game, and Hurricanes, fifth, 3.13) is likely to challenge him. Expect a mediocre week. … New York Islanders (@CAR -- Mon, FLA -- Thu, @COL -- Sat): Even if Rick DiPietro's knee heals in time to allow him to play the full Week 14, there's a chance he'll be doing so at a bit less than peak form. In addition, he gets so little offensive support, this is the kind of schedule that should challenge him. Both the Hurricanes and Avalanche are top-10 offenses, and both of those games are road contests. … Phoenix Coyotes (COL -- Mon, @COL -- Wed, CHI -- Thu, ANA -- Sat): Ilya Bryzgalov has done an exceptional job since the move to Phoenix, and in December, he has a 1.99 GAA and hasn't allowed more than three goals in any of his 11 games. Still, he's 5-5-1 during that stretch, and the Avalanche have to be considered the favorites in their home-and-home series to begin the week. Tack on games against the potent Blackhawks and surging Ducks and this is a schedule to avoid.

Lineup Tidbits

Michael Cammalleri (ribs): Keep an eye on him leading into the week, with a reasonably favorable three-home-game schedule. The problem, though, is rib injuries often can cost a player a week or more of action, so he has to be called iffy.

Rick DiPietro (knee): An MRI showed no structural damage after he left Wednesday's game after one period, and his status is day-to-day. As mentioned above, the Isles' matchups are poor for DiPietro, so it could be worth taking the conservative route.

Simon Gagne (concussion): He wasn't scheduled to play before New Year's and the Flyers won't begin Week 14 until Friday, and even then, they play two road games. Gagne might return to the lineup for one of both of those, but it's a risk you shouldn't take.

Martin Havlat (groin): Surprise, surprise, Havlat's on injured reserve! (Can I just leave it at that sarcastic comment?) Initial reports have him missing all of Week 14, and with his injury history, we should take that at face value. Reserve him immediately.

Ales Hemsky (knee): He's one of the few Oilers players worth fantasy attention, so keep tabs on his health leading into the week. Hemsky is day-to-day, though there's the chance he misses a week, and that'd adversely affect the entire team's production.

Joe Sakic (hernia surgery): Just in case you missed it, the Avalanche announced Thursday that Sakic will undergo hernia surgery and be out 8-12 weeks. That means that at best, he might be back for the final month of the regular season.

Vesa Toskala (groin): The Maple Leafs are playing coy about his status, declaring him only day-to-day. Groin problems can cost goalies significant action -- think a week, not a day or two -- so don't gamble on Toskala if the reports on him aren't good by Monday.

Shea Weber (leg): It has been an injury-plagued season for Weber, who has missed four consecutive games with a leg issue after battling a dislocated knee cap earlier in the season. He's only day-to-day, but with his recent track record, he's too risky to trust.

Henrik Zetterberg (back): Apparently the Christmas break wasn't enough to heal him; he hasn't played in more than a week despite remaining day-to-day. A player of Zetterberg's talent is worth gambling on if there's any chance he'll play, so monitor him closely.

Tristan H. Cockcroft covers fantasy sports for ESPN.com. You can e-mail him here.