Print and Go Back ESPN.com: 2008 [Print without images]

Saturday, January 5, 2008
Fantasy Forecaster: No stopping Luongo now

By Tristan H. Cockcroft
ESPN.com

All statistics are through the games of Friday, Jan. 4.

On tap

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

Chicago Blackhawks (@MON -- Tue, DAL -- Wed, MIN -- Fri, @NAS -- Sun)
Colorado Avalanche (@DET -- Tue, @WAS -- Wed, @CAR -- Sat, @FLA -- Sun)
Dallas Stars (MIN -- Mon, @CHI -- Wed, @STL -- Thu, @LA -- Sat)
Florida Panthers (PIT -- Tue, @ATL -- Thu, TB -- Sat, COL -- Sun)
Minnesota Wild (@DAL -- Mon, @DET -- Thu, @CHI -- Fri, PHO -- Sun)
Nashville Predators (@ANA -- Mon, @LA -- Tue, @CLM -- Sat, CHI -- Sun)
New York Islanders (@EDM -- Mon, @VAN -- Tue, @CGY -- Fri, @OTT -- Sun)
Philadelphia Flyers (@ATL -- Tue, @NYR -- Thu, BOS -- Sat, @WAS -- Sun)
Phoenix Coyotes (@CGY -- Tue, @EDM -- Thu, @VAN -- Fri, @MIN -- Sun)
St. Louis Blues (CLM -- Tue, DAL -- Thu, @CLM -- Fri, VAN -- Sun)
Vancouver Canucks (NYI -- Tue, @SJ -- Thu, PHO -- Fri, @STL -- Sun)

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

Anaheim Ducks (NAS -- Mon, TOR -- Wed, SJ -- Sun)
Atlanta Thrashers (PHI -- Tue, FLA -- Thu, PIT -- Sat)
Edmonton Oilers (NYI -- Mon, PHO -- Thu, CGY -- Sun)
Florida Panthers (PIT -- Tue, @ATL -- Thu, TB -- Sat, COL -- Sun)
Los Angeles Kings (NAS -- Tue, TOR -- Thu, DAL -- Sat)
New York Rangers (TB -- Tue, PHI -- Thu, MON -- Sat)
Ottawa Senators (BUF -- Thu, DET -- Sat, NYI -- Sun)
St. Louis Blues (CLM -- Tue, DAL -- Thu, @CLM -- Fri, VAN -- Sun)

Short stick -- Teams with two games

Washington Capitals (COL -- Wed, PHI -- Sun): They're the only team to play as few as two games, though at least they're both home affairs.

The long haul -- Teams with three-plus games, all road

Colorado Avalanche (@DET -- Tue, @WAS -- Wed, @CAR -- Sat, @FLA -- Sun)
New York Islanders (@EDM -- Mon, @VAN -- Tue, @CGY -- Fri, @OTT -- Sun)
Phoenix Coyotes (@CGY -- Tue, @EDM -- Thu, @VAN -- Fri, @MIN -- Sun)
Pittsburgh Penguins (@FLA -- Tue, @TB -- Thu, @ATL -- Sat)
Toronto Maple Leafs (@ANA -- Wed, @LA -- Thu, @SJ -- Sat)

The matchups

Lightin' the lamp -- Good scorers matchups

Florida Panthers (PIT -- Tue, @ATL -- Thu, TB -- Sat, COL -- Sun): No team has been battered defensively as badly as the Lightning since Dec. 1; they've allowed 3.75 goals per game during that span. Toss in game against the Penguins, now relying on their third-string goaltender (Ty Conklin), and the Thrashers, and it's a fine four-game week for Panthers players. Call it a favorable week to slot in Jay Bouwmeester (3 goals, 3 assists in his past 9 games), Nathan Horton (4 G, 3 A in his past 5 games) and perhaps even Stephen Weiss (2 G, 3 A in his past 8 games). ... Philadelphia Flyers (@ATL -- Tue, @NYR -- Thu, BOS -- Sat, @WAS -- Sun): The Flyers might be nothing more than an ordinary team on the road, but that's no fault of their offense, which ranks eighth in the league in goals per game in such instances (2.67). By the way, if that Rangers matchup scares you, consider that Henrik Lundqvist is 5-5-2 with a 3.19 goals-against average in 12 games since Dec. 1. Among Philly's road warriors: Joffrey Lupul (6 G, 8 A in 14 games), Mike Richards (8 G, 9 A in 21) and Kimmo Timonen (3 G, 7 A in 20). ... Pittsburgh Penguins (@FLA -- Tue, @TB -- Thu, @ATL -- Sat): The Penguins rank one spot behind the Flyers in road scoring (ninth, 2.63 goals per game), and those final two contests come against teams with brutal goaltending situations. For the year, the Lightning rank 30th (3.39 goals per game allowed), the Thrashers 29th (3.31). Among Pittsburgh's best plays: Sergei Gonchar (3 G, 12 A in 17 games), Evgeni Malkin (7 G, 12 A in 19) and Ryan Malone (6 G, 4 A in 17).

No, it's a trap! -- Bad scorers matchups

Buffalo Sabres (@NJ -- Tue, @OTT -- Thu, NJ -- Sat): You can't get much hotter than the Devils' Martin Brodeur right now; he's 16-3-1 with a 1.73 goals-against average and four shutouts in his past 20 games. The Sabres -- particularly Maxim Afinogenov (scoreless in his past four games), Jaroslav Spacek (also scoreless in his past four games) and Thomas Vanek (1 G, 2 A in his past eight games) -- are ice cold on offense. ... St. Louis Blues (CLM -- Tue, DAL -- Thu, @CLM -- Fri, VAN -- Sun): The Blue Jackets' Pascal Leclaire has already faced the Blues twice this season and shut them out both times, so suffice to say they'd be silly not to grant him both these starts too. The Canucks' Roberto Luongo, meanwhile, is now the ranked third in the league in GAA (1.97). It's tough to ignore a four-game schedule, but beyond Brad Boyes, Paul Kariya and Keith Tkachuk, there's little to like here. ... Toronto Maple Leafs (@ANA -- Wed, @LA -- Thu, @SJ -- Sat): This one is quite a bit about the West Coast swing, hardly an easy task for an Eastern Conference team, but note that two of the stops come against the Ducks and Sharks, two of the stronger defensive squads in the league. Both rank among the top 10 in goals allowed per game (the Sharks are third, the Ducks are eighth). Beware risky road bets Jason Blake (2 G, 5 A in 21 games), Alexander Steen (6 G, 6 A in 21) and Kyle Wellwood (3 G, 2 A in 14).

Stone 'em cold -- Good goalie matchups

Calgary Flames (PHO -- Tue, NYI -- Fri, @EDM -- Sun): Miikka Kiprusoff has finally turned his season around -- with a 10-1-2 record and 2.63 GAA in his past 13 games -- and things should only get better for him this week. After all, the Oilers rank dead-last in goals per game (2.33), while the Islanders (26th, 2.46) and Coyotes (21st, 2.56) are also bottom-10 offenses. ... Columbus Blue Jackets (@STL -- Tue, STL -- Fri, NAS -- Sat): As mentioned above, Pascal Leclaire deserves both of the St. Louis starts, and because Fredrik Norrena has lost all three of his games against the Predators this season, I think you know which of the two I'm counting on most for this week. ... Vancouver Canucks (NYI -- Tue, @SJ -- Thu, PHO -- Fri, @STL -- Sun): If Kiprusoff's recent run is considered a hot streak, then what does that make Roberto Luongo's? He's 15-4-3 with a 1.48 GAA, .947 save percentage and six shutouts in his past 22 contests, those numbers indicate that you ride him regardless of matchup. But looking at his schedule, I'd expect similar dominance.

The sieve -- Bad goalie matchups

Boston Bruins (CAR -- Tue, MON -- Thu, @PHI -- Sat): A schedule that features three games against the league's No. 3, 4 and 5 offenses -- not in that order -- isn't a favorable one by any means. Tim Thomas might be the league's No. 7 ranker in terms of GAA (2.25) and a fine matchups play for fantasy, but the matchups are stacked against him this week. ... New York Rangers (TB -- Tue, PHI -- Thu, MON -- Sat): Henrik Lundqvist is in the midst of his first true funk of the season, and he'll battle three teams ranked among the league's top 12 in terms of goals per game. Not that you should race to bench the guy, especially accounting for his 13-7-0 record and 1.83 GAA in 20 games at home, but don't count on elite, top-five goaltender numbers from him this week. ... Ottawa Senators (BUF -- Thu, DET -- Sat, NYI -- Sun): It's a goalie controversy in Ottawa once again; Martin Gerber has allowed 10 goals in 66 minutes his past two starts, while Ray Emery has seen only sporadic action the past month. Despite the full home schedule, neither is a recommended option facing two offenses that average three-plus goals per game.

Lineup tidbits

Michael Cammalleri (ribs): His status remains day-to-day, though it's a bad sign that he has missed six consecutive games. Don't count on him helping you this week.

Martin Erat (back spasms): A neck strain and then a virus cost him time in December, and around those injuries Erat has but one assist in his past six contests. That's a sign he's at quite a bit less than full health, so keep him reserved until he improves.

Simon Gagne (concussion): Finally Gagne is close to returning to action; it could happen this week. Still, he's probably going to need a couple of games to shake off the rust, so take that into account when considering him.

Martin Havlat (groin): Check his status on Sunday; the Blackhawks expect him back soon. This one's a simple one: If he played activate him, but don't even think about it if he does not.

Mattias Ohlund (concussion): He was re-examined Friday and has been symptom-free for a couple of days, but chances are he'll miss a good chunk of the week. Concussions take time. Wait until he officially returns before activating him.

Vesa Toskala (groin): He has missed the past three games, two of them six-goal losses, so the Maple Leafs surely are hoping to have him back in time for their three-game road trip. That's a tough schedule for a recovering goalie, so play it safe and wait a week.

Shea Weber (leg): Just like last week, Weber is a risk because he has missed so much of the season due to injury thus far. He's doubtful for the team's West Coast road trip and will need a healthy game or two to prove his reliability to owners.

Sergei Zubov (hand): He's day-to-day, and with his talent level, he's well worth the gamble, barring last-second news of a setback.

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