Commentary

Fantasy Forecaster: Look at the Leafs

Updated: January 27, 2008, 1:48 PM ET
By Tristan H. Cockcroft | ESPN.com

All statistics are through the games of Thursday, Jan. 24.

On tap

The second half: The four-day All-Star break ends Monday (Jan. 28), leading to a six-day fantasy Week 18. There's no shortage of games, though; 22 of the 30 NHL teams return to action in the second half's first day, Tuesday the 29th.

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

Montreal Canadiens (WAS -- Tue, @WAS -- Thu, NYI -- Sat, NYR -- Sun)
New York Rangers (@CAR -- Tue, @PHI -- Thu, @NJ -- Fri, @MON -- Sun)

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

Montreal Canadiens (WAS -- Tue, @WAS -- Thu, NYI -- Sat, NYR -- Sun)
New Jersey Devils (PIT -- Tue, NYR -- Fri, LA -- Sat)
Philadelphia Flyers (LA -- Tue, NYR -- Thu, ANA -- Sat)
Tampa Bay Lightning (BUF -- Tue, VAN -- Thu, FLA -- Sat)

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

Chicago Blackhawks (@COL -- Wed, @SJ -- Sat)
Minnesota Wild (ANA -- Wed, @CLM -- Sat)

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

Anaheim Ducks (@MIN -- Wed, @STL -- Fri, @PHI -- Sat)
Buffalo Sabres (@TB -- Tue, @FLA -- Wed, @ATL -- Fri)
Dallas Stars (@VAN -- Tue, @EDM -- Fri, @CGY -- Sat)
Los Angeles Kings (@PHI -- Tue, @NYI -- Thu, @NJ -- Sat)
New York Rangers (@CAR -- Tue, @PHI -- Thu, @NJ -- Fri, @MON -- Sun)
Phoenix Coyotes (@CLM -- Tue, @DET -- Wed, @NAS -- Sat)

The matchups

Lightin' the lamp -- Good scorers matchups

[+] EnlargeJochen Hecht
Rick Stewart/Getty ImagesDon't fear the "@ sign" for Hecht and the Sabres this week.
Buffalo Sabres (@TB -- Tue, @FLA -- Wed, @ATL -- Fri): The Lightning, Panthers and Thrashers all rank among the game's bottom 10 in terms of goals per game allowed, with the Lightning (3.24, 27th) and Thrashers (3.33, 30th) particularly poor. Among the Sabres' road warriors: Brian Campbell (1 goal, 12 assists in 26 games), Jochen Hecht (9 G, 7 A in 26) and Jason Pominville (6 G, 15 A in 26). … New York Islanders (OTT -- Tue, LA -- Thu, @MON -- Sat): The road game at Montreal is a tricky one, but in their two home games the Islanders battle the Senators, who have allowed 49 goals in their past 13 games (3.77 average), and Kings, who rank 29th in goals per game allowed for the season (3.32). Mike Comrie (8 G, 11 A in 25 home games), Richard Park (7 G, 10 A in 25) and Miroslav Satan (8 G, 9 A in 25) dominate at home, so feel free to use them this week. … Toronto Maple Leafs (STL -- Tue, @CAR -- Thu, OTT -- Sat): Again, there are the Senators on the schedule, as well as 28th-ranked Carolina (3.25 goals per game allowed) and the Blues, who have allowed 34 goals in their past seven contests (4.86 average). Jason Blake (4 G, 5 A in 12 January games), Pavel Kubina (2 G, 7 A in 12) and Mats Sundin (4 G, 7 A in 12) are the Maple Leafs' hottest hands, so continue to ride them this week.

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

Los Angeles Kings (@PHI -- Tue, @NYI -- Thu, @NJ -- Sat): The Kings are averaging nearly a goal per game fewer on the road than at home (3.14 to 2.23), and this kicks off a brutal eight-game road trip to begin the season's second half. Rob Blake (0 G, 6 A, minus-3 in 22 road games) and Ladislav Nagy (1 G, 5 A in 16) have been awful on the road this year and should be reserved. … Minnesota Wild (ANA -- Wed, @CLM -- Sat): Two games isn't a pretty schedule for anyone, especially not with the Ducks ranked seventh in the league in goals allowed per game (2.49) and the Blue Jackets ranked fifth (2.37). Eric Belanger (scoreless, minus-5 in his past 5 games) and Brent Burns (scoreless, minus-1 in his past 4) have been in a funk, so consider reserving them. … Phoenix Coyotes (@CLM -- Tue, @DET -- Wed, @NAS -- Sat): Again, that's the Blue Jackets on the schedule, but also the top-ranked Red Wings (2.08), as well as a Predators squad that has allowed 21 goals in its past 13 contests (1.62 average). Steer clear of the Coyotes' weaker road options: Ed Jovanovski (1 G, 10 A, minus-11 in 24 games) and Peter Mueller (7 G, 5 A in 25).

Stone 'em cold -- Good goalie matchups

Minnesota Wild (ANA -- Wed, @CLM -- Sat): Don't fear the Wild's two-game schedule on this side of the ice. While the Ducks are a much more potent offense since Scott Niedermayer's return, they nevertheless rank 24th in goals per game for the season (2.47), while the Blue Jackets place a spot lower (2.47). Niklas Backstrom polished off the season's first half with back-to-back victories on the road, and he should begin the second half on a tear, too. … Pittsburgh Penguins (@NJ -- Tue, @ATL -- Wed, CAR -- Sat): Ty Conklin hasn't had as much luck in the win department lately, winning one of five games heading into the All-Star break, but his goals-against average (2.35) and save percentage (.934) during that span weren't lacking. He'll benefit from the four days' rest, so keep riding him as a No. 2 goalie. … St. Louis Blues (@TOR -- Tue, ANA -- Fri, COL -- Sat): The Maple Leafs (2.33, 5th) and Avalanche (2.00, 2nd) rank among the league's bottom five in goals per game in January, which bodes well for a bounce-back week from Manny Legace. He already has wins this season against both the Avalanche and Ducks.

The sieve -- Bad goalie matchups

Boston Bruins (NAS -- Tue, @OTT -- Thu, DET -- Sat): The Predators rank among the hottest teams in the league, scoring 43 goals in 12 January games (3.58 average), and we all know about the potency of the Ottawa and Detroit offenses. Tim Thomas earned his All-Star selection with a stellar first half, but don't be shocked if he endures an ugly start to the second half. … New York Islanders (OTT -- Tue, LA -- Thu, @MON -- Sat): The Senators and Canadiens have ranked as elite offenses all year, and take a look at what the Kings are doing lately. They've scored 35 goals in 11 January contests (3.18 average), so while they'll be challenged during their long road trip, they should be able to hang in their game against Rick DiPietro. If you're deep at the position, consider sitting him. … New York Rangers (@CAR -- Tue, @PHI -- Thu, @NJ -- Fri, @MON -- Sun): A four-game road trip isn't an easy one for anyone, especially not when three of the contests come against teams that have averaged better than three goals per game for the season (Flyers, 3.33, 2nd; Canadiens, 3.08, 4th; Hurricanes, 3.02, 5th). It's tough to sit Henrik Lundqvist, especially not with his play picking up the past week, but don't expect elite totals from him.

Lineup tidbits

Michael Cammalleri (bruised ribs): He has missed 14 consecutive games heading into the All-Star break, his status remaining day-to-day all the while. It doesn't appear a return is imminent for him, though, so continue to keep him reserved for now.

Jere Lehtinen (hernia surgery): He resumed practicing this past Thursday, the final day of the season's first half, and will travel with the team for their three-game road trip in Week 18. Keep him reserved as he might not play before Friday, but he's close.

Ladislav Nagy (neck): He was held out of the team's final three games of the first half, but has a decent shot at returning on Tuesday. Unfortunately, Nagy isn't elite enough a fantasy option to gamble on in Week 18, barring a clear go-ahead to play that game.

Sheldon Souray (shoulder): He left Thursday's game with a flare-up of his previous injury, one that cost him 25 games to begin the season. Keep tabs on Souray's status, as he hasn't been productive enough when healthy to use. If there's a risk, he'll sit.

Paul Stastny (appendectomy): His original timetable following Jan. 17 surgery would have him due back about a week into February, though that'd more likely mean a Week 19 than 18 return. Keep an eye on his progress during the break, though.

Henrik Zetterberg (back): The Red Wings held him out of their final two games of the first half, as well as the All-Star Game, as a precaution. Still, this is not the first time a back issue has plagued Zetterberg this year. Call him questionable for the week.

Sergei Zubov (strained groin): Like Zetterberg, Zubov sat out the All-Star Game to rest his injury, though he also missed the Stars' final four games of the first half. He'll need a clear go-ahead to play before being worth the gamble for fantasy this week.

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