Fantasy Forecaster: Theodore to continue hot streak
All statistics are through Friday's games.
Week 20 presents us a fairly balanced schedule. Only two teams play two games, and each plays only at home. In addition, only two teams spend the entire week on the road. There's a clear advantage for the six teams with four games, but that's about it.
Stacked! -- Teams with four-plus games, regardless of locale
Buffalo Sabres (@OTT -- Tue, TOR -- Wed, @NYR -- Sat, PIT -- Sun)
Dallas Stars (PHO -- Mon, @PHO -- Thu, @ANA -- Fri, DET -- Sun)
Montreal Canadiens (@TB -- Tue, @FLA -- Wed, PHI -- Sat, @PHI -- Sun)
Nashville Predators (DET -- Tue, CHI -- Thu, STL -- Sat, @MIN -- Sun)
Philadelphia Flyers (@NYI -- Tue, TB -- Thu, @MON -- Sat, MON -- Sun)
St. Louis Blues (LA -- Tue, @COL -- Thu, @NAS -- Sat, CLM -- Sun)
Home cookin' -- Teams with three-plus home games
Nashville Predators (DET -- Tue, CHI -- Thu, STL -- Sat, @MIN -- Sun)
Short stick -- Teams with two games
The long haul -- Teams with three-plus games, all road
Lightin' the lamp -- Good scorers matchups
Florida Panthers (MON -- Wed, WAS -- Fri, @CAR -- Sat): The Panthers are a combined 5-5 against their Southeast rivals, the Capitals and Hurricanes, but they haven't really been hurting for offense in those games, with 26 goals total. In addition, the Capitals' Olaf Kolzig and Hurricanes' Cam Ward have struggled all season long, which bodes well for red-hot Nathan Horton (3 goals, 2 assists, plus-3 in 5 games since the All-Star break) and Olli Jokinen (3 G, 3 A in 5). New Jersey Devils (OTT -- Wed, ATL -- Fri, @OTT -- Sat): The Senators took these teams' first two meetings, but their goaltending situation is far more tenuous today than it was back then, in October. Keep riding Patrick Elias (2 G, 3 A, plus-3 in 6 games since the All-Star break), Jamie Langenbrunner (1 G, 2 A in 5) and Zach Parise (2 G, 2 A in 6). Washington Capitals (@ATL -- Wed, @FLA -- Fri, @TB -- Sat): This is a critical three-game set for the Capitals, not only in that it's all against division rivals, but also that they're all road contests. Fortunately, the Thrashers, Panthers and Lightning aren't what I'd call strong between the pipes; they're all bottom-half teams in goals allowed per game (Thrashers 27th, 3.18 GAA; Panthers 17th, 2.77; Lightning 30th, 3.31). Among Capitals road warriors: Nicklas Backstrom (4 G, 17 A in 28 games) and Viktor Kozlov (6 G, 13 A in 28).
No, it's a trap! -- Bad scorers matchups
Detroit Red Wings (@NAS -- Tue, CLM -- Fri, @DAL -- Sun): It's not an easy assignment for a team to play road affairs against two top-10 defensive teams, and the Red Wings' lone home game comes against the league's No. 6 defense (Blue Jackets, 2.46 goals allowed per game). Not that you should be racing to sit players from by far the league's best team, but if you normally wouldn't use a guy like Valtteri Filppula or Jiri Hudler when facing a tough matchup, then you shouldn't here, either. Edmonton Oilers (MIN -- Tue, @SJ -- Thu, @VAN -- Sat): That's Niklas Backstrom, Evgeni Nabokov and Roberto Luongo the Oilers are slated to see in net this week, not at all the kind of schedule you want to see if you're an offensive player. Outside of Ales Hemsky, there's pretty much nothing to like from this roster in Week 20. Ottawa Senators (BUF -- Tue, @NJ -- Wed, NJ -- Sat): Again, the Senators won these teams' first two meetings, but the other factor to consider is that in October, the Devils' Martin Brodeur is generally not the stellar performer that he is in February. The Sabres' Ryan Miller, meanwhile, is 6-3-4 with a 2.00 goals-against average in 15 starts since Jan. 1. Like with the Red Wings, Senators players are generally not ones you sit, though I'd consider doing so with fringe guys like Christoph Schubert, Antoine Vermette, and perhaps even Mike Fisher.
Stone 'em cold -- Good goalie matchups
Colorado Avalanche (ANA -- Tue, STL -- Thu, @CHI -- Sun): With the exception of a three-game span Feb. 1-4 when he was battling back spasms, Jose Theodore has been getting virtually every start in net, and doing rather well with his time, too. He's 7-4-1 with a 1.86 GAA and .933 save percentage in 12 starts since wresting the starting role from Peter Budaj, and now he gets three more games against uninspiring offenses at best. Minnesota Wild (@EDM -- Tue, @VAN -- Thu, NAS -- Sun): Look at Niklas Backstrom's three opponents this week; he's a combined 7-0-0 with a 2.32 GAA in eight games against them this season. The Predators represent his one real challenge, but he's actually a perfect 4-0-0 in four career games against them, two of those in relief. Expect a big week. San Jose Sharks (CGY -- Tue, EDM -- Thu, @NYR -- Sun): The Flames represent the one real challenge on Evgeni Nabokov's schedule, but since he has a 2.35 GAA in 22 career starts against them, I wouldn't be worried. Here's a remarkable stat: He's 17-5-2 with a 2.02 GAA in 24 road games this season, so his performance Sunday could be outstanding.
The sieve -- Bad goalie matchups
Montreal Canadiens (@TB -- Tue, @FLA -- Wed, PHI -- Sat, @PHI -- Sun): Cristobal Huet has been a tad inconsistent in net since the All-Star break, with three wins and a shutout but also a 2.78 GAA, which is rather underwhelming. Both the Flyers (3rd, 3.25 goals per game) and Lightning (7th, 2.87) rank as top-10 offenses, so look to do better. Philadelphia Flyers (@NYI -- Tue, TB -- Thu, @MON -- Sat, MON -- Sun): The problem with Martin Biron is that he's not exactly useful in road contests, where he's 9-8-0 with a 2.83 ERA in 17 games for the season. So if he sits out the second of the team's weekend matchups with the Canadiens, he'll get two road starts in three appearances. Even if he sneaks in the two home starts, though, know that the Canadiens rank fourth in the league in goals per game (3.13), the Lightning seventh. Tampa Bay Lightning (MON -- Tue, @PHI -- Thu, WAS -- Sat): I really don't think I can stress this enough; Johan Holmqvist is not at all a reliable fantasy goalie. Sure, he had four straight wins in January, and back-to-back W's to kick off the season's second half, but he's predictable in his unpredictability. That's a bad thing to be in weeks when you play nothing but top-10 ranked offenses (adding the Capitals to the aforementioned Canadiens and Flyers).
Rob Blake (broken ankle): He landed on injured reserve Thursday, and is expected to miss at least two weeks. Don't expect him back before Week 22.
Sidney Crosby (high ankle sprain): His return is certainly not imminent, but it's encouraging that he skated on his own before practice Wednesday. The Penguins expect Crosby to miss at least another month, but a quicker return is possible.
Martin Erat (back spasms): His status is day-to-day after he left Thursday's game, but as a streaky type who is better as a matchups choice for fantasy, Erat would only be worth using in this four-game week if he's officially cleared to play.
Shawn Horcoff (shoulder surgery): His season is done after surgery Wednesday, though he's expected to be fully healed for training camp next season.
Niklas Kronwall (shoulder): Doctors don't expect him back for another week-plus, meaning it's likely his fantasy owners won't be able to use him again until Week 22.
Joffrey Lupul (concussion): He passed a recent concussion test and returned to action Saturday. Still, Lupul will need more than one game to fully get back into a groove, so consider using this week to evaluate his health before activating him.
Paul Stastny (appendectomy): After recovering from surgery, Stastny's status is now back to being day-to-day, and he should be available for the team's three games this week. A 49-point performer in 46 games, he's well worth getting back into your lineup.
Sergei Zubov (foot, groin): His IR status (he went on Thursday) was more a roster formality, because he's eligible to return to action at any time. Zubov remains week-to-week, though, which isn't a promising enough diagnosis to trust him for fantasy.
Tristan H. Cockcroft covers fantasy sports for ESPN.com. You can e-mail him here.
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