Commentary

Fantasy Forecaster: Avalanche control

Updated: February 24, 2008, 9:40 PM ET
By Tristan H. Cockcroft | ESPN.com

All statistics are through the games of Friday, Feb. 22.

On tap

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

Atlanta Thrashers (@MON -- Tue, NYI -- Thu, @BOS -- Sat, @PIT -- Sun)
Buffalo Sabres (PHI -- Mon, NAS -- Wed, MON -- Fri, DET -- Sun)
Minnesota Wild (@WAS -- Tue, @TB -- Wed, @FLA -- Fri, LA -- Sun)
New York Islanders (PIT -- Tue, @ATL -- Thu, PHI -- Sat, FLA -- Sun)
Ottawa Senators (TOR -- Mon, @BOS -- Tue, @PHI -- Thu, PIT -- Sat)
Philadelphia Flyers (@BUF -- Mon, OTT -- Thu, @NYI -- Sat, @NYR -- Sun)
Pittsburgh Penguins (@NYI -- Tue, @BOS -- Thu, @OTT -- Sat, ATL -- Sun)
Toronto Maple Leafs (@OTT -- Mon, @FLA -- Wed, @TB -- Fri, @WAS -- Sat)

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

Boston Bruins (OTT -- Tue, PIT -- Thu, ATL -- Sat)
Buffalo Sabres (PHI -- Mon, NAS -- Wed, MON -- Fri, DET -- Sun)
Carolina Hurricanes (NJ -- Tue, NYR -- Thu, TB -- Sat)
Edmonton Oilers (DET -- Tue, LA -- Thu, CLM -- Sun)
New York Islanders (PIT -- Tue, @ATL -- Thu, PHI -- Sat, FLA -- Sun)
St. Louis Blues (DAL -- Tue, PHO -- Thu, SJ -- Sat)

ONE GAME -- Are you kidding?!

Anaheim Ducks (CGY -- Fri)

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

Nashville Predators (@BUF -- Wed, @DAL -- Sat)
New York Rangers (@CAR -- Thu, PHI -- Sun)

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

Los Angeles Kings (@EDM -- Thu, @COL -- Sat, @MIN -- Sun)
San Jose Sharks (@CLM -- Wed, @DET -- Fri, @STL -- Sat)
Toronto Maple Leafs (@OTT -- Mon, @FLA -- Wed, @TB -- Fri, @WAS -- Sat)

The matchups

Lightin' the lamp -- Good scorers matchups

[+] EnlargeMarian Gaborik
Jamie Sabau/NHLI via Getty ImagesMarian Gaborik is a real road warrior.

Colorado Avalanche (@CGY -- Tue, @VAN -- Wed, LA -- Sat): The Flames' Miikka Kiprusoff and Canucks' Roberto Luongo might seem like unbeatable opponents, but consider that, at least in Kiprusoff's case, he has lost three of five starts against the Avalanche this season and has a 2.66 goals-against average and .903 save percentage in 10 starts since the All-Star break. This schedule is better than you think, so take a look at red-hot Marek Svatos (6 goals, 3 assists in 11 games since the All-Star break) and Wojtek Wolski (8 A in 11). … Minnesota Wild (@WAS -- Tue, @TB -- Wed, @FLA -- Fri, LA -- Sun): No one likes a three-of-four-on-the-road week, but hey, at least those road affairs come against Southeast Division foes, each of which ranks among the league's nine worst defensive teams (Capitals, 25th, 3.02 goals allowed per game; Lightning, 29th, 3.23; Panthers, 22st, 2.84). The Wild's road warriors: Pierre-Marc Bouchard (5 G, 20 A in 31 road games), Marian Gaborik (12 G, 13 A in 28) and Brian Rolston (13 G, 6 power-play goals in 31). … New York Rangers (@CAR -- Thu, PHI -- Sun): I tossed this one onto the list mostly because the schedule is offense-friendly, not necessarily because I believe the Rangers are destined for a big-time offensive week. To me, it's make-or-break time for New York, an underperforming offense all season, but those are games against the 26th-ranked Hurricanes (3.16 goals allowed per game) and the Flyers' Martin Biron, 9-9-1 with a 2.83 GAA in 19 road starts this season. If that doesn't help Chris Drury, Jaromir Jagr and Brendan Shanahan get back on track, I'm not sure anything will.

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

Anaheim Ducks (CGY -- Fri): Again, Kiprusoff has been slumping of late, but in a week in which eight teams play as many as four games and another 19 play three -- that's 27 of the 30 teams playing three-plus -- there's no way I want players from a team scheduled for one, single contest. That goes double when the team in question is ranked 29th in goals per game (2.40), as Anaheim is. It's tough to sit a Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry or Chris Pronger, not to mention Scott Niedermayer or Teemu Selanne -- and I wouldn't in leagues with daily transactions or ones that use per-game averages by week -- but in traditional, quantity-based leagues, I'd call it a fine time to do so. … Montreal Canadiens (ATL -- Tue, @BUF -- Fri, NJ -- Sat): The Sabres' Ryan Miller ranks among the league's hottest goaltenders, and the Devils' Martin Brodeur is, well, Martin Brodeur. Sit Christopher Higgins (3 G, 2 A in 13 games since the All-Star break), Saku Koivu (3 G, 6 A in 13) and Andrei Kostitsyn (4 G, 6 A in 13). … Nashville Predators (@BUF -- Wed, @DAL -- Sat): The specifics on Miller's hot streak, incidentally, are a 10-2-1 record, 2.00 GAA and .931 save percentage in his past 14 starts, which tells you all you need to know about this shortened Predators schedule. Alexander Radulov (7 G, 14 A in 30 road games) and Marek Zidlicky (2 G, 10 A in 30) aren't exactly great plays in road contests.

Stone 'em cold -- Good goalie matchups

Columbus Blue Jackets (SJ -- Wed, @VAN -- Fri, @EDM -- Sun): Pascal Leclaire has been a tad shaky since the All-Star break, with a 2-4-1 record, 2.95 GAA and .897 save percentage, but I liked what I saw of him in road affairs at the Red Wings and Senators in the past week, and I expect a bounce-back effort from him in Week 22. Those Sharks, Canucks and Oilers all rank in the bottom eight in the league in goals per game (Sharks, 25th, 2.56; Canucks, 23rd, 2.57; Oilers, 26th, 2.48). … Detroit Red Wings (@EDM -- Tue, SJ -- Fri, @BUF -- Sun): Chris Osgood's shutout Monday at Colorado is an encouraging sign that he's shaking his recent funk, though it's imperative you monitor Dominik Hasek's health. Whichever of the two gets the bulk of the time between the pipes draws quite the fantasy-friendly schedule, with only the red-hot Sabres offense a true challenge. … Florida Panthers (TOR -- Wed, MIN -- Fri, @NYI -- Sun): Tomas Vokoun has been terribly inconsistent since the start of the new year, but his schedule grants him an excellent chance at turning things around in Week 22. The Maple Leafs as a team are reeling, while the Islanders rank 28th in the league in goals per game (2.44).

The sieve -- Bad goalie matchups

[+] EnlargeJean-Sebastien Giguere
Mike Stobe/NHLI via Getty ImagesGiguere should have plenty of time to relax.

Anaheim Ducks (CGY -- Fri): Again, I want no part of a one-game schedule in a relatively full week across the league, especially when that game comes against a top-10 offense (the Flames, 2.82 goals per game). Sorry, Jean-Sebastien Giguere, I'll use you every other week but this one. … Buffalo Sabres (PHI -- Mon, NAS -- Wed, MON -- Fri, DET -- Sun): Returning to Miller, one of the hottest goalies in the league, it's almost impossible to sit him based on his recent performance. Slotting the Sabres here isn't a knock on him as a fantasy option; it's more a note that he faces a rather challenging schedule in Week 22. Slot Miller in as a No. 2 with pride, but you should be closely noting the details of his efforts as, based on the opponents, this is a real "show me" kind of week when evaluating him for the final two months. … Nashville Predators (@BUF -- Wed, @DAL -- Sat): The Predators still don't seem to know what to make of their Dan Ellis-Chris Mason (or is it vice versa?) platoon, and those are two road affairs against teams ranked in the top nine in the league in goals per game (Sabres, 5th, 2.95; Stars, 9th, 2.85).

Lineup tidbits

Sidney Crosby (ankle): He wasn't expected to play Sunday and might be out another one to three weeks. Barring a quick turn of events, keep Crosby reserved.

Marc-Andre Fleury (ankle): He was scheduled to be recalled from his conditioning assignment for Wilkes-Barre/Scranton of the AHL on Sunday, though it's unclear how the Penguins plan to divvy up the starts in net initially. Play wait-and-see with Fleury.

Dominik Hasek (hip): He returned to practice Friday, but at best would return on Friday of Week 22. That's too shaky a status to warrant activating him.

Niklas Kronwall (shoulder): There's a chance he'll be back Tuesday, and the Red Wings could sure use him. If he's cleared to play, go ahead and get him in your lineup.

Nicklas Lidstrom (sprained knee): The reason Kronwall might be rushed back on Tuesday is that Lidstrom is out for perhaps as many as three weeks. A report Saturday indicated he might return for Week 23, but for Week 22, keep him on your bench.

Joffrey Lupul (high ankle sprain): These injuries tend to cost a player a noticeable chunk of time, and preliminary reports on Lupul have him missing at least two weeks.

Brian Rafalski (groin): He has been ruled out until at least Friday, so don't bother rolling the dice on him upon the slim chance he'll get in two games in Week 22.

Joe Sakic (hernia): He might be back as early as Sunday, and if he plays then, the schedule says he's well worth slotting back into your active lineup for Week 22.

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

ALSO SEE