Commentary

Fantasy Forecaster: The value of Cole

Updated: March 23, 2008, 2:14 PM ET
By Tristan H. Cockcroft | ESPN.com

All statistics are through the games of Friday, March 21.

On tap

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

Boston Bruins (@TOR -- Tue, TOR -- Thu, OTT -- Sat, @BUF -- Sun)
Buffalo Sabres (OTT -- Tue, @OTT -- Thu, MON -- Fri, BOS -- Sun)
Calgary Flames (@COL -- Mon, VAN -- Tue, EDM -- Sat, @VAN -- Sun)
Colorado Avalanche (CGY -- Mon, VAN -- Wed, EDM -- Fri, @MIN -- Sun)
Columbus Blue Jackets (@NAS -- Tue, CHI -- Wed, NAS -- Fri, @CHI -- Sun)
Edmonton Oilers (MIN -- Mon, @MIN -- Wed, @COL -- Fri, @CGY -- Sat)
Minnesota Wild (@EDM -- Mon, EDM -- Wed, VAN -- Fri, COL -- Sun)
Ottawa Senators (@MON -- Mon, @BUF -- Tue, BUF -- Thu, @BOS -- Sat)
Pittsburgh Penguins (@NYI -- Mon, @NJ -- Tue, NYI -- Thu, NYR -- Sun)
San Jose Sharks (@PHO -- Tue, DAL -- Thu, @ANA -- Fri, PHO -- Sun)
Vancouver Canucks (@CGY -- Tue, @COL -- Wed, @MIN -- Fri, CGY -- Sun)

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

Anaheim Ducks (LA -- Wed, SJ -- Fri, DAL -- Sun)
Buffalo Sabres (OTT -- Tue, @OTT -- Thu, MON -- Fri, BOS -- Sun)
Colorado Avalanche (CGY -- Mon, VAN -- Wed, EDM -- Fri, @MIN -- Sun)
Minnesota Wild (@EDM -- Mon, EDM -- Wed, VAN -- Fri, COL -- Sun)
Tampa Bay Lightning (FLA -- Tue, WAS -- Thu, CAR -- Sat)

Short stick -- Teams with two games

Atlanta Thrashers (@FLA -- Thu, @CAR -- Fri)

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

Dallas Stars (@SJ -- Thu, @LA -- Sat, @ANA -- Sun)
Philadelphia Flyers (@NYR -- Tue, @NJ -- Fri, @NYI -- Sat)
Washington Capitals (@CAR -- Tue, @TB -- Thu, @FLA -- Sat)

The matchups

Lightin' the lamp -- Good scorers matchups

Carolina Hurricanes (WAS -- Tue, ATL -- Fri, @TB -- Sat): Even with Rod Brind'Amour and Ray Whitney out for the season and Cory Stillman now in Ottawa, these Hurricanes are playing like they're at full manpower, with 33 goals in nine games in the month of March (3.67 average, third in the league). They're also offensive beasts within their division, with 86 goals in 26 games (3.31, No. 2 in the league), so load up on Southeast Division dominators Erik Cole (8 goals, 11 assists in 23 games against the Southeast), Sergei Samsonov (5 G, 6 A in 8) and Eric Staal (13 G, 16 A in 26). ... Detroit Red Wings (@STL -- Tue, STL -- Fri, NAS -- Sun): The Blues' Manny Legace has really slumped of late, with an 8-10-4 record, 2.67 goals-against average and .904 save percentage in 24 games since the All-Star break. In a week where the Red Wings battle him twice, go after Valtteri Filppula (4 G, 1 A in 5 games against the Blues), Jiri Hudler (1 G, 4 A in 6) and Mikael Samuelsson (2 G, 3 A in 5). ... Florida Panthers (@TB -- Tue, ATL -- Thu, WAS -- Sat): Of all division opponents to battle, the Panthers mercifully get to avoid the Southeast-leading Hurricanes, and draw the league's two worst defensive teams (Lightning, 29th, 3.24 goals allowed per game; and Thrashers, 30th, 3.29) in the process. You know all about Olli Jokinen (10 G, 19 A in 25 games against the Southeast), but also use both Jay Bouwmeester (4 G, 8 A in 25) and Nathan Horton (10 G, 8 A in 25).

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

[+] EnlargeMike Modano
Scott Rovak/US PresswireA former star, Modano has fallen to a point where he's not even a recommended start.

Dallas Stars (@SJ -- Thu, @LA -- Sat, @ANA -- Sun): One thing's for certain: These days you don't want to face the Sharks' Evgeni Nabokov or Ducks' Jean-Sebastien Giguere, especially not on the road. Obviously Brenden Morrow, Brad Richards and Mike Ribeiro are too talented to bench, but consider reserving Niklas Hagman (7 G, 10 A in 37 road games) and Mike Modano (9 G, 17 A, minus-9 in 37). ... Edmonton Oilers (MIN -- Mon, @MIN -- Wed, @COL -- Fri, @CGY -- Sat): It's another case of too many road games, and three of those games come against red-hot goalies (the Wild's Niklas Backstrom and Avalanche's Jose Theodore), with the other against a man with a great reputation, the Flames' Miikka Kiprusoff. There will be better weeks to roll the dice on youngsters Andrew Cogliano and Sam Gagner. ... Los Angeles Kings (@ANA -- Wed, PHO -- Thu, DAL -- Sat): Besides tangling with the aforementioned Giguere in Anaheim, the Kings also face Ilya Bryzgalov and the Coyotes, whom they're 1-6 against this season! Don't bother with Michael Cammalleri (2 G, 1 A, minus-6 in 10 games in March), Dustin Brown (3 G, 2 A, minus-4 in 10) or Tom Preissing (2 G, 1 A in 10).

Stone 'em cold -- Good goalie matchups

Chicago Blackhawks (@CLM -- Wed, @STL -- Sat, CLM -- Sun): Nikolai Khabibulin finally returned to the lineup Wednesday after missing 12 games with back spasms, and shut out the Capitals on 25 shots. He couldn't have asked for better timing; now his Hawks battle the Blue Jackets (29th, 2.41 goals per game) and Blues (28th, 2.42), two of the league's three worst offenses. It's prime time to play Khabibulin's matchups. ... Minnesota Wild (@EDM -- Mon, EDM -- Wed, VAN -- Fri, COL -- Sun): How hot has Niklas Backstrom been? He's 4-1-4 with a 1.71 GAA and .939 save percentage in nine starts in March, and 11-4-6 with a 2.16 GAA and .923 save percentage in 22 starts since the All-Star break. Even better: He's 4-0-0 with a 2.30 GAA in five starts against the Oilers, whom he'll battle twice, and 17-7-5 with a 2.07 GAA in 29 games at home. ... Pittsburgh Penguins (@NYI -- Mon, @NJ -- Tue, NYI -- Thu, NYR -- Sun): It's become pretty clear since his return to the lineup that Marc-Andre Fleury deserves to get the bulk of the Penguins' starts; he's 5-1-0 with a 1.99 GAA in his past seven games. These are key division battles against teams that rank among the 10 worst in the league offensively (Islanders, 30th, 2.35 goals per game; Devils, 25th, 2.50; Rangers, 23rd, 2.53), so if you're looking for a No. 2 option, give Fleury a look.

The sieve -- Bad goalie matchups

[+] EnlargePascal Leclaire
Jamie Sabau/NHLI via Getty ImagesToo many questions surround Leclaire for him to be given a supportive vote.

Columbus Blue Jackets (@NAS -- Tue, CHI -- Wed, NAS -- Fri, @CHI -- Sun): With Pascal Leclaire's status unclear due to a concussion, it's tough to get a read on whether he or backup Fredrik Norrena will get the bulk of the starts in Week 26. It's irrelevant; the Blackhawks boast the game's third-hottest offense since the All-Star break (3.17 goals per game), and the Predators are a top-11 offense for the season (11th, 2.84). ... New York Islanders (PIT -- Mon, @PIT -- Thu, PHI -- Sat): Rick DiPietro is out for the season, leaving the goaltending duties in the hands of Wade Dubielewicz, a shaky and untested backup. With the Islanders' remaining schedule treacherous and all entirely within their loaded division, you want no part of him for fantasy. ... Ottawa Senators (@MON -- Mon, @BUF -- Tue, BUF -- Thu, @BOS -- Sat): Don't let yourself be fooled by Martin Gerber's stellar 11-3-0 record and 2.06 GAA in 14 combined starts against these three opponents; he has been largely inconsistent since Jan. 1, and three of those games come against elite, top-five offenses (Canadiens, 2nd, 3.11 goals per game; Sabres, 2nd, 3.11).

Lineup tidbits

Sidney Crosby (sprained ankle): What a frustrating second half of the season this has been for Crosby; he has appeared in just three of the Penguins' past 25 games. He's out on Saturday, too, and is questionable for the week. Check his status on Monday.

Peter Forsberg (groin): He has appeared in only four games since coming out of retirement, and continues to be held back each night despite being as listed as day-to-day. At this point, it looks like the team's goal is merely to have Forsberg ready for the playoffs.

Pascal Leclaire (concussion): He might not be far off a return to the lineup, but with concussions, anything's possible. Regardless of whether Leclaire is cleared to play in Week 26, based on the unfavorable schedule listed above, you don't want him active.

Mats Sundin (groin): He was scheduled to sit out this weekend, and as such is a risky bet for Week 26. Once the Maple Leafs fall out of the playoff race, they'll likely sit Sundin, as there'd be no need to push him. Don't count on much the final two weeks.

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

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