Fantasy Forecaster: It's officially 'rest week'
This is it, folks. The final week of the 2007-08 regular season. With it, of course, comes those last-minute playoff surges, but more importantly, it brings rest periods for teams already locked into (or out of) playoff spots. Check the playoff picture again leading into your league's lineup deadline, but among the teams that have already clinched spots: Canadiens, Ducks, Penguins, Red Wings (Central champion) and Sharks (Pacific champion). Those already eliminated: Blues, Islanders, Kings, Lightning, Maple Leafs, Thrashers. The teams with the most left to play for: the Avalanche, Bruins, Canucks, Capitals, Devils, Flames, Flyers, Oilers, Predators, Rangers, Sabres and Wild.
All statistics are through the games of Friday, March 28.
Stacked! -- Teams with four-plus games, regardless of locale
New Jersey Devils (@NYI -- Tue, BOS -- Wed, @PHI -- Fri, NYR -- Sun)
New York Rangers (PIT -- Mon, @NYI -- Thu, NYI -- Fri, @NJ -- Sun)
St. Louis Blues (NAS -- Tue, @NAS -- Thu, CLM -- Sat, @CLM -- Sun)
Tampa Bay Lightning (ATL -- Mon, @CAR -- Wed, @WAS -- Thu, @ATL -- Sat)
Home cookin' -- Teams with three-plus home games
Short stick -- Teams with two games
The long haul -- Teams with three-plus games, all road
Lightin' the lamp -- Good scorers matchups
Montreal Canadiens (@OTT -- Tue, BUF -- Thu, TOR -- Sat): Though the Canadiens have little left to play for other than the top seed in the East, this is a favorable schedule for them nonetheless. They'll face three teams that feature struggling, perhaps overworked, goalies. Certainly there's a threat of Montreal stars resting, especially on Saturday, but for fantasy, would you sit players as hot as Andrei Kostitsyn (6 goals, 5 assists, plus-12 in 13 games in March), Alexei Kovalev (5 G, 9 A, plus-9 in 13) or Tomas Plekanec (5 G, 5 A, plus-10 in 12)? Didn't think so. ... Nashville Predators (@STL -- Tue, STL -- Thu, @CHI -- Fri): Whether it's Manny Legace or Hannu Toivonen, the Blues can't seem to get anything right in net, with those two combining for a 3-8-2 record, 3.36 goals-against average and .888 save percentage in 13 March games. Alexander Radulov (3 G, 2 A, plus-5 in 6 games versus the Blues), Shea Weber (2 G, 2 A in 5) and Marek Zidlicky (5 A, plus-3 in 6) have beaten up the Blues so far this year, and they should do so again this week. ... Toronto Maple Leafs (BUF -- Tue, OTT -- Thu, @MON -- Sat): The Maple Leafs are simply playing out the schedule, but don't tell their scorers that. They're playing like a team still in the hunt, and they catch the Sabres' Ryan Miller and Senators' Martin Gerber, each in a bit of a funk. Ride those Pavel Kubina (5 G, 4 A in 12 games in March), Alexander Steen (2 G, 10 A in 12) and Mats Sundin (4 G, 7 A in 7) hot streaks through season's end.
No, it's a trap! -- Bad scorers matchups
New Jersey Devils (@NYI -- Tue, BOS -- Wed, @PHI -- Fri, NYR -- Sun): The Devils have been playing some horrible hockey of late, but it's more of the offense's fault than Martin Brodeur's. Despite a 5-6-2 record in 13 starts this month, Brodeur has a 2.24 GAA and .920 save percentage, which are respectable ratios. The Devils know what's at stake -- a higher playoff seed -- and these are key conference games for Brodeur to show his stuff. ... New York Rangers (PIT -- Mon, @NYI -- Thu, NYI -- Fri, @NJ -- Sun): Henrik Lundqvist knows what's at stake: playoff positioning and possibly even a division title. Monday's game would be a must-win for him to achieve the latter, but here's what's to like about this schedule: He has a 2.16 GAA and .913 save percentage against the Islanders, and he's 7-0-0 with a 0.98 GAA against the Devils this season. ... San Jose Sharks (LA -- Tue, @LA -- Thu, @DAL -- Sun): First of all, there's the fact that the Kings lack offensive punch, and they're just playing out the schedule at this point. But Evgeni Nabokov is also in the midst of a ridiculous hot streak, with a 17-5-2 record, 2.16 GAA and .904 save percentage in 25 games since the All-Star break, and 9-0-1 with a 2.08 GAA and .908 save percentage in 11 games in March. He'll be on a lot of fantasy championship rosters.
The sieve -- Bad goalie matchups
Montreal Canadiens (@OTT -- Tue, BUF -- Thu, TOR -- Sat): The Canadiens' schedule might be favorable for the team's scorers, but it's brutal for their goalie, especially with the Senators fighting for playoff positioning and the Sabres battling for their playoff lives. I smell a "rest-for-the-playoffs" strategy coming for rookie Carey Price. ... Philadelphia Flyers (@PIT -- Wed, NJ -- Fri, PIT -- Sun): There's plenty of motivation to go around for the Flyers and goalie Martin Biron ... not that that necessarily means he's up to the task. Two games against the potent Penguins doesn't make for a fantasy-friendly schedule, especially if you consider Biron has an .891 save percentage in six games against them this season. ... Toronto Maple Leafs (BUF -- Tue, OTT -- Thu, @MON -- Sat): Vesa Toskala has been a horse in net for the Maple Leafs since the All-Star break, starting all 27 of the team's games and managing a 15-10-2 record and 2.68 GAA. In March, though, he has appeared to wear down from the hefty workload, with a 2.95 GAA and .897 save percentage. With three elite offenses in his future, expect a rocky finish.
Jean-Sebastien Giguere (back spasms): After missing a week of action, Giguere says he's healthy enough to play. Not that the Ducks have any need to push him, though. They're almost assuredly locked into the No. 4 seed, so unless he plays before Monday, reserve him.
Dominik Hasek (flu): He sat out both Tuesday's and Friday's games, although he's not a must-sit like other goalies on teams already in the playoffs. Hasek could use the game action to stay in playoff shape, so expect him to play enough to be a worthwhile start.
Marian Hossa (upper body): The Penguins have been hit by some terrible luck when it comes to Hossa and Sidney Crosby. In Crosby's return Thursday, Hossa left with an injury of his own. The team expects he won't miss any more time, and they'd like to let the two work on chemistry this week, but check his status before Monday.
Pascal Leclaire (concussion): It doesn't sound like his return is imminent, although the Blue Jackets continue to term him day-to-day. Check his status before Monday, though, because those back-to-back Blues games are appealing; he has shut them out twice this season.
Wade Redden (knee): Though he has missed the Senators' past two games, Redden expects to return to action Saturday. Assuming he does, he's a productive enough fantasy option to get back into your lineup for the season's final week.
Marc Savard (back): Rumors are circulating in Boston that Savard has a broken bone in his back, something that would certainly cost him the regular season's final week. He's already out for Saturday and Sunday, and he's quite a risky fantasy option in Week 27.
Sergei Zubov (foot): He's back to day-to-day status, and he had a chance to return to action over the weekend. It seems the Stars want to sneak him in a couple of games before the playoffs, but he'd need to play before Monday to be truly trustworthy for fantasy owners.
Tristan H. Cockcroft covers fantasy sports for ESPN.com. You can e-mail him here.
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