Commentary

Fantasy Forecaster: Sabres ready to roll

Updated: October 7, 2007, 12:40 PM ET
By Tristan H. Cockcroft | ESPN.com

On Tap

First off, on the topic of home games ... Home-ice advantage, even in the regular season, is a significant factor in the NHL. For instance, in the two seasons combined since the lockout, home teams scored 757 more goals than their road counterparts, and 434 more power-play goals. Sure, that amounts to roughly 0.308 goals per contest, or 0.176 power-play goals, but looking at the big picture, that cuts into the appeal of obvious mismatches in favor of a road squad, and it can prove the difference in an otherwise-even matchup on paper. That's why each week in the Forecaster, in addition to highlighting teams with a good number of games, those with a healthy dose of home games will also be noted. Take that for what it's worth; some leagues reward quantity, some quality of performance. For instance, this season, I'm in both a points-based league, which generally favors the former, and a Rotisserie-style format, in which the latter is more ideal. It's up to you to pick whether you need more matchups or better matchups.

Stacked! -- Teams with 4-plus games, regardless of locale

Detroit Red Wings (EDM -- Mon, CGY -- Wed, CHI -- Fri, @LA -- Sun)
Edmonton Oilers (@DET -- Mon, @MIN -- Wed, VAN -- Fri, @VAN -- Sat)
New York Islanders (WAS -- Mon, NYR -- Wed, @TOR -- Thu, @PHI -- Sat)
Ottawa Senators (NJ -- Mon, @ATL -- Wed, CAR -- Thu, @NYR -- Sat)

Home Cookin' -- Teams with 3-plus home games

Detroit Red Wings (EDM -- Mon, CGY -- Wed, CHI -- Fri, @LA -- Sun)
Toronto Maple Leafs (CAR -- Tue, NYI -- Thu, PIT -- Sat)

Short Stick -- Teams with 2 games, 1+ road

Columbus Blue Jackets (PHO -- Wed, @COL -- Sat)
Colorado Avalanche (@STL -- Fri, CLM -- Sat)
Montreal Canadiens (@PIT -- Wed, CAR -- Sat)
Philadelphia Flyers (@VAN -- Wed, NYI -- Sat)
Pittsburgh Penguins (MON -- Wed, @TOR -- Sat)
San Jose Sharks (@CHI -- Wed, BOS -- Sat)
Tampa Bay Lightning (FLA -- Wed, @FLA -- Sat)

The Long Haul -- Teams with 3+ games, all road

Boston Bruins (@ANA -- Wed, @LA -- Fri, @SJ -- Sat)
Carolina Hurricanes (@TOR -- Tue, @OTT -- Thu, @MON -- Sat)
Calgary Flames (@DET -- Wed, @DAL -- Fri, @NAS -- Sat)
New Jersey Devils (@OTT -- Mon, @FLA -- Thu, @ATL -- Sat)
Washington Capitals (@NYI -- Mon, @NYR -- Fri, @BUF -- Sat)

The Matchups

Lightin' the Lamp -- Good Scorers' Matchups

Buffalo Sabres (ATL -- Thu, WAS -- Sat): The Thrashers and Capitals have reputations as offense-first teams, weaker on the defensive side, which bodes well for preseason hot hands Derek Roy (3 goals, 4 assists, 7 points) and Jason Pominville (2-1-3). ... New York Islanders (WAS -- Mon, NYR -- Wed, @TOR -- Thu, @PHI -- Sat): The Flyers might seem much-improved with Martin Biron, but I'll believe them as an above-average defensive squad when I see it. In addition, Vesa Toskala hasn't yet adapted to life in Toronto, meaning a nice week in store for Marc-Andre Bergeron and Bill Guerin. ... Pittsburgh Penguins (MON -- Wed, @TOR -- Sat): The Penguins are positively loaded on offense, facing two mediocre defenses from a year ago. Don't fear the two-game week, and that goes as deep as players like Mark Recchi and Petr Sykora.

No, It's a Trap! -- Bad Scorers' Matchups

Calgary Flames (@DET -- Wed, @DAL -- Fri, NAS -- Sat): That schedule means the Flames face Dominik Hasek, Marty Turco and Chris Mason, the latter coming off an opening-night shutout. No thanks, at least when it comes to players like Adrian Aucoin, Craig Conroy or Matthew Lombardi. ... Chicago Blackhawks (SJ -- Wed, @DET -- Fri, DAL -- Sat): That's Evgeni Nabokov, Hasek and Turco as the 'Hawks opponents, which means they battle three goalies who are unquestioned fantasy starters when healthy. Plus, Martin Havlat is already dinged up, which diminishes the offense's appeal. ... Edmonton Oilers (@DET -- Mon, @MIN -- Wed, VAN -- Fri, @VAN -- Sat): That's Hasek, Niklas Backstrom and probably back-to-back Roberto Luongo. Ugh. It's four games, sure, but Ales Hemsky, Shawn Horcoff and Dustin Penner could produce like it's a two-game week while killing your team's plus/minus.

Stone 'Em Cold -- Good Goalies' Matchups

Colorado Avalanche (@STL -- Fri, CLM -- Sat): Neither team averaged better than 2.71 goals per game in the preseason or 2.54 in 2006-07. Peter Budaj is looking somewhat shaky since camp opened, sure, but this is the kind of schedule that can cure anyone. ... San Jose Sharks (@CHI -- Wed, BOS -- Sat): Nabokov hung in there in the opener on the road until the shootout, and these matchups really aren't any weaker than the one in Edmonton. ... Vancouver Canucks (PHI -- Wed, @EDM -- Fri, EDM -- Sat): Would you ever sit Luongo? Of course not, but his owners will be thrilled to see him facing last year's weakest offense, the Oilers, twice in Week No. 2.

The Sieve -- Bad Goalies' Matchups

Boston Bruins (@ANA -- Wed, @LA -- Fri, @SJ -- Sat): West-coast road trips for east-coast teams are never easy, and the Ducks, despite their offseason losses, are still a threat to score. Plus, we all know about the Sharks. It's a tough week for Manny Fernandez. ... Chicago Blackhawks (SJ -- Wed, @DET -- Fri, DAL -- Sat): Nikolai Khabibulin hung tough in the season opener, but the Sharks, Red Wings and Stars represent three of the most potent offenses in the league, let alone the Western Conference. ... Washington Capitals (@NYI -- Mon, @NYR -- Fri, @BUF -- Sat): Olaf Kolzig had only a so-so preseason (3.44 goals-against average), and note that the Rangers exploded for four third-period goals in their opener. Plus, the Islanders and Sabres are perennial threats.

Lineup Tidbits

Ray Emery (wrist surgery): He could be ready to return by mid-week, but with Gerber performing so well in his absence, this could be a timeshare initially. That's a frustrating arrangement for fantasy, but both are must-own players for now.

Jean-Sebastien Giguere (hernia surgery): He might be ready to play by Sunday's game against the Wild, but in a two-game week where a goalie might only play one game, it's better to steer clear. Ilya Bryzgalov makes for a weak play, too.

Martin Havlat (shoulder): His shoulder apparently popped out of its socket on Thursday, and all indications are that his injury is week-to-week rather than day-to-day. He's so brittle, it'd be foolish to expect him back anytime this month.

Tuomo Ruutu (knee): He was scheduled to make his season debut this past Saturday, but let him get in a few games to prove his worth before you consider using him. He has been nothing but disappointing in two seasons since the lockout.

Alexander Semin (sprained ankle): He's day-to-day, leaving a gaping hole on the Nicklas Backstrom-Michael Nylander line. Brooks Laich had been practicing there during Semin's absence, not that he's particularly fantasy-worthy ... at least, not yet.

Cory Stillman (torso): He was scratched for each of the Hurricanes' first two games after being involved in a traffic accident this past Tuesday. Consider Sullivan day-to-day, though he shouldn't miss much more time.

Jose Theodore (knee surgery): He was scheduled to start an AHL game on Saturday before being activated by the Avalanche. It's Budaj's job to lose right now, but Theodore could get a chance before long if the youngster keeps struggling.

Jonathan Toews (broken finger): This popular Calder Trophy candidate was expected to miss Saturday's home opener after sitting out Thursday's season opener. Take a wait-and-see approach with him, as he might need some time to get back to full form.

Shea Weber (dislocated kneecap): He'll miss three to six weeks after catching his skate in a rut in the ice this past Thursday. Marek Zidlicky stands to benefit most in Weber's absence, as the Predators' new leading offensive defenseman.

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

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