Commentary

Fantasy Forecaster: Beware of road trips

Updated: October 15, 2007, 3:33 PM ET
By Tristan H. Cockcroft | ESPN.com

On Tap

Remember last week's column on home-ice advantage? Well, it's worth noting that, in eight days' worth of NHL action -- covering the games through this past Thursday -- home teams won 38 of 56 contests (67.9 percent), scored 3.11 goals per game and outscored their opponents by 0.857 goals per contest to begin this season. In other words, to date, it has been an even bigger advantage than it was last season. Also note that teams such as the Bruins and Devils embarked on fairly brutal road trips to kick off the season. Boston is in the midst of a five-game road swing entirely against Western Conference teams; New Jersey is midway through a nine-game road trip while the finishing touches are put on the team's new arena in Newark, N.J. In addition, the Flyers play eight consecutive road games beginning Oct. 24 and the Thrashers have a run of seven straight that will start Saturday. If you think trends like those don't matter for fantasy, you're kidding yourself.

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

None, although 18 teams play three apiece.

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

Philadelphia Flyers (ATL -- Tue, NJ -- Thu, CAR -- Sat)

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

Carolina Hurricanes (@PIT -- Fri, @PHI -- Sat)
Dallas Stars (@CLM -- Wed, ANA -- Sat)
Edmonton Oilers (@PHO -- Thu, @CGY -- Sat)
Nashville Predators (@ANA -- Wed, @SJ -- Sat)
New York Islanders (@WAS -- Thu, NJ -- Sat)
New York Rangers (@ATL -- Thu, @BOS -- Sat)
St. Louis Blues (@CHI -- Wed, MIN -- Sat)
Tampa Bay Lightning (@BOS -- Thu, ATL -- Sat)

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

Detroit Red Wings (@ANA -- Mon, @SJ -- Thu, @PHO -- Sat)
Florida Panthers (@MON -- Tue, @TOR -- Thu, @OTT -- Sat)
New Jersey Devils (@PIT -- Wed, @PHI -- Thu, @NYI -- Fri)

The Matchups

Lightin' the Lamp -- Good Scorers' Matchups

Carolina Hurricanes (@PIT -- Fri, @PHI -- Sat): Coach Peter Laviolette's five-forward power play had scored seven goals and ranked seventh (25.0 percent) through Thursday, and Eric Staal looks back to his 100-point form of 2005-06. A two-game schedule isn't generally great, especially when both games are on the road, but accounting for the matchups -- Marc-Andre Fleury hasn't quite looked himself -- don't fear Canes such as Rod Brind'Amour, Cory Stillman and Justin Williams. ... Chicago Blackhawks (STL -- Wed, COL -- Fri, @TOR -- Sat): The Hawks have yet to get much going on offense, but they apparently are taking a page out of the Hurricanes' book, going with a five-forward power play themselves. Robert Lang and Sergei Samsonov aren't a bad first-unit combo, even with third man Martin Havlat still sidelined, and rookies Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews shouldn't be far from getting into that mix. Their one road game this week comes against the Leafs, who can't settle their goalie shuffle of Vesa Toskala and Andrew Raycroft. ... Minnesota Wild (@LA -- Tue, @STL -- Fri, COL -- Sun): Pavol Demitra and Marian Gaborik had a combined one goal and four points in the team's first three games, perhaps the precursor to a panic attack by their owners. But a schedule like this should cure what ails them. Second-liners Pierre-Marc Bouchard and Brian Rolston are already performing at peak levels, and note that the Kings are awfully young and inexperienced in net.

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

New York Islanders (@WAS -- Thu, NJ -- Sat): If you're a Martin Brodeur owner starting to get worried -- understandable as this represents the Devils' eighth game in their road trip -- note that he was 6-1 with a 1.56 goals-against average in seven games against the Isles last season. A two-game week that includes a game against Brodeur is a recipe for avoiding streaky skaters such as Bryan Berard and Miroslav Satan. ... Los Angeles Kings (MIN -- Tue, @CGY -- Thu, @VAN -- Fri): Road games on back-to-back nights against Miikka Kiprusoff and Roberto Luongo makes for a poor matchup for a skater, and that's in spite of Luongo's knee having bugged him the past few days. It's not the kind of schedule that should earn Michael Cammalleri or Anze Kopitar a spot on your bench, but if you regularly count on Alexander Frolov, Ladislav Nagy or Tom Preissing, I bet you could do better this week. ... Pittsburgh Penguins (NJ -- Wed, CAR -- Fri, @WAS -- Sat): Incredibly, Sidney Crosby has yet to find his bearings, not that I have any doubt that he will with time. Still, games against Brodeur and two red-hot goalies in Cam Ward and Olaf Kolzig might mean it's another week before the Penguins truly begin their offensive domination. Jordan Staal has looked bad anyway, and Ryan Malone and Gary Roberts are matchup guys. Sit all three.

Stone 'Em Cold -- Good Goalies' Matchups

Colorado Avalanche (CGY -- Tue, @CHI -- Fri, @MIN -- Sun): The Flames had the preseason's worst offense (1.82 goals per game); the Blackhawks had five goals in their first three games; and the Wild had six in three. All that adds up to a decent week for sleeper option Peter Budaj, and yes, the starting role remains his (for now). ... New York Rangers (@ATL -- Thu, @BOS -- Sat): Henrik Lundqvist has been remarkably consistent, allowing exactly two goals in each of his first three games despite his offense's getting off to a sluggish start. That's the kind of hot streak to ride, and that's in spite of two games on the road. By the way, the Thrashers are off to a horrific start, making their offense less threatening than it appears on paper. ... Tampa Bay Lightning (@BOS -- Thu, ATL -- Sat): If you're looking for a sleeper No. 2 goalie for the week, red-hot Johan Holmqvist isn't a bad bet. He's 3-0 with a 1.34 GAA and .945 save percentage, ranking fifth on the Player Rater through Thursday, and that's a great schedule.

The Sieve -- Bad Goalies' Matchups

Anaheim Ducks (DET -- Mon, NAS -- Wed, @DAL -- Sat): Jean-Sebastien Giguere should be back from his hernia surgery this week, and the Ducks should enjoy the home cooking after serving up 16 goals in a five-game road trip to begin the season (the "home" game in London, England, doesn't count as "home" to me). Still, it's likely to take time for Giguere to get fully comfortable. Be cautious. ... Florida Panthers (@MON -- Tue, @TOR -- Thu, @OTT -- Sat): Tomas Vokoun picked up his first victory for the Panthers this past Thursday, but before that, he had been a tad shaky between the pipes. Three road contests, all against teams that average at least three goals per game (through Thursday), might keep him in the "inconsistent" category. ... Montreal Canadiens (FLA -- Tue, @OTT -- Thu, BUF -- Sat): There could be a goaltending controversy afoot in Montreal, where rookie Carey Price beat the Penguins in Pittsburgh in his NHL debut this past Wednesday. He likely will steal a start from Cristobal Huet, and with two of the games against powerhouse offenses Buffalo and Ottawa, that's not a great mix for the duo, at least, not this week.

Lineup Tidbits

Sean Avery (separated shoulder): He'll miss four weeks after being hit by the Senators' Chris Neil on Oct. 6. Avery's absence is a tough break for PIM seekers.

Ray Emery (wrist surgery): He's in the midst of a conditioning assignment and could be back as early as Thursday's game against the Canadiens. Martin Gerber, however, has performed too well in Emery's absence to make activating Emery worthwhile initially.

Jean-Sebastien Giguere (hernia surgery): He's targeting this week for his season debut, but, as noted above, he might be worked in a bit slowly.

Dominik Hasek (knee): He was able to play Friday, but the Red Wings continue to give him a fair share of rest. Don't count on more than two games from him this week.

Marian Hossa (groin): He pulled his groin catching his skate in a rut during Monday's practice, although his status remains day-to-day. Hossa is too talented to sit given any chance he'll play, but monitor his status up until your lineup deadline to be safe.

Erik Johnson (foot): He begged to play in the Blues' home opener this past Wednesday, but the team opted for the cautious approach. Consider him day-to-day, but without a better report on his health before Monday, he's a risky start with the team's having just two games.

Alexander Semin (sprained ankle): The Capitals are holding him out until at least Thursday, giving him 11 days' rest. It's a bit risky to gamble on a player whose status might not be determined until Thursday, but if there's any sign he'll play, he's worth using.

Mike Smith (bruised arm): He's on IR and out until at least Tuesday. With only two games on the Stars' schedule, though, Marty Turco should start both anyway.

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

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