Commentary

Fantasy Forecaster: Start Stars and Sens

Updated: October 28, 2007, 3:26 PM ET
By Tristan H. Cockcroft | ESPN.com

On Tap

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

Nashville Predators (@CGY -- Tue, @VAN -- Thu, @EDM -- Fri, @CHI -- Sun)
St. Louis Blues (PHO -- Tue, @MIN -- Thu, CHI -- Sat, @CLM -- Sun)
Tampa Bay Lightning (@NYR -- Mon, @NJ -- Wed, @NYI -- Thu, ATL -- Sat)

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

Dallas Stars (SJ -- Mon, CHI -- Wed, PHO -- Fri)
Minnesota Wild (PIT -- Tue, STL -- Thu, CGY -- Sat)
Montreal Canadiens (ATL -- Tue, PHI -- Thu, TOR -- Sat)
New York Rangers (TB -- Mon, WAS -- Thu, NJ -- Sat)

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

Anaheim Ducks (CLM -- Thu, @PHO -- Sat)
Buffalo Sabres (@BOS -- Thu, FLA -- Fri)
Carolina Hurricanes (@FLA -- Wed, FLA -- Sat)
Detroit Red Wings (@EDM -- Tue, @CGY -- Thu)
Philadelphia Flyers (@MON -- Thu, @WAS -- Fri)
Vancouver Canucks (NAS -- Thu, @COL -- Sat)

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

Atlanta Thrashers (@MON -- Tue, @OTT -- Thu, @TB -- Sat)
Nashville Predators (@CGY -- Tue, @VAN -- Thu, @EDM -- Fri, @CHI -- Sun)
Pittsburgh Penguins (@MIN -- Tue, @COL -- Thu, @NYI -- Sat)

The Matchups

Lightin' the Lamp -- Good Scorers' Matchups

Dallas Stars (SJ -- Mon, CHI -- Wed, PHO -- Fri): The Stars have been playing much better hockey at home this season, averaging 3.50 goals per game there, with Niklas Hagman (4 goals), Brenden Morrow (2 goals, 4 points) and Mike Ribeiro (2 goals, 4 points) among the standouts. San Jose represents a challenge, but Nikolai Khabibulin and the Alex Auld/Mikael Tellqvist platoon shouldn't be much trouble for Dallas. ... Ottawa Senators (ATL -- Thu, BOS -- Sat, @BOS -- Sun): The Senators are a loaded offense, and certainly too much for Thrashers stand-in Johan Hedberg or struggling Bruin Manny Fernandez to handle. Keep riding the hot streaks, and that includes such players as Mike Fisher and Andrej Meszaros. ... San Jose Sharks (@DAL -- Mon, LA -- Fri, @LA -- Sat): For as inspiring hockey as the Kings are playing thus far, it's important to remember that they're still a young team, one that was 2-6 against the Sharks last season, and one with the shaky Jean-Sebastien Aubin and inexperienced Jason LaBarbera sharing time in net. Expect better things from the Sharks this week, especially Matt Carle and Patrick Marleau.

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

Boston Bruins (BUF -- Thu, @OTT -- Sat, OTT -- Sun): The Sabres' Ryan Miller might be off to a slow start, but both Ray Emery and Martin Gerber have been stellar in net for the Senators, limiting the Bruins' scoring potential this week. This might be a better week to leave Phil Kessel and Glen Murray on the sidelines. ... Calgary Flames (NAS -- Tue, DET -- Thu, @MIN -- Sat): Chris Mason is in the midst of a brutal cold spell for the Predators, but both the Red Wings and Wild are off to exceptional starts defensively. Don't bother with Craig Conroy or Michael Lombardi. ... Florida Panthers (CAR -- Wed, @BUF -- Fri, @CAR -- Sat): The Sabres always seem to play great hockey at home, and you can't get much hotter than Cam Ward has been for the Hurricanes. Even in a down year for him in 2006-07, he was still 2-0 with a 2.97 goals-against average in three games against these Panthers, so don't count on much from Jay Bouwmeester or Stephen Weiss this week. ... Phoenix Coyotes (@STL -- Tue, @DAL -- Fri, ANA -- Sat): The Blues and Stars each rank among the top 10 teams in terms of goals allowed, and the Ducks have a rapidly healing Jean-Sebastien Giguere providing stability in net. As is, the Coyotes boast precious few fantasy options, so facing matchups like this, the whole lot should be avoided.

Stone 'Em Cold -- Good Goalies' Matchups

Anaheim Ducks (CLM -- Thu, @PHO -- Sat): The Blue Jackets might be off to a hot start, but even with that, they're not a top-10 team. The Coyotes, meanwhile, have averaged only slightly better than two goals per game (2.13). Giguere should get a great chance to get his season on track; it's time to start using him. ... Ottawa Senators (ATL -- Thu, BOS -- Sat, @BOS -- Sun): The Thrashers have scored only eight goals in six road games all season, and the Bruins rank only 19th in scoring (2.56 goals per game). It's tough for fantasy owners to sort through the Emery/Gerber mess, but Gerber appears the slight favorite for starts right now, while Emery is a worthy spot start when he's in there. ... St. Louis Blues (PHO -- Tue, @MIN -- Thu, CHI -- Sat, @CLM -- Sun): Credit Manny Legace for an inspired start to the season; he's a primary reason the Blues are 5-3. The Blue Jackets are the only one of his opponents that ranks in the top half of the league in scoring (12th, 2.89 goals per game), and that's a lot of games in which he can help you.

The Sieve -- Bad Goalies' Matchups

Atlanta Thrashers (@MON -- Tue, @OTT -- Thu, @TB -- Sat): Three road games for a backup goalie backed by a struggling offense? No thanks! Hedberg belongs square on your bench for the week. ... Boston Bruins (BUF -- Thu, @OTT -- Sat, OTT -- Sun): The Sabres and Senators are among the deepest, most well-balanced offenses in the game, and Manny Fernandez has been horrible through four weeks. Even Tim Thomas, on a hot streak in a backup role, is a risky spot start based on the matchups. ... Florida Panthers (CAR -- Wed, @BUF -- Fri, @CAR -- Sat): Ward might be a big reason for the Hurricanes' 6-1-3 start, but the team's offense, including the five-forward power play, should get every bit as much credit. Toss in the Sabres and you should keep your expectations for Tomas Vokoun realistic. ... Washington Capitals (@TOR -- Mon, @NYR -- Thu, PHI -- Fri): Olaf Kolzig already surrendered three goals in a losing effort to the Rangers on Oct. 12, and the Maple Leafs (1st, 3.82 goals per game) and Flyers (2nd, 3.67) are the game's top-2 offenses. It doesn't help, either, that two of the three are road contests.

Lineup Tidbits

Niklas Backstrom (groin): He battled the same injury in 2006-07 and missed only one game. Backstrom says he is optimistic he'll be out around the same amount of time now. Three home games is a good enough schedule to take a chance on him this week.

Patrice Bergeron (concussion): He suffered a concussion and a broken nose when he crashed into the boards after being hit from behind during this past Friday's game, and he was hospitalized. Count on him missing some time, presumably at least the entire week.

Todd Bertuzzi (concussion): He remains unable to work out due to lingering symptoms from the concussion he suffered Oct. 14. It doesn't sound like Bertuzzi is returning anytime soon. In shallow leagues, it's safe to drop him.

Dan Boyle (wrist surgery): The Lightning expect him back during their upcoming three-game road trip, which begins Monday and runs through Thursday. Based on his scoring potential, he's worth the gamble in all but the shallowest leagues.

Pavol Demitra (groin): He's day-to-day, but it's a concern that he and his linemate, the next name on this list, could be sidelined at the same time. The Wild play three home games this week, a favorable schedule, so keep close tabs on his health Monday.

Marian Gaborik (groin): Though he's also day-to-day, Gaborik and groin injuries are not words you want to read in the same sentence. Between him and Demitra, he's the one more likely to miss further time, but if both sit the Wild could be in for a rough week.

Simon Gagne (dizziness): He's undergoing tests for a concussion and might miss a few more days as a result. Considering the Flyers play only two games this week, both on the road, it's better to play it safe and reserve him. His is a tough injury to forecast.

Ryan Getzlaf (wrist): He practiced this past Saturday and hoped to play Sunday, so keep tabs on that game. The Ducks say Getzlaf's status remains day-to-day.

Dominik Hasek (hip): He'll travel with the Red Wings on their trip west this week, but that's no guarantee he'll play either Tuesday or Thursday. Based on Hasek's injury history, the safe play is to bench him. Chris Osgood should keep starting in his place.

Milan Hejduk (back): He won't play until at least Thursday against the Penguins, and note, the Avalanche play only two games this week. Keep him reserved for now.

Bryan McCabe (groin): He missed his second consecutive game this past Saturday and is day-to-day. McCabe admits he has been playing through the problem all season. If he's not cleared for Monday's game, it'd probably be worth reserving him for the week.

Jaroslav Spacek (shoulder): He resumed practicing this past Tuesday, and the Buffalo News reports he might return to action Thursday in Boston. Since that's a bit after most leagues' lineup deadlines, it's better to wait until Week 6 to activate him.

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

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