Commentary

Fantasy Forecaster: Bench your Blues, Kings

Updated: November 4, 2007, 5:11 PM ET
By Tristan H. Cockcroft | ESPN.com

On Tap

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

Buffalo Sabres (@MON -- Mon, BOS -- Wed, TOR -- Fri, @BOS -- Sat)
Colorado Avalanche (CGY -- Mon, EDM -- Wed, @VAN -- Fri, MIN -- Sun)
Dallas Stars (@ANA -- Mon, @SJ -- Wed, @PHO -- Thu, @LA -- Sat)
New York Rangers (PHI -- Mon, @NYI -- Tue, PIT -- Thu, @TOR -- Sat)
Philadelphia Flyers (@NYR -- Mon, @PIT -- Wed, @NJ -- Thu, PIT -- Sat)
Pittsburgh Penguins (@NJ -- Mon, PHI -- Wed, @NYR -- Thu, @PHI -- Sat)
Tampa Bay Lightning (@FLA -- Mon, FLA -- Wed, @CAR -- Thu, @WAS -- Sat)
Washington Capitals (@CAR -- Mon, @ATL -- Tue, @OTT -- Thu, TB -- Sat)

Home Cookin' -- Teams with 3+ home games

Anaheim Ducks (DAL -- Mon, PHO -- Wed, SJ -- Fri)
Chicago Blackhawks (CLM -- Wed, STL -- Fri, DET -- Sun)
Colorado Avalanche (CGY -- Mon, EDM -- Wed, @VAN -- Fri, MIN -- Sun)
Ottawa Senators (TOR -- Tue, WAS -- Thu, MON -- Sat)

One Game -- Are you kidding?!

Los Angeles Kings (DAL -- Sat)
St. Louis Blues (@CHI -- Fri)

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

Minnesota Wild (EDM -- Mon, @COL -- Sun)
Nashville Predators (@DET -- Wed, CLM -- Sat)
Vancouver Canucks (@CGY -- Thu, COL -- Fri)

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

Columbus Blue Jackets (@CHI -- Wed, @DET -- Fri, @NAS -- Sat)
Dallas Stars (@ANA -- Mon, @SJ -- Wed, @PHO -- Thu, @LA -- Sat)
Edmonton Oilers (@MIN -- Mon, @COL -- Wed, @CGY -- Sat)

The Matchups

Lightin' the Lamp -- Good Scorers' Matchups

Carolina Hurricanes (WAS -- Mon, TB -- Thu, @ATL -- Sat): The Lightning and the Thrashers rank among the worst defensive teams to date, each dealing with issues in goal, and the Lightning in particular have been terrible on the road. You couldn't ask for a much better schedule for a team loaded with power-play depth. Load up, even on lesser names like Matt Cullen, Jeff Hamilton and Cory Stillman. … Detroit Red Wings (NAS -- Wed, CLM -- Fri, @CHI -- Sun): Whether it's Dan Ellis or Chris Mason getting the start makes it a significant difference in that Wednesday game, but the fact that it's a home game for the Red Wings ultimately makes this a favorable schedule. The Red Wings generally play exceptional hockey within the division, so call it a good week to keep riding the Tomas Holmstrom and Mikael Samuelsson hot streaks. … Florida Panthers (TB -- Mon, @TB -- Wed, ATL -- Fri): Again, the Lightning play terrible hockey on the road, but it's not as if they're defensively sound at home, either. This is about the best schedule an offense can face right now, enough to help awaken a Panthers offense that has been somewhat quiet to date. Expect good things from Jay Bouwmeester, Nathan Horton, Cory Murphy, Stephen Weiss and perhaps even Jozef Stumpel.

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

Chicago Blackhawks (CLM -- Wed, STL -- Fri, DET -- Sun): Pascal Leclaire (Blue Jackets), Manny Legace (Blues) and Chris Osgood (Red Wings) are as hot as any goalies in the league, and a team like the Blackhawks, middling at best offensively, should register one of its quieter weeks accounting for the schedule. Tuomo Ruutu, Jonathan Toews and Jason Williams are shakier starts this week. … Nashville Predators (@DET -- Wed, CLM -- Sat): Again, that's an Osgood-Leclaire schedule, intensely challenging for a team ranked in the bottom third in scoring. Consider sitting David Legwand, Alexander Radulov and Marek Zidlicky. … Pittsburgh Penguins (@NJ -- Mon, PHI -- Wed, @NYR -- Thu, @PHI -- Sat): It's a four-game schedule, and these guys are the Penguins, but opponents Martin Brodeur and Henrik Lundqvist are among the most talented goalies in the league, while Martin Biron is off to a solid start. This could be a good time to sit a Ryan Malone or Mark Recchi. … Toronto Maple Leafs (@OTT -- Tue, @BUF -- Fri, NYR -- Sat): Two road games, each against a defensively sound team, then one home affair against Lundqvist? No thanks! Sure, the Maple Leafs rank among the most potent offenses in the game, but Matt Stajan, Alexander Steen and even Jason Blake look pretty unattractive for this week.

Stone 'Em Cold -- Good Goalies' Matchups

Columbus Blue Jackets (@CHI -- Wed, @DET -- Fri, @NAS -- Sat): Pascal Leclaire is off to an astonishing hot start, with a league-best four shutouts -- one apiece against the Sabres and Blues, two good offenses -- and a 1.25 goals-against average. Now, an extended road trip will challenge him, but if he can dominate the Sabres in their arena, can't he easily handle the Blackhawks and Predators, and at least hold the Red Wings close on the scoreboard? … Dallas Stars (@ANA -- Mon, @SJ -- Wed, @PHO -- Thu, @LA -- Sat): Four road games is a brutal schedule for Marty Turco, but I think of that more as a reason for the team to slot in Mike Smith -- I'm thinking for Thursday's game -- to keep Turco fresh than as a reason to avoid him in fantasy. Consider that Turco has already aptly handled the Ducks and Kings this season, he has historically dominated the Sharks (16-6-1, 2.20 GAA in 26 career games) and the Coyotes are, well, the Coyotes. Nope, no fear here, and Smith could even sneak in a nice spot-start opportunity. … Detroit Red Wings (NAS -- Wed, CLM -- Fri, @CHI -- Sun): Chris Osgood has seven wins in seven starts, and, as a result, it's hard to imagine him sitting until Dominik Hasek's hip has 100 percent healed. Regardless, either goalie would warrant must-start status for any game he's in net, as those are three beatable opponents. I'm thinking Osgood starts at least two.

The Sieve -- Bad Goalies' Matchups

Boston Bruins (@BUF -- Wed, MON -- Thu, BUF -- Sat): Tim Thomas, who has five of the Bruins' seven wins thus far, is mainly getting the bulk of the starts over Manny Fernandez because the latter is hurt. If Fernandez is back this week, picking and choosing Thomas' spot starts facing a schedule like this isn't the kind of strategy you should employ. Sure, he beat these Sabres this past Thursday, but he allowed three goals in doing so. Plus, Montreal is a vastly underrated offensive team. … New York Rangers (PHI -- Mon, @NYI -- Tue, PIT -- Thu, @TOR -- Sat): Henrik Lundqvist, with his 1.67 GAA and .937 save percentage, is far too hot to ever consider benching, but wins will be tough to come by for him this week, especially with the Rangers performing so poorly on offense the past month. There's a good chance he'll sit one of the four games, his first rest of the season, and I'm banking on it being Tuesday, the night after he battles the first-place Flyers. Sadly, that's his best matchup all week, so while most will want to keep Lundqvist active, I'll call him, say, only the 10th-best goalie choice of the week. … Toronto Maple Leafs (@OTT -- Tue, @BUF -- Fri, NYR -- Sat): Free-agent signee Vesa Toskala has been nothing but inconsistent to date, and his backup, Andrew Raycroft, has been no better. Sure, that Rangers game might be spot-start worthy for a goalie performing well, but neither Maple Leaf qualifies as that and the other two games are must-avoids for all except the elite.

Lineup Tidbits

Patrice Bergeron (concussion): The Boston Herald says Bergeron's concussion is a Grade 3, and such injuries generally require a month to heal. In other words, he's doubtful to play this week, so keep him reserved until he officially returns to the lineup.

Todd Bertuzzi (concussion): He's still experiencing dizziness, and showing signs of being nowhere close to recovered from his concussion. These things can take awhile, so keep thinking of this as a week-to-week injury, not a day-to-day one.

Kevin Bieksa (calf): The cut on his calf he suffered this past Thursday was apparently more severe than was let on; he had surgery a day later and is out two months.

Manny Fernandez (strained knee): With Tim Thomas easily outperforming him, Fernandez won't be hurried back, perhaps working out this weekend with the hopes of being ready to play by midweek. Don't bother with him, not until he improves his play first.

Simon Gagne (dizziness): The Flyers won't classify his injury as a concussion, but let's face it, he's experiencing dizziness, headaches and vision problems. Sounds like a concussion to me! That's hardly a day-to-day issue. Count on a few more games missed.

Dominik Hasek (hip): Chris Osgood is playing well enough that the Red Wings have no need to rush Hasek back, though Jimmy Howard's demotion this past Friday suggests Hasek is again ready to play. The two might share the starts in net this week.

Bryan McCabe (groin): He didn't travel with the Maple Leafs this weekend, and it's unclear whether he'll play in Ottawa on Tuesday. If he doesn't get a favorable report on that game before your league's lineup deadline, the smart play is to keep him reserved.

Alexander Semin (ankle): It took him only three games to reinjure his ankle, and at this point, he'll need to officially return to the lineup before he'll be trustworthy enough to activate. This setback sounds like a long-term thing, so get him back on your bench.

Jason Spezza (groin): The Senators planned to sit him out both weekend games, though that seemed more precautionary than anything. His schedule is favorable this week, and he's an elite talent, though groin injuries can mean a handful of games missed.

Ryan Whitney (groin): Again, groin injuries can be a tricky thing, and the Penguins have said nothing more than his return date is unknown. He'll probably be out until at least Wednesday's game against the Flyers, so sit him if you're deep on defense.

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