Commentary

Fantasy Forecaster: Avoid the Sharks

Updated: November 18, 2007, 1:21 PM ET
By Tristan H. Cockcroft | ESPN.com

On Tap

Thanksgiving week is an interesting -- and full -- one for fantasy; all but one team in the NHL plays three or more games. Even better: Thanksgiving day features four contests alone and "Black Friday" has 10, meaning no turkey-related hangovers for us fantasy types. If you're in a league with daily transactions, stick close to that computer!

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

Atlanta Thrashers (TB -- Mon, @WAS -- Wed, NJ -- Fri, @PIT -- Sat)
Calgary Flames (COL -- Tue, CHI -- Thu, @COL -- Sat, @STL -- Sun)
Dallas Stars (LA -- Mon, ANA -- Wed, TOR -- Fri, @NYR -- Sun)
Los Angeles Kings (@DAL -- Mon, @PHO -- Wed, @SJ -- Sat, @ANA -- Sun)
Montreal Canadiens (OTT -- Mon, @NYI -- Wed, @BUF -- Fri, BUF -- Sat)
New York Islanders (@NYR -- Mon, MON -- Wed, @BOS -- Fri, BOS -- Sat)
New York Rangers (NYI -- Mon, @TB -- Wed, @FLA -- Fri, DAL -- Sun)
Ottawa Senators (@MON -- Mon, @BUF -- Wed, PIT -- Thu, PHI -- Sat)
St. Louis Blues (NAS -- Mon, @DET -- Wed, VAN -- Fri, CGY -- Sun)
Tampa Bay Lightning (@ATL -- Mon, NYR -- Wed, @CAR -- Fri, NJ -- Sat)
Vancouver Canucks (@EDM -- Tue, @MIN -- Wed, @STL -- Fri, CHI -- Sun)
Washington Capitals (FLA -- Mon, ATL -- Wed, @PHI -- Fri, CAR -- Sat)

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

Dallas Stars (LA -- Mon, ANA -- Wed, TOR -- Fri, @NYR -- Sun)
Edmonton Oilers (VAN -- Tue, COL -- Thu, CHI -- Sat)
St. Louis Blues (NAS -- Mon, @DET -- Wed, VAN -- Fri, CGY -- Sun)
Washington Capitals (FLA -- Mon, ATL -- Wed, @PHI -- Fri, CAR -- Sat)

ONE GAME -- Are you kidding?!

San Jose Sharks (LA -- Sat): Keep in mind that the next-fewest games played by any one NHL team is three, so needless to say, sit all your Sharks, unless, of course, you're in a league with daily transactions or one of those rare ones that takes average statistics per game for a given week (do those still exist?).

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

Chicago Blackhawks (@CGY -- Thu, @EDM -- Sat, @VAN -- Sun)
Los Angeles Kings (@DAL -- Mon, @PHO -- Wed, @SJ -- Sat, @ANA -- Sun)
New Jersey Devils (@PIT -- Wed, @ATL -- Fri, @TB -- Sat)

The Matchups

Lightin' the Lamp -- Good Scorers' Matchups

Colorado Avalanche (@CGY -- Tue, @EDM -- Thu, CGY -- Sat): Don't fear multiple games against Miikka Kiprusoff. He's off to a slow start by his standards. Furthermore, he has lost all three starts against the Avalanche this season, and KIprusoff's career record against Colorado is 9-9-1 with a 3.12 goals-against average and .889 save percentage in 23 games against them. Ryan Smyth (2 goals, 2 assists in 3 games), Paul Stastny (2 G, 3 A in 3 games) and Wojtek Wolski (1 G, 4 A in 3 games) have had great success against Calgary this season, and they should keep it up this week. ... New Jersey Devils (@PIT -- Wed, @ATL -- Fri, @TB -- Sat): It's another tricky road trip for the Devils, though at least these three games come against teams with shaky goaltending situations. Marc-Andre Fleury represents New Jersey's biggest test, but the Devils have already beaten him once this season. Among Devils road standouts: Zach Parise (3 G, 9 A in 12 games) and Travis Zajac (4 G, 3 A in 7 games). ... Phoenix Coyotes (LA -- Wed, @ANA -- Fri, TOR -- Sat): Though Jean-Sebastien Giguere should be able to handle the inconsistent Coyotes, the Kings and Maple Leafs rank as two of the NHL's three worst defensive teams to date. It's not like Phoenix is a hotbed for fantasy production, but based on the schedule, this is a good week to exploit red-hot Coyotes like Shane Doan (2 G, 5 A in 7 November games), Ed Jovanovski (2 G, 4 A in 7 games), Peter Mueller (3 G, 3 A in 7 games) and Steve Reinprecht (4 G, 4 A in 7 games).

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

Buffalo Sabres (OTT -- Wed, MON -- Fri, @MON -- Sat): We all know about Martin Gerber's ridiculous run, but the Canadiens are better in goal than you might think. That's back-to-back games for them, but even if rookie Carey Price gets a start, well, he has back-to-back wins and a 2.44 GAA and .919 save percentage on the year. Among the coldest Sabres: Brian Campbell (1 A, minus-7 rating in his last 7 games) and Thomas Vanek (2 A in his last 6 G). ... Columbus Blue Jackets (FLA -- Wed, @MIN -- Fri, DET -- Sat): Much of this relies on Niklas Backstrom's health, but even if he sits for the Wild, backup Josh Harding is no slouch, and Tomas Vokoun and Dominik Hasek rank among the game's most talented goaltenders. Sit the slumping Ron Hainsey (3 A in his last 10 games) and David Vyborny (1 G, 2 A in his past 10 games). ... Florida Panthers (@WAS -- Mon, @CLM -- Wed, NYR -- Fri): Pascal Leclaire and Henrik Lundqvist each rank among the top 10 in the league in GAA (Leclaire 1.59, Lundqvist 1.71), so be conservative with your expectations from the Panthers' offense. Defensemen Jay Bouwmeester (1 assist in his last 6 games) and Cory Murphy (2 assists in his last 8 games) should be avoided.

Stone 'Em Cold -- Good Goalies' Matchups

Florida Panthers (@WAS -- Mon, @CLM -- Wed, NYR -- Fri): The Capitals and Blue Jackets have scored a combined 29 goals in 16 games in November, and the Rangers have 15 in nine road games all year. Tomas Vokoun might be largely inconsistent the past few weeks, but this is a nice week to count on him as a No. 2 option. ... Minnesota Wild (VAN -- Wed, CLM -- Fri, @NAS -- Sat): This one's all about Niklas Backstrom's health. If he's stuck in day-to-day status, it'll be tough to term him a No. 1 option, or potential stand-in Josh Harding a spot-start No. 2 in larger leagues. Assuming there's a clear call on one or the other, though, a schedule that features bottom-half offenses Columbus and Vancouver is a pretty favorable one. ... Vancouver Canucks (@EDM -- Tue, @MIN -- Wed, @STL -- Fri, CHI -- Sun): Roberto Luongo has four wins and a 1-0 shootout loss in his past five games, and his hot streak should continue facing the Oilers and Blues, two bottom-10 offenses. The Wild, meanwhile, have been dealing with a good share of injuries on offense, and shouldn't be a fearful matchup for Luongo owners.

The Sieve -- Bad Goalies' Matchups

Buffalo Sabres (OTT -- Wed, MON -- Fri, @MON -- Sat): The Senators rank third in goals per game (3.29) and the Canadiens boast the game's best power play (24-for-83, 28.9 percent), and let's not overlook that Ryan Miller has been anything but consistent, losing three of his past four starts. This isn't the kind of schedule conducive to a bounce-back week. ... Philadelphia Flyers (@CAR -- Wed, WAS -- Fri, @OTT -- Sat): Martin Biron is much more ordinary in road contests, with a 3.00 GAA and .915 save percentage in nine such games, and the Hurricanes and Senators each rank among the game's top five offenses. Be prepared for a disappointing week. ... San Jose Sharks (LA -- Sat): Again, it's one game, and it comes against the Kings, ranked fifth in scoring (3.17 goals per game). Evgeni Nabokov might have four straight wins, two of them shutouts, but this is one week to steer clear. ... Washington Capitals (FLA -- Mon, ATL -- Wed, @PHI -- Fri, CAR -- Sat): The Thrashers finally seem to have awakened as an offense, and the Flyers average 3.57 goals per game at home, ranking among the best in the league. In addition, Olaf Kolzig has five losses in his past six games, during which time he has allowed 17 goals.

Lineup Tidbits

Erik Cole (neck): He's ineligible to return before Wednesday, but all indications are he might need at least another week to heal after getting hurt this past Monday. With a three-game schedule that begins Wednesday, Cole is better left reserved this week.

Pavol Demitra (groin): He has missed nine of the Wild's past 11 games, including five in a row, and has already suffered a setback in his recovery. Demitra will need back-to-back solid, healthy outings before he's ready to activate into fantasy lineups.

Simon Gagne (concussion): It's about time the Flyers admitted Gagne is battling a concussion; he has dizziness, nausea and headaches, all the key symptoms. He only resumed riding a stationary bike this past Thursday, so he's not that close to returning.

Martin Havlat (shoulder): The Chicago Tribune says he'll undergo a strength test on his shoulder on Monday, and might return to action as early as Thursday. The problem: That's deep in the week, a risky proposition on which to wait. Keep him reserved.

Mikko Koivu (knee): The Minneapolis Star Tribune reports Koivu is likely to miss a good chunk of time after being viciously slashed by Vancouver's Mattias Ohlund on Friday. There's no update yet on Koivu's status, but it's best to reserve him for now.

Mathieu Schneider (hip): He sat out this past Thursday's game, but is day-to-day. With the Ducks scheduled for only three games this week, none before Wednesday, he'll need to get the clear go-ahead before being a trusty fantasy option for the week.

Alexander Semin (sprained ankle): The Washington Post reports he'll return to action this week, perhaps as early as Monday. With four games in seven days, Semin warrants consideration in deeper leagues, even if he needs time to get back to full speed.

Shea Weber (dislocated kneecap): He resumed practicing this past Wednesday and was scheduled to return to action on Saturday. It might take him a few games to get back into the swing of things, but as rare as elite-caliber defensemen are, it's worth gambling on him.

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