Commentary

Fantasy Forecaster: Isles face tricky schedule

Updated: November 25, 2007, 1:33 PM ET
By Tristan H. Cockcroft | ESPN.com

On Tap

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

Anaheim Ducks (@VAN -- Tue, @CGY -- Thu, @EDM -- Fri, EDM -- Sun)
Edmonton Oilers (CLM -- Mon, @COL -- Wed, ANA -- Fri, @ANA -- Sun)
New York Islanders (DAL -- Mon, OTT -- Wed, @NYR -- Thu, ATL -- Sat)
Washington Capitals (BUF -- Mon, FLA -- Wed, @CAR -- Fri, @FLA -- Sat)

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

Detroit Red Wings (CGY -- Tue, TB -- Thu, PHI -- Sat)
Minnesota Wild (PHO -- Wed, STL -- Fri, VAN -- Sun)
New Jersey Devils (DAL -- Wed, MON -- Fri, ATL -- Sun)

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

Los Angeles Kings (@SJ -- Wed, COL -- Sat)
Nashville Predators (@OTT -- Thu, @MON -- Sat)
New York Rangers (NYI -- Thu, @OTT -- Sat)
Pittsburgh Penguins (DAL -- Fri, @TOR -- Sat)

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

Boston Bruins (@PHI -- Mon, @FLA -- Thu, @TB -- Sat)
Columbus Blue Jackets (@EDM -- Mon, @VAN -- Thu, @CGY -- Sat)
Dallas Stars (@NYI -- Mon, @NJ -- Wed, @PIT -- Fri, @PHI -- Sat)
Phoenix Coyotes (@MIN -- Wed, @CHI -- Fri, @DET -- Sat)

The Matchups

Lightin' the Lamp -- Good Scorers' Matchups

Colorado Avalanche (EDM -- Wed, @SJ -- Fri, @LA -- Sat): The Sharks' Evgeni Nabokov might rank among the game's best goaltenders, but the Oilers (27th, 3.18 goals allowed per game) and Kings (28th, 3.29) place among the league's five worst. Keep John-Michael Liles (2 goals, 2 assists in 9 games in November), Ryan Smyth (1 G, 4 A in 10 games) and Wojtek Wolski (3 G, 4 A in 10 games) active. ... Detroit Red Wings (CGY -- Tue, TB -- Thu, PHI -- Sat): The Red Wings already beat the Flames' Miikka Kiprusoff on their home ice (Oct. 10), and the Flyers' Martin Biron isn't anything special on the road (5-5 record, 3.00 goals-against average in 10 games). Take a look at improving forwards Daniel Cleary (6 G, 3 A in 9 games in November) and Jiri Hudler (3 G, 6 A in 9 games). ... San Jose Sharks (LA -- Wed, COL -- Fri): The Sharks haven't played great hockey at home this season (3-4-1 record), but the Kings and Avalanche rank among the worst teams in the league on the road, going a combined 5-12-2. Neither ranks higher than 20th in terms of goals allowed per game. Yup, you read that right. Jeremy Roenick (3 G, 5 A in 9 games in November) warrants your attention, and it's a perfect week for Patrick Marleau (2 G, 5 A in 9 games) to keep up his recent hot streak, too.

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

Edmonton Oilers (CLM -- Mon, @COL -- Wed, ANA -- Fri, @ANA -- Sun): It's rare that a four-game schedule can be called a "bad" one for fantasy, but the Oilers have a game against the Blue Jackets' fifth-ranked defense (2.32 goals allowed per game) and two against the Ducks' 13th-ranked squad (2.65), plus a game at Colorado, where the Avalanche are generally stronger. Ales Hemsky and Shawn Horcoff should be about it among your Oilers choices facing a schedule like this. ... New York Islanders (DAL -- Mon, OTT -- Wed, @NYR -- Thu, ATL -- Sat): Again, this one is a treacherous schedule; the Stars, Senators and Rangers all rank among the eight best defensive teams in the league. Temper your expectations for Bill Guerin, Miroslav Satan and Josef Vasicek. ... Vancouver Canucks (ANA -- Tue, CLM -- Thu, @MIN -- Sun): The Canucks aren't the potent offense they once were, and with three opponents that rank among the 13 best in the league in goals-against average on the schedule, they're not all that appealing as a team for fantasy. Stick with the Sedin twins and Markus Naslund, but that's about it.

Stone 'Em Cold -- Good Goalies' Matchups

Anaheim Ducks (@VAN -- Tue, @CGY -- Thu, @EDM -- Fri, EDM -- Sun): Jean-Sebastien Giguere has won four of his past five games, and six of nine overall in November, and now we're talking about a schedule on which two of his four contests come against the Oilers, the second-weakest offense in the league (2.09 goals per game). ... Minnesota Wild (PHO -- Wed, STL -- Fri, VAN -- Sun): Niklas Backstrom is pretty impenetrable at home, with a 6-1 record, 1.57 goals-against average and .938 save percentage in seven contests. Meanwhile, the Blues (24th, 2.45) and Coyotes (24th, 2.45) rank among the 10 weakest offenses in the league. ... Vancouver Canucks (ANA -- Tue, CLM -- Thu, @MIN -- Sun): Now we're seeing the real Roberto Luongo. He has wins in five of seven games in November, but more importantly, he has a 2.07 GAA and .921 save percentage during that span, better than last year's 2.28/.921 rates. Meanwhile, his three opponents rank no higher than 17th (Columbus, 2.68), so expect that hot streak to continue.

The Sieve -- Bad Goalies' Matchups

Boston Bruins (@PHI -- Mon, @FLA -- Thu, @TB -- Sat): This one has more to do with it being three road games than anything; the Flyers and Panthers are noticeably stronger on their home ice than away from it. Tim Thomas, meanwhile, is 2-3-1 with a 2.66 GAA and .927 save percentage in six road contests, and as a spot-start consideration in general, he's a guy who should be benched this week. ... New York Islanders (DAL -- Mon, OTT -- Wed, @NYR -- Thu, ATL -- Sat): Again, it's a shame to waste a four-game week for any team, but Rick DiPietro has yet to show us this season that he's consistent enough to overcome tough matchups such as these. Sure, he has beaten the Rangers in all three meetings this season, but that's a tidbit to exploit only in leagues that allow daily transactions. After all, the Rangers are the weakest of his four opponents offensively, so his success against them that comes as no shock. ... Toronto Maple Leafs (MON -- Tue, @ATL -- Thu, PIT -- Sat): The Maple Leafs are a mess in net, ranking dead last in the NHL with 3.43 goals allowed per game, and did you know that they won back-to-back games only once all year have? Until either Andrew Raycroft or Vesa Toskala shows us something useful, we can't trust either, especially against three offensively potent opponents.

Lineup Tidbits

Daniel Alfredsson (groin): He sat out Saturday's game and remains day-to-day, though this doesn't sound like a worrisome injury. Keep tabs on Alfredsson's status heading into your lineup deadline, but he's probably safe to leave active.

Pavol Demitra (groin): Demitra has missed 11 of the Wild's past 13 games, but he resumed practicing on Thanksgiving. Demitra is tentatively scheduled to return to the lineup Wednesday, and as long as that diagnosis doesn't change, he should be OK to use.

Patrik Elias (flu-like symptoms): This one's merely a day-to-day thing, and not one likely to threaten his status this week. Elias has finally started showing signs of life of late, with two goals and four points in his past five games, so don't be afraid to leave him active.

Alexander Frolov (groin): He attempted to play through pain for more than a week but will now need to rest until at least Dec. 1. Frolov is at best a 50/50 shot to play Saturday against Colorado, so keep him reserved for the week.

Martin Havlat (shoulder): He's penciled in to return to the lineup on Wednesday, and the schedule is favorable enough that if that plan doesn't change, he's worth deep-league consideration. In smaller leagues, though, make him play back-to-back games first.

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

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