Commentary

Fantasy Forecaster: Rangers, Isles should do well

Updated: December 2, 2007, 6:30 PM ET
By Tristan H. Cockcroft | ESPN.com

On Tap

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

Boston Bruins (@NYI -- Mon, @NJ -- Wed, MON -- Thu, @TOR -- Sat)
Carolina Hurricanes (@NYR -- Mon, @TB -- Thu, @MON -- Sat, @DET -- Sun)
Colorado Avalanche (SJ -- Mon, @CLM -- Wed, PHI -- Fri, STL -- Sun)
Los Angeles Kings (EDM -- Mon, @PHO -- Wed, BUF -- Thu, PHO -- Sat)
New York Islanders (BOS -- Mon, @ATL -- Wed, @FLA -- Fri, @TB -- Sat)
New York Rangers (CAR -- Mon, TOR -- Thu, @ATL -- Fri, NJ -- Sun)
Phoenix Coyotes (@PIT -- Mon, LA -- Wed, SJ -- Fri, @LA -- Sat)
Pittsburgh Penguins (PHO -- Mon, @EDM -- Wed, @CGY -- Thu, @VAN -- Sat)
San Jose Sharks (@COL -- Mon, @DAL -- Wed, @PHO -- Fri, BUF -- Sat)

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

Chicago Blackhawks (VAN -- Wed, ANA -- Fri, CGY -- Sun)
Colorado Avalanche (SJ -- Mon, @CLM -- Wed, PHI -- Fri, STL -- Sun)
Columbus Blue Jackets (DAL -- Mon, COL -- Wed, MIN -- Sat)
Los Angeles Kings (EDM -- Mon, @PHO -- Wed, BUF -- Thu, PHO -- Sat)
New York Rangers (CAR -- Mon, TOR -- Thu, @ATL -- Fri, NJ -- Sun)
Tampa Bay Lightning (OTT -- Tue, CAR -- Thu, NYI -- Sat)

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

Philadelphia Flyers (@MIN -- Wed, @COL -- Fri)
Washington Capitals (@NJ -- Fri, ATL -- Sat)

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

Buffalo Sabres (@ANA -- Wed, @LA -- Thu, @SJ -- Sat)
Carolina Hurricanes (@NYR -- Mon, @TB -- Thu, @MON -- Sat, @DET -- Sun)
Ottawa Senators (@TB -- Tue, @FLA -- Wed, @DAL -- Fri)
St. Louis Blues (@CGY -- Tue, @EDM -- Fri, @COL -- Sun)

The Matchups

Lightin' the Lamp -- Good Scorers' Matchups

New York Islanders (BOS -- Mon, @ATL -- Wed, @FLA -- Fri, @TB -- Sat): A four-game schedule is usually fantasy-friendly to any team, and when two of the contests come against the Thrashers, who are still working Kari Lehtonen back to game speed, and Lightning, a bottom-five defense (3.07 goals per game allowed), it's absolutely favorable. Go ahead and get Mike Comrie, Miroslav Satan and Josef Vasicek into your lineup. ... New York Rangers (CAR -- Mon, TOR -- Thu, @ATL -- Fri, NJ -- Sun): The Maple Leafs and Thrashers are by far the league's worst defensive teams (Toronto ranks 30th with 3.42 goals allowed per game, Atlanta 29th with 3.42), and Carolina goalie Cam Ward has been in a bit of a funk lately. The Rangers have been terrible on offensive, but if there's any week for Chris Drury, Scott Gomez and Brendan Shanahan to go on hot streaks, it's this one. ... St. Louis Blues (@CGY -- Tue, @EDM -- Fri, @COL -- Sun): The Flames, Oilers and Avalanche ranked among the league's 10 worst defensive teams in November, and while Miikka Kiprusoff might have a reputation as a dominating goalie, he's off to a miserable start, by his standards. Among the Blues' best road performers: Brad Boyes (4 goals, 4 assists in 8 games) and Keith Tkachuk (4 G, 4 A in 11 games).

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

Carolina Hurricanes (@NYR -- Mon, @TB -- Thu, @MON -- Sat, @DET -- Sun): Any schedule that features road contests against red-hot goalies Henrik Lundqvist of the Rangers and Chris Osgood of the Red Wings is a tough for an offense, and let's not dismiss the Canadiens, who boast two quality netminders. Among the Hurricanes' weaker road players: Jeff Hamilton (2 G, 4 A in 12 games) and Eric Staal (5 G, 5 A in 12 games). ... Chicago Blackhawks (VAN -- Wed, ANA -- Fri, CGY -- Sun): You can't get much hotter as goalies go than the Canucks' Roberto Luongo, and the Ducks' Jean-Sebastien Giguere is right behind him. Tuomo Ruutu and Jonathan Toews are looking like two weaker options for Week 10. ... Minnesota Wild (PHI -- Wed, @DET -- Fri, @CLM -- Sat): The Wild offense is struggling thanks to injuries to key scorers, particularly Pavol Demitra and Marian Gaborik, each of whom missed time with groin problems in November. Road matchups against top 10 defenses -- the Red Wings (6th, 2.36 goals allowed per game) and Blue Jackets (4th, 2.32) -- should convince you to keep Demitra, who's fresh off the injured list, Kurtis Foster and Mark Parrish on your bench.

Stone 'Em Cold -- Good Goalies' Matchups

Atlanta Thrashers (NYI -- Wed, NYR -- Fri, @WAS -- Sat): The Islanders (26th, 2.39 goals per game), Rangers (29th, 2.16) and Capitals (28th, 2.32) rank among the league's five weakest offenses, not that I'm ready to endorse Kari Lehtonen, fresh off the injured list, as a No. 2 option in weekly formats. For those of you seeking spot-start opportunities, though, if Lehtonen performs well in his first game or two back, he might warrant daily-league consideration in either the Friday or Saturday matchup. ... Colorado Avalanche (SJ -- Mon, @CLM -- Wed, PHI -- Fri, STL -- Sun): This one is all about the home games. Look at Peter Budaj's (7-1 record, 2.61 goals-against average) and Jose Theodore's (3-1, 2.16 GAA) numbers at home, and you're talking a good week to exploit either of them, with Budaj being my higher recommendation (Theodore is more for daily-league spot starts). By the way, for those of you in weekly formats, the Blue Jackets rank 25th on offense (2.48 goals per game). ... New Jersey Devils (BOS -- Wed, WAS -- Fri, @NYR -- Sun): Now we're seeing the real Martin Brodeur; he has won six straight games, two of them shutouts. The Rangers might have beaten him twice this season, but with Brodeur looking much better today than he did in their previous meetings, expect him to bounce back in a big way.

The Sieve -- Bad Goalies' Matchups

Carolina Hurricanes (@NYR -- Mon, @TB -- Thu, @MON -- Sat, @DET -- Sun): With three road games in four days to finish the week, we're certain to see at least one appearance by shaky backup John Grahame, and besides, the aforementioned Cam Ward has been a bit inconsistent of late. The Lightning (5th, 3.08 goals per game), Canadiens (7th, 2.96) and Red Wings (1st, 3.28), incidentally, are all top 10 offenses. ... Minnesota Wild (PHI -- Wed, @DET -- Fri, @CLM -- Sat): Niklas Backstrom is an elite goalie, sure, but matchups with the potent Flyers and Red Wings will challenge him, especially in light of the fact that the team's offense hasn't been doing much to support him. Consider this a good week to sit him out if you're especially deep at the position. ... Ottawa Senators (@TB -- Tue, @FLA -- Wed, @DAL -- Fri): Martin Gerber is in quite a funk, losing three of his past five starts, which is leading to another possible goaltending controversy. With it being so tough to get a read on when either he or Ray Emery will start, this is a good week to sit him. The Senators have three road games against decent scoring teams.

Lineup Tidbits

Michael Cammalleri (groin): Cammalleri is day-to-day. The Kings do play four games this week, and the matchups are favorable, so barring a poor report on Cammalleri's health, he's probably worth gambling on.

Alexander Frolov (groin): He has missed two games and is no lock to return to action this week. Again, it's a favorable schedule for Los Angeles' scorers, but Frolov would need a positive practice report before being termed a safe fantasy option this week.

Sergei Gonchar (groin): He missed Friday's game but is day-to-day. A guy with Gonchar's talent, though, can't be benched when his team is scheduled for four games.

Pascal Leclaire (hamstring): He's practicing again but will be brought along slowly. The schedule is favorable for the Blue Jackets this week, with three home games, but Leclaire will be a risky option unless he gets a favorable health report before Monday.

Justin Williams (groin): All it took was one game for him to aggravate his groin injury, and this time, the Blackhawks will surely play it safe with Williams. The schedule isn't all that great for Chicago's scorers, so do the same and keep him reserved.

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

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