Commentary

Fantasy Forecaster: Luongo still lovely

Updated: December 9, 2007, 12:57 AM ET
By Tristan H. Cockcroft | ESPN.com

On Tap

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

Anaheim Ducks (@CLM -- Mon, VAN -- Wed, MIN -- Fri, SJ -- Sun)
Boston Bruins (@BUF -- Mon, @ATL -- Wed, NJ -- Thu, CLM -- Sat)
Buffalo Sabres (BOS -- Mon, NYI -- Wed, @WAS -- Fri, CHI -- Sat)
Calgary Flames (@FLA -- Tue, @TB -- Thu, @CAR -- Fri, @STL -- Sun)
Edmonton Oilers (@DAL -- Mon, @STL -- Tue, @DET -- Thu, VAN -- Sat)
Florida Panthers (CGY -- Tue, @STL -- Thu, @DET -- Sat, @CHI -- Sun)
Los Angeles Kings (VAN -- Mon, @CHI -- Wed, @DAL -- Thu, MIN -- Sat)
New Jersey Devils (@WAS -- Mon, @BOS -- Thu, PHO -- Sat, PHI -- Sun)
Philadelphia Flyers (PIT -- Tue, MON -- Thu, CAR -- Sat, @NJ -- Sun)
San Jose Sharks (MIN -- Tue, VAN -- Thu, DAL -- Sat, @ANA -- Sun)
Tampa Bay Lightning (@TOR -- Mon, @MON -- Tue, CGY -- Thu, WAS -- Sat)
Vancouver Canucks (@LA -- Mon, @ANA -- Wed, @SJ -- Thu, @EDM -- Sat)
Washington Capitals (NJ -- Mon, NYR -- Wed, BUF -- Fri, @TB -- Sat)

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

Anaheim Ducks (@CLM -- Mon, VAN -- Wed, MIN -- Fri, SJ -- Sun)
Buffalo Sabres (BOS -- Mon, NYI -- Wed, @WAS -- Fri, CHI -- Sat)
Philadelphia Flyers (PIT -- Tue, MON -- Thu, CAR -- Sat, @NJ -- Sun)
St. Louis Blues (EDM -- Tue, FLA -- Thu, CGY -- Sun)
San Jose Sharks (MIN -- Tue, VAN -- Thu, DAL -- Sat, @ANA -- Sun)
Washington Capitals (NJ -- Mon, NYR -- Wed, BUF -- Fri, @TB -- Sat)

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

New York Rangers (@WAS -- Wed, PHO -- Sun): They're the only team with two games, but those are some great matchups for the Blueshirts. Don't forget about them.

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

Calgary Flames (@FLA -- Tue, @TB -- Thu, @CAR -- Fri, @STL -- Sun)
Minnesota Wild (@SJ -- Tue, @ANA -- Fri, @LA -- Sat)
Phoenix Coyotes (@NYI -- Thu, @NJ -- Sat, @NYR -- Sun)
Vancouver Canucks (@LA -- Mon, @ANA -- Wed, @SJ -- Thu, @EDM -- Sat)

The Matchups

Lightin' the Lamp -- Good Scorers' Matchups

Montreal Canadiens (TB -- Tue, @PHI -- Thu, TOR -- Sat): The Lightning's Johan Holmqvist might have picked up his play lately, but he's a poor road goaltender. With a game at Philly, the Habs' only true challenge as an offense, keep riding those Christopher Higgins (6 goals, 3 assists in his past 9 games), Alexei Kovalev (2 G, 2 A in his past 5) and Tomas Plekanec (2 G, 1 A in his past 3) hot streaks. … New Jersey Devils (@WAS -- Mon, @BOS -- Thu, PHO -- Sat, PHI -- Sun): Brian Gionta (5 G, 7 A in his past 9), Jamie Langenbrunner (10 A in his past 8) and Zach Parise (9 G, 8 A in his past 9) have picked up their scoring paces of late, and with them scheduled to face three teams outside the top 10 in the league defensively, they should keep it up in the long week. … New York Rangers (@WAS -- Wed, PHO -- Sun): It's a short week, granted, but that's two games against teams that have allowed an average of three goals per game since Nov. 1 (Capitals, 3.13 goals per game in that span; Coyotes, 3.00). No worries here, Chris Drury, Michal Rozsival or Brendan Shanahan owners. … Toronto Maple Leafs (TB -- Mon, @ATL -- Fri, @MON -- Sat): The Canadiens have a formidable pair in net, but the Lightning and Thrashers rank among the league's bottom five teams, defensively speaking. Keep riding red-hot Nik Antropov (5 G, 4 A in his past 5), Alexei Ponikarovsky (2 G, 3 A in his past 5) and, as always, Bryan McCabe and Mats Sundin.

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

Anaheim Ducks (@CLM -- Mon, VAN -- Wed, MIN -- Fri, SJ -- Sun): Scott Niedermayer's much-anticipated return to the ice might come as early as Wednesday, and he'll energize this team, but the Ducks do face two elite goaltenders in the Canucks' Roberto Luongo and Sharks' Evgeni Nabokov in those three home games. Let Niedermayer settle in and develop some chemistry with his 'mates, playing a bit more conservatively this week with guys such as Francois Beauchemin, Chris Kunitz and Andy McDonald. … Edmonton Oilers (@DAL -- Mon, @STL -- Tue, @DET -- Thu, VAN -- Sat): That's three road contests against upper-half defensive teams, then a home game against Luongo, one of the game's best netminders. No thank you! Besides Ales Hemsky and Shawn Horcoff, there isn't an Oilers player I'd want active this week. … Phoenix Coyotes (@NYI -- Thu, @NJ -- Sat, @NYR -- Sun): The Islanders' Rick DiPietro and Devils' Martin Brodeur are performing like top-10 goalies recently, and we all know the Rangers' Henrik Lundqvist already is considered a member of that class, too. Here's another team you don't want to dig too deep into fantasywise most weeks, and in one like this, for me, it's Ed Jovanovski, maybe Shane Doan and Radim Vrbata in deeper leagues, and that's it.

Stone 'Em Cold -- Good Goalies' Matchups

New York Rangers (@WAS -- Wed, PHO -- Sun): Lundqvist is coming off back-to-back losses, and the schedule represents the league's shortest. Still, those are two weak offensive teams staring him in the face, and the rest certainly could do him some good. I'm counting on a bounce-back week, and call him a must-start. … St. Louis Blues (EDM -- Tue, FLA -- Thu, CGY -- Sun): Keep tabs on Manny Legace's health, as he's eligible to return in time for Tuesday's game, and his 8-3-0 record and 1.92 goals-against average in 11 home games make him a must-start should he be given the go-ahead to return. Even if Legace can't go, though, stand-in Hannu Toivonen isn't a bad spot-start candidate in deeper leagues, as that's a full home slate against bottom-half offenses. … Vancouver Canucks (@LA -- Mon, @ANA -- Wed, @SJ -- Thu, @EDM -- Sat): You can't get much hotter than Luongo, 9-2-2 with a 1.54 GAA and .944 save percentage in 13 games since Nov. 3. He's fantasy hockey's best goalie right now -- sorry, Brodeur -- so I wouldn't worry about four road games, especially when half come against weak offenses (Ducks, Oilers). By the way, Luongo has a very respectable 2.53 GAA on the road this year.

The Sieve -- Bad Goalies' Matchups

Atlanta Thrashers (BOS -- Wed, TOR -- Fri, @OTT -- Sat): Kari Lehtonen won his first two starts fresh off the injured list, but it's asking a lot of him to maintain that kind of performance against top-five offenses Toronto and Ottawa. Those have the makings of high-scoring affairs, so if you don't want to suffer the GAA or save percentage hit, steer clear. … Montreal Canadiens (TB -- Tue, @PHI -- Thu, TOR -- Sat): Cristobal Huet is out with a groin injury, and if he's not back this week, the goaltending duties fall squarely upon Carey Price, a solid netminder but nevertheless a rookie. No matter who gets the call, all three of those opponents rank among the game's 10 most potent scoring teams, so avoid 'em. … Pittsburgh Penguins (@PHI -- Tue, OTT -- Thu, @NYI -- Sat): Marc-Andre Fleury has an ankle injury that threatens his status, and if he's any less than 100 percent, he'll be in for a challenging week with games against the Flyers and Senators, two top-10 offenses, and a road contest at the dangerous Islanders.

Lineup Tidbits

Marc-Andre Fleury (ankle): As mentioned above, his status is up in the air for the week, but keep in mind it's a challenging schedule for him or backup Dany Sabourin. Sabourin warrants a pickup, but both should be benched for the week.

Alexander Frolov (groin): He's on injured reserve, and the Los Angeles Daily News reported Wednesday that there's no timetable for his return. Even with the Kings scheduled for four games, he's a risky play with his uncertain status.

Cristobal Huet (groin): He's eligible to return from injured reserve Tuesday, although there's currently no guarantee he'll be ready that quickly. Like Fleury, Huet faces a brutal schedule even if he's healthy enough to play, so play it safe and bench him.

Manny Legace (knee): His owners should hope he's ready to play the first day he's eligible to be activated from injured reserve because, when healthy, Legace has performed like a legitimate No. 1 fantasy option. Keep tabs on the news Sunday and Monday.

Michael Nylander (undisclosed): The Capitals aren't being particularly forthright regarding Nylander's status, but that he missed this past Friday's practice after five days off doesn't bode well. Monitor his status, as it's a four-game week, but he's looking iffy.

Joe Sakic (groin): The Avalanche are being conservative with him and will continue to evaluate him throughout the weekend, but don't be shocked if he misses one or both of the team's midweek road contests. Sakic is a tough man to sit, but you might need to.

Sheldon Souray (shoulder): He has resumed practicing and said he might be back sometime this week. It's a four-game week for the Oilers, but still a bad one for them scoringwise, so he'd need full clearance to play in them all to warrant fantasy consideration.

Tim Thomas (lower body): That the Bruins traded for a more experienced goalie, Alex Auld, on Thursday indicates that Thomas might miss a game or two this week. He could be back by Wednesday or Thursday, but the safe play is to keep him reserved.

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

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