Commentary

Fantasy Forecaster: Leery on Lehtonen

Updated: December 16, 2007, 2:43 PM ET
By Tristan H. Cockcroft | ESPN.com

On Tap

It's a full week for the NHL; 12 teams play four games and none play fewer than three. In fact, only two teams in the entire league play a full slate of road games! Boy, the NHL sure was generous during the holiday season, but it's a schedule that makes sense; Week 12 leads right into the two-day traditional Christmas holiday for the league. No games are played Christmas Eve or Day, so the league's squeezing in a full slate before that.

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

Atlanta Thrashers (TB -- Tue, OTT -- Thu, MON -- Sat, @STL -- Sun)
Boston Bruins (OTT -- Tue, PIT -- Thu, STL -- Sat, @PIT -- Sun)
Colorado Avalanche (@LA -- Mon, @ANA -- Wed, NYR -- Fri, VAN -- Sun)
Dallas Stars (@EDM -- Tue, @VAN -- Thu, @CGY -- Fri, MON -- Sun)
Detroit Red Wings (WAS -- Mon, LA -- Wed, @STL -- Thu, @MIN -- Sat)
Los Angeles Kings (COL -- Mon, @DET -- Wed, @CLM -- Fri, @NAS -- Sat)
Montreal Canadiens (FLA -- Tue, @WAS -- Thu, @ATL -- Sat, @DAL -- Sun)
Nashville Predators (@MIN -- Tue, @CHI -- Wed, LA -- Sat, @CLM -- Sun)
New York Rangers (PIT -- Tue, @MIN -- Thu, @COL -- Fri, OTT -- Sun)
Ottawa Senators (@BOS -- Tue, @ATL -- Thu, CHI -- Sat, @NYR -- Sun)
Pittsburgh Penguins (@NYR -- Tue, @BOS -- Thu, NYI -- Fri, BOS -- Sun)
Vancouver Canucks (NJ -- Tue, DAL -- Thu, @PHO -- Sat, @COL -- Sun)

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

Atlanta Thrashers (TB -- Tue, OTT -- Thu, MON -- Sat, @STL -- Sun)
Boston Bruins (OTT -- Tue, PIT -- Thu, STL -- Sat, @PIT -- Sun)
Columbus Blue Jackets (CGY -- Tue, LA -- Fri, NAS -- Sun)
Minnesota Wild (NAS -- Tue, NYR -- Thu, DET -- Sat)
San Jose Sharks (ANA -- Tue, PHO -- Thu, ANA -- Sat)

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

No team plays as few as two games this week.

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

New Jersey Devils (@VAN -- Tue, @EDM -- Fri, @CGY -- Sun)
Toronto Maple Leafs (@CAR -- Tue, @TB -- Thu, @FLA -- Sat)

The Matchups

Lightin' the Lamp -- Good Scorers' Matchups

Florida Panthers (@MON -- Tue, CAR -- Thu, TOR -- Sat): Canadiens rookie Carey Price has been shaky since Cristobal Huet hit the sidelines with a groin strain, and the Hurricanes' Cam Ward hasn't won back-to-back games since early November. If he's healthy, take a look at red-hot David Booth (6 goals, 3 assists in his past 14 games) and Stephen Weiss (4 G, 5 A in his past 14). … New York Islanders (BUF -- Wed, @PIT -- Fri, WAS -- Sat): The Sabres' Ryan Miller has allowed four goals or more in four of his past eight games, and the Penguins, now short Marc-Andre Fleury, are forced to rely on Dany Sabourin in net. Get Marc-Andre Bergeron, Chris Campoli and Mike Comrie into your lineup. … Tampa Bay Lightning (@ATL -- Tue, TOR -- Thu, CAR -- Sat): The Lightning rank as one of the strongest offensive teams at home, averaging 3.65 goals per game, and their one road contest comes against the Thrashers, who average 3.36 goals allowed per game on their own ice. Filip Kuba (12 points, plus-6 rating in his past 18 games) and Vaclav Prospal (19 points in his past 21) should continue their torrid hot streaks.

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

Anaheim Ducks (@SJ -- Tue, COL -- Wed, @SJ -- Sat): The Sharks' Evgeni Nabokov has 10 wins and three shutouts in his past 14 games, and hasn't lost to the Ducks in regulation in the past three meetings between the two teams. It's a good week to sit Francois Beauchemin, Chris Kunitz and Andy McDonald. … Calgary Flames (@CLM -- Tue, DAL -- Fri, NJ -- Sun): The Blue Jackets and Devils rank among the game's five strongest defensive teams, and the Stars find themselves right on the outside of the top 10 (11th, 2.56 goals allowed per game). Coming off that nine-goal outburst this past Thursday, Flames like Adrian Aucoin, Kristian Huselius and Matthew Lombardi should be due for a letdown. … Phoenix Coyotes (@PHI -- Tue, @SJ -- Thu, VAN -- Sat): The Flyers' Martin Biron is 7-2-2 with a 2.41 goals-against average in 12 home games, and Nabokov and the Canucks' Roberto Luongo, two of the game's best goaltenders, represent the Coyotes' other tough opponents.

Stone 'Em Cold -- Good Goalies' Matchups

Columbus Blue Jackets (CGY -- Tue, LA -- Fri, NAS -- Sun): Both Pascal Leclaire and his backup, Fredrik Norrena, have been dominant at home, combining for a 1.97 goals-against average and .926 save percentage. With three home games, both warrant at least spot-start status, but Leclaire is stronger in weekly formats as the top man on the depth chart. … New Jersey Devils (@VAN -- Tue, @EDM -- Fri, @CGY -- Sun): Martin Brodeur is 10-0-1 with two shutouts in his past 11 games, posting a 1.43 GAA during that span. A three-game road trip to western Canada might seem like a challenging schedule, but when a goalie is in the midst of this hot a streak, he should be a-OK. … San Jose Sharks (ANA -- Tue, PHO -- Thu, ANA -- Sat): The aforementioned Evgeni Nabokov has a 1.39 GAA and .945 save percentage in his two starts against the Ducks this season, and those Ducks, after all, are a bottom-five offense to date. With three home games on Nabokov's schedule, he should continue to pad his already impressive win total.

The Sieve -- Bad Goalies' Matchups

Atlanta Thrashers (TB -- Tue, OTT -- Thu, MON -- Sat, @STL -- Sun): Both the Lightning and Senators rank among the league's 10 most potent offenses, and all of the Thrashers' four opponents rank in the upper half of the league in terms of goals per game. Kari Lehtonen and Johan Hedberg are alternating starts, so although each should get two turns this week, neither is an attractive fantasy option. … Minnesota Wild (NAS -- Tue, NYR -- Thu, DET -- Sat): The Predators' offense has woken up of late, averaging 3.00 goals per game since Nov. 1, and we all know how strong a team the Red Wings have. Niklas Backstrom continues to be a GAA and save percentage whiz, but this isn't a week he's likely to get many -- if any -- wins. … St. Louis Blues (DET -- Thu, @BOS -- Sat, ATL -- Sun): Manny Legace's knee is acting up and threatening his status, and games against the Red Wings and Thrashers, rosters that are loaded with scorers, don't make for an appealing fantasy week for possible stand-in Hannu Toivonen.

Lineup Tidbits

Ray Emery (hip): He was available to back up Martin Gerber on Thursday and is day-to-day, though with Gerber performing lights-out in the two games since Emery got hurt, Gerber might play more this week. Take a wait-and-see approach with Emery.

Martin Erat (neck): He was scheduled to miss this past Saturday's contest after sitting out Thursday, putting him in jeopardy of missing the team's two road games to begin this week. The safe play is to reserve Erat, who could be injured reserve-bound.

Marc-Andre Fleury (high ankle sprain): The bad news came down this past Wednesday; Fleury will miss six-to-eight weeks after his ankle injury was deemed more serious than originally anticipated. Dany Sabourin will take over the starting duties for now, but with Fleury possibly out until the All-Star break, a trade could be coming.

Alexander Frolov (groin): He has missed 11 games but was expected to return to action this past Saturday. In that event, he'd be fine to activate for the week.

Simon Gagne (concussion): He has resumed skating and is no longer reporting any symptoms, but when a guy has been battling a concussion for this long, it takes time for him to get back into game action. The smart play: Don't expect him back before Jan. 1.

Cristobal Huet (groin): Carey Price has started the past five games in his place, though Huet had an outside chance at returning this past Saturday. Even if he did, the schedule isn't an easy one for a goalie coming back from a long absence. Avoid Huet.

Roberto Luongo (ribs): The earliest he could return to action is Tuesday, so keep tabs on his status, as he's a must-start the moment he's cleared to play. With any indication he'll return even by Thursday, Luongo would be worth using, even for 2-3 games.

Tim Thomas (groin): It's a rough time to be a goalie. The Boston Herald reports that although Thomas is skating again, he's out at least another week (meaning he'll likely be out until after Christmas). Alex Auld is doing fine in his absence, so no need to rush.

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