Commentary

Fantasy Forecaster: Holiday schedule

Updated: December 23, 2007, 1:11 PM ET
By Tristan H. Cockcroft | ESPN.com

On Tap

The NHL closes down Monday-Tuesday for the Christmas holiday, with no games scheduled, shortening Week 13 to five days. In a short week, look more to quality than quantity of matchups, as none of the 30 teams plays more than three games.

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

No team plays as many as four games this week.

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

No team plays three or more home games this week,

OK, Good Enough -- Teams with 3 games, 2 home

Atlanta Thrashers (@CLM -- Wed, FLA -- Thu, BOS -- Sat)
Columbus Blue Jackets (ATL -- Wed, @NAS -- Thu, CAR -- Sat)
Florida Panthers (@ATL -- Thu, MON -- Fri, PHI -- Sun)
Nashville Predators (@CHI -- Wed, CLM -- Thu, SJ -- Sat)
New York Islanders (TOR -- Wed, @OTT -- Thu, NJ -- Sat)
New York Rangers (CAR -- Wed, @TOR -- Sat, MON -- Sun)
Ottawa Senators (@BUF -- Wed, NYI -- Thu, WAS -- Sat)
St. Louis Blues (DET -- Wed, SJ -- Fri, @DAL -- Sat)
Tampa Bay Lightning (@WAS -- Wed, MON -- Thu, PHI -- Sat)

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

Boston Bruins (@CAR -- Fri, @ATL -- Sat)
Calgary Flames (@VAN -- Thu, ANA -- Sat)
Edmonton Oilers (ANA -- Thu, @MIN -- Sat)
New Jersey Devils (BUF -- Fri, @NYI -- Sat)

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

Anaheim Ducks (@EDM -- Thu, @CGY -- Sat, @VAN -- Sun)
Detroit Red Wings (@STL -- Wed, @COL -- Thu, @PHO -- Sat)
Montreal Canadiens (@TB -- Thu, @FLA -- Fri, @NYR -- Sun)
San Jose Sharks (@LA -- Wed, @STL -- Fri, @NAS -- Sat)

The Matchups

Lightin' the Lamp -- Good Scorers' Matchups

Boston Bruins (@CAR -- Fri, @ATL -- Sat): The Hurricanes' Cam Ward has lost four of six starts in December -- in regulation, mind you -- and the Thrashers' Kari Lehtonen has a 3.21 goals-against average in 12 games since his return from a groin injury. It's rare that a two-road-game schedule is a favorable one for fantasy, but I'll call it that, especially for road warriors Zdeno Chara (4 goals, 10 assists in 19 games), Phil Kessel (5 G, 5 A in 19) and Chuck Kobasew (10 G, 2 A in 12). … Columbus Blue Jackets (ATL -- Wed, @NAS -- Thu, CAR -- Sat): Again, that's Lehtonen and Ward on a team's schedule, but both of those are home games for the Blue Jackets, even better matchups! Plus, the Predators' goalie combo of Dan Ellis and Chris Mason has combined to average 3.45 goals allowed in the past 11 contests. Among Columbus' hot hands to think about in deeper leagues: Kris Beech (3 G, 4 A in 9 games in December), Curtis Glencross (3 G, 3 A in 9) and Nikolai Zherdev (6 G, 2 A in 9). … Philadelphia Flyers (TOR -- Thu, @TB -- Sat, @FLA -- Sun): Maybe it feels as though the Maple Leafs' Vesa Toskala is red hot, but he's 4-5-1 with a 2.61 GAA in his past 10 road starts, pretty ordinary numbers. The Lightning, meanwhile, are a mess in net, going so far as to promote rookie Karri Ramo this past Wednesday. Keep playing Joffrey Lupul (7 G, 4 A in 9 games in December), Mike Richards (2 G, 7 A in 9) and R.J. Umberger (3 G, 5 A in 9).

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

Anaheim Ducks (@EDM -- Thu, @CGY -- Sat, @VAN -- Sun): The Ducks rank an underwhelming 28th offensively this season (2.32 goals per game), and those weekend contests represent battles against the Flames' Miikka Kiprusoff, who has been virtually untouchable since Dec. 4, and the Canucks' Roberto Luongo, untouchable himself since Nov. 3. Avoid Francois Beauchemin (0 G, 6 A in 17 road games), Todd Bertuzzi (1 G, 2 A in 12) and Chris Kunitz (3 A in his past 6 games). … Calgary Flames (@VAN -- Thu, ANA -- Sat): That's a road game against Luongo, again, and the other is a home game, but against the Ducks' Jean-Sebastien Giguere, who already won in Calgary, 4-1, on Nov. 29. Mike Keenan has this offense flying high, but steer clear of the Flames' less-dominating fantasy options, like Matthew Lombardi (1 G, 2 A in 10 games in December) and Alex Tanguay (2 G, 5 A in 10). … St. Louis Blues (DET -- Wed, SJ -- Fri, @DAL -- Sat): The Red Wings, Sharks and Stars each boast stellar goaltenders, and combined, they've allowed 2.13 goals per game in the month of December. Don't expect much from Andy McDonald (2 G, 4 A in 8 games in December), David Perron (1 G, 2 A in 6) or Keith Tkachuk (1 G, 4 A in 8).

Stone 'Em Cold -- Good Goalies' Matchups

Dallas Stars (MIN -- Wed, STL -- Sat): Marty Turco has eight wins in his past 11 starts, and he has a ridiculous 105-32-13 record and 2.08 GAA in 173 career games at home. Incidentally, since 2003-04, he's 6-1-1 with a 1.67 GAA in nine games against the Wild, so don't fret about the short week. … Nashville Predators (@CHI -- Wed, CLM -- Thu, SJ -- Sat): Both Dan Ellis and Chris Mason are struggling recently, although Mason is getting a little closer to No. 2-worthy, fantasy speaking, of course. He has a 6-5-2 record and 2.67 GAA in his past 15 starts, and that's not so bad a track record when he's scheduled to face two bottom-half offenses (Columbus, San Jose). … Ottawa Senators (@BUF -- Wed, NYI -- Thu, WAS -- Sat): The dominant Martin Gerber is apparently back, as he has three wins and a 1.85 GAA in five games since stepping in for banged-up Ray Emery. Ride that hot streak, especially with one of the games coming against the game's 29th-ranked offense (Islanders, 2.27 goals per game).

The Sieve -- Bad Goalies' Matchups

Boston Bruins (@CAR -- Fri, @ATL -- Sat): Tim Thomas' groin has healed, but the problem here is that's a two-game schedule, with both contests coming on the road. He's 4-5-1 with a 2.64 GAA in 11 road games this season, ordinary numbers and avoidable rates facing two of the league's more potent offenses in Carolina and Atlanta. … New York Islanders (TOR -- Wed, @OTT -- Thu, NJ -- Sat): This one's a bit more about recent history; Rick DiPietro already has a shootout win in his only game all year against the Senators, and he's 3-0 with a 1.30 GAA in three starts against the Devils. … St. Louis Blues (DET -- Wed, SJ -- Fri, @DAL -- Sat): The Blues' schedule is as unfavorable defensively as it is offensively, and Manny Legace has two losses in three games since returning from a knee injury besides. A goalie potentially at less than peak form isn't a great fantasy option battling the league's No. 1 (Red Wings, 3.43 goals per game) and No. 12 (Stars, 2.83) offenses.

Lineup Tidbits

Ray Emery (hip): He apparently is healthy enough to serve in a backup capacity, but as noted above, Martin Gerber is in the midst of too hot a streak to sit. Emery could sneak in a start, perhaps in Thursday's game, but it's not worth using him this week.

Simon Gagne (concussion): Finally -- finally -- he's back to participating fully in practice, though that hardly means a return to the lineup is imminent. He likely will need to go symptom-free for a few more days before playing, so be patient another week.

Joe Sakic (groin): Groin injuries simply take time; Sakic has missed 11 consecutive games, and he experienced more discomfort after a Dec. 15 skating session. The setback puts him in the long shot category to play this week.

Ryan Smyth (neck): He has been sidelined since this past Wednesday with a stiff neck and was described as "extremely doubtful" for Sunday's contest. With his status in question and the Avalanche playing just two games this week, it's safer to reserve him.

Justin Williams (knee): He's out for the season after suffering a torn anterior cruciate in his left knee this past Thursday. He'll need four to six months' recovery time after surgery, currently scheduled for sometime this week.

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