The All-Star break is almost upon us, and this year Yahoo! Fantasy Hockey is expanding Week 16 to be two weeks long to make up for the five days without NHL games being played. Because of this, this week’s Looking Ahead will be treating Week 16 as such. That means instead of the normal seven days of hockey, we have nine days of hockey over a fourteen-day period, with a five-day break in between for the All Star festivities. So for those of you that are in weekly leagues, be prepared!
The biggest fantasy news this week has to be issues within the Colorado Avalanche organization. First of all, shocking news came out on Thursday that LW Tomas Fleischmann is going to be out for the rest of the season. After he was experiencing shortness of breath, he saw the team doctor with what was a cold. Unfortunately the diagnosis was much worse than that, as it was discovered that he a blood clot in his lung. He will have to be on blood thinners for at least a few months and will not be able to exert a lot of physical strain, (i.e. playing hockey). The Avs are already pretty low on depth due to injuries, but T.J. Galiardi could be in line to see an expanded role. However, Galiardi was recently sent down to the minors due to lack of performance (and subsequently recalled a day later), so it is still up in there who will be the one to eventually fill that left wing slot on the Duchene-Stewart line. Not even coach Sacco knows what he is going to do for the meantime.
This season the Avs have had to deal with a ton of injuries, but in seasons past when the words “Avalanche” and “injury” were put together, it was usually Peter Forsberg that first came to mind. Well, word out is that Foppa is feeling better than he has in years and is scheduled to practice with the Avs and is mulling a return. This could be a boost for the Avalanche if this works out, and it might be worth putting Forsberg on your fantasy radar.
Lastly, it is definitely worth mentioning that Evgeni Nabakov is (almost) officially back in the NHL. The Red Wings have signed him to a one-year contract to backup Jimmy Howard since backup Chris Osgood is currently injured and a return is far away. It doesn’t end there, though. Since Nabby played in Europe, he must first go through waivers before he can officially join the Wings’ roster. St. Louis knows all about this, as they have signed both Kyle Wellwood and Marek Svatos only to see them be swept up by other teams via waivers. I fully expect Nabby to get picked up by another team on Saturday – the question is who. Ian has a hunch that it’s going to be either San Jose or the Islanders. Keep a look out, as he might be worth a pickup if the right team snags him.
The Sidney Crosby injury watch: According to a report today, Crosby is progressing but still cannot partake in off-ice workouts symptom free, which isn’t good news for his owners. It’s looking like Sid the Kid won’t be back until at least after the All-Star break.
Here is the weekly breakdown for this upcoming week, January 24 – February 6:
5 GAMES: Boston, Calgary, Carolina, Colorado, Dallas, Edmonton, Florida, Los Angeles, Montreal, Nashville, New Jersey, New York Islanders, New York Rangers, Phoenix, Pittsburgh, St. Louis, Toronto, Vancouver, Washington
4 GAMES: Atlanta, Columbus, Detroit, Minnesota, Ottawa, Philadelphia, San Jose, Tampa Bay
3 GAMES: Anaheim, Buffalo, Chicago
Because of the extended amount of days that hockey is being played, this week we see a majority of the teams playing five games. Because of the All-Star break, this week is very unusual. Some teams are going into the week with busy schedules, but everyone will get a chance to rest before they have to play games again, so players should be refreshed by the time they get back to it on Tuesday, February 1.
Fantasy owners shouldn’t have a problem putting players into starting roster spots this week, as all but one day plays at least six games. Tuesday, February 1 (the first day back after the break) and Saturday, February 5 are going to be the busiest days of the week with 13 games and 11 games respectively, followed by Wednesday, January 26 with nine games scheduled. Tuesday, January 25 has eight games scheduled, while Monday, January 24; Wednesday, February 2; Thursday, February 3; and Friday, February 4 all have six games. The slow night of the week is Sunday, February 6 with only three games being played.
ON THE ROAD AGAIN
These teams are playing all of their games on the road so be aware that fatigue may play a factor in their play this week: only Florida (5 games)
Since it’s an unusual situation, I will also list the teams that play all games away from home before the All-Star break: Anaheim (1 game), Edmonton (2 games), Minnesota (1), Montreal (1), Nashville (2), New Jersey (1), San Jose (1), St. Louis (2), Toronto (2)
And after the All-Star break: Chicago (2 games), Los Angeles (3)
These teams are playing all of their games at home this week so they should be rested and practicing: only Tampa Bay (4 games)
Again, I’ll list the teams that play all games at home before the All-Star break: Atlanta (1 game), Calgary (2 games), Chicago (1), Colorado (2), Columbus (1), Detroit (1), Los Angeles (2), Ottawa (1), Philadelphia (1), Phoenix (2), Pittsburgh (1), Vancouver (2)
And after the break: none.
As you can see, every single team except for Tampa Bay is going to have to do some traveling during the Week 16 time period, just some more than others. Teams like Carolina, Dallas, Edmonton, Florida, Los Angeles, Minnesota, Nashville, New Jersey, NY Islanders, and San Jose are all going to be traveling extensively, with travel in between all or most games.
STAYING WELL RESTED
Teams that are not scheduled to play in any back-to-back games in Week 16 while also minimizing travel: Atlanta, Colorado, Philadelphia, Tampa Bay
Teams that have the best win streaks currently in the NHL:
Philadelphia – 4 wins
Minnesota – 3 games
San Jose – 3 games
Philadelphia is also a solid 8-2-0 in their last ten games while storming back into the league lead, overtaking Vancouver who are only 1-2-2 over their past five. Nashville has the same record over their past 10 games thanks mostly to their solid goaltending (Pekka Rinne) and defense. Dallas has lost only once since the Jamie Langenbrunner trade (5-1-0) and is 6-3-1 over its last 10 games, while divisional foe Phoenix is 7-2-1 over the same span. Surprising teams Minnesota and Anaheim are both 7-3-0 over the past 10.
Teams that have the longest current streaks in the NHL without collecting a point:
Edmonton – 4 losses
Los Angeles – 3 losses
San Jose really picked things up since last week, while division rival LA keeps losing. It seems as the long season gets further in, the young, inexperienced Oilers are fatiguing and losing some steam. Edmonton and LA are both now 2-8-0 in their past 10 games. Ottawa can’t get out of the hole and is only 1-6-3 over their past 10, while the injury-riddled St. Louis Blues are starting to show how worn they are and are only 3-5-2 over their last ten.
Now let’s take a look at what should be the most favorable matchups of the week:
Atlanta – Opponents: WAS, NYI, CAL, @CAR – After a nice little two day break, the Thrashers start the season versus a foe they have had success against this season on Wednesday. Atlanta is 3-1-1 versus the Caps so far this year, outscoring them 16-9, and most recently 8-1 in two straight wins against them. They then get to play the second-to-last place team, the Islanders, on the Tuesday after the break before playing a slumping Western Conference team in the Calgary Flames at home on Thursday. They then head to Carolina on Saturday, whom they’ve lost to both times they’ve met this season but both were close games that ended in overtime and/or shootout. With no games played back to back and all but the last game at home, the Thrashers should be well rested. Nik Antropov (three assists during a three-game point streak), Niclas Bergfors (3g-4a-7pts last eight games), Rich Peverley, and Bryan Little (3g-2a-5pts last six games) could all make for some good spot starts.
Pittsburgh – Opponents: NYI, @NYR, NYI, BUF, @WAS – This one is mostly dependant on Sidney Crosby returning. Hopefully Evgeni Malkin is also going to return to the lineup. Get ready to insert these guys immediately back into your lineup once you hear word that they are ready. With these two All-Stars back in the roster, they should be able to start kicking some butt again. Getting to play the Islanders before the All-Star break should help ease the pain of not yet having Crosby, however. In the meantime, Chris Kunitz (3g-1a-4pts last four games) and Jordan Staal (3g-3a-6pts last four games) have been doing all they can to keep Pittsburgh competitive.
…And the least favorable matchups of the week:
San Jose – Opponents: @LA, PHX, @ANA, @BOS – The Sharks have been playing better as of late, but despite a three game winning streak the Sharks are still only 4-6-0 over their past ten games. Week 16 could be tough for them. First they play LA on the Wednesday before the break, who they are 1-2-0 against in the three games versus them, but have mustered only one goal against them the past two times they have played them. They start off after the break with two quick games against two more division rivals, versus Phoenix on that Tuesday and then travel down south to Anaheim on Wednesday. The Sharks are 0-2-0 versus the Ducks so far this year, while Phoenix will be looking for revenge after a 4-2 loss at the Sharks’ hands. They cap off the week on Saturday playing their only game against the tough-defending Boston Bruins. Considering that the Sharks are also playing three of their four games on the three busier nights of the week, it might be wise to bench some of those in teal. Look for Antti Niemi to get a lot of work with Antero Niittymaki on the shelf with an injury.
New York Islanders – Opponents: @PIT, CAR, @ATL, @PIT, OTT – The All-Star break probably couldn’t come at a better time for the Islanders because they are going to have a tough schedule these next couple of weeks. The Islanders couldn’t find any luck on a current five-game home stand, going only 1-3-1, so maybe going on the road would benefit them. First up is a back-to-back before the All-star break on Tuesday and Wednesday in Pittsburgh and then back home to face Carolina. Perhaps they might be able to take advantage of a Crosby-less Pens squad while Carolina will be eager for a win to get back on track. After the rest, they immediately have another back-to-back, traveling to Atlanta, whom they are 0-2-0 against, on Tuesday and then to Pittsburgh for a rematch on Wednesday, this time possibly with Crosby back in the lineup. On Saturday, they cap the week against an Ottawa squad that is going to be desperate for a win and whom the Islanders are also 0-2-0 against this season. With Nathan Lawson injured, expect Rick DiPietro to get a lot of work.
Edmonton – Opponents: @PHX, @DAL, LA, @STL, @CBJ – As mentioned above, the young Oilers haven’t been playing well as of late, and a busy schedule against a lot of tough Western Conference foes probably isn’t what the doctor ordered. They play Phoenix and Dallas back-to-back with travel in between each, both of which have 10 and 15 more wins than them respectively. A very well timed All-Star break precedes a home game versus LA on Wednesday. They then have to travel for another road trip back-to-backs against St. Louis and Columbus on Friday and Saturday.
Chicago – Opponents: MIN, @CBJ, @VAN – Chicago makes the list again this week. After having a tough back-to-back schedule at the end of Week 15, they face a streaking Minnesota club two days later on Tuesday. After the All-Star break, they then face Columbus on the busiest night of the week before facing one of the top teams in their own building, not to mention one of the top teams in the league flat out.
As always, post any comments or questions below. I’d like to hear what you think. Please feel free to post about any teams/players that you feel should mentioned on here. Thanks all, and good luck next week.
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