Week 1 Fantasy Hockey Planner

Teams playing five games: Anaheim, Calgary, Carolina, Montreal, N.Y. Rangers, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, San Jose, Vancouver, Washington
Teams playing four games: Boston, Chicago, Colorado, Columbus, Dallas, Detroit, Edmonton, Florida, Los Angeles, Minnesota, New Jersey, Ottawa, Phoenix, St. Louis, Tampa Bay, Toronto
Teams playing three games: Atlanta, Buffalo, Nashville, N.Y. Islanders
Teams playing two games: None

Atlantic Division

Devils center Brian Rolston is playing out of position at winger, but first-year coach Jacques Lemaire also has Rolston lined up as the quarterback on the power play ... Devils center Rod Pelley has become the team's defensive specialist with the departure of John Madden (Chicago) ... Islanders rookie John Tavares, the No. 1 pick in the 2009 draft, has the ability to play either on the wing or at center. However, coach Scott Gordon says he prefers to keep Tavares at his natural position of center ... Sean Bergenheim is expected to occupy a left wing spot on the Islanders' top two lines for most of the season ... Islanders rookie defenseman Calvin De Haan, selected 12th in June's draft, has made such a strong impression in training camp that the team is considering keeping him around after he recovers from a groin strain ... The Islanders claimed center Rob Schremp off waivers from Edmonton. It's actually an interesting move. The former first-rounder hasn't really gotten a fair shot at the NHL and should get it with New York. He definitely has sleeper potential in larger formats ... Rangers center Brandon Dubinsky is going to get the first crack at centering the top line with Marian Gaborik ... The Rangers have decided to keep rookie blueliners Michael Del Zotto and Matt Gilroy on the roster to open the season. Both players have burgeoning offensive talents and are great long-term Fantasy keepers. However, they are mostly Fantasy sleepers in standard formats ... The Flyers are counting on Danny Briere and Claude Giroux to make up for the loss of Joffrey Lupul and Mike Knuble, who combined for 52 goals last season ... The Flyers have placed defenseman Randy Jones on waivers. Until he is back with a NHL club, he has little Fantasy appeal ... The Flyers have split up defensemen Chris Pronger and Kimmo Timonen in hopes of creating great depth on the blue line. Pronger will play with Matt Carle and Timonen with Braydon Coburn ... Thanks to a strong postseason in 2008-09, Penguins right wing Tyler Kennedy will open on a line with Evgeni Malkin. Kennedy is a right-handed shot with speed.
Injury report: Penguins center Sidney Crosby practiced on Tuesday for the first time since injuring his groin in a preseason game last Thursday. He is now expected to make Friday's opener against the Rangers. Consider him a safe start for Week 1 ... Devils left wing Patrik Elias (hip) has been placed on IR and is out until at least mid-October ... Islanders right wing Kyle Okposo, who suffered a concussion in the preseason, practiced with his teammates on Monday and is hopeful to play in the opener Saturday against the Penguins. He is a low-risk start for Week 1 ... Unfortunately, goalie Rick DiPietro (knee) will not be joining the Islanders any time soon. Slow in his recovery from knee surgery, DiPietro is not expected back until late October at the earliest. That means Martin Biron and Dwayne Roloson will hold down the fort in the meantime. If you have to start one in Fantasy, consider Biron ... Rangers left wing Sean Avery (knee) has ditched the crutches and expects to play in Friday's opener against Pittsburgh. He is a low-risk start for Week 1 ... Flyers backup goalie Brian Boucher is expected to miss the first three games of the season with a lower-body injury. Swedish import Johan Backlund will serve as Ray Emery's backup in the meantime.
Favorable matchup: Pittsburgh (NYR, @NYI, PHO, @PHI, @TOR). You have to love the opening slate of games for the defending Stanley Cup champions. Aside from the Rangers, the Islanders, Coyotes, Flyers and Maple Leafs all have questionable goalie situations to open the season. All four teams were in the bottom half in defense last season, and Pittsburgh averaged 3.25 or more goals against Philadelphia, Toronto and N.Y. Islanders in 2008-09.
Unfavorable matchup: N.Y. Islanders (PIT, @OTT, @BOS). The Islanders have the pleasure of possibly facing Marc-Andre Fleury, Pascal Leclaire and Tim Thomas to open the season. The Islanders averaged 1.83 or fewer goals against Pittsburgh and Boston last season.

Top 10 Players Added
Player % Change
1. John Tavares, C, Islanders 46
2. Ray Emery, G, Flyers 43
3. Semyon Varlamov, G, Capitals 40
4. Derick Brassard, C, Blue Jackets 34
5. Brenden Morrow, LW, Stars 33
6. Zach Bogosian, D, Thrashers 33
7. Jonas Gustavsson, G, Maple Leafs 33
8. Lubomir Visnovsky, D, Oilers 30
9. Paul Kariya, LW, Blues 30
10. Claude Giroux, RW, Flyers 29

Northeast Division

With Dany Sabourin being assigned to Providence (AHL), Tuukka Rask has won the backup goalie job to Tim Thomas in Boston ... Blake Wheeler and Michael Ryder are the top two candidates to primarily play at right wing on the top line now that Phil Kessel is in Toronto ... The Sabres have chosen to keep 19-year-old defenseman Tyler Myers on the roster. There is still the chance Myers, who is too young to play in the AHL, gets sent back to his junior club, but it seems the Sabres want to see how he handles the NHL for a few games. Forward Nathan Gerbe has also survived the final cuts ... The Sabres are counting on Chris Butler to contribute more offensively from the blue line in 2009-10 now that Jaroslav Spacek is with the Canadiens ... Speaking of Montreal, they have assigned forward Sergei Kostitsyn to Hamilton (AHL). He has been a grave disappointment since making a splash as a rookie in 2007-08 ... Canadiens defenseman Roman Hamrlik is expected to quarterback the second power-play unit ... While Montreal acquired Mike Cammalleri, Scott Gomez and Brian Gionta in the offseason to perhaps form one of the more intimidating offensive pairings in the NHL, they are only expected to play together late in games when coach Jacques Martin shortens his bench. Gomez and Gionta are expected to open on the top line with Max Pacioretty, while Cammalleri will be on the second line with Tomas Plekanec and Andrei Kostitsyn ... Ottawa has assigned veteran defenseman Christoph Schubert and Brian Lee to Binghamton of the AHL, clearing the way for center Peter Regin and 2008 first-round pick Erik Karlsson to make the roster. Ottawa is psyched about Karlsson, who has great puck-moving skills. Consider him a sleeper for deeper Fantasy formats ... The Senators have reported goalie Pascal Leclaire is fully recovered from ankle surgery that ended his 2008-09 season. Ottawa is hopeful Leclaire will play 50-60 games ... Milan Michalek is expected to take Dany Heatley's spot on the top line alongside Jason Spezza and Daniel Alfredsson ... Maple Leafs rookie Viktor Stalberg has made such a profound impact on the team, he could start Thursday's opener against the Canadiens on the top line with Matt Stajan and Jason Blake. Stalberg led Toronto with six goals and nine points in eight preseason contests.
Injury report: Bruins center David Krejci, who underwent hip surgery in June, wasn't expected to play in Thursday's opener against the Capitals with a 4-6 month recovery time. But he healed quickly and it appears he will be on the ice sooner rather than later. He is a low-risk start Week 1 ... Sabres right wing Drew Stafford is recovering from a mild concussion suffered late in the preseason. He has been on the ice and might play in Saturday's opener against Montreal, but is a risky start ... Maple Leafs defenseman Mike Komisarek missed practice Tuesday with a hamstring injury, but added he will be ready for Thursday's opener. He is a low-risk start for Week 1 ... Toronto left wing Alexei Ponikarovsky missed Sunday's preseason finale against Buffalo with a cut above his right eye. However, he is also expected to play Thursday ... Toronto defenseman Mike Van Ryn isn't so sure to face the Canadiens as he is battling a knee injury. He is an injury-risk start for Week 1.
Favorable matchup: Boston (WAS, CAR, ANA, NYI). The Bruins get to open the season with five home games -- four coming during Fantasy Week 1. The Bruins were the second best scoring team on home ice in 2008-09 -- averaging 3.73 goals per game.
Unfavorable matchup: Toronto (MON, @WAS, OTT, PIT). Toronto might have to do a lot of scoring to keep up with its opponents in Week 1 and hope to avoid an abysmal goal differential. Three of their opponents ranked in the top 15 for scoring in 2008-09, with Washington being third (3.27 GFA) and Pittsburgh finishing sixth (3.15).

Southeast Division

Michael's top sleepers for Week 1
Player Start %
1. Kris Letang, D, Penguins 72
2. Shawn Horcoff, C, Oilers 21
3. Brad Richards, C, Stars 52
4. Ray Emery, G, Flyers 53
5. Patrick Sharp, C, Blackhawks 58
6. Michael Ryder, RW, Bruins 68
7. Erik Cole, LW, Hurricanes 38
8. Braydon Coburn, D, Flyers 47
9. Milan Michalek, RW, Senators 56
10. Ryan Malone, LW, Lightning 25

The arrival of free agent Nik Antropov means center Todd White has been moved to the second line and Rich Peverley will either play on the wing or on the third line despite his success with Ilya Kovalchuk last season ... Carolina has assigned center Brandon Sutter to Albany (AHL) ... Defenseman Anton Babchuk left Carolina for a second time after signing with a Russian hockey club in late September ... Rod Brind'Amour remains Carolina's captain, but might play more on the third and fourth lines this season since Eric Staal and Matt Cullen will likely center the top two lines ... Erik Cole will play on the right side for Carolina despite being a left-handed shooter ... The Panthers made a surprising move Tuesday by signing 2009 first-round pick (14th) Dmitry Kulikov to an entry-level contract. The Russian defender impressed coach Peter DeBoer with his skating and offensive ability. Florida will now have nine regular-season contests to evaluate Kulikov and decide to keep him or send him back to his junior club ... The acquisition of Steve Reinprecht was key for the Panthers. He gives them a solid second-line center behind Stephen Weiss and allows Nathan Horton to move back to right wing after he struggled up the middle last season ... Since defenseman Kurtis Foster has a heavy shot, the Lightning have used him on their top power-play unit ... Don't be surprised if Lightning rookie defenseman Victor Hedman, the No. 2 pick in the 2009 draft, is among the team's top four defensemen by November. He has looked very good in the preseason and is instilling faith in the coaching staff ... Lightning free-agent acquisition Alex Tanguay is giddy over the fact he will get to play on a line with Vincent Lecavaliver ... There is still no definite word out of Washington whether Semyon Varlamov or Jose Theodore will be the unquestioned starter when the season begins. Theodore came to camp as the top goalie despite Varlamov's successful playoff run. However, folks believe head coach Bruce Boudreau is leaning toward Varlamov to start Thursday's opener against the Bruins. Either way, both goalies are No. 3 Fantasy options to begin the season until we get a read on the situation ... The Capitals have chosen to assign former first-rounders John Carlson and Karl Alzner to Hershey (AHL). The team has said they won't be hesitant to recall the talented blueliners.
Injury report: Thrashers goalie Kari Lehtonen (back) will begin the season on injured reserve. After cutting Manny Legace, Atlanta will turn to Johan Hedberg and Ondrej Pavelec to hold down the fort until Lehtonen is healthy. They haven't named a starter of the two, so consider both goalies unfavorable starts for Week 1 ... Thrashers defenseman Ron Hainsey (lower body) is expected to play in Saturday's opener despite missing the last preseason games. He is a low-risk start ... Hurricanes defenseman Joni Pitkanen, who had preseason knee surgery, has been practicing and could be in the lineup Friday against Philadelphia. However, he remains an injury-risk start for Week 1 ... Capitals left wing Tomas Fleischmann will miss the first few weeks of the season recovering from a blood clot in his leg.
Favorable matchup: Carolina (PHI, @BOS, TB, FLA, @TB). The Hurricanes could be in for some real high-scoring affairs in Week 1. They have to go toe-to-toe against two of the highest-scoring teams from last season -- Philadelphia and Boston -- and also get to face two teams -- Florida and Tampa Bay -- trying to find their identities. Both Florida and Tampa Bay also have suspect blue lines.
Unfavorable matchup: Florida (@CHI, CHI, @CAR, NJ). Florida has to make the trip overseas to face Chicago in an opening two-game series in Finland. They scored zero goals against Chicago last season and also end the first Fantasy week having to face one of the greatest goalies of all-time -- Martin Brodeur. They also have a tough divisional showdown on the road against Carolina.

Central Division

Blackhawks defenseman Brent Sopel is healthy after missing most of last season with an elbow injury ... Chicago still hasn't decided whether goalie Corey Crawford or Antti Niemi will be Cristobal Huet's backup to start the season. Although, many believe it will be Crawford ... Despite a strong preseason camp, the Blue Jackets sent 2009 first-round pick John Moore back to his junior hockey club. They instead traded for defenseman Anton Stralman to possibly infuse some offense on their blue line ... Derick Brassard, who missed most of last season with a shoulder injury, is expected to center the Blue Jackets' top line between Rick Nash and Kristian Huselius. He is also expected to be a point man on the power play ... Columbus goalie Mathieu Garon is expected to net 20-25 appearances backing up Steve Mason ... Rookie forward Nikita Filatov is going to act as a wild card for the Blue Jackets early in the season and see time on all four lines ... Detroit left winger Tomas Holmstrom, who has dealt with two straight injury-plagued seasons, recently acknowledged this could be his final season ... Red Wings left wing Johan Franzen has scored 74 goals in his last 126 games (including playoffs). Only Alex Ovechkin has scored more (90) during that stretch ... Detroit is counting on Jason Williams to man the right point on the second power-play unit now that Mikael Samuelsson is in Vancouver ... Nashville sent defensemen Alexander Sulzer and Jonathon Blum to Milwaukee of the AHL. Meaning, Cody Franson might have secured one of the final slots on the blue line despite breaking his nose in training camp. It also seems rookie center Colin Wilson will begin his pro career in the NHL despite being hampered by a groin injury. Both players could be sleepers for deeper formats ... Predators right wing Mike Santorelli has been the talk of training camp and could eventually end up as a top-six forward since he has good chemistry with David Legwand and Martin Erat ... Blues forward Andy McDonald will start the year as a left winger after spending the majority of his career as a center ... The Blues will likely open the season with a top line of McDonald, David Backes and David Perron, who gelled nicely in the playoffs last year. The second line will feature Paul Kariya, Keith Tkachuk and Brad Boyes, meaning that youngsters T.J. Oshie and Patrik Berglund might have to open the season as third liners.
Injury report: Red Wings forward Henrik Zetterberg has missed most of the preseason with a nagging groin injury and might not be ready for Friday's opener against St. Louis. He says he feels the best he has in a long time, but we still consider Zetterberg an injury-risk start for Week 1 ... Blackhawks right wing Kris Versteeg (upper body) has resumed skating and is being treated as a day-to-day candidate. However, he is questionable for Friday's opener against Florida and is an injury-risk start Week 1 ... Blackhawks forward Adam Burish is out at least six months following knee surgery in late September. He is likely lost for most of the regular season but could be back for the playoffs. Jack Skille is the top candidate to take Burish's spot on the fourth line ... Blue Jackets oft-injured forward Fredrik Modin is back on injured reserve with a knee injury ... Columbus defenseman Mike Commodore (groin) has been practicing and is expected to be ready for opening night ... Predators left wing Steve Sullivan has been hobbled by a groin injury the last few weeks, but has been on the ice for practice. Consider him a low-risk start for Week 1.
Favorable matchup: Chicago (FLA, @FLA, @DET, COL). The Blackhawks averaged 3.00 or more goals against each of their Week 1 opponents last season.
Unfavorable matchup: Columbus (MIN, @VAN, @SJ, @PHO). Columbus hits the road for three games in Week 1. They averaged just 2.73 goals per game away from home in 2008-09. It also doesn't help their cause they could face Niklas Backstrom, Roberto Luongo and Evgeni Nabokov in Week 1. They are three of the best goalies in the NHL.

Northwest Division

After trying to make a comeback, Flames forward Theo Fleury has chosen to retire from the NHL ... Calgary has sent prospect Mikael Backlund down to the AHL ... Flames defenseman Jay Bouwmeester has primarily been paired with Robyn Regehr during even-strength time, but is on the first power-play unit with Dion Phaneuf. Bouwmeester's slick passes are the perfect setup for Phaneuf's rocket slap shots ... Calgary has penciled backup goalie Curtis McElhinney for at least 15 games ... The Avalanche have decided to keep both Matt Duchene, the third pick in the 2009 draft, and Ryan O'Reilly, the 33rd pick, on the opening night roster. There is no guarantee both players will be around for the entire season, but Colorado is going to give them a look early on ... Paul Stastny has taken over as the Avalanche's top-line center with the retirement of Joe Sakic. Stastny is expected to center a line with Marek Svatos and Milan Hejduk ... Colorado's Wojtek Wolski has been moved back to left wing after spending most of last season at center following injuries to Sakic and Stastny ... The Oilers made a surprising move and sent 2008 first-round pick Jordan Eberle back to his junior hockey club. Edmonton said they wanted more grit on their lower lines ... Edmonton center Mike Comrie had a standout training camp. He led the Oilers with seven assists and 10 points in five preseason games ... Patrick O'Sullivan has been another solid presence in the preseason for Edmonton. He led the team with four goals and made a strong bid to play on the team's top line with Shawn Horcoff and Ales Hemsky. Unfortunately, Edmonton has been worried about Hemsky, who has struggled to adapt to coach Pat Quinn's system ... Edmonton goalie Nikolai Khabibulin isn't expected to make more than 60 appearances this season, meaning Jeff Drouin-Deslaurie could get at least 20 starts ... Wild general manager Chuck Fletcher has said defenseman Brent Burns, who had a season-ending concussion last season and offseason shoulder surgery, is the "key to the blue line." ... The Canucks chose to send center Cody Hodgson back to his junior hockey club. Hodgson had a good chance to make the roster before a back injury put him out of contention. Vancouver did decide to keep rookie Sergei Shirokov, who is an import from Russia, and he is expected to open the season as a top-six forward. He is a definite Fantasy sleeper.
Injury report: Avalanche defenseman Tom Preissing, who was acquired from Los Angeles in the Ryan Smyth trade, is out until late October following knee surgery ... The Wild got some great news when Mikko Koivu (leg), Andrew Brunette (legs), Pierre-Marc Bouchard (illness) and Petr Sykora (ankle) all played during Tuesday's preseason finale against the Flyers. They are ready to go for Week 1. Unfortunately, Derek Boogaard (concussion) and Benoit Pouliot (groin) will begin the season on injured reserve ... Canucks defenseman Mathieu Schneider and forward Pavol Demitra, who are both coming off shoulder surgeries, will begin the season on long-term injured reserve. They aren't expected back until late October at the earliest.
Favorable matchup: Edmonton (CGY, DAL, CGY, MON). Not only does Edmonton get to open the season with four home games, they face three teams that ranked in the bottom half for defense in 2008-09. The Oilers also averaged 3.17 or more goals per game against each of their Week 1 opponents last season.
Unfavorable matchup: Colorado (SJ, VAN, @NSH, @CHI). As the Avalanche begin the rebuilding process, the last thing they want to see are four Western Conference contenders to begin the season. All four teams were in the top half of the league for defense in 2008-09, and still boast some of the top goalies in the league.

Pacific Division

Expect to see Ducks forward Joffrey Lupul bounce around between the top line and third line in 2009-10. Since Anaheim has Corey Perry and Teemu Selanne on the right side of the ice, Anaheim's biggest concern is getting Lupul settled in as a left winger, so they can play him on the top two lines without any worries ... Defenseman Luca Sbisa has made the Ducks' blue line and Anaheim has high hopes for the 19-year-old after a strong training camp ... The Stars optioned 2006 first-round pick Ivan Vishnevskiy to Texas of the AHL. Although, rookie Jamie Benn did survive the final cuts and could end up being a player to watch in Fantasy ... Stars forward Brenden Morrow, who is returning from a torn ACL, said he felt great all summer and the knee is now 100 percent ... The Kings have been busy lately cutting a few of their top prospects. Los Angeles has sent goalie Jonathan Bernier and defenseman Thomas Hickey to Manchester of the AHL, while center Brayden Schenn and defenseman Colten Teubert are both back in junior hockey ... Expect Kings left wing Alexander Frolov, who is a free agent next summer, to be the rumor of trade talks this season. Hopefully, it doesn't prove to be too much of a distraction ... The Kings are anxious to showcase their top line of Anze Kopitar, Ryan Smyth and Justin Williams ... The Coyotes made an interesting move Tuesday by signing free-agent center Robert Lang. The 38-year-old center is coming off a serious injury (torn Achilles') suffered last season with Montreal and is no longer on a top contender. He will probably see a fair amount of scoring chances with Phoenix, but Fantasy owners might want to curve their expectations ... The Coyotes have opted to start forwards Kyle Turris and Viktor Tikhonov in the minors ... Peter Mueller has returned to center for the Coyotes after struggling as a winger in 2008-09. He shed 15 pounds in the offseason in prep for the move back to his natural position ... The Sharks assigned 2007 first-round pick Logan Couture (ninth) to Worcester of the AHL ... Manny Malhotra was a late training-camp signee by the Sharks. He is expected to provide depth at center ... With the addition of Dany Heatley, Patrick Marleau has been bumped from the team's top line. Heatley will play alongside Joe Thornton and Devin Setoguchi, while Marleau is on the second line with Joe Pavelski and Ryane Clowe.
Injury report: The Ducks got great news when Ryan Getzlaf, who had offseason hernia surgery, was able to make it into the lineup for some of the final preseason games. He looked as sharp as ever, totaling three points (one goal) in two games. Have no qualms about starting Getzlaf for Week 1 ... Stars right wing Jere Lehtinen is still battling hip and groin pain and is questionable for Saturday's opener against Nashville. He is not a recommended Fantasy start.
Favorable matchup: Dallas (NSH, @EDM, @CGY, @VAN). We really don't like any of the Pacific Division matchups in Week 1, but if we had to pick one team with a favorable matchup it's Dallas, since they do have winnable games against Nashville and Edmonton. They also might be able to get into a high-scoring affair with Calgary.
Unfavorable matchup: Anaheim (SJ, @MIN, @BOS, @PHI, @NYR). We know Anaheim can score and will likely be in the Western Conference playoff race, however, they get a brutal schedule to open the season. They face some of the best teams and goalies in the NHL. Not to mention, Anaheim didn't have a lot of success against their five Week 1 opponents in 2008-09. Philadelphia was the only team Anaheim averaged more than 2.25 goals against.

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