Before we get to Damian Lillards expectations for his Portland Trail Blazers this season, we need his reflection on his hopes for last years team, the one everyone thought was headed to lotteryville after losing LaMarcus Aldridge, Wesley Matthews, Nicolas Batum and Robin Lopez.Make the playoffs, Lillard said. Last year I said we were going to make the playoffs, and we did that.Ok, so maybe it wasnt as bold a proclamation as Lillard makes it out to be. On media day last year his first reaction when the playoffs topic was raised was, I dont see why not. Then he added qualifiers, as if wary of producing a headline for a story he wasnt sure he could write.Im not sitting here saying that, Were going to make the playoffs, Lillard said that day. I would like to, and I think thats what our goal is, but its not as far-fetched as some people would make it seem.At least he isnt going around bragging that he knew the Trail Blazers would be in the second round of the playoffs, which is where they found themselves against the Golden State Warriors after bouncing back from a 2-0 deficit in the opening series while the Clippers dealt with injuries to Chris Paul and Blake Griffin.He has earned the right for us to store his 2016-17 expectations in the reality room. Hes neither selling his team short through artificial modesty, nor ordering law enforcement overtime pay to block off the championship parade route.This year I want to get to the Western Conference finals and give ourselves a chance to get to the [NBA] Finals, Lillard said. I think its possible.It is, especially if the Trail Blazers wind up away from the Golden State Warriors side of the Western Conference playoff bracket. The Oklahoma City Thunder are weakened from the loss of Kevin Durant. The Clippers have yet to prove that they can get past the second round. The San Antonio Spurs are, if not necessarily worse, different without Tim Duncan. Besides, there havent been many points in time over the past 20 years when the Trail Blazers could say theyve won as many playoff series as the Spurs over the past two seasons.Unlike last year, the Blazers brought their core back, even if it was a very expensive way to stay the same. While other teams, even the heavily stocked Warriors, need a discovery period, the Trail Blazers already found out what they needed to know in last seasons playoffs.We learned we had some fight in us, Lillard said. We wanted it.He doesnt consider the Clippers series a fluke. He notes the Clippers were at full strength when the Trail Blazers beat them in Game 3, and Portland had the lead when Paul and Griffin went down in Game 4. And speaking of having the lead, did you know that after the Warriors controlled Game 1 of the second round, the Blazers held the lead for 137 minutes to the Warriors 61 minutes the rest of the series? They just couldnt close out games the way the Warriors did.We couldve easily laid down, even against Golden State, Lillard said. We couldve said: All right, we got out of the first round ... this [Warriors] team lost nine games. We could have laid down, but we didnt.The Trail Blazers could get credit for that last year. Not just credit, but hefty contracts for returners C.J. McCollum, Allen Crabbe,?Meyers Leonard?and?Moe Harkless, and an extension for coach Terry Stotts. All that cash means no more credit. Teams dont commit a third of a billion dollars in new contracts to be content winning five playoff games again.Two things bode well for the Blazers. First, their best player is getting better. Lillard is only 26, on the cusp of his prime, and in his fifth season he says the game is slowing down for him, making more sense, even getting easier. Second, the NBA is coming around to the Trail Blazers style of play. They used to be criticized for being perimeter-oriented, then were forced to grow even more so when Aldridge left for San Antonio. But the league as a whole shoots more 3-pointers now, and the Trail Blazers are better at it than most teams; their .370 three-point shooting percentage tied for fourth best in the NBA last season.Stotts is trying to present this season as a continuation of last season, rather than a separate entity. Retaining so much of the roster allows him to do so. His point guard sees it the same way.Lillard also sees this team playing deep into May. We never talk about vision as one of Lillards best attributes. Maybe thats about to change. Wholesale Chile Jerseys . 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Authentic Soccer Chile Jerseys . -- The goal posts lying flat on the field, Arizonas fans lingered on the field, congregating around the locker room entrance nearly 30 minutes after rushing out of the stands. The fantasy overlords decided that one Montreal Canadiens center suffering a knee injury that would keep him out two months just wasnt enough. So they decided to make it two.The news that Alex Galchenyuk, who was hurt in Sundays contest, and David Desharnais, who replaced Galchenyuk on the top line but was then injured Tuesday, will miss six-to-eight weeks each with knee injuries is bad news all around.Unless your name is Tomas Plekanec, that is. Suddenly the only body in a Habs uniform seemingly capable of taking faceoffs and making snappy decisions in the offensive zone is a hot commodity. Of course, fantasy owners of any stripe should consider scooping up Plekanec, who is available in 52 percent of ESPN leagues. After all, Alexander Radulov and Max Pacioretty are pretty darn good wingers to skate between.And its not as if this Plekanec guy is a flake. He has a 60-point season in recent history, and a 70-point season within the last decade on his resume. Hes hit the 20-goal threshold in seven of nine seasons when he played at least 70 games, but he butters the bread for his fantasy owners with assists. Even in what was a down season for Plekanec in 2015-16, he managed to be among the top 30 in the NHL for assists, with 40 helpers. Setting up Radulov and Pacioretty on even strength and on the power play is going to take him from fantasy afterthought to fantasy mainstay for the next two months.That said, dont expect Galchenyuk-like numbers out of him. Behind the top line, the Canadiens have zero depth that is capable of creating any kind of fear in opponents. Plekanec, Pacioretty and Radulov will face their opponents rockstar defenders at almost every turn. There is enough talent here that all three will get by for their fantasy owners, but they wont perform at the same level as they would if everyone was healthy and forcing the opposition to respect more than one line -- obviously.Downgrade your outlook for Radulov and Pacioretty for the next stretch, though both are still no-brainers for your lineup. Meanwhile, Plekanec could be argued for universal ownership until February.Fantasy Forecaster: Dec. 12-18The Winnipeg Jets, Philadelphia Flyers, Edmonton Oilers and Calgary Flames all have a lowly two-game schedule for next week. If youve been relying on Connor Hellebuyck, Steve Mason, Cam Talbot or Chad Johnson in head-to-head leagues with goaltender thresholds to meet, you may have to find a spot start somewhere.Of those two-game teams, dont shy away from the Flyers offense too much. Their two games are against the 25th- and 30th-ranked defenses for goals allowed per game.The Arizona Coyotes, Boston Bruins, Chicago Blackhawks, Los Angeles Kings, New York Islanders, New York Rangers, Pittsburgh Penguins and San Jose Sharks all get the bonus of an extra game, for a four-game week. Plan accordingly with your offensive decisions.The remaining NHL teams all have a three-game week on tap.Download the forecaster chart PDF hereFor those new to the Forecaster chart, here are some explanations: O (offense) and D (defense) matchup ratings are based upon a scale from 1 (poor matchup) to 10 (excellent matchup) and are calculated using a formula that evaluates the teams season-to-date statistics, their performance in home/road games depending on where the game is to be played, as well as their opponents numbers in those categories. The Ratings column lists the cumulative rating from 1-10 of that weeks offensive (O) and defensive (D) matchups.Team notesPittsburgh Penguins: Ian Cole and Justin Schultz are kicking way more butt than third-pairing defense partners should. For his part, Schultz has a five-game point streak rolling, with four goals and four assists in that span. Cole has seven points in the past five contests. Is this a product of a hot streak? A better selection for their offensive opportunities? The pair finally taking advantage of the weaker on-ice opponents they face most of the time? Its probably a combination of everything. For now, take advantage of it. Most fantasy owners have a fifth or sixth defenseman who is interchangeable with whatever looks good on the waiver wire. There is no reason not to ride this hot streak, especially heading into a four-gamme week that includes games against the 28th- and 29th-ranked defenses for goals allowed per game.dddddddddddd It might not be obvious for fantasy hockey newcomers, so it bears mentioning that Schultz is the primary target here. He came into the league with much fanfare for his offensive abilities, and was once expected to be a long-term No. 1 fantasy defenseman. He, therefore, has more pedigree to keep his roll going.If you need a forward option to take advantage of the Penguins good schedule, check to see if you are too late to get on the Conor Sheary train. As Sidney Crosbys linemate with some consistency, Sheary has six points in his past five games. As a Hail Mary for deeper leagues, Carl Hagelin has not yet been bumped from the second line by Chris Kunitzs return, and offers potential upside for a roll of the dice.Columbus Blue Jackets: Power-play specialist, Sam Gagner be thy name. The former first-round pick who almost found himself out of a job in the NHL last season has found a niche with the Blue Jackets. Maybe its because the team and himself are both plucky on some level. Gagner tagged on two more power-play points on Monday (and two more at even strength), giving him seven points on the man advantage this season (and 17 total). If you told us before the season that Gagner would have more points (in fewer games) than Joe Thornton, Filip Forsberg or Max Domi, we might have asked you what you were on. But here we are, with Gagner as an arguable fantasy asset. You might look at the ice time and wonder if he can keep up the pace, but dont forget that a large chunk of that minimal ice time is coming on the man advantage on a consistent basis. The Blue Jackets take a road swing through western Canada next week, where goals are aplenty on most nights.Goalie notesThose looking for goaltending help next week need only know one name: Scott Darling. The Hawks have a busy four-game week and Corey Crawford is still sidelined. Hell likely have two-way wizard Jonathan Toews back in front of him next week, too.Of course, theres still the two-thirds of ESPN leagues where Steve Mason remains available for some reason. Even when he coughed up five goals to Connor McDavid & Co. on Thursday, his offense backed him for the win -- his sixth straight.Player notesT.J. Oshie returned to the Washington Capitals lineup on Wednesday, bolstering the scoring lines back to a full load of talent. Justin Williams took a turn on the top line with Alex Ovechkin and Evgeny Kuznetsov in the resulting shuffle. The trio combined on a pair of first-period goals. Weve been waiting for Williams and, particularly, Kuznetsov to get things going this season. Maybe this is the catalyst.For what its worth, James Neal returned from injury to the third line for the Nashville Predators this week. Of course, Neal is still a mainstay on the top power-play unit and shouldnt be downgraded much.Drake Caggiula is the latest on our big board that tracks who Connor McDavid is playing with. The skilled, shifty winger, who won an NCAA championship last season before joining the Oilers, has been lining up with McDavid and Milan Lucic for the past two games, in which hes earned three assists.Jonathan Marchessaults continued absence is a boon to the slow start by Reilly Smith. Until Marchessault returns, Smith is playing with Aleksander Barkov and Jaromir Jagr on the top line. Before Matt Murray almost stonewalled the Panthers on Thursday, Smith had assists in two straight on the top line.Watch the Jets lines closely following Thursdays return by Mark Scheifele. The Jets opted to leave Bryan Little as the pivot for young snipers Nikolaj Ehlers and Patrik Laine. This role going forward would significantly increase our interest in Little as an everyday fantasy player.Ever on the fantasy radar for his sniping abilities, Teemu Pulkkinen was called up by the Minnesota Wild on Wednesday, but ended up sitting in the press box. He hasnt been unproductive in the AHL, however, collecting 15 points in 16 games. If the Wild ever give him a chance on a scoring line due to injuries, be ready. Jerseys Wholesale Cheap NFL Gear White NFL Jerseys Cheap Cheap Jerseys Free Shipping Cheap NFL Jerseys Wholesale Wholesale Stitched Jerseys Wholesale NFL Camo Jerseys ' ' '