Hot List: Crosby's back and better than ever

Monday, 03.11.2013 / 10:00 AM
John Kreiser  - Columnist

After Sidney Crosby missed much of the last two seasons battling concussion-related problems, it was fair to ask if he would ever be as good as he was before the injuries.

The answer: He's not -- he's even better.

Crosby led the Pittsburgh Penguins to a 4-0-0 record last week by piling up 11 points (two goals, nine assists) -- including a five-assist night on Sunday as the Penguins routed the New York Islanders, 6-1. The big week extended his scoring streak to eight games, during which he's piled up 20 points.

Crosby is threatening a runaway in the League scoring race. His 45 points are eight more than runner-up Steven Stamkos and put him on pace to finish this season's 48-game schedule with 80 points. Projected over an 82-game schedule, he'd have more than 140 -- a level no one has reached since Mario Lemieux and Jaromir Jagr in the mid-1990s.

Five up -- Five other players who had a good week:

Sergei Bobrovsky -- The Columbus Blue Jackets are riding a five-game winning streak, and Bobrovsky is a big reason why. The third-year goaltender went 4-0-0 last week, allowing just two goals on 109 shots.

Ryan Getzlaf -- Anaheim's captain had a good week on and off the ice. He put up nine points and was plus-7 in four games as the surprising Ducks improved to 18-3-3 -- and he signed an eight-year, $66 million contract that should keep him in Orange County for the rest of his career.

Chris Kunitz -- Crosby isn't the only Penguin on a roll. Kunitz had his own five-point night in the victory against the Islanders, scoring three times and adding two assists. He had six goals and nine points as the Penguins won four times.

Matt Duchene -- The speedy center led Colorado to back-to-back weekend victories against Chicago and San Jose, scoring a goal and adding three assists against the Blackhawks, then scoring twice -- including the winner in the final second of overtime -- to beat the Sharks.

Slava Voynov -- The young Los Angeles defenseman has turned into an offensive weapon. He scored a goal in Thursday's come-from-behind win against St. Louis and turned in a pair of three-assist performances in victories against Nashville and Calgary.

Five down -- Five players who didn't:

Olli Jokinen -- The 34-year-old center isn't providing the kind of offense the Winnipeg Jets expected when they signed him last summer. Jokinen has gone six games without a point despite averaging nearly 19 minutes of ice time during that stretch.

Danny Briere -- Is the 35-year-old starting to show his age? He's gone without a point in Philadelphia's last four games, hasn't scored a goal in three weeks and has only five goals and 13 points in 22 games.

Jaroslav Halak -- Despite playing in front of a group of skaters that gives up fewer shots than any other team in the NHL, Halak surrendered eight goals in losses to Los Angeles and Anaheim. His goals-against average is 2.38 -- but his save percentage is down to .881.

Jacob Markstrom -- The 6-foot-6 rookie is expected to be Florida's goaltender of the future, but the present has been tougher than expected. Markstrom allowed two goals without making a save before being lifted in Washington and allowed 10 goals on 66 shots while going 0-2-1 in his past three games.

Daniel Cleary -- Cleary has been a solid mid-level point producer for Detroit, until this season. He's gone seven games without a point and has hit the scoresheet in just four of his 26 appearances this season.

Thee week ahead -- It's Boston's turn to play five games in a week, including weekend meetings with Washington and Pittsburgh. Nashville plays four times on the road; Anaheim, Detroit and the New York Rangers play all three of theirs away from home. The Edmonton Oilers return to Rexall Place on Friday to host Detroit -- it's their first home game in 17 days after a nine-game trip.

Games to watch:

Boston at Pittsburgh (March 12; NBCSN/TSN/RDS) -- The Penguins will face a stiff challenge as they try to extend their winning streak to six games.

Philadelphia at New Jersey (March 13; NBCSN/TSN2) -- Rivalry Night matches the teams at the opposite ends of the New Jersey Turnpike -- both of whom have struggled in recent weeks -- in the opener of a home-and-home series.

Washington at Carolina (March 14; NHLN-US) -- The Capitals have been one of the season's biggest disappointments, while their Southeast Division rivals are among the biggest surprises.

New Jersey at Philadelphia (March 15; NHLN-US/RDS) -- Don't be surprised if there are a few hard feelings left over from their meeting in Newark a couple of days earlier.

New York Rangers at Pittsburgh (March 16; NHLN-US) -- The Rangers need a win if they're going to catch the Penguins in the Atlantic Division. This is the first game of a tripleheader for U.S. viewers on the NHL Network; they can also see Montreal at New Jersey and Detroit at Vancouver (both of which are available in Canada on CBC and RDS).

Boston at Pittsburgh (March 17; NBC/RDS/NHLN-Canada) -- NBC will be on hand in Pittsburgh as the Bruins come back to town for the second time in less than a week.

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