|Ilya Kovalchuk has been hot before during his career, but he's never been as hot as in the past week.|
Kovalchuk put up back-to-back three-goal games in Ottawa and Tampa Bay Thursday and Saturday. His three goals in the third period in Ottawa weren’t enough to overcome a 5-0 deficit, but the three he got against the Lightning helped the Thrashers rally from a 4-1 deficit to a 6-4 victory.
Kovalchuk didn’t get a third straight hat trick, but he did get the first goal in Atlanta’s 2-1 overtime victory over Washington Tuesday night. That gives him seven in his last three games and 13 for the season – tops in the NHL. He’s on pace for his second 50-goal season and is a big reason the Thrashers have rebounded after an 0-6-0 start that cost coach Bob Hartley his job.
Five up – Five players who’ve been hot:
Henrik Lundqvist – Rangers fans haven’t seen this kind of goaltending since, well – maybe back in Davey Kerr’s day before World War II. Lundqvist is the only goaltender to play every second of his team’s games this season, and he had a scoreless streak of 159:34 before the Islanders connected three times in the third period of Tuesday’s 3-2 victory. The Rangers are a .500 team despite averaging less than two goals a game – solely because of Lundqvist.
Pascal Leclaire – The No. 8 overall pick in the 2001 Draft came into the season with three career shutouts. He needed just a month to surpass that total. Sunday’s 3-0 win over St. Louis was Leclaire’s fifth of the season, and his 1.12 goals-against average is easily the best in the League. He’s allowed just two goals in his last four games and just 10 in nine games overall.
Cory Stillman – One reason the Carolina Hurricanes look like the 2006 Cup winners again is Stillman, who gives them a lot of offensive depth up front. He has 13 points in his last eight games, including a natural hat trick in Monday’s victory over Washington.
Chuck Kobasew – Much has been expected of Kobasew, and it looks like he’s finally starting to deliver. He had all three of Boston’s goals in a home-and-home series with Ottawa last weekend, and his six goals are already one more than he scored all last season.
Dan Ellis – It’s going to be hard for Nashville coach Barry Trotz to deny Ellis more playing time if he continues to win. Ellis went 2-0-0 and allowed just one goal last week in back-to-back wins at Vancouver and Edmonton, and is 4-0-0 on a team that’s 7-7-0.
Five down – Five players who’ve been struggling:
Owen Nolan – Calgary signed Nolan to add some offense and veteran leadership, but the offense has yet to show up. Nolan has no goals and just two assists in Calgary’s first 15 games, and hasn’t had a point in the last five.
Patrick Marleau – San Jose’s captain scored on opening night, but has done little since then. He has just three goals and five points in 14 games, and his goal against Los Angeles last Friday is his only point in the Sharks’ last six games.
Patrik Elias – New Jersey’s former captain is struggling with new coach Brent Sutter’s system and has been dropped back to the third line on some nights. He has just two goals – both scored on Oct. 13 – and just five assists. Elias has only two points, both assists, in the Devils’ last eight games.
Andy Hilbert – The New York Islanders don’t expect a ton of offense from Hilbert, but he gets too much quality ice time to have no points in New York’s 12 games. Hilbert has played anywhere from 11:30 to 16:59 in every game but hasn’t managed as much as an assist and is minus-7.
Injuries and notes – The Minnesota Wild are still struggling with groin injuries. Their two best forwards, Marian Gaborik and Pavol Demitra, both are out again with strained groins after returning to the lineup for a couple of games. The Wild did get their starting goaltender, Niklas Backstrom, back last week after his groin injury healed. … Tampa Bay took a big hit on the back line when it was revealed that its best defenseman, Dan Boyle, will need wrist surgery. He played four games after coming back from a wrist operation following a freak accident in training camp, but will need another operation and is out indefinitely. … Vancouver has lost
The week ahead – There are lots of intra-division matchups for the next couple of weeks – several teams won’t see a non-divisional opponent until after Thanksgiving. … Anaheim hosts the last three games of a four-game homestand, as does Chicago. … Columbus plays three games in four nights on the road within the Central Division beginning Wednesday, then comes home Monday. … Dallas plays the last three games of a four-game swing through the rest of the Pacific Division. The Stars started the trip with a 5-0 win in Anaheim. … Edmonton began a four-game trip through its Northwest Division rivals with a loss in Minnesota on Monday; the Oilers visit their other three division rivals over the next eight days. … Los Angeles is enjoying a Saturday-to-Saturday break in the schedule. The Kings don’t leave Southern California until Nov. 19. … Minnesota, which beat Edmonton on Monday, is off until Sunday, when the Wild begin a four-game tour of the Northwest Division. … Montreal starts a four-game journey through the Northeast Division in Boston on Thursday. … Nashville finishes its five-game trip on Wednesday in Detroit, then plays Columbus home and home. … The Islanders end a seven-game, 23-day homestand Saturday night against New Jersey, then visit their four Atlantic Division rivals beginning Monday in Philadelphia. … The Rangers, who finished a six-game homestand Monday, start a four-game trip Saturday in Toronto. … Ottawa is in a stretch of six-in-seven at home and started a four-game homestand Tuesday night against Toronto. … Philadelphia is will finish an eight-game trip this week in Pittsburgh and New Jersey before beginning a four-game homestand Saturday night. … Toronto finishes a four-game trip this week and is home Saturday against the Rangers. … Vancouver starts a four-game, Northwest Division homestand Friday night against Colorado. … Washington is playing five of six on the road, with only a home game Saturday against Tamps Bay breaking up the trip.