|Goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov has been the shot in the arm the Coyotes needed to get over the .500 mark.
Bryzgalov has been almost flawless since joining the Coyotes via waivers. He shut out Los Angeles in his first game Nov. 17, only hours after joining his new team, and has won all four of his starts, allowing only six goals. His goaltending has helped the surprising Coyotes climb above the .500 mark at 11-10-0.
Bryzgalov got a warm reception when he returned to Anaheim last Friday, though the Honda Center crowd might not have felt as kindly disposed toward him after Bryzgalov did something he’d never done as a Duck — win a shootout. He doesn’t have the supporting cast he had in Anaheim, but Bryzgalov is more than happy to be the top dog in the desert.
Five up -- Five players who’ve been hot:
Daniel Briere -- Nearly two months into the season, Briere has been everything the Philadelphia Flyers could have wanted when they signed him as a free agent during the summer. Briere is 5-4-9 with two game-winning goals in his last four games and 12-17-29 in 23 games this season for a resurgent team.
Mike Modano -- With the pressure of chasing the points record for U.S.-born players off his back, the 37-year-old center has been playing like someone 10 years younger. Modano has six goals and 12 points in his last 12 games, including a pair of goals in Monday night’s overtime win on Long Island.
Glen Murray -- After scoring just one goal in the season’s first six weeks, Murray has found his scoring touch. He scored twice in Boston’s 6-3 victory in Philadelphia Monday and has five goals and seven points in his last five games after going 1-6-7 in his first 17.
Mike Smith -- Smith is giving Dallas coach Dave Tippett something to think about when it comes to goaltending. He went 3-0-0 and allowed just two goals to start the Stars on their six-game winning streak.
Martin Brodeur -- It looks like Brodeur’s early-season struggles may be over. Last season’s Vezina Trophy winner won all three of his starts last week to complete a 4-0-0 road trip for New Jersey, and allowed just three goals while posting his first shutout of the season and 93rd of his career.
Five down -- Five players who’ve been struggling:
Bill Guerin --The New York Islanders have struggled to score, and one reason is that Guerin has gone cold. He had five goals and 11 points after the Isles’ first 10 games, but hasn’t had a point since getting a goal against Tampa Bay on Nov. 1.
Jason Blake -- After scoring 40 goals with the Islanders last season, Blake’s scoring touch has disappeared in his first season with Toronto. The speedy winger hasn’t scored a goal in 17 games and has just two in Toronto’s first 25 contests.
Joe Thornton -- The 2005-06 scoring champion is averaging just more than a point a game, but his recent slump has derailed San Jose’s offense. Thornton is scoreless in his last two games and has just two assists in his last four.
Lee Stempniak -- Stempniak came out of nowhere to score 27 goals for St. Louis last season. But his scoring touch has vanished: The third-year forward hasn’t scored a goal since Oct. 10, and is 1-10-11 in 21 games.
Ray Emery -- After leading Ottawa to the Stanley Cup Final last spring, little has gone right for Emery, who had off-season wrist surgery and has struggled this season while Martin Gerber has taken most of the playing time. He’s lost his last three decisions (one in relief of Gerber) and allowed four goals in three of his first four starts.
Injuries and notes -- There are two pieces of good news for Chicago Blackhawks fans this week: Their team is home after a six-game road trip and Martin Havlat should be back in the lineup when the Hawks face Tampa Bay on Wednesday. Havlat hasn’t played since injuring his shoulder on Opening Night. Having him back should be a boost for a team that has played better than expected this season. … The Blackhawks also hope to have Patrick Sharp back for the Tampa Bay game after he missed two contests with the flu, and might get forward Jason Williams back this week; he’s missed four games with a groin strain.
Other players expected back this week include New Jersey forward Patrik Elias, who’s missed two games with the flu; Minnesota forward Pavol Demitra, who’s had two bouts of groin problems; Islanders forward Shawn Bates, who hasn’t played since last season due to a groin injury, and Ottawa captain Daniel Alfredsson, who tweaked his groin on Thanksgiving. Atlanta goaltender Kari Lehtonen, who’s been idled since early-October with a groin injury, is in rehab with the Thrashers’ AHL affiliate in Chicago and could be back in the NHL within the week. Carolina removed forward Scott Walker from the injured list; he’s been out for nearly a month with torn ligaments in his chest, and Philadelphia defenseman Derian Hatcher, who’s missed the entire season with a knee injury, should be back this week.
Returnees -- Washington forward Alexander Semin, who’s been bothered by ankle problems all season, was back in the lineup Monday. Toronto got center Chad Kilger back Tuesday after he missed 10 days with a knee injury. Kings left wing Raitis Ivanans returned Saturday after missing seven games with facial injuries.
Out -- Tampa Bay forward Ryan Craig will miss at least a month with a partially torn knee ligament. Ottawa’s Patrick Eaves is out with a separated shoulder. Buffalo defenseman Henrik Tallinder will miss at least a week after injuring his right shoulder Saturday. Boston’s Andrew Alberts is out with a concussion, as are teammate Milan Lucic, Edmonton defenseman Dick Tarnstrom and Columbus defenseman Duvie Westcott. Dallas will be without forward Jere Lehtinen (abdominal injury) indefinitely and lost another forward, Antti Miettinen, to a groin strain last Friday. Kings center Alexander Frolov hasn’t played since last Wednesday, also due to a groin strain. Calgary lost defenseman Rhett Warrener last Saturday with an ankle injury. Detroit forward Kris Draper left Tuesday’s game against Calgary late in the first period with a knee injury; another Red Wing forward, Matt Ellis, has missed two games with headaches.
The week ahead -- The pre-Thanksgiving burst of intra-divisional games has been replaced by a spurt that’s heavier in intra-conference matchups. A number of teams are also making trips through the opposite conference.
Games to watch:
New York Islanders at New York Rangers (Nov. 29) -- The Big Apple-area rivals meet at Madison Square Garden for the second time in 10 days and the fourth time overall this season. Bet on the Rangers to come out flying: The Isles have won the first three meetings, all by one goal.
Pittsburgh at Toronto (Dec. 1) -- The road team has won each of the first two meetings. The Leafs lost 6-4 on Oct. 13 amid a 52-shot barrage that included two goals by Sidney Crosby.
Vancouver at Minnesota (Dec. 2) -- The Canucks swept two games with the Wild the week before Thanksgiving, including a 4-2 decision at Minnesota on Nov. 21.
Carolina at New York Rangers (Dec. 3) -- Talk about a difference in styles: The Hurricanes, one of the NHL’s top offensive teams, will work to outscore the Rangers, who’ve been among the League’s stingiest defenses all season.
Detroit at Montreal (Dec. 4) -- These two Original Six rivals meet in Montreal for the first time since Oct. 20, 2003, when the Canadiens skated off with a 2-1 victory.
Tough week ahead:
Carolina -- Four games in six nights, including a home game against Washington Friday followed by a trip to Buffalo the next night and a visit to the Rangers two nights after that.
Dallas -- The Stars also play four games in six nights, all on the road, as they finish off their trip through the Atlantic Division before stopping over in Columbus.
Phoenix -- The surprising Coyotes will get a stern test with games in Minnesota, Chicago, Detroit and Pittsburgh in a six-night span.
Easy week ahead:
Buffalo -- The Sabres play only two games in the next week, both at home (St. Louis on Wednesday; Carolina on Saturday).
Philadelphia -- The Flyers have some space in their schedule, playing in Carolina on Wednesday and home against what figures to be a road-weary Dallas team Saturday.
Vancouver -- The Canucks catch Columbus at the end of a Western Canada trip Thursday, don’t play again until Sunday when they visit Minnesota, then have two more days off.