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Sundin stays and leads Leafs charge

Wednesday, 03.05.2008 / 9:31 AM / The Hot List

By John Kreiser - NHL.com Columnist

Mats Sundin leads the Leafs in goals, assists, points and plus/minus rating. Watch Mats Sundin highlights
Mats Sundin didn't want to leave Toronto. The Maple Leafs' playoff hopes are all the better for it.

The Leafs' captain is doing everything he can to keep the Leafs in the playoff hunt. In Toronto's first three games after the trade deadline passed, Sundin had three goals and seven points, helping his team get five of a possible six points. He also set up Toronto's only goal in Tuesday's 4-1 loss to New Jersey.

Sundin has stood tall through the Leafs' struggles this season -- he leads them in goals, assists, points and plus/minus rating. If the Leafs don't make the playoffs, it won't be because Sundin let them down on the ice.

Five up -- Five players who've been hot:

Craig Anderson -- Florida's backup goaltender turned in the best back-to-back performances of any netminder this season. Anderson stopped all 53 shots he faced in a 1-0 road victory against the New York Islanders, then came back two nights later with a 40-save performance in a 1-0 overtime win at Boston. Overall, he's allowed one goal on 134 shots in his last three appearances.

Jean-Sebastien Giguere -- Lost in the hoopla about Anaheim's revival after the return of Scott Niedermayer and Teemu Selanne has been the goaltending of Giguere, whose play has been brilliant during the past month. Giguere has won his last five starts, allowing just seven goals, and hasn't given up more than three in a game since Jan. 20.

Tomas Plekanec -- The 25-year-old has been a pleasant surprise for Montreal, piling up 61 points in 67 games while centering the Canadiens' top line. He has five goals and an assist in Montreal's past three games, including a hat trick in Buffalo last Friday.

Loui Eriksson -- The Dallas Stars rookie forward has prospered while playing on the Stars' top line with Mike Ribeiro and Brenden Morrow. He has six goals and an assist during a five-game points streak.

Jeff Carter -- With Mike Richards out due to a hamstring tear, the Philadelphia Flyers needed someone to step up -- and Carter has delivered. He has four goals and three assists in his past six games, and has surpassed his career high with 43 points.
 
Five down -- Five players who've been struggling:

Paul Kariya -- Kariya was a big part of the Blues' fast start -- and he's been a big reason they've struggled to score lately. His assist Tuesday was his first point in six games, and he hasn't scored a goal in 10 games, since Feb. 14.

Eric Belanger -- Minnesota needs scoring, and the Wild aren't getting it from Belanger. The veteran center has scored just once and added three assists in 22 games.
   
Matthew Lombardi -- After getting off to a good start, the speedy Calgary forward can't find the net. Lombardi has no goals in 18 games and just one in his last 29.   

Jiri Hudler -- Detroit has been hurt by a lack of secondary scoring, and Hudler's struggles have really hurt. He has no goals and just five assists in his last 20 games, and has taken just 19 shots on goal during that span.

Vincent Lecavalier -- Last season's Rocket Richard Trophy winner has gone cold -- he hasn't scored a goal in 10 games. Lecavalier does have eight assists during that span, but Tampa Bay needs him to finish the way he did last season.

Crosby
Injuries, news and notes -- Maybe it's symmetry: Sidney Crosby returned to Pittsburgh's lineup Tuesday night against Tampa Bay -- the same team the Penguins were playing when he went down with a high ankle sprain on Jan. 18. He set up the game-winner in the Penguins' 2-0 win.

Crosby wasn't the only star to make his return Tuesday: Colorado also got a lift with the arrival of Peter Forsberg, who made his debut against Vancouver. He was without a point in a 2-1 victory.

Out -- Colorado got Forsberg back, but the Avs are coping with a pair of serious injuries, both sustained last Saturday. Marek Svatos tore the ACL in his right knee and will miss the rest of the season. Ryan Smyth sustained a concussion and a shoulder injury when he was checked into the padded partition near Colorado's bench. He's out indefinitely. … The New York Islanders lost center Frans Nielsen for 2-to-4 weeks with a shoulder injury. Defenseman Bruno Gervais sustained a concussion Sunday, didn't return and wasn't in the lineup Tuesday. … Buffalo forward Jochen Hecht will miss a couple of games with a groin injury that's been bothering him for a couple of weeks. Defenseman Henrik Tallinder left Tuesday's game after being rammed into the boards and didn't return. … Anaheim defenseman Chris Pronger has missed the Ducks' last three games with a broken jaw. … Phoenix forward Daniel Carcillo went down with a knee injury last Thursday and is expected to miss at least two weeks. … Philadelphia was without center Danny Briere for Tuesday night's game against Buffalo due to a shoulder injury sustained in Sunday's loss to the Rangers. … New Jersey defenseman Paul Martin has missed the Devils' last two games with an ankle injury. … Boston defenseman Aaron Ward missed Tuesday's game against Florida with an injured right foot after being hit by a shot Monday night.

Niskanen
Returning -- The Islanders got defenseman Brendan Witt (knee) back Saturday. … Dallas could get defenseman Matt Niskanen back Wednesday; he's missed the Stars' last three games with a foot injury. … Calgary got center Alex Tanguay back Tuesday after he missed three games with a neck injury. Forward David Moss, out since Feb. 15 with an ankle injury, is practicing and could be back within a week. … Anaheim got two centers back Monday night: Doug Weight returned after missing eight games with a strained shoulder, and Todd Marchant played after sitting out three games, also with a shoulder injury. … Detroit defenseman Brian Rafalski skated in Sunday's practice, came off IR on Tuesday and should be back in the lineup Wednesday night. He's been out since Feb. 12 with a groin injury. All-Star defenseman Nicklas Lidstrom, out since Feb. 18 with a sprained knee, could be back by Sunday, and Chris Chelios (chipped fibula) could return in a week or two. … Chicago center Kevyn Adams, out since October with a torn ACL, could be back in a week or so. The Blackhawks also got forward Ben Eager back Sunday after he missed 13 games with a concussion. … Florida got center Stephen Weiss back Sunday after he missed two weeks with a broken finger. … Philadelphia defenseman Jaroslav Modry returned Sunday after missing a week with a rotator cuff injury. The Flyers also hope to get defenseman Derian Hatcher (knee) and forward Joffrey Lupul (high ankle sprain) back by the weekend. … Carolina defenseman Tim Gleason was back in the lineup Saturday after sitting out two games with a concussion. ... Buffalo forward Maxim Afinogenov, out since Jan. 2 with a groin injury, returned last Friday after missing 26 games. The Sabres also got winger Drew Stafford back Friday after he missed 10 games with an ankle injury. … Vancouver defenseman Aaron Miller also returned Friday; he had missed 10 games with a broken bone in his foot. … Toronto forward Alexei Ponikarovsky returned Tuesday after missing four games with a rib injury.

Gelinas
Still out -- Nashville forward Martin Gelinas will undergo season-ending surgery on his torn ACL on Wednesday. He was injured Feb. 21. Center Jed Ortmeyer, who tore an ACL last week, is getting medical opinions as to whether to undergo surgery right away or to see if there's any chance he can play again this season. … Toronto forward Mark Bell, out since Jan. 3 with a broken orbital bone, is still at least a couple of weeks away from returning. … Detroit forward Dan Cleary is skating again at practice but is still at least 2-to-3 weeks away from returning after breaking his jaw Feb. 8. … Chicago goaltender Nikolai Khabibulin is expected to miss another week with back problems that don't seem to be getting better. … Chicago defenseman Brent Sopel, out for a week with a broken wrist, is a couple of weeks away from returning, and forward Martin Havlat could miss the rest of the season after sustaining another shoulder injury. He's missed much of the season with shoulder problems and other injuries.

The week ahead -- St. Louis' playoff hopes don't get any help from the schedule: The Blues start a nine-game trip Wednesday night in Detroit. The trip will keep the Blues away from the Scottrade Center for three weeks. Other teams, including Columbus, Detroit and Florida, get to head home for a while -- the Panthers play their next seven games at BankAtlantic Center.

Games to watch:

Ottawa at San Jose (March 5) -- The Senators continue their trek through the Pacific Division against a San Jose team that's won six in a row, including four straight after acquiring All-Star defenseman Brian Campbell.
   
New York Rangers at New York Islanders (March 6) -- It's the back end of a home-and-home series, and the Rangers will be looking for revenge after Tuesday's 4-3 shootout loss at home.

New Jersey at Toronto (March 8) -- In a scheduling oddity, the Devils visit Air Canada Centre for the second time in six days -- they won 4-1 on Tuesday.

NBC's Game of the Week has the Penguins visiting Alex Ovechkin and the Capitals. Watch Capitals-Penguins highlights
Pittsburgh at Washington (March 9) -- NBC's Game of the Week highlights the renewal of the Sidney Crosby-Alex Ovechkin matchup in a game that both teams desperately need.

Montreal at Anaheim (March 9) -- Two of the NHL's hottest teams meet as the Canadiens wrap up their West Coast trip with their fourth game in six days.
 
Tough week ahead:

Boston Bruins -- Boston begins a four-in-six stretch against playoff contenders  Thursday; by next Tuesday, the Bruins will have played seven games in the first 11 days of the month.

Colorado Avalanche -- The Avs play at home Thursday and Saturday before heading south for games Sunday in Dallas -- the back end of a home-and-home series  -- and Tuesday in Atlanta.

Nashville Predators -- The Preds finish a swing through Western Canada and make a stop in Detroit before playing at home next Tuesday -- their fourth game in six nights.

Easy week ahead:

Columbus Blue Jackets -- The Jackets have only a pair of home games against teams not currently among the top eight in their conferences in a 10-day stretch.

Florida Panthers -- The Panthers get an easy start to a seven-game homestand, with games Thursday and Saturday before a three-day break.

Calgary Flames -- The Flames get to spend the week at home, hosting Nashville on Friday and St. Louis on Monday.



Quote of the Day

I think I'm lucky to be here and you definitely don't take very many things for granted, if you take anything for granted. I definitely put my family and my wife and my close family in perspective, that they're the most important thing in the world. I want to do whatever I can to play hockey, but like I said, under the right circumstances.

— Stars forward Rich Peverley to "The Musers" radio show on The Ticket 1310 AM in Dallas