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Thomas continuing to play at All-Star level

Monday, 11.24.2008 / 11:00 AM / The Hot List

By John Kreiser - NHL.com Columnist

At 34, Tim Thomas is a little old to be an overnight sensation, but he's actually in his third season as an NHL regular. But he is the key reason the Boston Bruins have moved to the top spot in the Eastern Conference.

Thomas enters the new week with a 9-2-3 record, a 1.80 goals-against average and a League-leading .944 save percentage. He was perfect last week, winning all three starts while allowing just six goals in 185 minutes and stopping 91 of 97 shots.

He has been especially brilliant this month, going 6-0-1 and allowing no more than two goals in any game. At the rate he's going, he should earn a return trip to the All-Star Game, even though his name wasn't on this year's ballot.
   
Five up -- Five players who've been hot:

Pavol Demitra --
Demitra has been on fire since returning from a rib injury and being teamed with the Sedin twins. He has 5 goals and 9 points in those five games, during which the Canucks went 4-0-1.

Ty Conklin -- Detroit's backup goaltender is making a pitch for more playing time. Conklin is 6-1-0 this season and has allowed just four goals while winning all three starts this month, including Saturday's 5-2 win at Calgary.

Kris Versteeg -- Chicago has gotten a lot of production out of Versteeg, a fifth-round pick by Boston who came over in a 2007 trade. The 22-year-old forward is 2-3-5 in his last three games, has 8 points during a five-game scoring streak and has put up 20 points in 19 games.

Bryan McCabe -- Florida's veteran defenseman has been putting up a point a game since returning to the lineup nine games ago following a back injury. He has 5 points in his last three games, and is plus-5 in his last six games.

Dainius Zubrus -- After 2 assists against Florida on Wednesday, Zubrus had the season's first four-goal game Sunday to lead New Jersey to a 7-3 win at Tampa Bay. With 6 goals in 20 games, he's nearly halfway to last season's total of 13.

Five down -- Five players who are struggling:

David Legwand -- After signing a new contract over the summer, Legwand has been a big disappointment, with 1 goal in his last seven games and 3 goals and 11 points in 20 games this season.

Ryan Miller -- Miller has struggled since back-to-back shutouts at the start of the month. He has allowed 13 goals in losing his last three games and is just 1-4-1 in his last six starts since the shutouts.

Maxim Afinogenov -- Afinogenov has spent the last two games watching from the press box for Buffalo after failing to put up a point in five consecutive games, a span in which he went minus-8.

Keith Tkachuk -- After scoring 8 goals in October, Tkachuk's scoring touch has disappeared. He hasn't scored since Nov. 6 and is 0-3-3 and minus-2 in St. Louis' last six games. 
   
Brandon Dubinsky -- Dubinsky was a big reason for the New York Rangers' fast start; the second-year center now is a key reason they're struggling. Dubinsky has no goals and just 2 assists in the Rangers' 10 games this month, and he hasn't scored in 13 games.

Kyle Turris -- The third pick of the 2007 Entry Draft continues to struggle in his first NHL season with the Phoenix Coyotes. He's gone five games without a point and hasn't scored a goal since Oct. 12.

Injuries, news and notes -- It was a bad week for a couple of big-name players, as Roberto Luongo and Brenden Morrow are looking at lengthy absences.

Out -- Luongo left less than five minutes into Vancouver's game at Pittsburgh on Saturday with what appeared to be a groin injury. The Canucks say they'll have more on his status after Monday's morning skate. ... Dallas suffered a major loss when Morrow, their captain, tore his right anterior cruciate ligament against Chicago on Thursday. He'll miss 4-6 months. ... Edmonton center Fernando Pisani broke his ankle last Monday in Detroit and will miss at least six weeks. The only good news was that he won't require surgery. ... Islanders forward Kyle Okposo injured his right hand in Monday's win against Vancouver and was placed on IR. The Islanders also lost center Frans Nielsen for 8-12 weeks with multiple leg injuries after he was elbowed to the ice by New Jersey's Mike Mottau on Friday night. ... Detroit forward Tomas Holmstrom has missed the Wings' last two games due to back spasms. He returned to Detroit on Saturday for tests. ... Ottawa lost center Mike Fisher with a strained right knee ligament Monday, two days after forward Chris Neil tore the meniscus in his right knee. Both will be out for several weeks. ... St. Louis center Patrik Bergfors missed the Blues' games Friday and Saturday with a groin injury. ... Phoenix center Daniel Winnik sustained an abdominal injury last Monday and was placed on IR by the Coyotes over the weekend. Defenseman Derek Morris also missed Saturday's game at Philadelphia with an upper-body injury. ... Colorado defenseman Adam Foote left Saturday's game at Los Angeles with a back injury. ... Washington defenseman Mike Green hasn't played since injuring his shoulder Wednesday in Anaheim and doesn't expect to dress until the weekend at the earliest. Center Sergei Fedorov returned Saturday but re-injured his ankle in the first period and likely won't play Monday. ... Mike Smith, Tampa Bay's starting goalie, didn't dress Sunday due to a lower-body injury, the same reason defenseman Lukas Krajicek sat out. ... Carolina defenseman Tim Gleason suffered a lower-body injury in the second period Sunday and didn't return for the final 20 minutes. Forward Patrick Eaves also left the game against Nashville with what appeared to be an upper-body injury.

 
Returning -- Islanders defenseman Brendan Witt returned Friday after missing four weeks with a sprained knee. ... Nashville captain Jason Arnott returned Friday, just four days after a scary-looking collision that resulted in a neck strain. ... Philadelphia hopes to get defenseman Ossi Vaananen (broken finger) and center Daniel Briere (groin) back for Monday night's game. ... Rangers center Scott Gomez has been sidelined for four games with a stress fracture in his ankle. The Rangers hope he will be ready to play Thursday. ... San Jose forward Mike Grier was back in the lineup Saturday after missing two games with a groin injury. ... Avalanche captain Joe Sakic has missed five games with a back injury but might be ready to play Monday. ... Center Matthew Lombardi was back in Calgary's lineup Saturday after missing a month with a left shoulder injury ... The San Jose Sharks should have No. 1 goaltender Evgeni Nabokov back for Wednesday's game with Chicago; he's been out for nearly three weeks with a lower-body injury.

Still out -- Montreal defenseman Mike Komisarek, who hurt his shoulder against Boston on Nov. 13, is expected to miss another month. ... Pittsburgh goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury was out all week due to an unspecified injury sustained against Buffalo on Nov. 15. ... Paul Kariya's absence from St. Louis' lineup is at seven games and counting as he tries to get over a hip injury. He may be able to practice Monday. Blues center T.J. Oshie, out since Nov. 1 with an ankle injury, hopes to start skating next week. ... Atlanta put goaltender Kari Lehtonen on the injured list. He's been out since Oct. 31, first with an illness and then with a bad back. ... Pittsburgh defenseman Ryan Whitney practiced Friday for the first time since undergoing offseason surgery on his left foot. There's still no timetable for his return. ... Buffalo center Tim Connolly's chest injury actually appears to be a broken rib that's likely to keep him out for another week or two. ... Detroit forward Dan Cleary, who's missed six games with a scratched left eye, is skating and might be able to play by the weekend. ... Colorado put forward Ben Guite (rib injury) on IR; he's likely to miss another week. ... Washington forward Alexander Semin, the NHL scoring leader before going down with a back injury Nov. 14, is practicing but doesn't expect to play until the Caps get back to Washington later this week.

The week ahead --
What holiday? Though Thanksgiving is celebrated in the United States on Thursday, it's the busiest week of the season thus far, with 14 teams playing four time and just a pair taking the ice twice. Sixteen of the 30 teams play three times in four days.

 
Games to watch:

Washington at Minnesota (Nov. 24, 8 p.m. ET, VERSUS, TSN2) --
The Capitals complete a five-game coast-to-coast road trip by stopping in Minnesota for a nationally televised visit after three games in California.

Boston at Buffalo (Nov. 26) --
The slumping Sabres look to avenge last week's wild 7-4 loss at Boston, a game they led 4-2 after less than 13 minutes.

Chicago at San Jose (Nov. 26) --
The Blackhawks start the second week of their annual "Circus Trip" by trying to end a 12-game losing streak to the Sharks, which includes a 6-5 home loss Nov. 16.

Detroit at Boston (Nov. 29) -- The Central Division-leading Red Wings pay a rare visit to Boston in a meeting of two of the NHL's best teams.

Florida at New York Rangers (Nov. 30) -- The Panthers come to the Big Apple Sunday afternoon for the back end of a home-and-home series that began Friday night in Florida.

Tough week ahead:

   
Carolina Hurricanes -- The Hurricanes won't have much time to enjoy their holiday. Counting a home game Sunday against Nashville, they play five games in eight days, with travel after every game.

Detroit Red Wings -- The Wings work their way across the continent, starting with a Monday game at Vancouver, followed by home games Wednesday and Friday, and completed with a visit to Boston on Saturday.

St. Louis Blues -- The Blues will get a lot of frequent-flier miles, with back-to-back games at Nashville and Colorado, a Saturday afternoon home game against Edmonton and a Sunday matinee at Atlanta.

Easy week ahead:

Boston Bruins -- The Bruins get three days off before visiting Buffalo on Thanksgiving Eve. Then they come home for games against the Islanders on Friday afternoon and Detroit on Saturday night.

New Jersey Devils -- They play both their games on the road, but there's plenty of down time. They have two days off between games Sunday at Tampa Bay and Wednesday at Florida, then get another two-day break before visiting Pittsburgh on Saturday.

Ottawa Senators -- The Senators, who have struggled to score, will get some practice time with four nights off until they host Toronto on Thursday and visit Long Island two nights later.
Quote of the Day

We think that Randy is a very good coach. Our players think that Randy is a very good coach. We think that he's going to get the most out of this group. With the addition of the two assistants, a bit of a different dynamic, we're very comfortable that this is a quality coaching staff that's going to maximize the potential of this team.

— Maple Leafs GM Dave Nonis on head coach Randy Carlyle and his staff