| VIDEO: Comeback win against the Bolts
Leading scorers: Tim Connolly 4-12-16, Derek Roy 4-10-14, Thomas Vanek 6-6-12.
The skinny: Vanek hasn't been at his best and their top defenseman is 19-year-old rookie Tyler Myers, but the Sabres still managed to get off to a good start thanks largely to the superb goaltending of Ryan Miller, who is among the League leaders in wins, goals-against average and save percentage. He did, however, give up five goals in a 6-2 loss to Florida on Wednesday. The Sabres also are doing it with balanced scoring and excellent defense. They entered Thursday's action fourth in the NHL at 2.39 goals-against per game. Fifteen different players have scored at least one goal for the Northeast-leading Sabres, who are second in the NHL in shots on goal per game and ninth in faceoff percentage. They are also 9-1-1 when they score first and are 8-0-0 when leading after the second period.
The next 20: After closing the first quarter with games Friday and Saturday at home, they play 11 games of their next 20 at home as well, including five straight from Dec. 3-11 against the Canadiens, Rangers, Devils, Capitals and Blackhawks. They also play at Washington and Toronto twice, plus once each at Philadelphia, the N.Y. Rangers, Montreal, Ottawa and St. Louis.
| OTTAWA SENATORS
| VIDEO: Kovalev's magic hands
Record: 10-6-3, 23 points (2nd in Northeast, 6th in East)
Leading scorers: Daniel Alfredsson 6-14-20, Mike Fisher 9-10-19, Milan Michalek 9-3-12.
Alex Kovalev are not performing the way they ought to and the Senators really only have five forwards worthy of putting in the top six right now. Murray would like to upgrade that area in particular. The defense has better mobility than it did last season and the goaltending, with Pascal Leclaire and Brian Elliott, is more stable. However, the numbers don't add up to success. They are yielding 27.9 shots per game, which is the fifth fewest in the NHL, but they are allowing 2.84 goals per game, which was 16th. Having Anton Volchenkov on injured reserve is not helping.
The next 20: They play their 20th game Saturday at home against Buffalo and then host Washington on Monday, but after that the Senators play six of their next seven on the road, including a trip out west for games in San Jose, Los Angeles, Phoenix and Anaheim. They also play at New Jersey twice, at Philadelphia, at Pittsburgh and at Buffalo.
| BOSTON BRUINS
| VIDEO: Shawn Thornton on Winter Classic
Leading scorers: Patrice Bergeron 6-7-13, Derek Morris 2-9-11, Zdeno Chara 1-10-11, Blake Wheeler 5-6-11.
The skinny: Beset by injuries to top players, the Bruins are scuffling and struggling to produce offensively. Until Thursday, when Milan Lucic returned for the first time in more than a month, they were playing without their top line from a year ago. Marc Savard is still out and Phil Kessel is starring in Toronto. However, David Krejci and Michael Ryder, two offensive stalwarts last season, are struggling to produce. The Bruins as a whole are 28th in the NHL with 2.29 goals per game. Part of that has to do with their focus on defense without Savard and until Thursday Lucic. The Bruins still allow only 2.48 goals per game. Tim Thomas, who was maligned for his slow start after winning the Vezina Trophy last season, has a 2.33 GAA and .918 save percentage. However, he gave up six goals to Pittsburgh on Monday, a night the Bruins scored five. They have been shut out three times and held to one goal another six times.
The next 20: They started the second quarter with a 4-3 shootout win in Atlanta on Thursday. Boston also plays at Buffalo, St. Louis and Minnesota before returning home to play five of six at TD Garden. They close the second quarter with six of nine games on the road before playing Philadelphia at Fenway Park in the 2010 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic.
| VIDEO: Cammalleri hat trick
Record: 10-11-0, 20 points (4th in Northeast, 12th in East)
Leading scorers: Tomas Plekanec 4-15-19, Mike Cammalleri 8-8-16, Brian Gionta 8-5-13.
Andrei Markov, one of the NHL's leading defensemen, has missed all but one game with an ankle injury. That's not the only reason for their inconsistent start, however. Carey Price, the supposed No. 1, has struggled. The issue in net has been compounded by a scuffling offense which just lost Gionta indefinitely to a broken foot. Scott Gomez is on pace for only 43 points, which isn't nearly enough for a No. 1 center making $8 million. Andrei Kostitsyn has 6 points after scoring 53 two seasons ago and 41 last season. Montreal's power play was 24th in the NHL at 15.9 percent as of Thursday.
The next 20: They started the second quarter Tuesday with a 3-2 shootout win over Carolina, but it gets tougher. Montreal plays road games in Washington, Pittsburgh, Buffalo and New Jersey in the second quarter. It hits the road for seven straight at the end of December. They play the Red Wings, Capitals, Bruins, Flyers, Penguins and Sabres at home.
| TORONTO MAPLE LEAFS
|VIDEO: Burke at GM meeting|
Leading scorers: Tomas Kaberle 2-20-22, Matt Stajan 5-8-13, Mikhail Grabovski 4-9-13, Jason Blake 3-10-13.
The skinny: After a dreadful start, the Leafs at least have been competitive. It's certainly not good enough for their rabid fan base (or, really, any fan base), but they have shown some signs of promise in the wake of a budding disaster. Phil Kessel's return to the lineup has given the Leafs more offensive jump; he has 5 goals and 8 points in eight games. Kaberle has been good all season. And for the most part goalie Jonas Gustavsson has given Leafs Nation reason to believe they have a stabilizing force in net. He just needs time to learn the NHL game and, especially, NHL shooters. He deserves the time. However, Luke Schenn has not been as good in his sophomore season as he was as a rookie in 2008-09 and Vesa Toskala has been booed all season by the Air Canada Centre crowd. The Leafs give up way too much defensively (an NHL-worst 3.75 goals per game) and they're a League-worst 72.3 percent killing penalties. There's lots of work to do, but that was to be expected. The Leafs are executing a rebuilding plan.
The next 20: The Leafs, who finished the first quarter with Thursday's brutal shootout loss in Carolina, play 11 of their next 20 at home, including two each against the Islanders, Capitals and Sabres. They also play at Tampa Bay, Buffalo and the Islanders, plus a pair in Boston.