| VIDEO: Marathon shootout win
Record: 13-7-3, 29 points (1st in Northwest Division, 2nd in Western Conference)
The skinny: Some of the shine from the Avs start has come off in the past two weeks. They have lost five of six, giving up 28 goals in the process, including 13 in a pair of losses to Vancouver and 11 in a pair of losses to Edmonton. All things being equal, though, the fact that the Avalanche sit where they currently sit in the division and the conference is amazing considering the low expectations this team had after a brutal 2008-09 season. Craig Anderson was the story of the first quarter in the NHL with his 12-6-3 record, 2.52 GAA and .923 save percentage. A career backup, Anderson is now being considered as for the U.S. Olympic team. However, he's also slowed a bit, but that could be the Avs' shots against catching up to them. They give up seven more shots per game than they take and their power play is toward the bottom third in the League. However, they have multiple scoring options with Wolski, Hejduk, David Jones and Stastny. Rookie Ryan O'Reilly got off to a hot start, but the 18-year-old has slowed. He still has an unexpected 15 points and a plus-9 rating.
The next 20: Things will equal out for the Avalanche, who have already played 15 road games and only eight at Pepsi Center. They play 10 of their next 17 games at home, including five-straight from Dec. 9-19 against Minnesota, Tampa Bay, Calgary, Washington and Columbus. However, that comes after a five-game road trip to Tampa Bay, Florida, Pittsburgh, Columbus and St. Louis.
| CALGARY FLAMES
| VIDEO: Jarome Iginla first star
Record: 12-6-2, 26 points (2nd in Northwest, 5th in West)
Leading scorers: Rene Bourque 7-14-21, Jarome Iginla 12-7-19, Nigel Dawes 4-8-12, Olli Jokinen 3-9-12.
Brent Sutter was apparently doing the yelling. Defenseman Dion Phaneuf was seen marching out minutes later. Nobody was talking about it afterward. It doesn't matter now. What does is the Flames, although in decent standing in the division and conference, clearly aren't giddy about their start. That's probably good news because the Sutter brothers -- GM Darryl and coach Brent -- aren't in this for second-place. Calgary is getting good production, but could use more out of everybody, especially Olli Jokinen, who has just 3 goals. Goalie Miikka Kiprusoff is off the hook. For the most part, he's been excellent. Jay Bouwmeester could probably deliver a bit more in the offensive department, but he's a plus-6 and is on pace for 40 points.
The next 20: The Flames started their second quarter Saturday in L.A., beginning a stretch when they play eight of nine games on the road. They are only home to play Phoenix on Wednesday. However, they follow that up with eight of their next 11 games at home to close 2009.
| VANCOUVER CANUCKS
| VIDEO: Henrik Sedin hat trick
Record: 12-10-0, 24 points (3rd in Northwest, 10th in West)
The skinny: The Canucks have run hot and cold all season. They have had two separate three-game winning streaks, but also two separate three-game losing streaks. However, they have won back-to-back games so maybe they are on another one of those three-game streaks. We'll find out Sunday against Chicago. Injuries have played a part, as star goalie Roberto Luongo missed six games with a broken rib and Daniel Sedin, who could return Sunday, has been out with a broken foot since Oct. 7. He had four assists in four games before the injury. Henrik Sedin is having a solid season and Kesler, the heart-and-soul guy, is also producing. Samuelsson is proving he can perform in a top-six role, an opportunity he never got in Detroit. Even Mason Raymond, who struggled last season, is off to a solid start with eight goals. However, Alex Burrows has just one goal (into an empty net) in the last 17 games and just four on the season. He had 28 last season, but 18 in the last 34 games while playing with the Sedin twins. He hasn't been afforded that chance with Daniel's injury.
The next 20: They better take advantage of home ice now because the Olympics will force them out of GM Place from Jan. 30-March 9. The Canucks started a five-game homestand Friday and next month play eight-straight at home from Dec. 10-26. They also hit the road for four-straight in New Jersey, Philadelphia, Carolina and Nashville.
| EDMONTON OILERS
| VIDEO: Saved by the clock
Record: 9-10-3, 21 points (4th in Northwest, 12th in West)
Leading scorers: Dustin Penner 12-11-23, Ales Hemsky 6-15-21, Lubomir Visnovsky 5-10-15.
Ladislav Smid was diagnosed with swine flu while Visnovsky, Hemsky, Mike Comrie (two separate times) and Gilbert Brule all missed time with the flu. Comrie is out now with mono. On top of that, the Oilers had to play 16 games without Sheldon Souray (concussion), 12 without Steve Staios (head), another two without Hemsky (shoulder), four without Shawn Horcoff (shoulder) and 13 without Fernando Pisani (back), before he came down with his latest bout of colitis to land on IR. J-F Jacques returned Saturday, but Ryan Stone, Denis Grebeshkov and Marc Pouliot are still on IR. Robert Nilsson and Taylor Chorney had each missed the last five games before Saturday with ailments. Entering the weekend, the Oilers had lost a total of 121 man games to injury, the most in the League. No team is going to survive that, but Edmonton at least bought itself time with a 6-1-1 start. The positives have come from Penner, who has dusted himself off to have a great start, and goalie Nikolai Khabibulin.
The next 20: The Oilers are in the midst of a five-game homestand (still left is Phoenix, L.A. and San Jose) that is followed by six-straight on the road (Vancouver, Detroit, Dallas, Florida, Tampa Bay and St. Louis). Following that is a four-game homestand against the Kings, Predators, Capitals and Blues.
| MINNESOTA WILD
| VIDEO: Backstrom on his mask
Record: 8-12-2, 18 points (5th in Northwest, 14th in West)
The skinny: It has not been the start the new regime was expecting to get. The Wild are still adjusting to the coaching style of Todd Richards, who wants them to play more like the current Penguins than the old Wild under Jacques Lemaire. The problem is there is no Sidney Crosby or Evgeni Malkin in Minnesota. The Wild have scored only 2.41 goals per game, but have allowed 3.00. Big free-agent pickup Martin Havlat has struggled with eight points and a minus-14 rating. Brent Burns, an offensive-defenseman, is a minus-11 with 10 points. Both sat out Friday's game. Koivu has 21 points, but he's a minus-4. Just when you thought the Wild were turning the corner with four wins in five games, they lost four straight before beating the Islanders, 3-2, Friday. They have also had a tendency to have letdowns after scoring goals. For instance, 19 seconds after Antti Miettinen tied the game Wednesday, Scottie Upshall scored to lift Phoenix to a 3-2 victory.
The next 20: It doesn't get any easier. After playing four of their next five at Xcel Energy Center, the Wild hit the road for games in Nashville, Phoenix, Colorado, Calgary and Vancouver. They come home for one game against Columbus before going to Montreal and Ottawa. They at least close 2009 with four of their last six at home.