The Montreal Canadiens rolled the dice by trading playoff hero Jaroslav Halak to St. Louis during the summer. Thus far, Carey Price is making their gamble pay off.
Halak is playing superbly in St. Louis -- but Price is playing the kind of hockey the Canadiens expected of him when they made him the fifth pick in the 2005 Entry Draft. He earned his 10th victory of the season on Saturday with a 28-save performance in a 7-2 victory against Carolina.
The win capped a week that saw Price go 3-0-0 while outplaying Roberto Luongo in a 2-0 victory against Vancouver and a 34-save performance in a 3-1 win at Boston. After barely making the playoffs, the Canadiens are on top in the Northeast Division, and Price is the biggest reason why.
Five up — Five players who've been hot:
Dan Cleary -- After an awful start, Cleary has been finding the net with regularity -- a big reason the Detroit Red Wings are on a roll. Cleary scored again on Saturday, giving him a five-game goal-scoring streak during which he's connected six times.
Alexander Semin -- Washington's other Russian star named Alex has been outshining his more-famous countryman (some guy named Ovechkin). Semin has a seven-game points streak that includes a five-point night against Tampa Bay on Thursday in which he had a third-period hat trick.
Steven Stamkos -- Tampa Bay lost back-to-back games at Washington and Pittsburgh, but Stamkos more than held his own against some of the NHL's big guns. He had 4 goals and an assist in three games last week and leads the NHL with 15 goals in just 16 games.
Sidney Crosby -- Sid the Kid is on pace for a 122-point season after putting up 3 goals and 8 points in three games last week. He has 6 goals and 12 points during a five-game points streak. Crosby had a goal and assists on two of the three scored by Evgeni Malkin in Saturday's win at Atlanta to tie Stamkos for the scoring lead with 27 points.
Justin Williams -- Williams doesn't get a lot of attention, but he's been a key to the Los Angeles Kings' hot start. Williams got the game-winner on Thursday, scored again on Saturday and has 6 goals in his last seven games -- as well as 11 points during a nine-game scoring streak.
Five down — Five players who are struggling:
Josh Bailey -- After a solid start, the New York Islanders' first-rounder in 2008 has gone cold. He hasn't had a point in nine games, and is minus-7 in that span. To be fair, not many of his teammates are doing much either, but Bailey is really struggling.
Niklas Hjalmarsson -- Chicago matched a big offer by San Jose this past summer to keep the Swedish defenseman -- but so far, he hasn't been worth the money. Hjalmarsson is minus-8 and has no points in 17 games this season.
Cam Ward -- Carolina coach Paul Maurice has pulled Ward from each of the Hurricanes' last two games -- he allowed 8 goals on just 35 shots in losses to Philadelphia and Montreal.
Mike Fisher -- Ottawa has been among the NHL's best teams in the past couple of weeks, but not because of any offensive help from Fisher. He has not scored a point in Ottawa's last five games, has just four shots on goal and is minus-3. For the season, he's just 4-3-7 in 17 games.
Tuukka Rask -- It's not that Rask has been awful -- but he's certainly been in the wrong place at the wrong time for the Boston Bruins. Rask has played in five games, and lost all five. His goals-against average, 1.97 last season, is up to 2.75.
Injuries, news and notes — Andrei Markov's return from knee surgery didn't last long. Markov, who injured his right knee during last spring's playoffs, appeared to hurt it again in Saturday night's 7-2 victory against Carolina. He put no weight on the knee while being helped off the ice. The Canadiens say he'll be evaluated Sunday.
Out — Tampa Bay captain Vincent Lecavalier's season, already off to a tough start, got tougher on Thursday night when he broke his right hand against Washington -- though he made it through several more shifts before the injury left him unable to continue. He's expected to miss at least three weeks. … Blues forward T.J. Oshie will miss at least three months after breaking his left ankle on Thursday. … Washington forward Boyd Gordon is expected to miss this week with a lower-body injury. … New Jersey captain Jamie Langenbrunner sat out Friday's game after crashing headfirst into the boards two nights earlier. He missed practice on Saturday and is listed as day-to-day. … Colorado lost three players last week -- Kyle Quincey became the fourth member of the Avs to be sidelined with a concussion, TJ Galiardi broke his wrist and David Van Der Gulik tore a knee ligament. … Los Angeles defenseman Willie Mitchell will miss 4-6 weeks with a broken wrist, and forward Alex Ponikarovsky is out with a broken finger. … Columbus captain Rick Nash missed Friday's game with a lower-body injury. … Rangers defenseman Michal Rozsival missed New York's last two games this past week with a shoulder problem that may keep him out of the lineup for another week. … Florida forward Steve Bernier had surgery for a broken orbital bone suffered on Friday and is out indefinitely.
Returning — Buffalo got its Vezina Trophy winner, Ryan Miller, back for Saturday's game against Washington. Miller missed five games with a lower-body injury. … New Jersey goaltender Martin Brodeur returned Friday, nine days after leaving a game in Chicago with a bruised right elbow. Forward Brian Rolston also returned after missing almost five weeks with sports hernia surgery. … Rangers forward Marian Gaborik played Thursday for the first time since separating his shoulder on Oct. 15. … Colorado captain Adam Foote played Saturday for the first time since suffering a head injury on Oct. 21. … Washington defenseman Tom Poti had a goal Thursday night in his return after missing eight games with a groin injury -- then missed Saturday's game with an undisclosed injury. … Chicago got center Dave Bolland back on Saturday after he missed six games with an elbow injury. … Ottawa defenseman Filip Kuba made his season debut Saturday; he's been out after breaking his right leg on the first day of training camp. … Nashville defenseman Ryan Suter Saturday after missing nine games with a lower-body injury, and forward Martin Erat played after missing four games with back spasms.
Still out — Detroit goaltender Chris Osgood hasn't played since going down with a groin injury on Nov. 1, and still hasn't been able to practice. … Florida forward Byron Bitz (hernia surgery) is still a few weeks away from making his season debut. He had the operation during training camp. … Boston forward David Krejci hasn't played since sustaining a concussion on Nov. 6. … Anaheim defenseman Andy Sutton, sidelined after breaking his right thumb on opening night, still has screws and a plate in his hand and isn't likely to play before Thanksgiving. Forward Joffrey Lupul, who hasn't played in 11 months due to back surgery, is skating again and might be able to return by the end of the month. … Columbus placed forward Kristian Huselius on IR due to a high ankle sprain that's kept him out since Oct. 23. Forward Ethan Moreau (broken hand) is skating again. … Defenseman Anssi Salmela practiced with New Jersey last week for the first time since undergoing knee surgery in May. He might be back by the end of the month. … Tampa Bay forward Simon Gagne has now missed nine games with a neck injury. …
The week ahead -- The pre-holiday week is a busy one around the NHL. Everyone plays at least three times, 10 teams have four games and 16 of the 30 clubs have a stretch of three games in four nights.
Games to watch:
Los Angeles at San Jose (Nov. 15) -- The Kings pay their first visit of the season to Northern California in a battle between two teams that have designs on the Pacific Division title.
Boston at New York Rangers (Nov. 17) -- Versus will be at Madison Square Garden for the latest renewal of this Original Six rivalry -- and the debut of the Rangers' new third jerseys, commemorating the franchise's 85th anniversary.
Chicago at Edmonton (Nov. 17) -- The Hawks begin their annual "Circus Trip" with a visit to Edmonton, which has beaten the defending Stanley Cup champs in a pair of visits to the Windy City this season.
New York Rangers at Minnesota (Nov. 20) -- It's the first visit to the Xcel Energy Center as a visiting player for Marian Gaborik, who set most of the Wild's offensive records before leaving as a free agent in 2009. He missed last season's visit with an injury.
Philadelphia at Washington (Nov. 20) -- The Flyers come to the Verizon Center for the second time in less than two weeks for a meeting between two of the hottest teams in the Eastern Conference.
Tough week ahead:
Chicago Blackhawks -- While the circus comes to the United Center, the Hawks head for Western Canada. They'll visit Edmonton, Calgary and Vancouver in a four-day period before heading to California.
Columbus Blue Jackets -- The Jackets also head West -- they'll visit Los Angeles, Anaheim and San Jose in a stretch of four nights.
New York Rangers -- It's a hectic week for the Rangers, who play four games in six nights in four cities, including a home game Wednesday against Boston. It's actually five games in seven days for the Rangers, who host Edmonton on Sunday afternoon.
Easy week ahead:
Dallas Stars -- After spending a week in California, the Stars get to stay home. They'll see Anaheim for the second time in four nights before playing host to San Jose and Colorado.
Detroit Red Wings -- For the second week in a row, the Wings get to stay home. This week's guests are St. Louis, Minnesota and Calgary.
Pittsburgh Penguins -- The Penguins also get to stay home this week, with games against the Rangers, Vancouver and Carolina, no back-to-backs and Saturday-Sunday off.