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Briere's hot streak leads Flyers to top in the East

Sunday, 01.16.2011 / 10:36 AM / The Hot List

By John Kreiser - NHL.com Columnist

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Briere's hot streak leads Flyers to top in the East
Danny Briere's hot streak is a big reason the Philadelphia Flyers have taken over the top spot in the Eastern Conference.
The littlest Flyer is making a huge impact in Philadelphia again.

After a disappointing regular season Danny Briere led all scorers in last spring's Stanley Cup Playoffs, helping the Flyers get to Game 6 of the Final after barely qualifying for the postseason.

Briere has built on that performance to become one of the big guns on the top team in the Eastern Conference.

Briere entered Sunday's action with a five-game goal scoring streak, matching the best of his career. He has six goals in those five games, and his 24 goals are just one short of his output for all of last season.

He also has 11 points during a six-game streak -- a stretch in which the Flyers are 5-1-0. Briere and his linemates, Scott Hartnell and Ville Leino, have combined for 17 goals and 16 assists in Philadelphia's last nine games.
       
Five up -- Five players who've been hot:

Jussi Jokinen -- Jokinen's return from an upper-body injury has given the Carolina Hurricanes an offensive boost. Jokinen had a pair of two-goal performances last week and put up 4 goals and 7 points in three games.

Corey Crawford -- He came up short in his quest for a third consecutive shutout, but Crawford has established himself as the No. 1 netminder in Chicago. He's 2-0-1 with just 2 goals allowed in his last three games, and is now 15-8-2 with a 2.13 goals-against average for the defending Stanley Cup champs.

Bobby Ryan -- After a poor December, Ryan has rebounded with a terrific start in January, helping Anaheim stay above water in the Western Conference playoff race. Ryan had a hat trick on Wednesday and has 6 goals and 8 points in his last four games.

Jordan Staal -- Staal looks like he's finally rounding into form after missing the first three months of the season with injuries. He has 5 points in Pittsburgh's last two games and was the best player on the ice in Saturday's 3-2 win at Boston.

Patrice Bergeron -- It was a big week for Boston's leading scorer. He had his first NHL hat trick on Tuesday and put up 7 points in four games. Bergeron has 6 of his 14 goals in Boston's last five contests.

Five down -- Five players who are struggling:

Jeff Tambellini -- Tambellini has speed and skill. Consistency is a whole different issue. Despite playing for the red-hot Canucks, Tambellini has not had a point in his last nine games.

Devin Setoguchi -- Setoguchi's lack of production is a major reason San Jose dropped six games in a row for the first time in 15 years. He's gone without a point in his last seven games, a stretch in which he's also minus-8. Setoguchi has just 7 goals and 12 points in 37 games.

Kurtis Foster -- Edmonton signed the big-shooting defenseman with hopes that he'd build on a successful season helping Tampa Bay's power play. Instead, he's gone without a point in 13 games. He's just 3-8-11 in 41 games after scoring 8 goals and 41 points last season. Not coincidentally, the Oilers are in an 0-for-33 power-play drought.

Jonathan Quick -- After a fast start, both Quick and the L.A. Kings have hit some potholes. Quick is 19-12-1 with a 2.21 goals-against average -- but he's just 1-5-0 in his last six starts and has allowed 21 goals in those games.

Brian Elliott -- Elliott has inherited the No. 1 goaltending job in Ottawa, but it's more because of injuries than recent performance. He's 0-5-2 in his last seven starts since beating Pittsburgh 3-1 on Boxing Day, allowing 23 goals in that span. His GAA is up to 3.09 and his save percentage is down to .900.

Injuries, news and notes -- The Philadelphia Flyers, already among the NHL's elite, could be even tougher this week. Defenseman Chris Pronger resumed practice on Friday and could be ready to get back in the lineup as early as Tuesday.

Out -- Detroit is running out of goalies. Starter Jimmy Howard went down Friday night after taking a shot in the knee, and backup Chris Osgood is recuperating after undergoing sports hernia surgery earlier in the week. The Wings dressed their AHL goaltenders, Joey MacDonald and Thomas McCollum, for Saturday's game against Columbus. The Wings also lost forward Tomas Holmstrom with a broken hand on Friday. He's expected to miss about four weeks, though he won't need surgery. ... Minnesota is having injury troubles in goal as well. Jose Theodore and Niklas Backstrom are battling lower-body injuries, and the Wild started rookie Anton Khudobin on Friday night and dressed Matt Hackett as his backup. Hackett was returned to AHL Houston on Saturday after Backstrom was able to practice. ... Colorado center Ryan O'Reilly was taken off the ice Friday night after a headfirst collision with the boards. He had movement in his arms and legs but the Avs said he injured his left shoulder. ... The Islanders placed rookie forward Rhett Rakhshani on IR after he sustained a concussion on Jan. 11. ... San Jose put forward Torrey Mitchell on IR with a lower-body injury, a problem that has plagued him previously this season. Ryane Clowe say out Saturday with an undisclosed injury. ... Washington defenseman Tom Poti left Wednesday's game with a lower-body injury and didn't play Friday or Sunday. Forward Alexander Semin has missed the Caps' last three games with a lower-body injury. ... Boston's Steve Kampfer broke his nose on Saturday when he was accidentally high-sticked. He left the game and is out indefinitely.  Forward Milan Lucic sat out the Bruins' last three games with an undisclosed injury, and defenseman Andrew Ference missed Saturday's game with an upper-body injury. ... Washington forward Eric Fehr went down with a shoulder injury on Friday and is expected to miss at least three weeks. ... Vancouver defenseman Aaron Rome left Friday's game with a knee injury. ... Los Angeles forward Wayne Simmonds left Saturday's game with a lower-body injury.

Returning -- Atlanta forward Evander Kane returned Friday after missing five games with an undisclosed injury. ... Colorado's Chris Stewart, who led the Avs in goals before breaking his hand in late November, returned on Friday, as did forward Cody McLeod (groin). ... Toronto goaltender Jean-Sebastien Giguere, out since Dec. 16 with a groin problem, dressed on Thursday and played Saturday. Forward Mike Brown also returned Thursday after missing nearly a month with a broken finger, but was suspended three games for a hit on Phoenix defenseman Ed Jovanovski in his first game back. ... Philadelphia defenseman Matt Walker played his first game of the season Thursday; he'd been out with a hip injury that required operations in October and December. ... San Jose center Joe Pavelski returned from a lower-body injury on Thursday, though he was minus-3 in a loss to Edmonton. ... Carolina got forward Ryan Carter back on Thursday after he missed three games with an upper-body injury. ... Islanders goaltender Rick DiPietro returned Saturday after missing five games with an adductor injury. ...

Still out -- Colorado center Peter Mueller is "making some progress" as he attempts to return from a concussion that has kept him out of the lineup all season. There's still no word as to when, or if, he'll return. ... Rangers forward Derek Boogaard is nowhere near returning from a concussion -- he's still not symptom-free and figures to have a problem finding a spot when he is ready to play. ... Nashville center Matthew Lombardi, who went down with a concussion in the second game of the season, is also nowhere near a return, though he says he's feeling better. ... Vancouver defenseman Sami Salo is practicing and getting closer to returning from the offseason Achilles injury that has kept him from playing this season. ... Islanders forward Kyle Okposo, out since undergoing preseason shoulder surgery, is skating at practice and could be back after the All-Star break.  ... Boston defenseman Mark Stuart returned to practice late last week for the first time since breaking his right hand on Dec. 8. ...

The week ahead -- The last full week before the All-Star break is packed with hockey -- 13 of the 30 teams have four games on their schedule, and Chicago is the only team with less than three.

Games to watch:

Washington at Philadelphia (Jan. 18) -- The Caps begin their week on the road with their first visit of the season to Philadelphia. The teams split two meetings in Washington earlier this season, with both games going past regulation.

Detroit at Pittsburgh (Jan. 18) -- The 2008 and 2009 Stanley Cup Finalists get together for the first time this season. Detroit is 4-0-2 in the last six regular-season meetings.

San Jose at Vancouver (Jan. 20) -- The Canucks are back home after a grueling five-game trip for a meeting with the Sharks, who've struggled badly in the new year.

Boston at Colorado (Jan. 22) -- The Bruins pay a rare visit to the Pepsi Center for an afternoon meeting with the Avs. How rare? It's just the third time since 2003 that the B's have come to Denver.

Philadelphia at Chicago (Jan. 23) -- NBC's Game of the Week returns with the first meeting between the Flyers and Hawks since Patrick Kane's OT goal last June gave Chicago its first Stanley Cup championship since 1961.

Tough week ahead:

Anaheim Ducks
-- The Ducks spent most of the first half of the month at home. They'll spend the rest of the time before the break on the road, including a swing through Eastern Canada this week with visits to Ottawa, Toronto and Montreal.

Los Angeles Kings
-- After an eight-game homestand, the Kings put their traveling shoes on again with stops in Dallas and St. Louis before a home-and-home with Phoenix -- a tough six-day stretch

Nashville Predators -- The Preds, who play 10 of 13 January games on the road, began a five-game trip Sunday in Chicago and spend this week making stops in Phoenix and Colorado before a Sunday visit to Edmonton that kicks off three games in four nights in Western Canada.

Easy week ahead:

Colorado Avalanche -- The Avs, who've spent most of January at home, stay put this week with games against Vancouver, Nashville and Boston at the Pepsi Center. They're not on the road again until after the break.

Edmonton Oilers -- After spending a week on the West Coast, the Oilers are back home for games against Minnesota, Dallas and Nashville.

St. Louis Blues -- The Blues are also back home after a week out West and get visits from Los Angeles, Detroit and Columbus -- only the Wings enter the week among the top eight in the West.
Quote of the Day

It was the look in his eyes. Hockey is the most important thing in his life. He wants to be a hockey player, and nothing's going to stop him from being a hockey player.

— Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin on forward Alex Galchenyuk's potential