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Karlsson's impressive season powering Sens

Sunday, 02.26.2012 / 2:34 PM / The Hot List

By John Kreiser - NHL.com Columnist

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Karlsson's impressive season powering Sens
If the Senators make the postseason they will likely have to thank defenseman Erik Karlsson, who has become an offensive force.
Erik Karlsson had a week Bobby Orr would have been proud of.

Erik Karlsson
Defense - OTT
GOALS: 14 | ASST: 49 | PTS: 63
SOG: 204 | +/-: 15
The 21-year-old scored four goals and added six assists for 10 points in three games while going plus-5 and powering the Ottawa Senators to two wins in three games. He's had six goals and 15 points during a six-game points streak that has helped the Senators settle solidly into seventh place in the Eastern Conference playoff race.

Karlsson's surge has also turned the race for most points by a defenseman into a runaway. He shares the top spot in goals (14) with Nashville's Shea Weber, and his 63 points are 21 more than runner-up Brian Campbell of Florida. With 63 points, he's tied for seventh in the overall points race; no other defenseman is in the top 75. Karlsson has also improved his play in his own zone -- he's plus-15 this season after being minus-30 a year ago.

Five up -- Five other players who had a good week:

Evgeni Malkin -- Don't get Geno mad -- just ask the Tampa Bay Lightning what happens when you do. Malkin scored a hat trick for Pittsburgh in Saturday's 8-1 win -- scoring all three goals after an incident with Lightning goaltender Dwayne Roloson. With six points in his last two games, Malkin is back on top of the scoring race.

Jason Spezza -- Like Karlsson, his teammate, Spezza has been piling up points. His three assists on Saturday extended his points streak to eight games, during which he's piled up seven goals and 19 points. For the season, he's fourth in the NHL with 69 points.

Steven Stamkos -- Pittsburgh kept him off the scoresheet on Saturday, but Tampa Bay's top gun is running away with the goal-scoring title -- with 43, he's seven ahead of Malkin and 12 ahead of third-place Phil Kessel. He had three goals and six points in the Lightning's previous two games and has scored six times in Tampa Bay's last five contests.

Kari Lehtonen -- Lehtonen stepped up when Dallas needed him, allowing one goal in two games to help the Stars move into eighth place in the West. He went 2-0-0 and posted only the second regular-season shutout ever by the Stars' franchise in Montreal.

Dustin Brown -- With trade rumors swirling around him, Brown stepped up for the Los Angeles Kings on Saturday night, scoring three times and adding an assist in a 4-0 victory. He scored or assisted on six of the Kings' nine goals last week.

Five down — Five players who are struggling:

Danny Briere -- The speedy Philadelphia forward has been one of the NHL's best snipers for more than a decade, but he's having trouble finding the net. Saturday's game at Calgary was the 16th in a row in which he has failed to score.

Carey Price -- He's playing his heart out for a Montreal team that enters Sunday's action last in the East, but it was a tough week for Price -- he lost all three starts, allowing three goals in each -- and is 1-4-1 with 19 goals allowed in his last six starts.

Tomas Vokoun
Goalie - WSH
RECORD: 23-16-2
GAA: 2.52 | SVP: 0.917
Tomas Vokoun -- It was a tough week for the 35-year-old -- not only did he lose both of his starts for the Washington Capitals, but he was pulled in both games and allowed six goals on only 18 shots.

Antti Niemi -- Like Vokoun, San Jose's starting goaltender got the hook twice -- he was lifted in the first period after allowing three goals on 11 shots at Columbus on Tuesday, and again after less than 16 minutes on Saturday, when he gave up three on seven shots.

Eric Christensen -- Minnesota grabbed Christensen on waivers from the Rangers, hoping he could give them an offensive boost. Instead, he's failed to come up with a point in 10 games with his new team and is minus-8 in that span.

Injuries, news and notes: 

Out -- Detroit lost a pair of regulars last week. Top-line center Pavel Datsyuk had knee surgery and will miss another week or two. On Saturday, defenseman Jonathan Ericsson broke his left wrist and will miss at least four weeks. … Chicago captain Jonathan Toews missed last week with an upper-body injury. The Hawks hope he'll be ready to go on Wednesday. … Ottawa is without starting goaltender Craig Anderson, who cut his hand during an accident at home after Wednesday's win. The Senators hope he could be ready sometime this week. … Colorado forward Milan Hejduk (groin) missed Saturday's game. … Colorado placed defenseman Ryan O'Byrne on IR with a knee injury sustained in Wednesday's game. … Blues defenseman Kris Russell returned home after Thursday's game in Nashville with concussion-like symptoms. St. Louis also lost forward Jamie Langenbrunner for at least three more weeks with a broken foot. … Islanders center Josh Bailey missed Friday's game with back spasms. … Brent Johnson, Pittsburgh's backup goaltender, sat out Saturday and won't dress Sunday due to back problems. … Tampa Bay captain Vincent Lecavalier is expected to miss at least 2-3 more weeks with a non-displaced fracture in his right hand. Defenseman Victor Hedman left Saturday's game with an upper-body injury and will be evaluated Sunday. Forward Ryan Shannon is day-to-day with an upper-body problem. … Phoenix forward Gilbert Brule sat out the Coyotes' two-game trip to Alberta with a head injury sustained in Los Angeles on Tuesday.

Ryan Nugent-Hopkins
Center - EDM
GOALS: 14 | ASST: 22 | PTS: 36
SOG: 84 | +/-: -3
Returning -- Nashville forward Patrik Hornqvist was back in the lineup Saturday night after missing five games with an upper-body injury. … Ryan Nugent-Hopkins had a goal for Edmonton in his return on Saturday. He had missed 20 of 22 games with shoulder injuries. … Devils forward Ryan Carter returned on Friday after missing three weeks with a broken finger. … Columbus expects to use goaltender Curtis Sanford on Sunday; he hasn't started since Feb. 9 due to a bad back. … Dallas defenseman Sheldon Souray (foot) returned Thursday. … Vancouver got forward Byron Bitz back on Friday after he missed three games with a hip injury. … Islanders goaltender Evgeni Nabokov returned Friday after missing four games with the flu. Defenseman Travis Hamonic was also back after missing three weeks with a broken nose and facial injuries. … Florida got defenseman Ed Jovanovski back on Thursday after his missed 14 games with a broken hand. Another defenseman, Jason Garrison, returned Saturday after missing five games with an ankle injury.

Still out -- Carolina goaltender Cam Ward missed all three games this week with a lower-body injury suffered last Saturday. … Vancouver put defenseman Keith Ballard on long-term IR; he's still sidelined with a concussion and isn't expected to play again during the regular season. … Calgary forward David Moss (ankle) is skating and the Flames expect him to return to action in early March. … Chicago defenseman Steve Montador (upper body) sat out both games this weekend. He hasn't played since Feb. 7. … Montreal defenseman Andrei Markov skated at practice last week while wearing a non-contact jersey; he's working to come back after knee surgery and hopes to play again this season, but there's no timetable for his return. … New Jersey is still without defenseman Henrik Tallinder (blood clot in leg) and center Travis Zajac (Achilles). Neither is close to returning.

The week ahead -- Sunday is the last day of action before the trade deadline hits at 3 p.m. ET on Monday.

Games to watch:

New Jersey at New York Rangers (Feb. 27; NBCSN/TSN2) -- The Devils need this one to have any chance of catching the first-place Rangers in the Atlantic Division race.

Philadelphia at San Jose (Feb. 28; NBCSN/TSN2) -- The Sharks return home after a grueling nine-game trip to greet the Flyers, who are finishing a four-game trip and haven't won at the Shark Tank since November 1999.

Toronto at Montreal (March 3; NHLN-US/CBC/RDS) -- The teams meet for the first time since Montreal spoiled Mats Sundin Night in Toronto with a 5-0 win three weeks earlier; the Leafs haven't been the same

Boston at New York Rangers (March 4; NBC/NHLN-Canada) -- The Bruins pay their first visit of the season to Madison Square Garden. The Rangers have won both games between the teams this season in Boston, including a 3-0 victory on Feb. 14.

Chicago at Detroit (March 4; NHLN-US) -- The Central Division rivals are meeting for the fifth time this season; both teams have won twice. They don't see each other again until April 7, the final day of the regular season.

Tough week ahead:

Buffalo Sabres -- After a cushy home schedule that helped revive their playoff hope, the Sabres head West for games at Anaheim and San Jose before ending their week with a stop in Vancouver.

New Jersey Devils -- It's a grind of a week for the Devils, who played Tampa Bay at home Sunday and visit the Rangers, Boston, Washington and the Islanders for five games in an eight-day span.

St. Louis Blues -- The Blues play the last four games of a six-game trip, including all three Western Canada teams in a four-night span.

Easy week ahead:

Carolina Hurricanes -- The 'Canes play the last half of a six-game homestand, with Nashville, the Rangers and Tampa Bay coming to the RBC Center -- and the Predators and Lightning will be playing the second half of back-to-backs.

San Jose Sharks -- After a nine-game trip that took them all over the United States and Canada, the Sharks are back in the Bay Area for the week, with games against the Flyers, Sabres and Blues -- three teams in various stages of long trips of their own.

Washington Capitals -- The Caps spent most of the last two weeks on the road, but they get a week at home against three Eastern Conference rivals, the Islanders, Devils and Flyers
Quote of the Day

Not only is it a great idea, but if you don't [start using analytics] you're going to fall behind. You have to be on the cutting edge. It was [Arizona Coyotes assistant general manager] Darcy Regier who said, 'If you didn't invent it, you have to be the second- or third-best copier, because if you're fourth or fifth you've got no chance.'

— Detroit Red Wings coach Mike Babcock on his interest in advanced statistical analysis