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The Hot List

Back in lineup, Vanek continues on torrid pace

Monday, 02.04.2013 / 9:13 AM / The Hot List

John Kreiser - Columnist

The only thing that's been able to slow down Thomas Vanek is injury. Opposing checkers haven't figured out a way to cool him off.

Vanek begins the third full week of the NHL season on top of the League scoring race with 19 points -- 10 of them in Buffalo's four games last week. There have been three five-point games in the NHL this season and Vanek has two of them -- the second one came Thursday night when he had a hat trick and added a pair of assists in a 7-4 win at Boston.

Vanek's big week came after he was forced to sit out last Sunday's game at Washington with a lower-body injury. He has points in all eight games he's played in, and he's on a pace that would put him well over 100 points in this season's abbreviated 48-game schedule.

Sizzling Marleau off to historic start in record time

Monday, 01.28.2013 / 9:46 AM / The Hot List

John Kreiser - Columnist

For anyone else, scoring a goal and adding an assist to help his team to its fifth consecutive win would be a good night. For Patrick Marleau, it was a comedown.

The highest-scoring player in the history of the San Jose Sharks is off to the fastest start of any player in the modern history of the NHL. Marleau is the first player since 1917 to open his season with four consecutive multiple-goal games. He scored twice in San Jose's win at Calgary, had two more the next night in Edmonton, then doubled up again in the Sharks' home opener against Phoenix and again Saturday against Colorado.

His nine goals are four more than anyone else in the NHL entering the second full week of the season.

Columbus' York has gone from sub to star

Sunday, 04.01.2012 / 12:48 PM / The Hot List

John Kreiser - Columnist

Allen York probably wishes that last week would never end.

Allen York
Goalie - CBJ
RECORD: 3-1-0
GAA: 2.35 | SVP: 0.921
One week ago, York was a backup goaltender for the last-place Columbus Blue Jackets. The former RPI star, signed as an undrafted free agent last year, was in the NHL only because Curtis Sanford was out for the season with an injury, and figured to see little action behind starter Steve Mason.

But a shot that hit Mason in the mask during the morning skate Wednesday turned York into a starter -- and York helped the Jackets to their best week of the season.

Not only did the 22-year-old win all three of his starts, he beat three teams that figure to be in the playoffs when the regular season ends next week. York stopped 29 shots in a 4-2 win against Detroit, turned aside 30 more in a 4-1 win against Southeast Division-leading Florida and capped his week with a 34-save performance in a 5-2 win at St. Louis -- only the fifth regulation loss for the Blues at home this season.

Miller is leading the charging Sabres toward playoffs

Sunday, 03.25.2012 / 11:37 AM / The Hot List

John Kreiser - Columnist

Two years ago, Ryan Miller carried Team USA within a goal of Olympic gold. This year, he's carrying the Buffalo Sabres on a charge toward the playoffs.

Ryan Miller
Goalie - BUF
RECORD: 29-18-7
GAA: 2.48 | SVP: 0.917
Miller is playing his best hockey since the 2010 Vancouver Games just when the Sabres need him most. He won all four of his starts last week, including a 24-save performance Saturday night in a 3-1 victory against Minnesota that moved the Sabres into eighth place in the East.

After a slow start this season, Miller has been on a tear -- and so have the Sabres, who are 18-5-5 in their last 28 games in a surge that has carried them from 14th to eighth. Miller has allowed just 18 goals while going 7-0-2 in his last nine -- and shows no signs of slowing down.

Varlamov making Sherman look very smart

Monday, 03.19.2012 / 10:31 AM / The Hot List

John Kreiser - Columnist

Semyon Varlamov has been the NHL's best shootout goaltender this season. Thankfully for the Colorado Avalanche, he's shown he can stop pucks before the tiebreaker as well.

Varlamov was on top of his game last week, winning all three of his starts and allowing just seven goals despite facing 106 shots. He capped his week with a virtuoso performance in New York on Saturday, stopping 41 of 42 shots and almost single-handedly beating the Rangers.

The Avs paid a big price -- including their top pick in the 2012 NHL Draft -- to acquire Varlamov from Washington last June. He's making GM Greg Sherman look smart now; Varlamov is one of the reasons the Avs enter Monday's games in eighth place in the West. He's 9-2-0 in his last 11 games and has allowed just 17 goals in that span.

Bryzgalov showing impressive form for Flyers

Sunday, 03.11.2012 / 10:28 AM / The Hot List

John Kreiser - Columnist

Ilya Bryzgalov was a hit on "24/7" earlier this season for his views on life. These days, he's earning plaudits for providing the kind of goaltending the Philadelphia Flyers were looking for when they signed him last summer.

Ilya Bryzgalov
Goalie - PHI
RECORD: 27-13-6
GAA: 2.59 | SVP: 0.907
Bryzgalov's bon mots on the HBO series were more notable than his play between the pipes for the first two-thirds of the season -- he struggled to keep his goals-against average under 3 and his save percentage over .900. Now it's opponents who are struggling -- to get the puck past him.

The Russian goaltender completed his third shutout in seven days by stopping 29 Toronto shots through 65 minutes, then denied all three shootout attempts to give the Flyers a 1-0 victory on Saturday night. He's started and won the Flyers' first five games this month, allowing just five goals in the process -- including back-to-back shutouts against Florida and Toronto.

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

Max Pacioretty -- One year after a big hit by Zdeno Chara nearly ended his career, Pacioretty tore through Western Canada, leading Montreal to two wins in three games by piling up seven points. His two goals in Edmonton made him the first U.S.-born player to score 30 goals with the Canadiens.

Miller's stellar play puts Sabres in playoff race

Sunday, 03.04.2012 / 11:30 AM / The Hot List

John Kreiser - Columnist

Ryan Miller is standing on his head to get the Buffalo Sabres back into the playoff race.

Ryan Miller
Goalie - BUF
RECORD: 22-17-5
GAA: 2.59 | SVP: 0.915
With his team desperate for points, Miller turned three goals into two wins on consecutive nights in Anaheim and San Jose last week, stopping 43 shots in a 2-0 win against the Ducks and 39 more the next night for a 1-0 victory against the Sharks.

The Sabres gave Miller a little more support on Saturday, blitzing Vancouver for three early goals, and the 2010 Vezina Trophy winner made 32 saves as Buffalo held off the desperate Canucks 5-3 to improve to 6-0-2 in their last eight games.

For the week, Miller won all three of his starts, two by shutout, while stopping 114 of 117 shots -- all on the road. 

Karlsson's impressive season powering Sens

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

John Kreiser - Columnist

Erik Karlsson had a week Bobby Orr would have been proud of.

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.

Erik Karlsson
Defense - OTT
GOALS: 14 | ASST: 49 | PTS: 63
SOG: 204 | +/-: 15
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.

Luongo's back on track, and so are Canucks

Sunday, 02.19.2012 / 11:28 AM / The Hot List

John Kreiser - Columnist

Don't look now, but Roberto Luongo has found his groove again.

Luongo's early-season struggles were a big reason the Vancouver Canucks had their ups and downs in the first few weeks -- there was even talk that he could lose his job to backup Cory Schneider.

Roberto Luongo
Goalie - VAN
RECORD: 25-10-6
GAA: 2.30 | SVP: 0.922
But Luongo has been on a roll over the last couple of months, and he improved his season record to 25-10-6 by winning all three starts last week while allowing just four goals.

After his slow start, Luongo's goals-against average is down to 2.30 and his save percentage has improved to .922. He's 7-0-3 in his last 10 starts and hasn't allowed more than three goals in a game since Jan. 15.

Not coincidentally, the Canucks are looking like the team that came up a game short of winning the Stanley Cup last spring. The way Luongo is playing, he could get a chance to atone for that failing come June.

Smith pulling Coyotes into playoff position

Sunday, 02.12.2012 / 10:46 AM / The Hot List

John Kreiser - Columnist

Mike Smith spent the second half of last season in the minor leagues. A year later, he’s spending his winter trying to lead the Phoenix Coyotes to a playoff berth.

The Coyotes signed Smith as a free agent last summer after the Tampa Bay Lightning had sent him to the minors following the acquisition of Dwayne Roloson. Smith has been solid all season, but he’s stepped up his play in February, and especially in the past week.

Smith stopped everything the Chicago Blackhawks threw at him on Saturday in a 3-0 victory, capping a week that saw him go 4-0-0 while allowing just three goals. He’s been in goal for every second of the five-game winning streak that has carried the Coyotes into sole possession of eighth place in the West – quite a turnaround for someone who was riding the buses in the minors a year ago.

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

Carey Price – Like Smith, Price is trying to carry an underpowered team to a playoff berth. He went 4-0-0 in a seven-day span, capping his near-flawless week with a 5-0 victory in Toronto on Saturday night.

Evgeni Malkin – The NHL’s leading scorer continues to pile up points. He had five of them on Saturday in Pittsburgh’s 8-5 win against Winnipeg and is 3-5-8 during a four-game points streak.
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