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The Hot List

Gagner's huge weekend a stretch to remember

Sunday, 02.05.2012 / 10:08 AM / The Hot List

John Kreiser - Columnist

The Edmonton Oilers have been waiting for Sam Gagner to deliver on the promise that made him their first-round pick in the 2007 NHL Draft. But not even in their wildest dreams could they have pictured what happened last week.

Sam Gagner
Center - EDM
GOALS: 11 | ASST: 22 | PTS: 33
SOG: 93 | +/-: 0
In the context of the way the game is played now, Gagner's eight-point night against Chicago on Thursday might have been the greatest single performance in NHL history. Only Darryl Sittler (10) has had more points in a game, but Sittler's big night -- which took place 35 years ago this Tuesday -- came in an era when the average game featured more than seven goals and came against a goaltender who was soon out of the NHL.

Ten of the other 12 eight-point nights in NHL history came from between 1977 and 1988 -- the same high-scoring era as Sittler's big night. Gagner got points in an era when the average game features a combined total of about 5.5 goals.

Gagner also followed up his big night with three more points -- all in the first period -- on Saturday against Detroit. He added a shootout goal for good measure as the Oilers beat the Wings 5-4.

That's 11 points in two nights -- pretty good for someone who had just 22 in 43 previous games. 

Elliott's surprising showing leads to All-Star berth

Monday, 01.30.2012 / 3:05 PM / The Hot List

John Kreiser - Columnist

Brian Elliott
Goalie - STL
RECORD: 15-5-2
GAA: 1.69 | SVP: 0.938
Brian Elliott spent most of the summer looking for a job. He spent this weekend as an All-Star.

There was no more unlikely participant in the 2012 Tim Hortons NHL All-Star Game than Elliott, who had to scramble for a job last summer after a dreadful season split between Ottawa and Colorado. He finally found a taker when the St. Louis Blues signed him to a two-way deal and gave him a chance to earn the backup job behind Jaroslav Halak.

Not only did Elliott earn a job, he got an opportunity when Halak struggled in the early going. Elliott made the most of his chance -- he reached the All-Star break leading the NHL in goals-against average (1.69) and save percentage (.938), and second in shutouts with five.

Malkin has filled the void for ailing Penguins

Sunday, 01.22.2012 / 10:47 AM / The Hot List

John Kreiser - Columnist

With Sidney Crosby and now Jordan Staal out with injuries, the Pittsburgh Penguins have needed Evgeni Malkin to step up.

He's done that … and more.

Evgeni Malkin
Center - PIT
GOALS: 25 | ASST: 30 | PTS: 55
SOG: 190 | +/-: 9
As we approach the All-Star break, no player in the NHL has been putting the puck in the net at a faster clip than Malkin. His game-tying goal against Montreal on Friday night was his seventh in four games during a six-day span and his ninth in Pittsburgh's last five games , all Penguin victories, the last of which came when he scored the only goal of the shootout to beat the Canadiens.

Despite missing seven early-season games due to injuries, Malkin has grabbed the League scoring lead with 55 points in just 40 games. Short of selling popcorn at intermission, there's not much more the Penguins can ask of him.

Anderson has Senators on a roll

Sunday, 01.15.2012 / 11:02 AM / The Hot List

John Kreiser - Columnist

Ottawa goaltender Craig Anderson is playing like someone whose New Year's resolution was not to lose again.

Craig Anderson
Goalie - OTT
RECORD: 23-12-4
GAA: 2.96 | SVP: 0.907
Anderson is the biggest reason the Senators have been one of the NHL's biggest surprises this season. He won all three of his starts last week, allowing one goal in Pittsburgh and two in a shootout win at Montreal -- sandwiched around a brilliant 34-save shutout of the League-leading Rangers in New York on Thursday.

For the week, he allowed just three goals on 99 shots. In his last nine appearances, he's gone 8-0-1 while allowing only 15 goals. After a shaky start, he's second in the NHL with 23 victories, and since the day after Thanksgiving has chopped his goals-against average from 3.46 to 2.96 while improving his save percentage from .889 to .907. 

Benn on pace for a career season in Dallas

Sunday, 01.08.2012 / 11:21 AM / The Hot List

John Kreiser - Columnist

The best season of Jamie Benn's young career keeps getting better.

Jamie Benn
Left Wing - DAL
GOALS: 13 | ASST: 28 | PTS: 41
SOG: 114 | +/-: 10
The Dallas Stars are one of the surprises of the first half of the season, and Benn's recent hot streak is a big reason they enter the week in the top eight in the West after missing the playoffs for the past three seasons.

Benn, a third-year center, had a pair of goals on Saturday as the Stars beat Edmonton 4-1. He scored three times and added four assists as the Stars won two of three games last week, and has four goals and nine points in Dallas' last four games.

Benn's 41 points in 40 games match the entire output of his rookie season two years ago, and his 82-point pace would shatter his career high of 57, set last season.

Ovi enters the new year on a roll

Sunday, 01.01.2012 / 12:58 PM / The Hot List

John Kreiser - Columnist

After the lowest-scoring year of his career, Alex Ovechkin is entering 2012 on an upswing.

Ovi had just 32 goals in 2010-11 and entered the final week of the outgoing year with only 12 goals. But maybe the two-day Christmas break was just what he needed, because he looked like the Ovechkin of old in Washington's four games last week.

Alex Ovechkin
Left Wing - WSH
GOALS: 16 | ASST: 15 | PTS: 31
SOG: 143 | +/-: -4
Ovechkin had a goal in Monday's 4-2 loss at Buffalo on Monday, then set up two goals by Alexander Semin in Wednesday's 4-1 win against the New York Rangers. That was just a warm-up for his weekend, when he scored twice on Friday against Buffalo and two more times during Washington's four-goal third-period rally at Columbus.

Instead of the 11 goals he had at Christmas, Ovechkin now has 16 -- and a six-game points streak during which he's gone 6-3-9. 

Marchand dazzles for B's; Malkin Mania for Pens

Saturday, 12.24.2011 / 4:00 PM / The Hot List

John Kreiser - Columnist

For a guy who figured to make his NHL living as a pest, Brad Marchand sure knows where the back of the net is.

Brad Marchand
Left Wing - BOS
GOALS: 15 | ASST: 14 | PTS: 29
SOG: 78 | +/-: 25
Boston picked Marchand in the third round of the 2006 NHL Draft with the expectation that he'd be a high-energy player who could chip in a little offense. He surprised everyone by scoring 21 goals and 41 points as a rookie as the Bruins won their first Stanley Cup since 1972, and is on his way to blowing past both those marks this season.

Marchand had a career night on Friday with his first NHL hat trick and a pair of assists for a five-point night as Boston buried the Florida Panthers 8-0. He has six goals and nine points in Boston's past five games and has climbed to second on the Bruins with 29 points while leading the team in goals with 15. He's also second in the League to teammate Tyler Seguin in plus-minus at plus-25 -- matching his rating for last season.

Malkin's heroics keeping depleted Pens afloat

Sunday, 12.18.2011 / 11:18 AM / The Hot List

John Kreiser - Columnist

Evgeni Malkin is doing his best to make sure the Pittsburgh Penguins can survive a rash of injuries that has claimed Sidney Crosby among its victims.

With Crosby and top defenseman Kris Letang among the Penguins watching instead of playing, Malkin had his biggest night of the season on Saturday, scoring three times and adding a pair of assists in Pittsburgh's 8-3 win against Buffalo. The big night capped a week in which he scored five times and added three assists for eight points in three games.

Malkin now has 12 points during a five-game scoring streak, and his 36 points in just 26 games are fourth in the NHL and just one less than he scored in 43 games a year ago before going down with a season-ending knee injury. He's healthy now and doing his utmost to keep the Penguins afloat.

Five up -- Five players who are playing well:

Steven Stamkos -- Tampa Bay's top gun became the first player to reach the 20-goal mark this season when he scored against Columbus on Saturday, capping a week that saw him finish with four goals (two of them game-winners), and seven points in three games. 

Flames' Morrison is starting to come to life

Sunday, 12.11.2011 / 10:52 AM / The Hot List

John Kreiser - Columnist

Brendan Morrison showed teammates and opponents that there's still some life left in his 36-year-old legs.

Brendan Morrison
Center - CGY
GOALS: 3 | ASST: 5 | PTS: 8
SOG: 19 | +/-: 2
Morrison has missed most of November recovering from knee surgery, played two games and was scratched for the next five because the knee still wasn't right. With his offense struggling, Calgary coach Brent Sutter put Morrison back in the lineup Tuesday night against Carolina -- and was rewarded with two goals and a pair of assists in a 7-6 victory.

The veteran center added two more assists in Thursday's 3-2 win against Colorado and set up Jarome Iginla for a goal in Saturday's 3-0 victory against Edmonton. That's seven points in three games from a player who had scored only one point before last week. 

Isles' Moulson just finds ways to score

Sunday, 12.04.2011 / 11:22 AM / The Hot List

John Kreiser - Columnist

He doesn't have great speed or a big shot. All Matt Moulson does is find a way to score goals.

Despite playing with the New York Islanders, one of the NHL's weakest offensive teams, Moulson is on a roll after becoming the first player in the League this season to score four goals in a game. He connected twice in the first period and two more times in the second on Saturday night in a 5-4 victory at Dallas. It was the first four-goal game of his career.

Moulson has scored seven times during a four-game goal-scoring streak. His 13 goals are tops on the Islanders and have him on target for his third consecutive 30-goal season -- pretty good for a guy who was signed as a minor-league free agent before the 2009-10 season. He may not be fast or flashy, but Moulson keeps finding a way to put the puck in the net more than all but a handful of players in the NHL. 
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