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Ford Tough Performance of the Week

Toews leading Hawks with words and deeds

Tuesday, 03.15.2011 / 5:25 PM / Ford Tough Performance of the Week

In a race as tight as the battle to make the playoffs in the Western Conference has been this season, a single point could end up making the difference between a team having the opportunity to compete for the Stanley Cup and spending the balance of its spring on the golf course.

For that reason, Jonathan Toews' goal with 38.5 seconds remaining Sunday in Washington was a critical one for the Chicago Blackhawks. Although they went on to lose 4-3 in overtime to the Capitals, they stole a point when they easily could have come away empty.

The Blackhawks were on the power play and had pulled goalie Corey Crawford for a 6-on-4 advantage. From the blue line, Duncan Keith blasted the puck wide of the right post and it caromed out to the left side of the net where Toews was positioned. He managed to squeak a shot through Capitals defenseman Dennis Wideman and goalie Braden Holtby to even the score.

Kovalchuk carrying Devils with timely scoring

Tuesday, 03.08.2011 / 5:57 PM / Ford Tough Performance of the Week

The New Jersey Devils' unexpected bid to make the Stanley Cup Playoffs is being led by the man who got all the headlines during the free-agent signing period last summer.

While he struggled mightily along with the rest of the team during its 10-29-2 first half, Ilya Kovalchuk has spent the past two months showing Devils fans and the rest of the NHL why he commanded a 15-year, $100-million contract by carrying the team on his back during crunch moments in games.

A perfect example came last Wednesday when the Devils hosted the Tampa Bay Lightning. The two sides traded second-period goals and the game was 1-1 entering the third period. Lightning defenseman Matt Smaby attempted to clear a puck out of his own end but instead put it on the stick of Devils center Travis Zajac. His cross-ice pass was slightly behind a cutting Kovalchuk, but he was able to rear back and, while beginning to fall forward, get off a one-timer that soared into the left corner of the net.

Thornton deflects praise to talented teammates

Tuesday, 03.01.2011 / 4:28 PM / Ford Tough Performance of the Week

Mike G. Morreale - Staff Writer

Leave it up to San Jose Sharks captain Joe Thornton to get the adrenaline pumping at just the right moment.

In typical Thornton fashion, the big center became the 18th active player in the League with 300 goals when he scored Feb. 22 on the way to leading San Jose to a 4-3 victory against the Detroit Red Wings at Joe Louis Arena.

Thornton, who joined Mark Recchi, Mike Modano and Teemu Selanne as the only active players with at least 300 goals and 680 assists, gave the Sharks a 1-0 lead on his milestone goal, a power-play score with just 7.4 seconds remaining in the first period.

Boyes shows the talent to score goals is still there

Tuesday, 02.22.2011 / 3:32 PM / Ford Tough Performance of the Week

Brad Boyes connected for 43 goals in his first full season with the St. Louis Blues, in 2007-08, and 33 the season after that.

While the offensive output hasn't come as easily for Boyes since then, the talent that helped him put together those two huge seasons remains evident in goals like the one he scored in the first period Monday against Chicago, on a play Boyes both started and finished.

On a St. Louis dump-in, Boyes had to take on four Blackhawks in order to control the puck and create a scoring chance. First, he put a hit on defenseman Jordan Hendry along the boards and was able to play the puck away from him. Swerving toward the net, he eluded blueliner Brian Campbell as well as backchecking forwards Michael Frolik and Jake Dowell.

All-round game returning Tampa spotlight to Lecavalier

Tuesday, 02.15.2011 / 1:10 PM / Ford Tough Performance of the Week

Adam Kimelman - Deputy Managing Editor

Almost from the day the Tampa Bay Lightning made him the No. 1 pick of the 1998 Entry Draft, Vincent Lecavalier has been the face of the franchise.

The past few seasons, however, he's been pushed a bit into the background. Steven Stamkos' ascent to superstardom, as well as the franchise makeover with the arrival of new owner Jeff Vinik, GM Steve Yzerman and coach Guy Boucher has put the spotlight in other areas.

However, that doesn't mean Lecavalier is any less important to the franchise now than he has been in the past.

He's third on the team with 12 goals and fifth with just 29 points -- but he's contributing far more now. He's taken the most faceoffs on the team (690) and is second in winning percentage (49.6). He also has 43 hits and 16 takeaways.

Panthers' Ellerby using size to his advantage

Tuesday, 02.08.2011 / 7:44 PM / Ford Tough Performance of the Week

Andrei Kostitsyn found out just how tough Keaton Ellerby is last Wednesday night.

Ellerby, the Florida Panthers' first-round draft choice in 2007, consistently uses his large frame (6-foot-4, 220 pounds) to his advantage, and it was no different at the Bell Centre last week when Ellerby laid a thunderous hit on the Montreal Canadiens' winger.

With just over four minutes remaining in the first period, Ellerby caught Kostitsyn with his head down along the boards in the Panthers' zone and knocked the latter to the ice. While the Canadiens went on to win the game by a 3-2 score, there's little doubt Kostitsyn will be more cautious the next time Montreal faces Florida.

Ellerby has picked up his offensive game as of late, as he entered Tuesday's action with points in three of his last five games. In 26 games this season, the Strathmore, Alberta native has a goal, six assists and a plus-4 rating.

Goalie skate-off displays toughness of position

Tuesday, 02.01.2011 / 6:19 PM / Ford Tough Performance of the Week

When it comes to the toughest positions to play in professional sports, goaltender in the NHL must rank near the top of the list. Imagine having to face down a 100-mph slap shot with the game on the line, or going post to post in order to deny a cross-crease pass and stuff attempt.

Or skating around the rink in full equipment in an attempt to win a skills competition against one of your goalie brethren.

That's exactly what happened Saturday during the Honda NHL SuperSkills competition at All-Star Weekend in Raleigh, N.C., as Cam Ward of the hometown Carolina Hurricanes and Tim Thomas of the Boston Bruins became the first masked men to participate in the Bridgestone NHL Fastest Skater competition.

Phaneuf remains a physical force for Maple Leafs

Tuesday, 01.25.2011 / 3:45 PM / Ford Tough Performance of the Week

The goals haven't been coming for Dion Phaneuf since the Toronto Maple Leafs acquired him last season from the Calgary Flames, but a big reason why Toronto GM Brian Burke wanted the rough-and-tumble defenseman was for the fear he inspires in the opposition with his bone-crunching hits, and Phaneuf hasn't disappointed one bit in that category.

Just ask Matt Beleskey of the Anaheim Ducks … or Tuomo Ruutu of the Carolina Hurricanes.

Midway through the first period of the Maple Leafs' game with the Ducks on Jan. 20, Phaneuf caught Beleskey playing the puck along the boards in his defensive zone and crushed the Anaheim forward just inside the blue line. Toronto trailed 1-0 at the time, but not long after the hit Clarke MacArthur scored and the Leafs went on to a 5-2 victory.

Morrow shows a nose -- and a chin -- for the net

Tuesday, 01.11.2011 / 4:25 PM / Ford Tough Performance of the Week

The puck certainly has been finding Brenden Morrow this season.

Unfortunately for the Dallas Stars captain, it's often been finding his face.

Morrow broke his nose during the front end of a home-and-home set with San Jose on Dec. 13, but returned to finish the game. He had surgery two days later and played in the back end of the series with the Sharks on Dec. 16.

If that wasn't enough of a display of the grit and toughness that have characterized Morrow's 11-season NHL career, a play in the Stars' Jan. 5 game against the Blackhawks in Chicago hammered it home further.

Rupp has found tough way to stick in NHL

Tuesday, 01.04.2011 / 4:47 PM / Ford Tough Performance of the Week
Michael Rupp made his NHL debut with the New Jersey Devils in January 2003, and six months later was responsible for scoring the Game 7 Stanley Cup-clinching goal.

In the ensuing seasons Rupp's physical play and willingness to stand up for his teammates probably became more responsible for keeping him in the League than his goal-scoring ability -- until he joined the Pittsburgh Penguins last season and had a career-high 13 goals, he'd never scored more than 6 in a season.

So while it's safe to say Rupp would have loved his highlight moment from the 2011 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic to have involved lighting the lamp -- perhaps off a slick feed from, say, Sidney Crosby -- it's also not surprising that it instead came when he dropped the gloves midway through the opening period and squared off with Washington Capitals defenseman John Erskine.

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