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Ovi, Henrik Sedin, Vokoun named January's best

by Staff Writer / Washington Capitals
While the Capitals had their best month of the season, it should surprise no one that their chief superstar, Alex Ovechkin, also had his best month.

After totaling 9 goals, 26 points and a plus-16 rating in 15 games, Ovechkin was named NHL Player of the Month for January.

He had just 1 game-winning goal, but his 17 assists were the most he's had in a month this season, and he also was named team captain Jan. 5. His strong play helped the Caps go 13-2-0 in January, their best month of the season, and take control of the Eastern Conference standings.

Second: Henrik Sedin -- We're not even into February and the Vancouver Canucks center already is having the best season of his career. His 6 goals in 13 January games gave him 25 for the season, three better than his previous career high. And his 25 points not only gave him a League-high 78, but moved him within 4 points of his best-ever season.

Third: Tomas Vokoun -- The Florida goalie is doing his best to keep the Panthers in the playoff hunt. He went 8-4-2 in January, but allowed just 21 goals in 14 games, giving him a 1.50 goals-against average, .958 save percentage and four shutouts.

Honorable mention:

Alexandre Burrows -- The Vancouver Canucks forward found his name in the headlines for a number of reasons, but the biggest one was the 15 goals he scored in 13 January games. He had back-to-back hat tricks, and five multi-goal games.

Sidney Crosby -- The Penguins captain had 11 goals in January, keeping him on pace to shatter his previous season best of 39 he had as a rookie. Crosby also had the best individual game this season, a 2-goal, 4-assist outing Jan. 19 against the Islanders.

Brian Elliott -- The Ottawa goalie ended January with seven straight wins as the Senators have rocketed up the Eastern Conference standings. Elliott went 8-2-0 in 11 games, posting a 2.01 goals-against average and .932 save percentage.

Jonathan Quick -- The Kings goalie celebrated his spot on the Olympic team by having a stellar January. Quick went 10-3-0 during January, with a 2.32 GAA, .925 save percentage, and he ended the month on a six-game win streak, including a five-game sweep of their just-ended road trip. He also robbed New Jersey's Dainius Zubrus' with one of the best saves of the month Sunday.

Alexander Semin -- While teammate Alex Ovechkin might steal the headlines, the Caps' "other" Alex has just as much to do with Washington's success. Semin had 11 goals and 23 points in 15 January games. He had four 2-goal games, and ended the month on a nine-game point-scoring streak.

Stars of the Week:

First Star: Shane Doan -- "Captain Coyote" is doing his part to get Phoenix back into the playoffs. He powered Phoenix to a perfect 4-0-0 record with his best week of the season, and earned himself the NHL First Star of the Week. Doan started with a 4-point night that was capped by the overtime winner in Detroit, added an assist against Calgary, a goal against the New York Rangers and then wrapped his big week with a goal and a pair of assists in Sunday's 4-2 win at Dallas.

He finished the week with 3 goals, 6 assists and a plus-5 rating, as the Coyotes began this week fourth in the Western Conference.

Second star: Brian Elliott -- Last week's NHL First Star of the Week again was superb as he backstopped Ottawa to three more victories -- giving the Senators a franchise-record nine-game win streak. Elliott was 3-0-0, including a shutout of New Jersey, and stopped 81 of 84 shots.

Third star: Nicklas Backstrom -- He doesn't get the plaudits teammates like Alex Ovechkin receive, but Backstrom makes the Washington Capitals go. Backstrom had 2 goals and 7 points in Washington's 4-0-0 week while going plus-6 -- slightly outshining teammates like Alexander Semin (4-2-6), Mike Knuble (4-2-6) and Ovechkin (2-4-6).

Honorable mention:
Cam Ward --
It's no accident the Carolina Hurricanes are winning now that Ward is back in top form. He led Carolina to a 3-0-0 record last week while stopping 102 of 106 shots for the suddenly surging Hurricanes. Ward has been in goal for all four games during Carolina's longest win streak of the season.

Jarome Iginla --
Calgary's captain came through when his team needed him, scoring twice and adding 2 assists in a 6-1 win against Edmonton that ended the Flames' nine-game winless streak (0-6-3). He was 3-4-7 in three games as the Flames went 1-0-2.

Nicklas Lidstrom -- Detroit's captain went nearly half a season without scoring a goal, but his offensive game has returned. He scored twice against Phoenix and once against Nashville, and added 3 assists for a six-point week, during which he was plus-2 while averaging more than 24 minutes of ice time.

Five down --
Five players who are struggling:

Niclas Bergfors -- New Jersey's Swedish rookie had a fine first half, but he's lost his way over the past few weeks. Bergfors has gone without a point in his last 12 games, and was a healthy scratch Friday night.

John Madden -- Madden has been missing from Chicago's run to the top of the Central Division. He was pointless and a minus-5 as the Blackhawks went 5-3-0 on their eight-game road trip, and he hasn't scored a goal since Jan. 5.

Radek Dvorak -- Not much has gone right for Florida's veteran forward since his hat trick against Pittsburgh on Jan. 3. Dvorak hasn’t had a point in seven games and has just a pair of assists in the 13 games since his hat trick.

Richard Park -- Most of the New York Islanders are in a slump, but Park has struggled for most of the season. He's gone without a point for six games and has dropped to minus-20 for the season.

Michal Rozsival -- The New York Rangers count on Rozsival to generate offense from the blue line, but he's not doing it. Rozsival has gone 13 games without producing a point and is minus-5 in his last six.

Injuries, news and notes -- Capitals defenseman Mike Green left Friday's game with a bruised thigh which might have kept him out of Sunday's game, but the NHL made the decision for him by suspending Green for three games for an elbow in Wednesday's game against Florida.

Out -- Edmonton defenseman Sheldon Souray broke his hand in the third period Saturday night and won't be back until after the Olympics. ... Montreal forward Mike Cammalleri left Saturday's game with a right knee injury; he was seen leaving the arena on crutches and wearing an inflatable cast. ... The Islanders took a big hit on the blue line when defenseman Jack Hillen went down with a broken jaw after being hit by a shot from Alex Ovechkin. He's expected to miss 6-8 weeks. ... Ottawa will be without forward Nick Foligno for 4-6 weeks after he sustained a broken leg while blocking a shot Saturday. ... Pittsburgh forward Eric Godard will miss 4-6 weeks with a groin injury. ... Phoenix may have lost forward Scottie Upshall, its top goal-scorer, for the season with a torn ACL on Thursday. He'll need surgery. ... Colorado forward Ryan Stoa left Friday's game with a shoulder injury and is out indefinitely. ... Dallas center Brian Sutherby left Sunday's game with an upper-body injury and didn't return. ... Pittsburgh's Maxime Talbot has missed four games with a groin injury.

Returning --
Boston got a boost when top center Marc Savard returned Friday. He wore a brace to protect his injured right knee. He missed eight games. ... Florida forward David Booth, out since Oct. 24 with a concussion, returned Sunday and had an assist in a 2-0 win against the Islanders. ... Detroit forward Jason Williams returned Friday. It was his first game since going down with a broken fibula Nov. 7. Defenseman Niklas Kronwall (knee) had returned two nights earlier. ... Dallas forward Jere Lehtinen (upper body) returned Sunday after missing six games. ... Chicago center Dave Bolland, out since mid-November after undergoing back surgery, hopes to return Wednesday when the Blackhawks return from their eight-game trip. ... Edmonton center Mike Comrie returned Thursday. He had been out since Nov. 16 while battling mononucleosis. ... Los Angeles defenseman Davis Drewiske is expected back this week after missing four weeks with a shoulder injury. ... Colorado captain Adam Foote returned Friday after missing seven games with an ankle injury. ... Carolina defenseman Joe Corvo, out since Nov. 30 with a leg laceration, should be back this week.

Still out -- Ottawa goaltender Pascal Leclaire practiced Friday for the first time since he sustained a concussion Jan. 14. He could be ready by the end of the week. ... Anaheim forward Teemu Selanne still is regaining his strength after losing 15 pounds due to a broken jaw sustained Jan. 13. ... Team USA coach Ron Wilson said New Jersey defenseman Paul Martin (broken right arm) is a long shot to play on the Olympic team. He hasn't played since Oct. 24, though he may start skating this week. Devils forward Patrik Elias, out since sustaining a concussion Jan. 16, is able to work out again, and David Clarkson (broken leg) may be able to skate in the next couple of days but isn't likely to return until after the Games. ...  Toronto defenseman Mike Van Ryn (knee) has resumed skating after undergoing osteotomy surgery in October. He's not expected back this season. Another blueliner, Mike Komisarek, had hoped to play Saturday but didn't get medical clearance for his injured shoulder. ... Pittsburgh forward Chris Kunitz practiced last week for the first time since having surgery in early January to repair a torn abdominal muscle. He's likely a week or two away from returning. ... Boston defenseman Andrew Ference, sidelined for the last four weeks with a groin injury, is skating again and should be back after the Olympics. ... Islanders defenseman Brendan Witt (calf) is skating again; there's no timetable for his return, but he might be able to return this week. ... Dallas center Mike Ribeiro, out since Jan. 6 with a throat injury, hopes to be back before the Olympic break. He's skating again, and will wear a throat protector when he returns. Another center, Tom Wandell, will be gone for the season and undergo knee surgery Tuesday. He was injured in mid-January.

The week ahead -- The games keep on coming as we close in on the Olympic break. The week is highlighted by a 14-game Saturday followed by two afternoon games Super Bowl Sunday.

Games to watch:

Buffalo at Pittsburgh (Feb. 1, 7 p.m. ET, VERSUS, TSN2, RDS) --
This one figures to be a close game -- the Sabres and Penguins have played five consecutive one-goal decisions, including an overtime game and Pittsburgh's 2-1 shootout win Dec. 19.

Vancouver at Montreal (Feb. 2, 7:30 p.m. ET, RDS) -- Montreal never has been a pleasant stop for the Canucks, who are 11-39 with five ties in their 55 visits -- and that includes a 3-1-1 mark in their last five. It's Game 2 of Vancouver's 14-game trip.

St. Louis at Chicago (Feb. 3) -- The Blackhawks are sure to be greeted warmly as they return to the United Center for the first time after an eight-game trip that ended Saturday at Carolina. Despite the 4-2 loss, Chicago went 5-3-0.

New Jersey at N.Y. Rangers (Feb. 6, 7 p.m. ET, RDS) -- The Devils return to Madison Square Garden for the first time since their epic 1-0 shootout win against the Rangers on Jan. 12 in a game that saw Martin Brodeur stop 51 shots in regulation and four more in the shootout before Patrik Elias' goal gave New Jersey the victory -- and started the Rangers on their current 3-7-0 slide.

Pittsburgh at Washington (Feb. 7, Noon ET, NBC) -- The NHL on NBC Game of the Week will feature Sidney Crosby and the Penguins trying to avenge a 6-3 home loss to Alex Ovechkin & Co. on Jan. 21.

Tough week ahead:  

Carolina Hurricanes --
This is as tough a week as any team could (not) want. The Hurricanes start the week with two games in Alberta, then come back East for back-to-back games at Buffalo and Long Island -- all in six days.

Detroit Red Wings -- The Wings get away from winter in Michigan by spending the week in California; unfortunately, with the warmer weather comes visits to San Jose, Anaheim and Los Angeles.

Vancouver Canucks -- After opening their record-setting 14-game trip with a stop in Toronto on Saturday, the Canucks stay in the East this week for Games 2-4, with stops in Montreal, Ottawa and Boston.

Easy week ahead: 

Los Angeles Kings --
After a successful five-game road trip, the Kings come home for games with the Rangers, Anaheim and Detroit.

Nashville Predators -- The Preds have spent most of the last month on the road, so a week at home figures to be a good break -- even with the likes of Phoenix, Colorado and San Jose coming to Sommet Center.

New York Islanders -- The Isles are the only team scheduled to play just twice this week. They get three days off before visiting Tampa Bay on Thursday, then return home for a Saturday night matchup with the likely-to-be-weary Hurricanes.

Author: John Kreiser | Columnist

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