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Back in lineup, Vanek continues on torrid pace

by John Kreiser

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.

Thomas Vanek
Thomas Vanek
Left Wing - BUF
GOALS: 8 | ASST: 11 | PTS: 19
SOG: 33 | +/-: 7
Five up -- Five other players who had a good week:

Roberto Luongo -- Remember when Luongo was supposed to be headed for the trade market after Vancouver gave the starting job in goal to Cory Schneider? The Canucks are glad they held on to him -- all Luongo did last week was go 2-0-1 while allowing just three goals in 190 minutes and post his 61st career shutout. He owns a 1.46 goals-against average and a .944 save percentage -- and for the moment, has relegated Schneider to the bench.

Steven Stamkos -- Stamkos won't repeat last season's 60-goal performance -- only because this season will last only 48 games. The Tampa Bay star has goals in five consecutive games, including a pair against the New York Rangers on Saturday, and has points in all eight games the Lightning have played this season.

Henrik Zetterberg -- Detroit's new captain owns the other five-point game this season -- he had a hat trick and two assists in the Red Wings' 5-3 victory against St. Louis on Friday night. On a team in transition, Zetterberg has raised his game.

Sidney Crosby -- Crosby has been flying under the radar in Pittsburgh's up-and-down early-season performance, but the points have been coming faster. He put up back-to-back three-point games this weekend against New Jersey and Washington and has 13 points in nine games. He's also a big reason linemate Chris Kunitz had five goals and seven points in the two games, including a four goals on Sunday.

Carey Price -- After losing 2-1 to Toronto on opening night, Price has won all six of his starts for Montreal, including all three last week for the surprising Canadiens. His 1.70 goals-against average a .938 save percentage are a big reason that Montreal is one of this season's early surprises.

Five down -- Five players who didn't:

Kyle Okposo
Kyle Okposo
Right Wing - NYI
GOALS: 1 | ASST: 2 | PTS: 3
SOG: 18 | +/-: -2
Kyle Okposo -- The 2007 first-round pick is playing on the New York Islanders' top line with emerging star John Tavares, but while Tavares and linemate Matt Moulson are producing, Okposo isn't. He went without a point last week and has just one assist in New York's last six games.

Jarome Iginla -- The greatest goal-scorer in the history of the Calgary Flames has yet to turn on the red light this season. Iginla has managed only four assists -- a big reason the Flames are just 1-3-2 after six games.

Daniel Sedin -- Neither of the Sedin twins is off to a good start offensively. But after getting six points in the Canucks' first four games, Daniel has gone pointless in four straight games, a major reason that Vancouver is struggling to score.

Ondrej Pavelec -- Talk about a nightmarish week: Pavelec started in goal for all three of Winnipeg's games last week but was lit up for 14 goals on 73 shots in just over seven periods as the Jets lost all three.

Martin Brodeur -- The winningest goaltender in NHL history won his first three starts, allowing only three goals. Since then, he's 0-1-2 and allowed five goals each in back-to-back losses to the Islanders and Penguins last week -- while backup Johan Hedberg went 1-0-1 and allowed just one goal on 50 shots.

The week ahead -- Both Southern California teams hit the road this week after Anaheim hosts San Jose on Monday. Both Florida teams also spend the week on the road -- Tampa Bay plays four games away from home, while the Panthers play three. Calgary, Carolina and Chicago (for the second straight week) are also on the road all week -- each plays three times. Nine teams have four games this week and only Colorado has as few as two, both at home. Ottawa and Philadelphia also spend the week at home.

Six of the seven Canadian teams pair off Saturday on "Hockey Day in Canada" -- only the Edmonton Oilers play a U.S.-based team.

2012-2013 Standings

Western Conference
ROW = total number of regulation plus overtime wins. For tie-breaking purposes, wins obtained in a shootout are not counted. For full standings tiebreakers, click here.
02/04/13 9:18AM

Games to watch:

Dallas at Colorado (Feb. 4; NBCSN/TSN) -- The Avs try to keep their perfect record at home intact as the struggling Stars come to town.

Tampa Bay at Philadelphia (Feb. 5; NBCSN/TSN/RDS) -- The high-scoring Lightning have thrived at home, where they've played six of their eight games. The Flyers spent most of the first two weeks of the season on the road and hope a week at home will help them improve their 3-6-0 record.

Boston at Montreal (Feb. 6; NBCSN/TSN/RDS) -- NBC Sports Network bills Wednesday as "Rivalry Night," and there's no rivalry more intense than this one.

Washington at Pittsburgh (Feb. 7; NHLN-US) -- The Capitals will be looking for some revenge after a 6-3 loss in Washington on Sunday continued their early-season struggles.

Anaheim at Minnesota (Feb. 8; NHLN-US and Canada) -- In one of the real scheduling oddities of the season, Friday has only this one game -- sandwiched between 12-game days on Thursday and Saturday.

New Jersey at Pittsburgh (Feb. 9; NHLN-US) -- The Devils and Penguins play the opener of a home-and-home weekend series in the first half of an NHL Network tripleheader that also includes Phoenix at San Jose and Montreal at Toronto.

Los Angeles at Detroit (Feb. 10; NBC/TSN) -- It's an early call for the Kings, who visit Joe Louis Arena for a 12:30 p.m. ET start in the third of four games on their Midwest road trip.

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