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Bryzgalov has made Coyotes a howling success

by John Kreiser
Thanks to the goaltending of Ilya Bryzgalov, the Phoenix Coyotes are wildly exceeding expectations.

Not much was expected from a franchise that spent most of the summer in bankruptcy court and changed coaches during training camp. But the Coyotes have been executing new coach Dave Tippett's system almost perfectly, and Bryzgalov has been there to make up for any mistakes.

Bryzgalov has won five of his six starts this season; he allowed just one goal in the loss. Overall, he's surrendered seven goals in six games -- only three on 73 shots while going 3-0-0 last week -- and already owns shutouts at Pittsburgh and San Jose, where he won 1-0 in a shootout last Monday.

Through the season's first 2 1/2 weeks, Bryzgalov is off to the best start of his career, with a 1.14 goals-against average and a .953 save percentage -- both tops among regular goaltenders. He's also the only netminder with more than one shutout.

Five up -- Five players who are off to a fast start:

Henrik Lundqvist -- Lundqvist seems to be thriving under new Rangers coach John Tortorella's system. He's won his last six starts and was 3-0-0 last week, allowed only five goals and had back-to-back 34-save performances in wins against Los Angeles and Toronto.

Marc-Andre Fleury
-- The first pick of the 2003 Entry Draft is the only goaltender to beat Lundqvist and the Rangers this season. Fleury is a perfect 7-0-0 this season after allowing only four goals (on 81 shots) in three wins last week

Alex Ovechkin -- Him again? All Ovechkin did was put up 4 goals and 6 points in three games, including back-to-back two-goal performances against San Jose (in 28 seconds) and Nashville. For good measure, he undressed Nashville's Dan Ellis to score the only goal of the shootout to give Washington a 3-2 win Saturday night.

Marian Gaborik -- The Rangers rolled the dice during the summer by signing Gaborik to a long-term, big-money deal despite his injury history. So far, so good: Gaborik leads the red-hot Rangers with 12 points and has at least one in all eight games, including five in three games last week.

Dustin Penner -- Penner generally has been a disappointment since the Oilers signed him to a big four-year contract in 2007. But he was terrific last week, going 3-3-6 in Edmonton's three games, including a pair of goals in a 5-2 win against Minnesota on Friday.

Five down -- Five players who've struggled early:

David Booth -- Booth had 31 goals for Florida last season and was expected to build on that production in 2009-10. Instead, he's struggling badly. After getting a goal in the Panthers' season-opener, he's pointless and a minus-5 in Florida's last five games. He put up nothing on the scoreboard last week despite taking 14 shots on goal in two games.

David Legwand
-- The first draft pick in Nashville history is a key reason the Predators are having offensive troubles. Legwand has no points in Nashville's first seven games and is minus-5 in his last five games, all losses.

Alex Tanguay -- Tanguay, a late signing by the Tampa Bay Lightning, has yet to find a groove with his new team. After earning an assist in the Bolts' opener, he's scoreless in six games, including three last week, and has just six shots on goal in seven games.

Chris Campoli -- Ottawa is off to a hot start with a 5-2-0 record, but not because of anything Campoli has done. The offensive-minded defenseman hasn't put up a point in the Senators' seven games and saw his ice time cut from an average of more than 19 minutes through six games to 14:08 on Saturday.

Dwayne Roloson
-- Roloson hasn't gotten off to a good start with the New York Islanders. He couldn't hold third-period leads in his first two starts, both shootout losses, and surrendered four goals on just 12 shots at Buffalo on Friday.

Injuries, news and notes:

Out -- Colorado defenseman John-Michael Liles will miss at least another week after injuring his shoulder in Toronto on Tuesday. ... Columbus put defenseman Jan Hejda on IR last Friday with a sprained knee that's expected to keep him out 4-6 weeks. ... St. Louis forward Alex Steen broke his wrist at Phoenix on Thursday and will miss 6-8 weeks. ... Boston forward Milan Lucic sat out Saturday's game in Phoenix with an apparent finger injury sustained the night before in Dallas. ... Vancouver defenseman Sami Salo will miss at least another 3-4 weeks with a sprained MCL in his right knee. ... Forward Boyd Gordon (back spasms) and defenseman Shaone Morrison (lower-body injury) missed Washington's game with Nashville on Saturday. Goaltender Jose Theodore, who left Thursday's game with back spasms and didn't play Saturday, might be back at practice Monday. ... Flyers defenseman Ryan Parent suffered a lower-body injury at Florida on Saturday and is expected to miss a week to 10 days. ... Carolina defenseman Aaron Ward sat out the last two periods of Saturday's game at New Jersey with an upper-body injury. He's day-to-day; the 'Canes don't play until Wednesday. ... Toronto is without both of its regular goaltenders: Vesa Toskala went down with a knee injury last Monday, four days after Jonas Gustavsson was sidelined with a groin problem. Both could be back next week. ... Edmonton's Marc-Antoine Pouliot will miss at least two months after undergoing sports hernia surgery last week. ... Nashville defenseman Dan Hamhuis missed Saturday's game with an upper-body injury. ... Dallas put forward Steve Ott on IR with an oblique injury. He could be back this week. ... Minnesota has been without forwards Martin Havlat and Petr Sykora due to groin problems, though both could be back this week. Forward Cal Clutterbuck could miss several weeks with an ankle injury. He's on IR.

Returning -- The Islanders say center Frans Nielsen, who had knee surgery during training camp, should be able to play this week. ... Carolina defenseman Joni Pitkanen returned Saturday after missing five games with knee problems following off-season surgery. ... Boston hopes to get defenseman Dennis Wideman (shoulder) back Wednesday after he missed three games. ... Detroit expected center Pavel Datsyuk (upper body) to be back Thursday, when the Wings begin a road trip. He skated at Saturday's morning practice. ... Buffalo hopes to have Thomas Vanek back this week after he missed the weekend with an upper-body injury that the Sabres originally said might keep him out for weeks.

Still out -- Columbus defenseman Steve Montador (groin) is skating at practice but has yet to play a regular-season game. ... Washington placed forward Tomas Fleischmann on the long-term injured list with a leg problem that's kept him out of the lineup all season. The Caps hope he'll be able to practice in a week or so. ... Toronto defenseman Mike Van Ryn likely will miss the rest of the season with a knee injury that will require surgery. ... Toronto forward Phil Kessel, still recovering from shoulder surgery, says he hopes to play by Nov. 7 -- a week or two before expected. ... Edmonton defensemen Steve Staios and Sheldon Souray are both still sidelined with concussions. ... Phoenix defenseman Kurt Sauer has missed six games with what the team is calling an upper-body injury. He's been suffering from headaches and is not skating.

The week ahead -- After a day off for everyone Sunday and just three games Monday and Tuesday, the schedule gets much busier -- highlighted by Super Saturday II, with 15 games on tap Oct. 24.

Games to watch:

San Jose at New York Rangers (Oct. 19, 7 p.m. ET, VERSUS, TSN2) -- Versus will be at Madison Square Garden as the Rangers, off to a 7-1-0 start, try for their eighth consecutive victory against a team they've lost to just five times in 26 lifetime meetings.

Colorado at Minnesota (Oct. 21) -- Few teams will be happier to be home than the Wild, even though the opposition has won four in a row, all on the road. Minnesota limps back to the Xcel Energy Center after going 0-5 on a trip to California and Western Canada.

Detroit at Phoenix (Oct. 22) -- The Wings begin their annual October trip with a visit to Phoenix, where the Coyotes begin the week in first place in the Pacific Division with a 5-2-0 record.

Toronto at Vancouver (Oct. 24, 7 p.m. ET, CBC, NHLN-US) -- After a week off following Saturday's 4-1 home loss to the Rangers, the Leafs take their last-in-the-League 0-6-1 record to Vancouver to start a Western trip.

Edmonton at Calgary (Oct. 24, 10 p.m. ET, CBC) -- The Alberta rivals meet for the third time in 24 days; the Flames won the first two in Edmonton thanks to last-minute goals.

Tough week ahead:

Carolina Hurricanes -- Carolina has a nasty three-games-in-four-nights stretch, beginning Wednesday on Long Island, followed by games at Colorado on Friday and Minnesota on Saturday to complete a four-game trip.
Columbus Blue Jackets -- The Jackets, one of the NHL's early-season surprises, head West for the second time this month. This time, they visit Calgary and Edmonton, and they end the week with two games in Southern California.

San Jose Sharks -- The Sharks take the long way around from New York to Philadelphia -- they visit the Rangers on Monday and then go to Atlanta and Tampa Bay before visiting the Flyers on Saturday to end a six-game trip.

Easy week ahead:

Calgary Flames -- The Flames spend the week at home, with visits from Columbus and Edmonton giving coach Brent Sutter -- who says he's still trying to install his system -- some time to work with his troops.

Toronto Maple Leafs -- Bet on a lot of practice time in Toronto this week. The Leafs, who lost to the Rangers on Saturday, don't play again until visiting Vancouver on Saturday -- and with an 0-6-1 record, getting away from home may help.

Tampa Bay Lightning -- The Bolts can enjoy the warm weather in Florida this week -- they have two games, both at home, as San Jose and Buffalo visit the St. Pete Times Forum.

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