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Crosby's on pace for the best season of his career

by John Kreiser
Here's some bad news for NHL goaltenders: Sidney Crosby is scoring goals faster than ever.

Crosby got his 14th of the season in his 21st game Friday -- that's three games faster than he's ever gotten to 14. The goal, along with 3 assists, got the Penguins into a shootout with Carolina, and his goal in the second round clinched the 5-4 victory.

Pittsburgh's captain enters the week with an eight-game scoring streak, during which he's put up 8 goals and 18 points. With 14 goals and 33 points in 21 games, he's on pace for career-highs of 55 goals and 129 points.

Goaltenders beware.

Five up -- Five players who have been hot:

Rick Nash -- Columbus' captain is a big reason the Blue Jackets returned from a week in California with a 3-0-0 record. He scored all three of his team's goals in Saturday's 3-0 victory at San Jose, giving him 8 goals during a five-game goal streak.

Martin St. Louis -- The former Hart Trophy winner is a big reason Steven Stamkos is tops in the NHL in scoring. St. Louis had 8 points in three games last week, including assists on three of Stamkos' four goals.

Pekka Rinne -- Rinne is a big reason the Nashville Predators are hot again -- they're 4-1-0 in their last five games. Rinne allowed just one goal as Nashville finished the week with road wins at Montreal and Carolina, and he's gone 3-0 in shootouts during the streak.

Ray Whitney -- The man they call "The Wizard" is starting to make his presence felt in Phoenix after struggling through an early-season injury. He has 8 points in his last three games and is a big reason the Coyotes have bounced back after a slow start.

John-Michael Liles -- With Colorado battling through injuries that have decimated its defense, Liles has stepped up offensively, scoring twice and adding 5 assists in four games last week while averaging well over 20 minutes per night.

Five down -- Five players who are struggling:

Trent Hunter -- Hunter is big and has a great shot. What he doesn't have is any points in the New York Islanders' last eight games. He has yet to score a goal this season and has just a pair of assists in 15 games, though with the Isles having trouble scoring during the last month, Hunter has plenty of company -- the Islanders have just 11 goals in their last 10 games.

Henrik Lundqvist -- King Henrik didn't play like royalty last week, allowing a weak game-winner to the Boston Bruins in a 3-2 game his New York Rangers dominated for most of the night, then getting pulled at Colorado on Friday after allowing three goals in the second period. He's just 7-7-1 with a 2.75 goals-against average, and has allowed 6 goals on his last 36 shots.

Gilbert Brule -- The Oilers, like the Islanders, are struggling to score, and they were counting on Brule for than 2 goals and an assist in 17 games. He's scoreless and minus-10 in his last seven games and was scratched Friday.

Raffi Torres -- The veteran forward has cooled off after a hot start. Torres has not had a point and is minus-4 in Vancouver's last six games -- not coincidentally, the Canucks are 2-3-1 during that stretch, partly due to a lack of secondary scoring.

Marc-Edouard Vlasic -- The San Jose Sharks don't rely on Vlasic, a defenseman, to produce a lot of offense. But not only does Vlasic not have any points in San Jose's first 19 games, he's minus-10 despite seeing significant ice time on a team coming off back-to-back Western Conference titles.

Injuries, news and notes -- The news keeps getting worse for the New Jersey Devils. Goaltender Martin Brodeur has been advised to rest the bruised elbow he first sustained Nov. 3 and re-injured this past Wednesday. He's likely to miss at least another week.

Out -- Vezina Trophy winner Ryan Miller sat out Buffalo's home game against Tampa Bay on Saturday with a lower-body injury -- the same issue that cost him five games earlier in the month. … Devils rookie defenseman Matt Taormina missed games Thursday and Saturday with a sprained ankle. … Florida forward Rostislav Olesz broke a finger Thursday in Boston. He sat out Saturday's game against the Islanders and will be re-evaluated this week. … Islanders center Doug Weight missed Saturday's game with back spasms. … Nashville defenseman Ryan Suter re-aggravated a lower-body injury and sat out Saturday's game. David Legwand went down Thursday with a lower-body injury and didn't play Saturday. … Washington forward Mike Knuble took a puck in the face Friday and didn't play Saturday. … Anaheim's Teemu Selanne left Friday's game with a groin injury. … Philadelphia's Daniel Carcillo sprained a ligament in his left knee and is expected to miss at least another two weeks. … Toronto goaltender Jean-Sebastien Giguere went down with a groin injury Tuesday and is expected to miss another week. … Edmonton put starting goaltender Nikolai Khabibulin on injured reserve after he suffered a groin injury. … San Jose defenseman Douglas Murray missed games Thursday and Saturday with a lower-body injury.

Returning -- Colorado goaltender Craig Anderson returned Friday after missing more than three weeks with a knee injury. … Buffalo captain Craig Rivet was back in the lineup Friday after missing five games due to food poisoning.

Still out -- Boston center Marc Savard (concussion) has been given the green light to begin practicing with the Bruins and returned to the ice Saturday. He has yet to play this season. … Montreal defenseman Andrei Markov, who re-injured his right knee earlier this month, reportedly will see a specialist this week. The Canadiens aren't saying exactly how long he'll be out, other than to say it's long-term. … Islanders defenseman Andrew MacDonald is able to skate with a stick and gloves, though there's no set date for his return from a broken hand. Another defenseman, Jack Hillen, has been sidelined since Nov. 12 with a concussion. … The Los Angeles Kings placed Scott Parse on injured reserve; he'll undergo surgery for a hip injury. Forward Alexei Ponikarovsky also went on IR with a broken finger. … Calgary's Raitis Ivanans skated during Saturday's practice; he's been out since sustaining a concussion opening night. … Phoenix captain Shane Doan is skating again as he works to return from a lower-body injury. … Tampa Bay's Simon Gagne continues to recover from a neck injury that has kept him out for 14 games. Center Vincent Lecavalier had screws put into his broken right hand during surgery Monday and is expected to miss another month. Defenseman Matt Smaby went on IR retroactive to Nov. 12 with an ankle injury. … Philadelphia goalie Michael Leighton is getting close to returning from back surgery and could start with a rehab stint in the AHL.

The week ahead -- The Thanksgiving holiday in the United States throws some quirks into the NHL schedule. Only one game is scheduled for Tuesday and Thursday, but there are 13 each Wednesday and Friday, and another 11 Saturday.

Games to watch:

Montreal at Philadelphia (Nov. 22) -- The Flyers will be looking to avenge a 3-0 loss to the Canadiens at the Bell Centre last Tuesday when the Habs come to the Wells Fargo Center.

Chicago at San Jose (Nov. 24, 10:30 p.m. ET. NHLN-US) -- The Hawks continue their two-week trip with a Thanksgiving Eve stop in San Jose. This will be the first meeting between the teams since the Hawks completed a four-game playoff sweep last May.

Colorado at Edmonton (Nov. 25, 9 p.m. ET, NHLN-US, TSN, RDS) -- It's Thanksgiving in the United States, but it's just a Thursday night in November in Edmonton, where the Oilers welcome the Avs in the only game of the night.

Carolina at Boston (Nov. 26) -- The Hurricanes and Bruins face off at noon at TD Garden to start a 13-game Black Friday schedule that will feature almost 13 hours of hockey.

Chicago at Los Angeles (Nov. 27) -- The defending Stanley Cup champs complete their "Circus Trip" by visiting the early leader in the Pacific Division in the highlight of an 11-game Saturday night.

Tough week ahead:

Calgary Flames -- The Flames, who play Sunday in Detroit, head East for four games in six days against Atlantic Division teams, starting in New York on Monday. They play at New Jersey, Philadelphia and Pittsburgh in a four-day span.

Chicago Blackhawks -- It's week two of the "Circus Trip" for the Hawks, who play three games in four nights in California beginning Wednesday at San Jose.

New York Rangers -- The Blueshirts, who were on the road Friday and Saturday, make a pit stop at home for a Monday game against Calgary, then visit Tampa Bay, Florida and Nashville in a four-night stretch -- meaning they'll have played six times in nine days after the visit to the Predators.

Easy week ahead:

New York Islanders -- Not that anything has come easily for the Islanders, but at least they can spend the holiday at home. The Isles host Columbus on Wednesday and New Jersey on Friday afternoon, then get the weekend off.

Phoenix Coyotes -- Like the Islanders, the Coyotes spend the holiday week at home -- they host Edmonton and Anaheim in their only two games.

Vancouver Canucks -- The Canucks had two home games over the weekend after a five-game trip, and they'll spend this week in the Pacific Northwest hosting Colorado and San Jose.
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