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Drury finally finding his groove on Broadway

by John Kreiser

Chris Drury maintained his current hot streak by scoring his 17th goal last night against the Kings. Drury highlights
The New York Rangers gave Chris Drury a big contract during the summer to provide them with offense and leadership. They’re finally getting some payoff on their investment.

Drury had four goals and six points as the Rangers swept three road games in four days, getting the winning goal Friday in New Jersey and Sunday in Montreal. He added another goal Tuesday. After a slow start, Drury now has 17 goals and 39 points, leads the Rangers with nine power-play goals and is tied for the team lead with four game-winners.

He won’t equal last season’s 37 goals and 68 points, but Drury is beginning to show why the Rangers were so eager to sign him during the off-season.

Who’s hot --
Five players who’ve been producing:

Pavel Datsyuk --
Datsyuk doesn’t get the attention that some of his bigger-name Detroit teammates receive, but he’s quietly putting up big numbers. He has nine assists and 10 points in his last seven games, and is among the NHL’s scoring leaders with 65 points.

Brian Rolston --
The veteran center broke a Minnesota record Tuesday night by scoring a goal in his sixth-straight game. He’s already reached the 20-goal mark, giving Minnesota a viable second-line scorer.

Radim Vrbata --
Vrbata has been an unsung hero of the Phoenix Coyotes’ surge during the past few weeks. He has six goals and nine points in his last five games, including the overtime winner Monday night in Denver.

Marty Turco --
Dallas’ No. 1 goalie was a star in the Stars’ three-game sweep of their trip through Western Canada, allowing only five goals. He then made it four-straight wins Tuesday when he beat Vancouver 3-2 in a shootout at home.

Alex Ovechkin --
Ovechkin and the Washington Capitals have been shut out in two of their last four games. In the other two, Ovechkin has six goals — giving him a League-high 45. The last two came Tuesday, when he completed Washington’s comeback by scoring the overtime winner at Columbus in a 4-3 victory.

John Kreiser
John Kreiser, who has covered the NHL since 1975, is's man behind the numbers. His column appears each weekend on
Hot List Player Highlights:
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Who’s not -- Five players who’ve been struggling:

Ruslan Fedotenko --
Not that any of the New York Islanders are lighting it up, but Fedotenko has really gone cold. He’s had no points in the Islanders’ last six games and has scored just two goals in his last 33 contests.

Nikolai Khabibulin -- No wins in 10 games since Christmas has made life difficult for Chicago’s starting goaltender. His goals-against average is up to 2.83, and his save percentage has dropped below .900.

Doug Weight --
One reason the Anaheim Ducks have struggled to score is a lack of production from Weight. His goal on Long Island Tuesday night was his first point in 10 games.

Lee Stempniak --
His assist in Tuesday’s 5-4 loss to Tampa Bay was his first point in eight games. Stempniak, a 27-goal, 52-point scorer in 2006-07, has just 10 goals and 29 points this season.

Brian Gionta --
Gionta’s 48-goal season in 2005-06 is an increasingly distant memory. He’s gone 10 games without a goal and has just one in his last 14. With 13 goals in 53 games, he’ll have a hard time matching last season’s total of 25.

Injury news and notes -- Curtis Joseph made his return to the NHL Monday night, but a 5-0 loss to Edmonton wasn’t what he or his new employers, the Calgary Flames, had in mind. Another returnee, Teemu Selanne, made his return Tuesday.

In his season debut against Edmonton, Curtis Joseph allowed five goals on 28 shots.
Joseph highlights

Out --
The New York Islanders, who’ve seen a case of the flu going through their dressing room in the past week or so, took a bigger hit when center Mike Sillinger went down with a hip injury. He played through the nagging injury for most of January, but the team says he’s likely to miss three weeks. They could also be without forward Miroslav Satan for a while after Satan injured his knee Tuesday. … Edmonton has lost a key player for the season as Shawn Horcoff will undergo shoulder surgery to fix a problem that flared up again in the All-Star Game. … Rangers forward Brendan Shanahan has been playing through a variety of nagging injuries (knee, hip, groin) and didn’t play Sunday. He’s now likely to miss a week or two due to a leg injury. The time off will also let his other problems heal. Another forward, Blair Betts, left Tuesday night’s game with a knee injury. … St. Louis put defenseman Christian Backman on IR with a broken bone in his left foot, sustained in Friday’s win against Anaheim. He’s expected to miss 1-2 weeks. … Los Angeles put center Ladislav Nagy on IR with a neck injury. The Kings also lost defenseman Rob Blake with a non-displaced fracture of his left ankle. He played several games with the injury before having to sit, and is likely to miss at least two weeks. … Florida forward Radek Dvorak will miss 4-6 weeks with two broken fingers in his left hand. Center Jozef Stumpel also didn’t go on the Panthers’ current trip due to a separated shoulder. … Sharks defenseman Doug Murray will miss a week with a hip injury sustained Saturday. … Columbus goaltender Pascal Leclaire left Tuesday night’s game in the second period after a goalmouth collision. He complained of neck pain and did not return.

Still out --
Buffalo forward Maxim Afinogenov had to leave Monday’s practice early, a setback as he tries to come back from a groin injury. … Ottawa captain Daniel Alfredsson missed his third game Tuesday due to a hip flexor, but hopes to be back later this week. Another of Ottawa’s big guns, Dany Heatley, could be back as soon as Saturday after missing four weeks with a shoulder separation. … Colorado goaltender Jose Theodore has missed three straight games with back spasms. … Chicago rookie center Jonathan Toews is skating again and could return from his knee injury by the middle of next week. Another Chicago forward, Martin Lapointe, has missed seven games with a bruised kidney, but could return Wednesday night. … Vancouver defenseman Willie Mitchell, sidelined with a stress fracture in his back, isn’t likely to return until the middle of this month. Another injured Canuck defenseman, Kevin Bieksa, skated Friday for the first time since sustaining a bad laceration on his right calf muscle three months ago. … Columbus center Sergei Fedorov will miss a few more days as he tries to recover from a concussion sustained Jan. 17. The Jackets will also be without forward Fredrik Modin for a week or so due to a hamstring tear. … Flyers forward Joffrey Lupul, out with a bruised spinal cord, hopes to return by the end of next week. … Boston forward Glen Murray is skating in non-contact drills as he works to return from a hip flexor problem that has kept him out since mid-December. … Detroit defenseman Niklas Kronwall is still a couple of weeks away from returning from a separated shoulder.

Ilya Kovalchuk
Returning -- Atlanta forward Ilya Kovalchuk returned Tuesday after missing two games with a knee injury -- and scored a goal in his first game back. … Colorado center Paul Stastny should be back this week after missing a couple of weeks due to an appendectomy. The Avs also got defenseman Kurt Sauer back Saturday. He’d been out for two months with a neck injury …. New Jersey forward Jay Pandolfo returned Monday night after missing 28 games due to an abdominal injury. … Anaheim defenseman Mathieu Schneider returned to the lineup Tuesday after missing two games with a sprained wrist. … Dallas forward Jere Lehtinen returned Friday after missing more than two months with a sports hernia. … Toronto defenseman Bryan McCabe continues to skate, and might be back this week. He’s missed 22 games with a broken hand. … Pittsburgh forward Tyler Kennedy could be back by the end of the week after missing more than a week with mononucleosis. His conditioning could be a problem. … Atlanta forward Brad Larsen returned Tuesday night after going down with a hip injury Jan. 22.

The week ahead --
The Southern California teams remain on the road for another week, moving from the East back to the Midwest.

Games to watch

New Jersey at Buffalo (Feb. 6) --
The Sabres come home after a seven-game road trip to play a team that has beaten them three times this season, all in shootouts.

Toronto at Montreal (Feb. 7) --
The red-hot Canadiens look to stay that way against the up-and-down Leafs, who’ve won twice at the Bell Centre this season.

New York Rangers at Philadelphia (Feb. 9) --
The Rangers have won 10 of their last 11 visits to the Wachovia Center, including a 4-0 victory Jan. 31.

Anaheim at Detroit (Feb. 10) --
The defending Stanley Cup champs meet this season’s runaway leader in the overall standings for the final time this season in NBC’s Game of the Week. Detroit has won two of the three previous meetings.

Montreal at Tampa Bay (Feb. 12) --
The Canadiens start a two-game swing through Florida; they swept both games in a post-Christmas visit.

Tough week ahead

Anaheim Ducks --
Their long trip ends with four games in six days, concluding with Tuesday’s stop in Denver.

Florida Panthers --
The Panthers continue a swing through the Northeast with three games in four nights, including Saturday in Boston and Sunday in Buffalo.

Los Angeles Kings --
Like their Southern California rivals, the Kings complete their marathon road trip with four games in six nights, all in the Midwest.

Easy week ahead

Atlanta Thrashers --
It’s a light week for the Thrashers, who have home games Thursday and Saturday and then get three days off.

Ottawa Senators --
The Sens get some time at home, with three games in six days and no back-to-backs.

Toronto Maple Leafs --
The Leafs get to catch their breath, with only two games in seven days. Unfortunately, those games are a road game at Montreal on Thursday and a visit from League-leading Detroit on Saturday during the next seven days.

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