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Fleury's goaltending powers Penguins' surge

by John Kreiser /
Sidney Crosby may be the biggest reason the Pittsburgh Penguins are the NHL's hottest team. But he's far from the only one.

While Crosby has fueled the attack during Penguins' 12-game winning streak with the best hockey of his career, goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury has been equally brilliant at the other end of the ice. Fleury has been in goal for 11 of the 12 games during the streak, including all three last week -- when he allowed just five goals in victories against New Jersey, Toronto and Buffalo.

Fleury has allowed just 18 goals during the streak and has allowed more than two goals just once in his 11 appearances. It's an incredible turnaround after he went 1-6-0 in his first eight appearances and had a goals-against average of 3.54 on Nov. 6. His GAA is down to 2.31 and his save percentage has risen from .853 to .914.

Five up — Five players who've been hot:

Pavel Datsyuk -- To watch Datsyuk is to marvel at his ability at both ends of the ice. Detroit's star center ended the week on fire, scoring 3 goals and adding 4 assists in the Wings' last three games. With 36 points in 28 games, he's on pace for his first 100-point season.

Sidney Crosby -- It was a slow week for Sid -- he only had 3 goals (including a game-winner) and 2 assists in three games, extending his point streak to 18 games and helping Pittsburgh stretch its winning streak to 12.

Ryane Clowe -- San Jose has to get production from forwards not named Thornton, Heatley and Marleau to win -- and Clowe stepped up last week, scoring 3 goals and adding 5 assists for 7 points as the Sharks went 3-1-0 in four games. He had both goals in Saturday's 2-1 overtime win against Chicago.

Anders Lindback -- Nashville fans who might have been worried when starting goaltender Pekka Rinne went down with a knee injury can breathe easier -- Lindback has been a more-than-adequate replacement. He's 3-0-1 in four games since Rinne was hurt and earned his first NHL shutout by blanking Florida 3-0 on Saturday.

Rick Nash -- Columbus' captain put on a show in Saturday night's win against the Rangers, scoring two late goals for a 3-1 win. He had 3 goals and 6 points as the Jackets won twice in three games last week.

Five down — Five players who are struggling:

Jason Chimera -- In theory, a guy with Chimera's speed and skill playing on a team as good as the Washington Capitals should generate some points if only by accident. But he's gone 10 games without a point and is just 4-6-10 in 31 games.

Artem Anisimov -- Talk about going cold. The Rangers have been winning without any help from Anisimov, who's gone without a point in 10 games after getting 15 in New York's first 21 games. During that span, he's minus-4 and has just 11 shots on goal in that span

Rick DiPietro -- DiPietro deserves kudos for returning after missing most of the last two seasons with knee and hip injuries. But he's struggled to keep the puck out of the net while playing for the struggling New York Islanders. DiPietro allowed five goals in Saturday night's loss to Atlanta and is 0-3-0 with 14 goals allowed in his last three starts.

Alex Kovalev
-- Kovalev has been upset about being demoted to the fourth line by Ottawa coach Cory Clouston. But demotions are what happen when you're in a scoring slump -- and Kovalev continued to be mired in one. He's gone seven games without a point, making him one of several Senators who've had trouble generating offense.

Drew Doughty -- The Norris Trophy finalist's offensive game has disappeared during the last couple of weeks. Doughty had 59 points last season, but has just 1 goal and 7 points in 20 games this season, including no points in the last 10 games.

Injuries, news and notes -- The good news for the New Jersey Devils is that Martin Brodeur is back -- he returned Friday after missing most of the last six weeks with what the team called a bruised right elbow. The bad news -- his return didn't help their struggling offense; New Jersey lost 3-2 at Ottawa on Friday and 4-1 at home to Detroit on Saturday, both with Brodeur in goal.

Out — Chicago forward Patrick Kane injured his ankle last week and is expected to at least another two weeks, though the Hawks say he may be able to resume skating this week and might be back sooner. … Vancouver's Mason Raymond is week-to-week with a broken thumb suffered on Wednesday. Defenseman Christian Ehrhoff took a shot off the ear in the same game and sustained a concussion -- he's out indefinitely. … Anaheim's Aaron Voros, who returned Wednesday after battling the flu, is on IR with a fractured orbital bone after being injured in his first game back. Teemu Selanne also sat out Friday's game with a recurring groin problem. … Kings forward Brad Richardson left Thursday's game with an upper-body injury and didn't play Saturday. … Toronto defenseman Mike Komisarek injured a finger on Thursday and will miss a week or so. … Rangers forward Derek Boogaard left the team Friday and went home to have his shoulder examined after being injured the night before. He missed time with a shoulder injury last month. Defenseman Steve Eminger sat out Saturday with a back injury. … Montreal center Scott Gomez sat out Friday and Saturday with a lower-body injury and is listed as day-to-day. Defenseman Jaroslav Spacek left Saturday's game in the first with an upper-body injury. …  Edmonton captain Shawn Horcoff tore a knee ligament last week; he won't need surgery but is expected to miss at least two months while undergoing physiotherapy. … Dallas goaltender Kari Lehtonen missed the Stars' three games last week with back spasms. … Islanders defenseman Radek Martinek sat out Saturday after taking a slap shot in the left elbow two nights earlier. Another defenseman, Mark Eaton, left Saturday's game with a groin injury. … Boston defenseman Mark Stuart will miss 4-6 weeks after breaking and dislocating his left ring finger on Tuesday. ... Minnesota center Matt Cullen missed the weekend with a groin injury suffered on Thursday. …

Returning — Toronto captain Dion Phaneuf played more than 24 minutes on Thursday in his return after missing five weeks with a bad leg cut. … Los Angeles forward Alex Ponikarovsky also returned Thursday after being out for nearly five weeks with a broken finger. … Vancouver forward Mikael Samuelsson returned Saturday from a concussion.

Still out -- Pittsburgh's Jordan Staal has suffered a setback in his recovery from surgery to repair a broken bone in his right hand. The Penguins say calcification of the bone was found when the pin in his hand was removed last week. Another key Penguin, Evgeni Malkin, has missed four games with a knee problem but is skating again and might be back this week. … St. Louis forwards David Perron and Andy McDonald are still nowhere near returning from concussions. Perron has been out for more than a month. … Dallas placed center Toby Petersen on IR retroactive to Dec. 2 with a broken hand. … Colorado defenseman Kyle Cumiskey has yet to start skating again after going down with a concussion on Oct. 30. … Rangers forward Vaclav Prospal is practicing with the team, but the Blueshirts say he won't be back before Christmas. … San Jose defenseman Kent Huskins has missed seven games with an undisclosed injury. Devin Setoguchi (undisclosed) hasn't played since Nov. 26.

The week ahead -- It's another full week, with 10 of the 30 teams scheduled to play four times.

Games to watch (Dec. 13-19):

Los Angeles at Detroit (Dec. 13)  -- Versus will be on hand as the Kings start a busy week on the road with a visit to Detroit, where the Red Wings will be eager to avenge their 3-2 overtime loss at L.A. nine days earlier.

Pittsburgh at Philadelphia (Dec. 14) -- Versus will also be at the Wells Fargo Center when the NHL's hottest player (Sidney Crosby) and team (the Penguins) come to Philadelphia to try to extend their streaks.

Anaheim at Washington (Dec. 15) -- The Ducks open up a mega-road trip with a rare visit to the Nation's Capital. It's the first of seven in a row on the road for the Ducks, who don't play at the Honda Center again until New Year's Eve.

Toronto at Calgary (Dec. 16) -- Dion Phaneuf will make his first appearance at the Scotiabank Saddledome as a visiting player -- less than a month after the Leafs' previous visit, the Flames dealt him to Toronto, where he's now the captain.

Montreal at Colorado (Dec. 19) -- The Canadiens also begin a marathon road trip with a visit to Denver, where they've won just once in eight trips since their former provincial rivals, the Quebec Nordiques, relocated in 1995. Montreal doesn't see the Bell Centre again until the calendar flips to 2011.

Tough week ahead:

Columbus Blue Jackets
-- It's tough enough for the Jackets to face a three-games-in-four-nights swing through Western Canada -- but even tougher is the fact that they then come home and get just one day off before Dallas comes to Nationwide Arena on Saturday.

Los Angeles Kings
-- After two weeks at home, the Kings play four games in the Midwest this week, including three in four nights. L.A. starts in Detroit and visits Nashville and St. Louis before finishing the week in Chicago. They're busier than their fellow Southern Californians -- Anaheim is also out of town but plays only three games.

Toronto Maple Leafs
-- It's off to Western Canada for the Leafs, who play at Edmonton and Calgary before finishing with a visit to Vancouver on Saturday night.

Easy week ahead:

Florida Panthers
-- The Panthers won't have to worry about the winter cold this week -- they'll be spending it in South Florida, hosting Carolina and Buffalo in their only two games.

Tampa Bay Lightning
-- The Bolts, who spent last week touring Western Canada, will also get a chance to do some Christmas shopping. They're back home for their only two games, against Atlanta and Buffalo.

Vancouver Canucks
-- The Canucks will be home for the week, which includes visits by Columbus and Toronto to Rogers Arena.

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