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Gagner's huge weekend a stretch to remember

by John Kreiser /
The Edmonton Oilers have been waiting for Sam Gagner to deliver on the promise that made him their first-round pick in the 2007 NHL Draft. But not even in their wildest dreams could they have pictured what happened last week.

Sam Gagner
Center - EDM
GOALS: 11 | ASST: 22 | PTS: 33
SOG: 93 | +/-: 0
In the context of the way the game is played now, Gagner's eight-point night against Chicago on Thursday might have been the greatest single performance in NHL history. Only Darryl Sittler (10) has had more points in a game, but Sittler's big night -- which took place 35 years ago this Tuesday -- came in an era when the average game featured more than seven goals and came against a goaltender who was soon out of the NHL.

Ten of the other 12 eight-point nights in NHL history came from between 1977 and 1988 -- the same high-scoring era as Sittler's big night. Gagner got points in an era when the average game features a combined total of about 5.5 goals.

Gagner also followed up his big night with three more points -- all in the first period -- on Saturday against Detroit. He added a shootout goal for good measure as the Oilers beat the Wings 5-4.

That's 11 points in two nights -- pretty good for someone who had just 22 in 43 previous games.

Five up -- Five other players who had a good week:

James Reimer -- After losing his starting job in Toronto due to injuries and inconsistency, Reimer likely regained it this week with back-to-back shutouts, including a 49-save gem against Ottawa on Saturday.

Martin St. Louis -- He may be 36, but St. Louis shows no signs of slowing down. He had a hat trick in Tampa Bay's 6-3 win against Florida on Saturday, giving him four goals and six points in the Lightning's first three games after the break and 16 points during a nine-game scoring streak.

Ilya Kovalchuk
Left Wing - NJD
GOALS: 21 | ASST: 26 | PTS: 47
SOG: 187 | +/-: -9
Ilya Kovalchuk -- Kovy has quietly surpassed the point-a-game plateau -- he has 47 in 46 games after back-to-back three-point performances against the Canadiens and Flyers. He also earned the first Gordie Howe hat trick of his career on Saturday in Philadelphia.

Jordan Eberle -- Gagner wasn't the only Oiler to have a big week. His linemates, Eberle and Taylor Hall, each had four points against Chicago -- and Eberle added a pair of goals, including the one that forced overtime, in Saturday's win against Detroit.

Ryan Miller -- The 2010 Vezina Trophy winner looks like he's back on his game. Miller went 2-0-1 in Buffalo's first three games after the break, allowing only four goals, and became the winningest goaltender in Sabres' history when he earned his 235th victory by beating the Islanders on Saturday.

Five down — Five players who are struggling:

Craig Anderson -- The Senators have hit the skids, and Anderson's been in goal for each of their last six games -- all losses. He surrendered 11 goals in Ottawa's first three games after the break, including a 90-footer to Boston's Dennis Seidenberg that wound up as the game-winner on Tuesday.

Mike Knuble -- The 39-year-old is mired in perhaps the biggest drought of his career. He's gone without a point in Washington's last nine games and hasn't had a goal since Dec. 5, a span of 25 games.

Jarret Stoll -- Lots of Kings are having trouble scoring -- L.A. is among the NHL's lowest-scoring clubs -- and Stoll is one of those players from whom more is needed. He's gone eight games without a point and 10 games without a goal.

Corey Crawford -- Chicago is in a skid, at least partly because its No. 1 goaltender hasn't been playing as well as needed, Crawford was torched for the first five of Edmonton's eight goals on Thursday, is 0-3-1 in his last four starts and has seen his goals-against average jump to 2.94.

Marc Staal -- Staal returned on Jan. 2 after missing the first three months of the New York Rangers' season recuperating from a concussion. His offensive game is still MIA. Staal hasn't had a point in 13 games and is minus-4 on the top team in the Eastern Conference.

Injuries, news and notes:

Jimmy Howard
Goalie - DET
RECORD: 32-11-1
GAA: 2.03 | SVP: 0.924
Out -- Detroit goaltender Jimmy Howard is out with a broken right index finger suffered Thursday in Vancouver. He's expected to miss at least four weeks but will be evaluated Tuesday and hopes to return sooner. … Christopher Higgins missed Vancouver's games Thursday and Saturday with the flu. … Devils forward Ryan Carter missed Saturday's game with a hand injury sustained on Thursday. Rookie defenseman Adam Larsson also sat out Saturday after leaving Thursday's game with a bruised lower back. … Thomas Vanek, Buffalo's top scorer, hasn't played since leaving Tuesday's game with what the team called an upper-body injury. … Blues center Jason Arnott didn’t play Saturday after leaving Friday's game with a shoulder injury. … The Islanders were without defenseman Milan Jurcina for Saturday's game with an elbow laceration sustained on Friday, then lost Travis Hamonic during the game on Saturday when a deflected shot hit him in the face.

Returning -- Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, the first player taken in the NH: Draft last June, returned to Edmonton's lineup on Saturday after missing more than a month with a shoulder injury. Oilers defenseman Cam Barker was back in the lineup Thursday; he hadn't played since Nov. 10 due to an ankle injury. … Chicago got captain Jonathan Toews (hand) and forward Patrick Sharp (wrist) back on Tuesday. … Columbus activated center Jeff Carter off IR after he missed 10 games with a shoulder injury. … San Jose's Ryane Clowe scored a goal Thursday in his return after missing six games with a facial injury. … Winnipeg defenseman Dustin Byfuglien was back for Thursday's game after sitting out 16 with a knee injury. Jets forward Alexander Burmistrov (concussion) returned in the same game. … Philadelphia's Zac Rinaldo returned Thursday from a neck injury that had kept him out since Jan. 21. … New Jersey defenseman Andy Greene was back in the Devils' lineup Tuesday after missing eight weeks with a broken foot.

Still out -- Washington defenseman Mike Green (groin) was able to skate last week but is likely another week or two away from returning. … New Jersey placed rookie center Adam Henrique on IR with a groin injury; he hasn't played since Jan. 24. … Blues center Alex Steen (concussion) will miss this week's three-game road trip. Another center, Andy McDonald, will miss a few more games as he works to recover from a concussion that has kept him out since mid-October. … Boston forward Nathan Horton hasn't played since suffering a concussion on Jan. 22 and isn't likely to dress this week. … Two Philadelphia Flyers, Danny Briere and James van Riemsdyk, both are skating as they work to come back from concussions. … Andrei Markov's knee has improved to the point where he's able to skate, but there's still no certainty that he'll be back in Montreal's lineup before the end of the season. … Florida forward Scottie Upshall underwent sports hernia surgery and will be out of action for at least four weeks. … Columbus defenseman Nikita Nikitin, out since Jan. 21 with a knee injury, went on IR. … Tampa Bay forward Ryan Malone, who's missed four games with an upper-body injury, is skating again.

The week ahead -- Long trips are the order of the month, especially for teams in the Pacific time zone. By the end of this week, all three California teams will be out of town for trips of six games or more.

Games to watch:

Florida at Washington (Feb. 7) -- For the second time in a week, the Panthers and Capitals meet as they battle for the top spot in the Southeast Division. The Panthers won 4-2 at home on Wednesday.

Boston at Buffalo (Feb. 8; NBCSP/TSN2) -- There's no love lost between these two Northeast Division rivals, as viewers on both sides of the border will see.

Chicago at San Jose (Feb. 10; NHLN-Canada) -- The Hawks continue their nine-game trip with a visit to the Shark Tank; San Jose is playing its last home game before it, too, heads out on the road for nine straight games.

Vancouver at Calgary (Feb. 11; CBC) -- The Canucks visit Scotiabank Place to wrap up Hockey Day in Canada, a day on which all seven Canadian-based teams will play -- six of them against each other.

Washington at New York Rangers (Feb. 12; NBC/NHLN-Canada) -- The Capitals pay their first visit of the season to Madison Square Garden since winning Game 4 of their opening-round playoff series last spring on the way to sending the Rangers home for the summer.

Tough week ahead:

Chicago Blackhawks -- With the Western Canada portion of their nine-game trip out of the way, the Hawks visit Colorado, San Jose and Phoenix in the second of three weeks away from home.

Los Angeles Kings -- The Grammys are coming to the Staples Center, which means that the Kings hit the road. After visiting St. Louis and Carolina over the weekend, L.A. visits both Florida teams before a nasty Saturday-Sunday back-to-back against the Islanders and Dallas Stars.

Vancouver Canucks -- The Canucks began a road trip Saturday in Colorado and continue this week with stops in Nashville, Minnesota and Calgary.

Easy week ahead:

Buffalo Sabres -- After playing eight of nine on the road, the Sabres finally get to spend a week at home. They play Boston, Dallas and Tampa Bay in a four-night span.

Minnesota Wild -- The Wild sandwich a road-home pairing against last-place Columbus around a home game with Vancouver that begins a stretch of four straight games at the Xcel Energy Center.

Ottawa Senators -- The Sens arrived home last weekend after a lengthy trip and stay at Scotiabank Place this week for games against St. Louis, Nashville and Edmonton.
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