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Halak only getting better in first month with Blues

by John Kreiser
Jaroslav Halak may be even better in St. Louis than he was in Montreal.

Halak was the toast of the town in May after leading the Canadiens to playoff upsets of Washington and Pittsburgh. But just a few weeks later, he was an ex-Canadien, having been dealt to St. Louis when Montreal decided it wanted to go with Carey Price as its No. 1 goaltender.

Price has played well for the Canadiens -- but Halak has been fabulous for the Blues, winning eight of his first 10 starts, including a 33-save performance in Saturday night's 2-1 shootout win at Boston.

Halak has won his last six games, allowing just six goals and posting three shutouts. For the season, he's 8-1-1 with a 1.46 goals-against average and .944 save percentage -- a big reason the Blues are off to one of the fastest starts in franchise history.

Five up -- Five players who've been hot:

Sergei Bobrovsky -- "Bob" is becoming a folk hero in Philadelphia, where he's been in goal for every game during the Flyers' six-game winning streak, allowing only 10 goals. He allowed just 4 goals on 81 shots in three wins last week.

Brandon Dubinsky -- The 24-year-old forward is off to by far the best start of his career with 10 goals in the New York Rangers' first 13 games. He scored five times in New York's three games last week including the winner in Friday's 3-0 win at New Jersey.

Loui Eriksson -- The speedy Swede flies under the radar with the Dallas Stars, but he's off to one of the best starts in the League. He had back-to-back two-goal games and added 3 assists for 7 points in victories against Pittsburgh and Phoenix.

Mike Green -- After a slow start, Green's offensive touch has returned. He has goals in his last three games and is 3-4-7 during a four-game point-scoring streak.

Derick Brassard -- Brassard got off to a slow start, with just 1 point in his first six games. But he's given the Columbus Blue Jackets a boost since then, putting up 5 goals and 8 points during a seven-game points streak.

Five down -- Five players who are struggling:

Rick DiPietro -- DiPietro's health appears to be OK after he missed most of the last two seasons with knee and hip problems. His game is another matter. DiPietro has allowed 13 goals in losing his last two starts and has a 4.21 goals-against average and a save percentage of .854, a big reason the New York Islanders have struggled.

Scott Gomez -- Despite Montreal's good start, the Canadiens have been struggling to score. One big reason for their offensive problems has been a lack of production from Gomez, who's gone without a point for seven consecutive games.

Devin Setoguchi -- Aside from its big line of Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau and Dany Heatley, San Jose has struggled to score -- and Setoguchi's lack of production is a big reason why. He's gone eight games without a point, a drought the Sharks can't afford.

Marc-Andre Fleury -- Brent Johnson has bailed out Pittsburgh's goaltending situation, but the Penguins have to have Fleury find his game if they hope to go anywhere this season. He's 1-6-0 in eight games, has allowed three goals or more in all seven decisions and was yanked early Saturday after allowing two goals in the first 6:56 in Phoenix.

Scottie Upshall -- Upshall was off to a good start with 3 goals in six games, but he's gone cold since then. He's gone without a point in the Phoenix Coyotes' last seven games -- not the kind of slump the offensively challenged 'Yotes can afford.
Injuries, news and notes -- What’s worse than a six-game coast-to-coast trip? How about one in which your best forward and Hall of Fame goaltender get hurt? That was the case for New Jersey, which went 2-4-0 on a six-game swing that saw Zach Parise leave a game and subsequently have knee surgery that will sideline him for three months -- and goaltender Martin Brodeur go down with an elbow injury on Wednesday in Chicago that forced him to leave that game and sit out Friday's contest against the Rangers.

Out -- Vezina Trophy winner Ryan Miller sat out Buffalo's three games last week with a lower-body injury. Coyotes captain Shane Doan, who finally scored his first goal of the season on Friday, left with a lower-body injury a few minutes last. He's listed as week-to-week. Defenseman Ed Jovanovski also missed Saturday's game with an illness. … Toronto lost its captain, Dion Phaneuf, with a severe cut in his left leg after a collision with Ottawa's Peter Regin on Tuesday. He had surgery to repair the cut and is expected to miss at least four weeks. … St. Louis placed defenseman Barret Jackman on the injured list Friday with a sprained knee suffered the night before. Defenseman Carlo Colaiacovo (concussion) went on IR earlier in the week, and forward David Perron sat out Saturday's game with concussion-like symptoms. … Buffalo forward Drew Stafford will be out indefinitely after suffering an upper-body injury on Friday. … Minnesota forward Chuck Kobasew missed the Wild's games Friday and Saturday due to a groin injury that has plagued him for most of the season. The Wild also put forward Guillaume Latendresse on IR with a groin problem, and sat defenseman Marek Zidlicky for Saturday night's game due to a lower-body injury. Carolina defenseman Joni Pitkanen sat out Friday and Saturday with an upper-body injury that has been bothering him for the last week or two. … Vancouver lost forward Guillaume Desbiens with a broken hand on Thursday night.  … Anaheim's Kyle Chipchura went on IR with a concussion sustained last Saturday in San Jose. ... Rangers forward Ryan Callahan injured his neck on Thursday and missed Friday's game. … Detroit goaltender Chris Osgood hasn't played since injuring his groin in practice on Monday. Fortunately for the Wings, fellow goaltender Jimmy Howard was able to return from back problems that kept him out for a week. … Nashville forward Martin Erat missed last week's road trip with an upper-body injury, as did center Matthew Lombardi, who's been sidelined with a concussion. … Colorado forward David Jones sat out Saturday with a hand injury after blocking a shot in the Avs' previous game. … Tampa Bay forward Steve Downie sat out Saturday with a back problem. … Florida forward Cory Stillman missed Saturday's game after aggravating a shoulder injury on Friday. … Atlanta forward Bryan Little sat out the Thrashers' three games last week with concussion-related headaches. He'll have to pass a neuro-psych test before he can suit up again.

Returning -- The Devils did get some good news -- defenseman Alton Volchenkov returned Friday after missing four weeks with a broken nose and a sore neck … Rangers forward Marian Gaborik (separated shoulder) hopes to return during this week's homestand. … Buffalo forward Jason Pominville returned Wednesday after missing three weeks with a concussion. … Detroit expects defenseman Brian Rafalski (knee) to return no later than Thursday. … Islanders center Rob Schremp made his season debut Wednesday after missing 11 games with a back injury. … Vancouver's Alex Burrows also played his first game of the season; he returned from a shoulder injury Tuesday in Edmonton. … Anaheim forward Dan Sexton, out with a broken nose, has been cleared to practice and could be back this week.

Still out -- Pittsburgh's Jordan Staal, recuperating from offseason foot surgery, will miss at least another month after breaking his hand. … Colorado is still without defensemen Adam Foote and Kyle Cumiskey, both of whom are recuperating from concussions. The Avs say goalie Craig Anderson is still out indefinitely with a knee injury. … Ottawa defenseman Filip Kuba has yet to play this season due to a broken leg sustained at the start of training camp. The Senators have been pushing back his return to make sure he's completely healthy. … Washington defenseman Tom Poti, who had hoped to return from a groin injury, is still unable to play. He's dressed for just four games this season. … Calgary has shut down center Daymond Langkow, who's still trying to recover from a neck injury he suffered late last season. … The Devils placed defenseman Matthew Corrente (broken hand) on IR Friday. … Tampa Bay forward Simon Gagne is able to work out without side effects, but there's still no timetable for his return from a neck injury.  … Atlanta defenseman Freddy Meyer (middle-body injury) practiced for the first time in two weeks, but there's no word when he'll be able to play again.

The week ahead -- It's a balanced week -- six teams play four games, six play twice and everyone else has three games on the schedule.

Games to watch:

Washington at New York Rangers (Nov. 9) -- Versus will be on hand at Madison Square Garden as Alex Ovechkin and the Caps come to the Big Apple for the first time this season.

Boston at Pittsburgh (Nov. 10) -- Can Zdeno Chara and friends shut down Sidney Crosby & Co. A full house at the Consol Energy Center and the NHL Network will be on hand to find out.

Tampa Bay at Washington (Nov. 11) -- Ovechkin and Steven Stamkos, two of the NHL's three 50-goal scorers last season, get together for the first time in 2010-11.

Nashville at St. Louis (Nov. 11) -- After a three-game road trip, the Blues come back to Scottrade Center, where they are 6-0-0 this season and have won 12 in a row overall, the longest active home winning streak in the NHL.

Vancouver at Toronto (Nov. 13) -- The Canucks have been right at home at Air Canada Centre in recent years -- they’ve won their last three visits and haven't lost in Toronto since 2003. Overall, Vancouver has won its last six meetings with the Leafs.

Tough week ahead:

Edmonton Oilers -- This week figures to be a big test for the young Oilers, who play four games in the road. They start in Carolina, go to Detroit, and finish with visits to New Jersey and the New York Rangers.

New York Islanders -- The Islanders take their seven-game losing streak to California for three games in four nights, capping a stretch in which they'll have played 12 of 15 games on the road.

Vancouver Canucks -- While the Islanders head West, the Canucks come East -- they spend their week in Eastern Canada visiting Montreal and Ottawa before a Saturday night showdown in Toronto.

Easy week ahead:

Columbus Blue Jackets -- The Jackets get to spend most of the week taking it easy, with only home games against St. Louis and Colorado on the schedule.

Los Angeles Kings -- The Kings have their second straight two-game week at home, with Dallas and the New York Islanders as this week's guests at the Staples Center.

New Jersey Devils -- The Devils can use a little R&R after a six-game trip that includes visits to all three California teams plus Vancouver and Chicago. They'll get a breather this week, with only home games against Buffalo and Edmonton on the docket.
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