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Heatley off to a torrid start

by John Kreiser
The Ottawa Senators gave Dany Heatley an "A" this season, recognizing his status with the team. Judging by his performance in this weekend's Bridgestone NHL Premiere 2008 Stockholm, making the veteran winger an alternate captain was an inspired move.

Heatley was the biggest gun for either team in the two games in Stockholm, scoring three times, all on the power play. His second-period power-play goal tied Saturday's game at 2-2, and he added a pair of man-advantage goals in Sunday's rematch, leading the Senators to a 3-1 win.

Heatley had back-to-back 50-goal seasons for the Senators before slipping to 41 last season, during which he missed 11 games with injury. If the first weekend is any indication, Heatley is on track to add another 50-goal season to his resume.
Five up -- Five players who look like they're ready to go:

Daniel Alfredsson -- No player on either team was greeted more warmly in Stockholm than Alfredsson, a hero in his homeland. Alfredsson paid back the love by assisting on both of Heatley's goals in Sunday's win.

Scott Gomez -- The slick center was involved in three of the New York Rangers' four goals in its two games against Tampa Bay during Bridgestone NHL Premiere 2008 Prague. Gomez set up Markus Naslund Saturday. On Sunday he assisted on Wade Redden's goal and scored the game-winner. He was dangerous every time he was on the ice.

Tyler Kennedy -- Good players take advantage of their chances, and that's what Kennedy did for Pittsburgh in its two games against Ottawa in Stockholm. With Petr Sykora sidelined by a groin injury, Kennedy stepped up to the second line and scored twice, including the game-winner, Saturday.

Andy McDonald -- The offense-challenged St. Louis Blues hope McDonald's preseason production carries through when the games begin to count. He led all preseason scorers with 13 points, including 9 assists. Linemates Lee Stempniak (5-7-12) and Brad Boyes (5-5-10) also excelled.

Alex Ovechkin -- Bad news for opposing goaltenders: Ovechkin had 5 goals in five preseason games, including a pair while shorthanded -- two more than he had all last season. After getting 65 last season, could he get 70?

Five down -- Five players who have to be good for their teams to succeed:

Vincent Lecavalier -- Tampa Bay coach Barry Melrose wasn't happy with his team's offense in back-to-back 2-1 losses to the Rangers in Prague. Lecavalier had just 1 assist and didn't generate a lot of offense. The Bolts can't win without a big season from their captain.

Martin Gerber -- Gerber didn't have a strong game for the Senators on Saturday, allowing four goals on 30 shots -- including a couple he should have stopped. His struggles earned Alex Auld a chance to play Sunday, and Auld stopped 30 shots in a 3-1 win.

Miroslav Satan -- Satan went from the offensively challenged Islanders to Pittsburgh, where he'll play with elite centers like Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. But he was almost invisible in Prague, earning only 1 assist in two games. The Penguins need Satan to be a 30-goal scorer.

Nikolai Zherdev -- With Jaromir Jagr now in Russia, Zherdev will get plenty of chances to score with the Rangers. They need him to top last season's career-best 61 points; going pointless in two games in Prague was not a good start.

Jose Theodore -- Expectations are high in Washington, where merely winning another division title won't be good enough. Theodore, who revived his career in Colorado last season before signing with the Caps, will be under intense scrutiny after management allowed last season's goalies, Cristobal Huet and Olaf Kolzig, to leave as free agents.
Injuries, news and notes -- Preseason games don't count in the standings, but that doesn't mean players can't get hurt. Both Stanley Cup finalists will start the regular season with key defenders missing after preseason injuries.

Out -- Pittsburgh will be without two of its top defensemen well into the season. Sergei Gonchar (shoulder surgery) will be out 4-6 months, joining Ryan Whitney, who's out until December after offseason foot surgery. The Penguins also were without forward Petr Sykora during their two weekend games in Stockholm; Sykora is battling a groin pull. … Detroit's blue line wasn't immune to the injury bug -- the Wings will be without Chris Chelios for at least another two weeks and maybe more than a month after he fractured his right tibia blocking a shot in a game at Montreal on Sept. 30. … Ottawa was without center Mike Fisher for its two games against the Penguins due to a groin problem. … Raffi Torres' debut with the Columbus Blue Jackets won't come until next month; he'll miss at least another four weeks with a separated shoulder sustained in an exhibition game. … Philadelphia forward Steve Downie is out with a knee injury sustained Oct. 1 against Washington. … The Islanders will start the season without two top-six defensemen -- Chris Campoli (shoulder) should be back by the end of the month, and Andy Sutton (hand) will miss at least another couple weeks after preseason surgery. … Toronto defenseman Jeff Finger likely will miss the first week of the season with a foot injury that kept him out for much of the preseason. … Anaheim forward Brad Larsen will miss at least the next six weeks after undergoing sports hernia surgery. … Columbus goaltender Pascal Leclaire left Friday's preseason game with a sprained ankle and didn't play Sunday against Toronto. … Buffalo forward Paul Gaustad is expected to miss at least a month after undergoing surgery on his fractured right thumb.

Returning -- The Islanders hope No. 1 goaltender Rick DiPietro will play in Monday night's preseason game at Florida and be ready to go when the regular season starts Friday. DiPietro is coming off hip and knee surgery and didn't practice with the team until Friday. He hasn't played since mid-March. … Carolina captain Rod Brind'Amour made his first appearance of the preseason Sunday after recovering from a knee injury that ended last season early. … St. Louis hopes forwards D.J. King (wrist) and Dan Hinote (lacerated leg) will be ready for the start of the regular season after battling injuries during training camp. … Dallas defenseman Philippe Boucher participated in his first full practice with the Stars on Friday and hopes the toe injury that kept him out for most of the preseason will be gone by opening night. … Atlanta center Slava Kozlov played his first preseason game Friday night; he's recovering from offseason shoulder and knee surgery.

Movement --
Vancouver waived forward Jeff Cowan and lost defenseman Nathan McIver on waivers to Anaheim. The Ducks sent forward Bobby Ryan, the No. 2 pick in the 2005 Entry Draft, to Iowa of the American Hockey League. … Atlanta released veteran defenseman Jamie Rivers. … Rookie goaltender Jeff Drouin-Deslauriers may earn a spot with the Edmonton Oilers, who would have to get him through waivers to send him to the minors. … Chicago released forward Jesse Boulerice, who had been with the Hawks on a tryout basis. The Blackhawks also returned forward Igor Makarov, their second-round pick in 2006, to his Russian club in St. Petersburg. … Calgary sent its 2007 first-round pick, center Mikael Backlund, back to Vasteras, his Swedish League team.

The week ahead -- The North American portion of the regular season begins Thursday with four games. By Saturday night, every team will have played at least once.

Games to watch

Toronto at Detroit (Oct. 9) -- The Wings begin defense of their Stanley Cup championship by hosting their long-time rivals in an opening-night gala.

Calgary at Vancouver (Oct. 9) -- Roberto Luongo, one of the NHL's top goaltenders, makes his debut as captain of the Canucks (though he won't wear the "C"). No goaltender has been an NHL captain since Montreal's Bill Durnan, in 1947-48. The teams meet again in Calgary on Saturday.

New York Islanders at New Jersey (Oct. 10) -- The Islanders continue a tradition of starting their season on the road; they've opened at home just four times since entering the NHL in 1972.

Montreal at Toronto (Oct. 11) -- This season's first installment of the NHL's oldest rivalry serves as the Leafs' home opener.

San Jose at Los Angeles (Oct. 12) --
The Kings play their home opener against the Sharks one night after the two teams open their season in San Jose.
Tough week ahead

St. Louis Blues -- The Blues open at home against Nashville, but have to fly right to Long Island and face the Islanders the next night.

Boston Bruins -- Boston starts its season with four straight road games, including its season-opener at Colorado on Oct. 9 and a visit to Minnesota two nights later.

Columbus Blue Jackets -- It's a tough start for the Blue Jackets, who open with back-to-back games in Dallas (Oct. 10) and Phoenix (Oct. 11).

Easy week ahead

Tampa Bay Lightning -- The Bolts get six days off after their two games in Prague, play their home opener against Carolina on Oct. 11, then don't play again for five days.

Minnesota Wild --
The Wild don't open until Oct. 11, when they host the Bruins -- then get a couple of days off before heading to Atlanta.

Buffalo Sabres -- Buffalo hosts Montreal on Oct. 10 in its only game of the season's first weekend.
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