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Huet's heroics lead to First Star honors

by John Kreiser
Cristobal Huet played in only two of Chicago's three games last week, but he was perfect, shutting out St. Louis on Wednesday and Detroit on Sunday, stopping all 47 shots he faced in the back-to-back 3-0 victories. Huet's performance earned him NHL First Star honors.

Sunday night, he stopped all 20 Detroit shots as the Blackhawks extended their winning streak to four games while moving back into first place in the Central Division and also the top spot in the Western Conference.

"We respect Detroit very much, even though they're missing a lot of top guys, and key guys," Huet said. "We knew it would be a tight game, so we were disciplined and it paid off."

The Blackhawks' discipline was evident in the first period when they held the Red Wings without a shot for 13 minutes.

"I didn't see the puck for the first (13) minutes," Huet said. "That tells you a little bit about what kind of team we are."

And when called upon, Huet was there.
"I had to challenge myself to be ready for the next shot, and it took awhile," Huet said. "But that's always a good sign that the team is playing a good puck-possession game and doing a lot of the right things."
"He deserved it," teammate Duncan Keith said of Huet's success. "It shows the kind of person he is. He showed a lot of character to come back and play the way he has."

Second star, Marc-Andre Fleury -- The Penguins' young goalie led Pittsburgh to the Stanley Cup last spring. Now he's taking his game to the next level.

In a season that has seen the Penguins hit with multiple injuries, the one constant has been the play of Fleury. He was a perfect 3-0-0 last week, allowing just four goals on 92 shots in 190 minutes of action. Fleury also continued to be perfect in shootouts, beating Philadelphia and Buffalo to improve his -- and his team's -- record in the breakaway competitions to 6-0.

Fleury already has 21 victories in the 30 games he's played, putting him on pace to break the 40-win mark for the second time in four years, and his goals-against average is down to 2.31 from 2.67 in 2008-09. He's the biggest reason the Penguins enter the week tied with New Jersey for first in the Atlantic Division, the lead in the Eastern Conference – and the top spot in the overall standings with 51 points.

Third star, Patric Hornqvist The Nashville Predators are giving goaltenders a bad case of sunburn, and Hornqvist is one of the big reasons for the offensive outburst. Despite averaging less than 13 minutes of ice time in Nashville's four games last week, Hornqvist scored 4 goals (including a game-winner in Edmonton) and added 3 assists for 7 points, putting him ahead of teammates Martin Erat (2-4-6) and Joel Ward (1-5-6).

Three up — Three players who've been hot:

Nathan Horton Horton started his week with a hat trick and an assist in Florida's 7-1 win on Long Island and finished with 7 points as the Panthers won three of their four games. He's on his way to the best season of his career.

Ryan Callahan
The New York Rangers need offense from someone whose name isn't Marian Gaborik, and they got it last week from Callahan. The 24-year-old had a four-point night against the Islanders and finished 3-4-7 as the Blueshirts went 2-1-1 in four games.

Ilya Kovalchuk
Atlanta's captain is on his way to a career year – a pretty impressive statement considering the career he's already had. Kovalchuk was 2-4-6 in the Thrashers' four games last week, has a six-game points streak and is 19-17-36 in just 28 games.

Five down — Five players who are struggling:

Steve MasonLast season's Calder Trophy winner has hit the sophomore slump. He's lost four in a row and was pulled from Saturday night's loss at Colorado after allowing three goals in the first 4:15.

Tyler Kennedy Pittsburgh's surge hasn't included any offense from Kennedy. The 23-year-old forward hasn't had a point in nine games since scoring a goal in his first game back after a groin injury.

Dwayne Roloson
An 11-6-5 record with a team like the New York Islanders isn't bad, but Roloson had a tough week. He allowed 11 goals on just 71 shots and surrendered five goals in each of two losses during which he didn't play well.

Rod Brind'Amour Carolina's captain turned 39 this summer and may be showing his age, He hasn't had a point in his last nine games, is minus-19 for the season and has seen his ice time reduced to less than 10 minutes a night.

Nicklas LidstromLidstrom, another 39-year-old, is also struggling – at least offensively. He scored his only goal of the season on Oct. 8 and is on pace for the worst full-season offensive numbers of his Hall of Fame career.

Injuries, news and notes — What would Detroit GM Ken Holland like for Christmas? Good health would be nice. Wings are dropping like flies this season: Henrik Zetterberg joined their lengthy injury list when he separated his left shoulder on Thursday. He's expected to miss at least another week. Two days earlier, defenseman Jonathan Ericsson went down with a deep bone bruise in his left knee and will miss at least another week. In all, eight Detroit regulars are out with major injuries.

Out — Ottawa center Jason Spezza tore an MCL last week, had surgery and is likely to be sidelined until after the Olympics. … Buffalo forward Thomas Vanek sat out Saturday's game with an abdominal injury. … Boston defenseman Derek Morris, who played more than 27 minutes Friday night in Chicago, sat out Saturday's game at Toronto with an undisclosed injury. Another defenseman, Mark Stuart, is expected to miss another 3-4 weeks with a broken sternum sustained last Monday. … Florida rookie Dmitry Kulikov reportedly will miss two weeks with a knee injury sustained Friday night. … Nashville captain Jason Arnott sat out Saturday with an upper-body injury. … Montreal defenseman Roman Hamrlik sat out the Canadiens' last two games with a knee injury. … Tampa Bay forward Matt Walker left Friday's game in the first period and didn't return. Steve Downie has missed the Bolts' last two games after hitting his head on the ice Tuesday at Nashville. … Chicago forward Ben Eager missed the Hawks' games Friday and Sunday with an upper-body injury, and defenseman Cam Barker missed Sunday's game with a lower-body injury. … Dallas defenseman Trevor Daley went on IR with a shoulder injury after being injured Wednesday, and Mark Fistric is sidelined until at least Christmas with a concussion. … Los Angeles forward Wayne Simmonds had his left knee scoped last week and was placed on IR. The Kings also lost defenseman Jack Johnson with an ankle injury; they hope he'll be ready after Christmas.

Returning — Montreal defenseman Andrei Markov returned Saturday from a severed foot tendon suffered on Opening Night. Markov had two goals in the Canadiens' 3-0 win on Long Island. … Philadelphia forward Simon Gagne returned Saturday after missing 24 games with an abdominal injury that required surgery. … Los Angeles has activated forward Ryan Smyth, who's been out since Nov. 16 with an upper-body injury. He's likely to play when the Kings get back on the ice Dec. 26. … The Islanders hope to get forward Tim Jackman back Monday after he missed nearly two weeks with a hip pointer. … Boston defenseman Dennis Wideman, out for a week with an undisclosed injury, expects to play Monday at Ottawa. … Washington forward Quintin Laing returned Saturday; it was his first game since breaking his jaw Nov. 17. … Toronto goaltender Jonas Gustavsson returned Friday, two weeks after undergoing a procedure to correct an irregular heartbeat. … Buffalo got center Paul Gaustad back Friday from a knee injury. … Florida center Gregory Campbell also returned Friday; he had missed 10 days with a concussion. … Ottawa goaltender Pascal Leclaire, sidelined for 15 games with a broken cheekbone, could be back by the end of the week -- as could forward Nick Foligno, who had arthroscopic knee surgery last week.


G-A-P: 2-3-5
+/-: 3 | PIM: 13 | PP: 0

Still out — Boston forward Milan Lucic, still sidelined with a sprained ankle, hopes to be back no later than the Winter Classic on Jan. 1. … Atlanta goaltender Kari Lehtonen, sidelined with back surgery, is skating again and could be back by the middle of next month. … Montreal forward Brian Gionta took part in Montreal's workout Saturday for the first time since he broke his foot on Nov. 15. … Florida forward David Booth, out since Oct. 24 with a concussion, has started to skate again. He may start practicing with the team after Christmas, but there's still no timetable for his return. … Washington defenseman Brian Pothier, who went down with a rib injury Dec. 9, is still a week or two away from returning to the lineup. … St. Louis captain Eric Brewer is skating again but hasn't played since going down with a back injury Nov. 25. He's not expected back until after Christmas. Forward D.J. King, out since late October with a broken hand, is also skating but won't be back before the holiday. … Edmonton center Fernando Pisani, out for five weeks due to his latest bout with ulcerative colitis, has been working out and hopes to play again sometime after the New Year. … Islanders goaltender Rick DiPietro will resume practicing with the team this week. He's played in parts of two AHL games as he rehabs from knee surgery. There's no word when he might play again. … Florida forward Cory Stillman, out since Nov. 20 with a knee injury, skated with the Panthers on Friday and hopes to play shortly after Christmas. … Edmonton goaltender Nikolai Khabibulin continues to be sidelined by back spasms. He met with a doctor, but no decision was made on surgery. … Anaheim forward Joffrey Lupul will be out until after the Olympic break after having back surgery last week.

The week ahead —
As has been the case beginning in 1972, the NHL takes off on both Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. The two-day gap makes for some interesting scheduling during the holiday week.

Games to watch

New Jersey at Pittsburgh (Dec. 21) –
The Devils make their last regular-season visit to Mellon Arena for their final pre-Christmas game as the top two teams in the Atlantic Division meet.

San Jose at Chicago (Dec. 22) – The Sharks hit the road for their third meeting of the season with the Hawks. Chicago won in overtime at the United Center and embarrassed the Sharks in San Jose last month.

Nashville at Vancouver (Dec. 22) – The Predators are scoring goals at a faster pace than at any time in their history. They go for a three-game sweep in Western Canada against the Canucks, who are winding down an eight-game homestand.

St. Louis at Calgary (Dec. 23) – The last game on the schedule before Christmas finds the Blues, one of the NHL's best road teams, visit Calgary, where the Flames have had trouble winning.

New York Islanders at New York Rangers (Dec. 26) – With no travel allowed on Dec. 24-25, the Islanders get the best trip of any road team that plays on Boxing Day – they visit Manhattan for the third meeting in 11 days with their biggest rival.

Tough week ahead
Buffalo Sabres
The Sabres have a hectic holiday week, with trips to Toronto and Washington before Christmas, a Saturday evening home game with Ottawa and a visit to St. Louis the next night.

Montreal Canadiens Christmas week means travel time for the Canadiens, who began a seven-game trip Saturday night and will spend this week visiting Atlanta and Carolina before the holiday before a Boxing Day trip to Toronto.

Philadelphia Flyers
Like the Canadiens, the Flyers hit the road when the holidays come. They have an especially busy week, following a home game against Florida with trips to Tampa Bay, Carolina and Long Island – the last one a 5 p.m. start on Sunday after a Saturday night game in Raleigh.

Easy week ahead

Calgary Flames
– The Flames have a leisurely holiday week. They play only twice, hosting St. Louis on Wednesday and Vancouver on Sunday.

Detroit Red Wings
The Wings also get a chance to catch their breath after Sunday's visit to Chicago. They host the Hawks in a return match on Wednesday before Columbus comes to Joe Louis Arena on Saturday night.

Los Angeles Kings
The Kings will have plenty of time to get their holiday shopping done. They haven't played since last Thursday and won't take the ice again until they visit Phoenix on Dec. 26.
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