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January was a good month for power plays

by John Kreiser

Logic says the abbreviated training camps before this season's truncated 48-game schedule should make it harder for teams to get their power plays to mesh. Then again, hockey isn't always logical.

Though training camps lasted less than a week, giving coaches little time to get organized, power-play success around the NHL in the early going is up markedly from last season's 17.3-percent rate. Through the end of January (100 games), teams are scoring on 20.1-percent of their power plays, a level not seen during a full season since 1989-90.

However, the power-play improvement isn't universal. Five teams, led by the New York Islanders at 37.5 percent, have converted on at least 30 percent of their chances. Seven others are below last season's League-low rate of 13.5 percent by Dallas (the Stars are at 16.0 percent entering the weekend).

On the other hand, three teams (Chicago Blackhawks, Islanders and Boston Bruins) are killing off more than 90 percent of the opposition's power plays -- and all have winning records -- while four clubs (Philadelphia Flyers, Anaheim Ducks, Calgary Flames, Winnipeg Jets) all have losing marks partly because they're below 70 percent on the penalty kill. New Jersey, which allowed only 27 power-play goals last season while setting a record by killing 89.6 percent of opponents' power plays, has allowed six extra-man goals on 30 chances in its first six games this season.

Teams also are getting more power-play chances than they were last season. The first 100 games saw an average of 8.8 power plays per game, a jump of more than 30 percent from last season's average of 6.6.

Wrong kind of change -- The New York Rangers might want to work on their line changes. They took their fourth bench minor for too many men on the ice during Thursday's 3-0 loss to Pittsburgh. More problematic is that they've allowed a power-play goal on three of the four ensuing power plays, including one in the third period Thursday. On power plays set up by all other penalties, they've allowed just four goals in 32 times shorthanded.

Practice pays off -- Can you get better at the shootout? If you're Evgeni Malkin and Ilya Kovalchuk, the answer is yes.

Kovalchuk scored on his first shootout attempt of the season Tuesday in Boston after setting an NHL record by scoring 11 shootout goals (in 14 attempts) last season. Before the start of 2011-12, however, he was 11-for-42 for his career in the tiebreaker.

Malkin has also figured out the mechanics of the shootout. He scored Sunday in Ottawa and is now 7-for-8 in the last 13 months -- after going just 9-for-33 to that point in his career.

But past performance is no guarantee of future success. Jussi Jokinen was a League-best 10-for-13 in 2005-06, the first season in which the NHL used the shootout. Since then, he's 20-for-53, including just 2-for-6 last season. Kings goaltender Jonathan Quick, who went 10-0 in shootouts and stopped 36 of 44 shots two seasons ago, is 7-9 since then and has allowed 20 goals on 58 chances -- including four goals on eight attempts in Thursday's 2-1 shootout loss to Nashville.

What a difference a year makes -- The difference in starts to Patrick Marleau's season from 2011-12 to this season couldn't be more pronounced.

Marleau became the first player since 1917-18 to begin his season with four multiple-goal games, and then added his ninth goal of the season in San Jose's fifth game before being limited to an assist in Game 6 -- all Sharks victories. He finally was held without a point Thursday, though San Jose beat Edmonton in a shootout to become the 11th team in NHL history to open 7-0-0 or better.

Marleau's fast start is a 180-degree turnaround from last season, when the Sharks' all-time scoring leader didn't score a goal until his sixth game and didn't reach nine goals until his 18th.

Another Marty milestone -- Martin Brodeur already owns the NHL career records for wins and shutouts by a goaltender. But he reached another milestone Sunday in his hometown of Montreal when he became the first goaltender in NHL history to face 30,000 shots. He's at 30,053 after facing 35 shots in Thursday's 5-4 overtime loss to the New York Islanders. That's more than 1,700 ahead of runner-up Patrick Roy (28,349) and light years ahead of the next-busiest active goaltender, Nikolai Khabibulin (21,879).

Though he gave up five goals on Thursday, Brodeur hasn't allowed the most goals ever -- his total of 2,615 is third, behind Grant Fuhr and Gilles Meloche, both of whom surrendered 2,756.

You've got to have friends -- John Tavares lobbied for the Islanders to sign Matt Moulson in the summer of 2009 when Moulson was a free agent. Moulson has rewarded Tavares and the team with three straight 30-goal seasons playing primarily on Tavares' left wing, and the No. 1 pick in the 2009 NHL Draft has been an integral part of that success.

Tavares has been on the ice for each of Moulson's last 64 goals, dating to early in the 2010-11 season. He's assisted on 42 of them, including 24 of 36 last season and two of the four Moulson has scored in 2012-13.

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