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Kaberle's playmaking helps Leafs earn some points

by John Kreiser
Were it not for Tomas Kaberle, the Toronto Maple Leafs' struggles might be a lot worse. At 1-7-4, the Leafs are on the bottom of the NHL standings. But things are looking up somewhat after they went 1-0-3 on the road last week -- largely because of Kaberle.

The veteran defenseman started his week by scoring a goal and setting up four more in Toronto's first victory of 2009-10, a 6-3 win at Anaheim. He finished it by scoring setting up three goals before scoring the game-tying goal in the final minute on Saturday night in Montreal, a game the Leafs lost 5-4 in a shootout.

For the week, Kaberle had 2 goals and 10 assists in four games -- the most points by any player in a single week this season. He leads all defensemen in scoring and is in the top 10 among all players with 17 points, while averaging just under 24 minutes a night.

Second star, Pekka Rinne --
Rinne got off to a slow start this season, but his play last week gave the Nashville Predators a big boost.

Rinne allowed just two goals in 156 minutes while going 3-0-0 – beating Minnesota in relief before shutting out Chicago and beating Dallas.

Third star, Evgeni Nabokov -- The San Jose Sharks goalie has won his last four games, surrendering just one goal in each of his last three starts.

For the season, Nabokov is 9-3-1 with a 2.42 goals-against average and .915 save percentage and one shutout.

Four more -- Five players who've been hot:

Steven Stamkos -- The No. 1 pick in the 2008 Entry Draft is a second-year player now and showing every sign of living up to his potential. He was 3-1-4 in two games last week for Tampa Bay, extending his goal-scoring streak to five games and his point streak to seven.

Alex Ovechkin -- It was just another week for "The Great 8" -- 5 goals and an assist in three-plus games before he went down with an upper-body injury in Washington's 5-4 overtime loss to Columbus Sunday. He finished October with 14 goals, matching the best month of his career.

Nicklas Backstrom --
Alex Ovechkin gets most of the attention in Washington, but Backstrom is putting up plenty of points as well. His goal Sunday gave him eight points for the week and 18 points in the Caps' first 14 games.

Sidney Crosby --
Too bad every day isn't Oct. 28. Crosby had a hat trick against Montreal last Wednesday and has two of his three career 3-goal games on that day. He also had 2 assists and the deciding goal in Pittsburgh's come-from-behind shootout win at Columbus Friday.

Five down — Five players who've been struggling:

Marek Svatos -- Colorado's fast start hasn't been because of Svatos. The former 30-goal scorer hasn't turned on the red light in the Avs' last nine games, and he's just 2-1-3 even as Colorado is off to a 10-3-2 start.

Jonathan Cheechoo -- The Ottawa Senators had high hopes for the former 56-goal scorer when they got him from San Jose in the Dany Heatley trade. They're still waiting: Cheechoo has just 2 assists in Ottawa's first 12 games and no points with a minus-4 rating in the last seven.

Chris Drury -- The New York Rangers have seen their captain's offensive production vanish. He hasn't had a point in six games and was 0-0-0 and minus-3 in New York's four games last week.

Brian Rolston -- New Jersey plays its next game against Washington Wednesday, and maybe playing against the Caps will inspire Rolston, who's gone without a point in seven games since scoring at Washington on Oct. 12.

Cam Ward -- October was a nightmare month for the Carolina Hurricanes and their starting goaltender. Ward allowed nine goals in losing both of his appearances last week and is now 0-5-3 in his last eight games.
Injuries, news and notes -- In addition to the numerous players who missed games with the flu, big names were dropping like flies last week. Pittsburgh's Evgeni Malkin and Vancouver's Roberto Luongo were among those going down with injuries before Alex Ovechkin left Washington's game against Columbus on Sunday with an upper-body injury. He's listed as day-to-day.

Out — Malkin, the reigning NHL scoring leader, will miss at least another week or so with a shoulder injury. … Luongo sat out the last three of Vancouver's games last week with a broken rib. Amazingly, he played two games with the injury before having to sit. … Detroit forward Valtteri Filppula, expected to carry more of the offensive load after Johan Franzen went down a couple of weeks ago, instead will miss 6-8 weeks with a broken wrist. It's a non-displaced fracture and the Wings say surgery won't be needed. … Philadelphia defenseman Ryan Parent missed two games with a groin injury, returned Saturday but aggravated the condition and will miss a week. … Detroit forward Brad May will miss a week with an eye injury. … New Jersey lost defenseman Paul Martin with a broken arm and forward Jay Pandolfo with a shoulder injury last Saturday, then saw another defenseman, Johnny Oduya, go down with a lower-body injury on Thursday. … Montreal forward Matt D'Agostini left Friday's game in Chicago after being hit in the head. … Colorado lost forward T.J. Galiardi for 4-6 weeks with an ankle injury sustained Wednesday night. … Ottawa defenseman Anton Volchenkov injured his elbow on Thursday and is expected to miss at least two more weeks. Center Jason Spezza missed the Senators' last two games with an upper-body injury. … Columbus put forward Andrew Murray on IR with a shoulder injury.

Returning — Rangers forward Marian Gaborik missed two games last week with a leg injury before returning Sunday and scoring the winning goal against Boston. … Carolina forward Eric Cole returned Sunday after missing four weeks with a broken leg. … Toronto hopes forward Phil Kessel, who has yet to play after offseason shoulder surgery, could be ready to play as early as Tuesday. … Philadelphia hopes to have center Daniel Briere (quad) back by the end of the week. Center Blair Betts (shoulder) returned Saturday after missing more than three weeks. …  St. Louis forward T.J. Oshie should be back Thursday; he started skating on Saturday, a week after undergoing an appendectomy. … Islanders forward Trent Hunter, out since Oct. 8 with a chest injury, is skating and should be back this week. … Los Angeles expects to have its top line back together Monday night when Jason Williams returns from a lower-body injury that kept him out for two weeks. … Dallas hopes to get forwards Mike Modano (ribs) and Jere Lehtinen (abdominal) back this week. … Colorado defenseman John-Michael Liles returned Saturday after missing more than two weeks with a shoulder injury. … Anaheim forward Ryan Carter returned Saturday after missing three games with a foot injury. …

Still out — Philadelphia's Simon Gagne was diagnosed with two small hernias in his groin. He and the Flyers are still debating what course of action to take, but he's out indefinitely. … Marian Hossa (shoulder surgery) has started skating with the Blackhawks, but there's no date set for him to make his debut with Chicago. … Blues defenseman Barrett Jackman, out since Oct. 8 with a sprained ankle, is skating again but not likely to return for at least another week. … Anaheim goaltender Jean-Sebastien Giguere is still out with a groin injury. … Chicago forward Ben Eager has been out nearly a month with a concussion, but is skating again. Hawks captain Jonathan Toews has missed four games with concussion symptoms. …

The week ahead — The action picks up again, with 26 of 30 teams playing at least three games and four (Atlanta, Islanders, Phoenix and Tampa Bay) scheduled for four.

Games to watch:
Boston at Detroit (Nov. 3) -- With Versus on hand at Joe Louis Arena, the Red Wings return from a five-game road trip to host the up-and-down Bruins in an Original Six matchup.

Phoenix at Colorado (Nov. 4) -- The Avs, who've been the NHL's biggest early surprise, despite starting with 11 of 15 on the road, host the almost-as-surprising Coyotes -- who've played better on the road than at home.

Montreal at Boston (Nov. 5) -- The two old rivals meet for the first time since the Bruins completed a four-game sweep of the Canadiens last April.

New York Rangers at Calgary (Nov. 7) -- The Rangers come to the Pengrowth Saddledome for only the second time in seven years. Not that they've minded the absence: New York is 5-15-7 all-time in Calgary since the Flames moved from Atlanta in 1980.

Pittsburgh at San Jose (Nov. 7) -- Once upon a time, the Penguins feasted on the Sharks when they came to California -- Pittsburgh was 6-0-1 in its first six visits. But since a 5-2 win on Oct. 22, 1997, the Penguins are 0-7-1 at the Shark Tank and have lost their last six visits.

Tough week ahead:
New York Rangers -- The Rangers, who've cooled off after an early seven-game winning streak, hit the road for a swing through Western Canada, going from Vancouver to Edmonton to Calgary. When they visit the Pengrowth Saddledome on Saturday, they'll have played five games in five cities in nine nights.

Pittsburgh Penguins -- Like their Atlantic Division rivals, the Penguins head West -- they go to California for three games, starting in Anaheim and ending in San Jose.

Tampa Bay Lightning -- The Bolts play four games in six nights away from Tampa Bay. They start with a visit to Philadelphia before visiting Toronto, Ottawa and Montreal.

Easy week ahead:

Anaheim Ducks -- The Ducks spent most of October at home and will start November the same way. They host Pittsburgh, Nashville and Phoenix -- all while looking for a way to get out of the doldrums that have enveloped them through the first month of the season.

Colorado Avalanche -- The Avs got off to their great start despite playing 11 of their first 15 on the road. They host Phoenix, Chicago and Edmonton this week at the Pepsi Center, where Colorado has won all four of its games this season.

Minnesota Wild -- After playing nine of their first 12 on the road, the Wild gets a week at home and some time to regroup. Minnesota plays just two games this week, hosting Vancouver and Dallas.
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