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Kessel, Lehtonen, Khabibulin are October's stars

by Dan Rosen
Toronto forward Phil Kessel's sizzling start has earned him October's highest honor.

Kessel on Tuesday was named October's NHL Player of the Month, with Dallas goalie Kari Lehtonen  coming in second and Edmonton goalie Nikolai Khabibulin landing in third.

Kessel finished October leading the League with 10 goals and 18 points in 11 games. He has been held off the score sheet only twice and has five multiple-point games, including two 3-point games and a season-high 4-point game Oct. 8 against Ottawa, when he also had a hat trick.

"He had the best month of his career so far," Leafs coach Ron Wilson told reporters after Tuesday's practice. "He's been consistent in the 11 games he's played. Lots of shots and doing things that I haven't seen him do before like play hard in our zone, get pucks out, get in hard on the forecheck. I guess I should say I expect him to play the same in November. We'll see."

Kessel's torrid start has helped the Maple Leafs jump to the early lead in the Northeast Division with a 7-3-1 record. Their 15 points are one better than the streaking Senators, who have won six straight games.

"It's all about winning here," Kessel said. "We're here to do whatever we can to win, and right now it's working out. We have to keep it going. You can't just have one good month in this League."

Lehtonen has been the difference-maker in Dallas, helping the Stars tie Pittsburgh for the most wins in the League with eight. Lehtonen is responsible for all of them, while his goals-against average (1.75) is fourth in the NHL and his save percentage (.947) is tied for second with Los Angeles' Jonathan Quick.

Lehtonen has allowed more than two goals in a game only once through his first nine starts. The Stars have 16 points (8-3-0) to lead the Pacific Division.

Khabibulin, who won just 10 times in 47 games last season, has helped the Oilers get out to one of the NHL's most surprising starts. He has a 5-0-2 record and leads the League with a 1.12 GAA and .960 save percentage. He has not allowed more than two goals in any of his seven starts, and Edmonton leads the Northwest Division with 16 points (7-2-2).

Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl
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