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Legace big reason Blues are surging

by John Kreiser

Manny Legace has been named the NHL's First Star of the Week twice this season. Legace highlights
If the St. Louis Blues are going to make the playoffs, Manny Legace will have to carry the load in goal. Right now, he’s doing just that.

The Blues are 4-0-2 in their last six games, including back-to-back 5-1 home wins over Columbus and Chicago, and Legace has been a big part of the surge. He has allowed juts eight goals in the six games, and no more than two in any game. That includes a 4-1 win in Colorado in which he stopped 39 of 40 shots and a 2-1 overtime loss at Nashville in which he stole a point by making 42 saves on a night when his team was out-shot 44-19 overall and 14-0 after the second period.

No player enjoyed making the All-Star Game more than Legace. If his play gets the Blues back to the postseason, he may enjoy the playoffs even more.

Five up -- Five players who have been hot:

Marty Turco -- Turco has been a big contributor to the Dallas Stars’ surge. He has a 6-1 record with a 1.56 goals-against average and a .941 save percentage in seven starts this month — including last Sunday’s 1-0 victory over Detroit, a team he had beaten just once in 15 starts.

Ruslan Fedotenko -- Fedotenko has found his scoring touch after months of being unable to put the puck in the net. He has four goals, including two game-winners, and an assist in his last four games, helping the New York Islanders to win all four.

Vincent Lecavalier -- Last season’s Rocket Richard Trophy winner knows how to pass, too. The Tampa Bay star has a goal and seven assists for eight points during a six-game scoring streak.

Jaromir Jagr -- Jagr still can’t find the net, but he’s helping his teammates to light the lamp. He has six assists in the New York Rangers’ last three games, including four in Tuesday’s 6-5 shootout loss at Montreal.

Marian Gaborik -- Gaborik has been flying as the Wild battle for the top spot in the Northwest Division. He extended his points streak to six games with a goal on Tuesday night. He has eight points during the streak, including the overtime winner against Nashville on Sunday.

Five down -- Five players who have been struggling:

Daniel Briere -- This isn’t what the Flyers envisioned when they made a major commitment to Briere last summer. He has scored only two goals in the past 16 games, and though he has 54 points in 60 games, he’s lacked the offensive zip he showed with Buffalo.

Phil Kessel He got the shootout winner for Boston on Tuesday, but the Bruins need Kessel to produce in regulation. The fifth-overall pick in the 2006 NHL Entry Draft has just one assist in his last eight games and hasn’t scored a goal since Jan. 31.

Lee Stempniak -- St. Louis’ playoff push would be a lot easier if Stempniak were repeating his 27-goal, 52-point performance of last season. Instead, he had just one assist in his last four games before scoring a goal Tuesday night — his first since Jan. 16 and just his 11th of the season.

Evgeni Nabokov Nabokov is on pace to set League records for appearances and minutes played, but both he and the San Jose Sharks are in a slump. Nabokov has lost his last four decisions (one in overtime) while allowing 12 goals on just 88 shots, for a save percentage of just .864.

Brian Campbell It was not a good week for Buffalo’s All-Star defenseman. Not only did he go pointless in three games — all losses — but he was a minus-6 in weekend losses to the Rangers (minus-4) and Penguins (minus-2).

Injuries, news and notes -- Sidney Crosby was skating at full speed in practice earlier this week — and wasn’t wearing a yellow (no contact) jersey. But the reigning NHL scoring champ and MVP said he’s still not sure when he’ll be ready to play again. He’s recovering from a high ankle sprain sustained on Jan. 18.

Out -- Detroit is holding its breath after All-Star defenseman Nicklas Lidstrom left Monday’s game at Colorado with a knee injury. Lidstrom said he’ll have an MRI on Wednesday on his knee, which is “sore and swollen.” … The New York Islanders have been winning games and losing defensemen. The latest casualty is Andy Sutton, who tore a hamstring muscle late in Monday’s 3-2 win over San Jose and will miss 4-6 weeks. The Isles already are without Brendan Witt (knee), Bruno Gervais (oblique strain) and Chris Campoli (season-ending shoulder surgery). … Philadelphia took some big injury hits over the weekend. Forward Steve Downie sustained a concussion in Saturday night’s game at Montreal and is sidelined indefinitely. Defenseman Derian Hatcher will miss a minimum of three weeks due to soreness and weakness in his surgically repaired right knee. Joffrey Lupul, who suffered a high sprain to his right ankle Saturday night, also figures to be out of action for a minimum of 2-3 weeks, and another forward, Denis Tolpeko, will miss at least a week with a concussion he sustained Sunday. They acquired defenseman Jaroslav Modry from Los Angeles on Tuesday for a draft pick. … Florida center Stephen Weiss will miss a couple weeks with a broken finger on his left hand. … The flu continues to sweep through the Carolina Hurricanes’ dressing room. The latest victim is Eric Cole, who sat out Monday but was back in the lineup on Tuesday. … Vancouver forward Taylor Pyatt sat out Tuesday with a shoulder injury sustained in Saturday’s win over Edmonton. … Chicago lost center Yanic Perreault for at least a couple of weeks with a broken right wrist. … Washington defenseman Tom Poti, the Caps’ leader in ice time, has missed three games with a deep thigh bruise. … Tampa Bay defenseman Brad Lukowich has missed three games with an abdominal/groin injury. … Ottawa forward Cody Bass had surgery to mend his ailing left foot and will be out for about six weeks.

Joe Sakic hopes to return to the ice soon. He underwent hernia surgery on December 28, 2007.

Returning -- Joe Sakic and Paul Stastny took part in practice Tuesday for the struggling Colorado Avalanche. Stastny could play as early as Wednesday against Anaheim, the first game of a five-game road trip. Sakic will travel with the team and hopes to play during the trip. The Avs, who recently got forward Ryan Smyth back after a broken ankle, have struggled to score without their top forwards in the lineup. … St. Louis defenseman Christian Backman is skating again and close to returning. He’s missed 11 games with a broken foot. … Chicago forward Jason Williams hopes to return Wednesday. He’s missed 35 games and had hernia surgery last month. … Nashville forward Jordan Tootoo returned Sunday after missing 19 games with a hip flexor injury. … Columbus center Sergei Fedorov was back in the lineup on Sunday after missing a month due to the effects of a concussion. … Carolina center Matt Cullen was activated from the injured list and played his first game since Jan. 29 on Saturday night. He’s been plagued by the effects of a concussion sustained on Dec. 26. … Montreal got defenseman Roman Hamrlik back on Saturday after he missed five games due to illness. … Rostislav Olesz returned to Florida’s lineup Friday after missing nearly a month with a wrist injury.

Still out -- Florida’s Richard Zednik was released from Buffalo General Hospital Friday and is resting at his home in South Florida. He’s not expected to play for at least six weeks. … Vancouver defenseman Lukas Krajicek is scheduled to undergo season-ending surgery on his shoulder this week. He hurt his shoulder in a collision with St. Louis’ Keith Tkachuk in late January. … Detroit goaltender Dominik Hasek wants to return to practice this week. He’s been out with a hip injury since Feb. 9. Defenseman Niklas Kronvall remains out with a clavicle injury and isn’t likely to return on the current road trip, and defenseman Brian Rafalski has missed three games with a groin injury. … San Jose put center Patrick Marleau on IR after he missed three games with a groin injury. The also put defenseman Alexei Semenov on IR with a bad back; he hasn’t played since Feb. 6. … Philadelphia forward Simon Gagne is done for the season after three concussions in five months. He saw a concussion specialist who advised the Flyers that he shouldn’'t play again this season, and while GM Paul Holmgren expressed “"disappointment,"” he said the club would agree to shut Gagne down.. … Pittsburgh put center Kris Beech on injured reserve with a broken wrist. He’s out indefinitely. … Anaheim center Doug Weight is expected to miss at least another week with a shoulder injury. He hasn’t played since Feb. 7. … Boston forward Peter Schaefer has missed four games with a deep gash on his shin.

The week ahead — San Jose continues its marathon trek through the East and Midwest, while Detroit heads off to Western Canada and Colorado leaves town for the rest of the month.

Games to watch:

San Jose at Philadelphia (Feb. 21) — The Sharks play the fourth game of their long trip in Philadelphia. The Flyers are trying to break an eight-game losing streak.

Buffalo at Toronto (Feb. 21) — The Leafs will be looking to avenge a 1-0 loss in Buffalo last week in which they out-shot the Sabres, 35-20, but were thwarted by goaltender Ryan Miller.

New York Islanders at New Jersey (Feb. 23) — New Jersey would be running away with the Atlantic Division if it weren’t for the Isles, who have won all five meetings this season, including two at the Prudential Center.

Toronto at Ottawa (Feb. 25) — The Leafs have had more success this season in the Battle of Ontario, but they’re still on the outside looking in at the playoffs, while the Senators are trying to hold on to the lead in the Northeast Division and the Eastern Conference.

Detroit at Edmonton (Feb. 26) — The Wings end a five-game road trip with a visit to Rexall Place, where they won 2-1 on Oct. 30.

Tough week ahead:

Colorado Avalanche The Avs start a stretch of four road games in seven days Wednesday night in Anaheim, then head to Phoenix, followed by games in Edmonton and Calgary.

St. Louis BluesThe Blues play three games in four nights in Southern California and Phoenix before coming home to face red-hot Dallas on Tuesday.

San Jose Sharks The Sharks visit New Jersey and Philadelphia on consecutive nights, their third and fourth games in a five-day span, then visit Pittsburgh on Sunday as their long trip continues.

Easy week ahead:

Nashville PredatorsThe Preds only have two games this week, both at home, enabling them to catch their breath before the stretch run.

Los Angeles Kings With only two games, both at home, in a nine-day stretch, the Kings can get a breather after their long trip earlier this month.

Phoenix Coyotes The Coyotes, who have a lot of home games left, only have two games this week, hosting Colorado on Friday and St. Louis on Sunday.

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