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Ovechkin roars into NHL lead in goals

by John Kreiser
Alex Ovechkin put on an amazing show during All-Star Weekend. His performance this past weekend wasn't bad, either.

Ovechkin roared into the top spot in the goal-scoring race by scoring five times in two days while leading the Washington Capitals to back-to-back home wins against Detroit and Ottawa. After starting slowly against the Wings Saturday afternoon, he found his game in the third period and scored a highlight-film goal to put Washington ahead, then got a power-play goal for some insurance.

Perhaps more used to the 12:30 p.m. starting time Sunday -- though he says he's still not a fan of afternoon games -- Ovechkin needed less than two periods to pile up three more goals, giving him a League-high 36 for the season. He might not match last season's total of 65, but "Alexander the Great" again left no doubt that he's the most dangerous -- and entertaining -- player in the NHL.

Five up --
Five players who've been producing:

Sidney Crosby -- Pittsburgh's captain also has been piling up the points since the All-Star break. He had four in the third period of Wednesday's 6-2 victory against the Ranger and finished with 8 points (3 goals, 5 assists) in the Penguins' three games last week.

Jamie Langenbrunner -- New Jersey's captain had the week of his life. Langenbrunner became only the fifth player ever to score twice, including the game-winner, in three consecutive games. Not only that, two of the goals came in overtime and another tied the game in the final minute of regulation.

Tim Connolly -- If the Buffalo Sabres can keep Connolly healthy, their offense only will get better. The oft-injured center had 4 goals and 2 assists in the Sabres' first three games after the break.

Evgeni Nabokov --
Nabokov's 25 wins weren't enough to get him into the All-Star Game, so he went out and pitched back-to-back shutouts in San Jose's first two games after the break.

Jason Blake -- The Maple Leafs now are getting the kind of production they had hoped for when they signed Blake to a long-term contract in the summer of 2007. He was 3-3-6 in Toronto's first three games after the break, has goals in four consecutive games and his 17 goals already are more than he had all last season.

Five down -- Five players who've struggled:

Mats Sundin --
This certainly is not what the Vancouver Canucks had in mind when they signed the former Toronto star. He has been in the penalty box for more goals (4) than he has points (3). He had no points and was minus-3 in two games last week.

Andrew Raycroft -- Colorado's goaltenders, Raycroft and Peter Budaj, have struggled for much of the season. But Raycroft has struggled the past couple of weeks, losing his last five starts and allowing seven goals to Toronto on Jan. 29.

Brent McLean -- Florida's solid play in January came without much help from McLean, who is without a point in the Panthers' last 10 games, going minus-5 in that span with only nine shots on goal.

Nigel Dawes -- The Rangers have struggled to score all season long, and they need more production from Dawes, a second-year forward who hasn't had a point in his last six games despite seeing an average of more than 13 minutes of ice time per games.

Shea Weber -- Like the Rangers, Nashville struggles to score goals, and the Predators can't afford four games without a point from their All-Star defenseman, who is just 2-3-5 in his last 13 games and hasn't had a point since Jan. 17.

Injuries, news and notes -- A lot of things will happen during the rest of the NHL season, but a return by Peter Forsberg won't be one of them. Forsberg said if he plays at all this season, it will be at home in Sweden.

Out -- Tampa Bay backup goaltender Olaf Kolzig had arm surgery last week and will miss the rest of the season. There's a question whether Kolzig, who turns 39 in April, will be back next season. … Colorado placed forward David Jones on injured reserve with a shoulder injury sustained Jan. 27 against San Jose, then lost defenseman Kyle Cumiskey in the first period two nights later, also with a shoulder injury. … San Jose defenseman Dan Boyle missed the Sharks' first three games after the All-Star break with what the team described as an upper-body injury. … Rangers defenseman Dmitri Kalinin left Saturday's game with a back injury. … Buffalo center Adam Mair missed Buffalo's last two games last week with a leg injury after blocking a shot. Defenseman Jaroslav Spacek left Saturday's game against Phoenix in the first period with an upper-body injury. …  Toronto defenseman Tomas Kaberle will miss 3-4 weeks with a broken hand. … Phoenix forward Steven Reinprecht suffered a separated shoulder Thursday and will be lost for 4-8 weeks, and Peter Mueller missed the Coyotes' games Thursday and Saturday with a concussion. … Nashville forward Jordin Tootoo sat out Sunday's game with a hand injury.

Returning -- Anaheim got Teemu Selanne back Jan. 28. Selanne was leading the NHL in power-play goals before leaving the Ducks' game at Edmonton Dec. 19 with a bad leg laceration. … Boston forward Phil Kessel returned Thursday after missing six games due to mononucleosis. Two nights earlier, Patrick Bergeron returned after missing more than a month with a concussion and Milan Lucic came back after being out three weeks with a shoulder injury. Goaltender Manny Fernandez, sidelined for a couple of weeks with a bad back, hopes to be back this week. …  Chicago got defenseman Duncan Keith back for its first two games after the break. He had missed four games with concussion-like symptoms. … Colorado activated forward Cody McLeod on Jan. 29 after he missed nearly five weeks with a stress fracture in his left foot. … The Islanders got defenseman Chris Campoli (groin) and forwards Trent Hunter (lacerated hand) and Andy Hilbert (foot) back Jan. 29. … Toronto defenseman Mike Van Ryn returned Jan. 27 after missing almost six weeks with a concussion, and Jeff Finger also returned from a shoulder injury that kept him out for three weeks. … San Jose defenseman Rob Blake wore a face mask when he returned Jan. 27, 12 days after taking a puck in the face and leaving with a jaw injury. … Montreal forward Christopher Higgins was back in the lineup Jan. 27, seven weeks after going down with a shoulder injury. … Washington defenseman Tom Poti played Saturday for the first time since going down with a groin injury Dec. 20. … Patrick Kaleta returned to Buffalo's lineup Saturday after being out of action since Dec. 19 with a neck strain. … Pittsburgh defenseman Brooks Orpik returned Friday after missing three games with a groin injury.

Still out -- Buffalo's Maxim Afinogenov has missed 11 games due to a groin injury that shows no signs of healing. The Sabres have no idea when he'll be able to play again. … Columbus goaltender Pascal Leclaire underwent successful surgery on his ankle and will be ready for the start of training camp in September. … Pittsburgh defenseman Sergei Gonchar, out all season after shoulder surgery, is practicing with the team and might be back by the end of this month.

The week ahead -- Not much rest for the weary -- eight teams will play four times this week; just three have a two-game week.

Games to watch:
Atlanta at New York Rangers (Feb. 3) -- Before the game the Rangers will pay tribute to one of the heroes of their 1994 Cup-winning team by retiring Adam Graves' No. 9.

Toronto at Buffalo (Feb. 4; 7:30 p.m. ET, NHLN-US, TSN) -- Forgive the Sabres if the idea of playing a home game seems a little foreign to them. Buffalo returns to HSBC Arena for the first time since Jan. 17 after a six-game trip that ended a stretch in which the Sabres were on the road for nine of 10 games.

Chicago at Calgary (Feb. 5; 9:30 p.m. ET, TSN) -- Chicago continues its "Hawks over North America" tour with the second of its three games in Western Canada. The Blackhawks will be going for a sweep of the four-game season series.

Philadelphia at Boston (Feb. 7) -- The Flyers visit TD Banknorth Garden for a matinee three days after hosting the Eastern Conference leaders.

Detroit at Pittsburgh (Feb. 8; 12:30 p.m. ET, NBC, RDS) --
NBC will be on hand as the Red Wings come to Mellon Arena for the first time since skating away with the Stanley Cup last June. The Penguins won the first meeting between the teams this season, rallying for a 7-6 overtime victory Nov. 11.

Tough week ahead:
Anaheim Ducks -- The Ducks will pack their bags after Monday's home game against Buffalo for games at Minnesota, Nashville and Calgary -- all in a four-day span.

Chicago Blackhawks -- Having made their way through California, the Blackhawks continue their eight-game sojourn through North America with stops in Western Canada, beginning Tuesday at Edmonton.

Los Angeles Kings -- L.A. will spend the week where it will spend most of the rest of the season -- away from the Staples Center. The Kings, who played Saturday in Montreal, stay in the east for visits to Ottawa, Washington and New Jersey.

Easy week ahead:

Minnesota Wild -- Minnesota gets to spend the week in the Land of 10,000 Lakes, with visits from Anaheim, Nashville and Edmonton on the schedule as the Wild battle for a playoff spot.

Ottawa Senators -- Maybe a little home cooking will give the Senators' flagging playoff hopes a boost. They're home for three games this week, against Los Angeles, Boston and Buffalo.

Vancouver Canucks -- It's another light week for the Canucks, who again play only twice and get both games at home. They only problem is that they've struggled to win at G.M. Place -- losing their last nine home games.
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