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Pavelski's big week keeps Sharks on top in Pacific

by John Kreiser
The only person who could slow down Joe Pavelski last week was the official scorer.

Fans streamed out of HP Pavilion on Saturday night thinking they had seen Pavelski score his first NHL hat trick in San Jose's 5-3 victory against St. Louis. Instead, his first goal was awarded to Patrick Marleau after a post-game review.

But Pavelski still finished the night with 2 goals and an assist, capping a four-game week in which he scored 3 times and piled up 11 points -- including a four-assist night in Dallas on Tuesday and multiple points in all four games.

Five up — Five players who've been hot:

Ray Emery -- In one of the feel-good stories of the season, not only has Emery been able to rebound from major hip surgery that cost him more than a year, but he's been a real find for the Anaheim Ducks. Emery won back-to-back starts last week -- his first in more than a year -- while allowing just one goal in each.

Patrick Marleau
-- Pavelski wasn't the only hot Shark last week. Marleau had a pair of goals and added 5 assists for a seven-point week to help San Jose win three of its four games.

James Reimer -- Toronto's rookie goaltender is a big reason the Leafs have been able to make a late push for a playoff berth. He was superb in two appearances last week, beating Carolina on the road and Boston at home while allowing just 3 goals on 74 shots to improve to 15-7-4.

Pekka Rinne -- Rinne is the main reason the Nashville Predators have stayed in the playoff hunt in the West. He was 4-1-0 on the Preds' five-game homestand, which ended with a 3-1 win against Detroit -- a game that saw him stop 39 of 40 shots.

Ilya Bryzgalov -- Phoenix starts a six-game homestand on Sunday after sweeping a four-game road trip during which Bryzgalov excelled. He went 3-0-0 in a five-day stretch by allowing just 6 goals on 101 shots.

Five down — Five players who are struggling:

Kris Versteeg -- The Flyers had to be expecting more than they've gotten from Versteeg since getting him from Toronto last month. He's gone seven games without a point and is just 4-1-5 in 16 games since coming over from the Leafs.

Niklas Backstrom -- Minnesota has dropped five in a row, and part of the reason is that Backstrom has been struggling. He allowed 11 goals in losing all three starts last week and is 0-3-1 in his last four games while surrendering 15 goals.

Josh Bailey -- The Islanders' offense has perked up in the second half of the season, but Bailey hasn't done a whole lot to help in the last week or so. He's gone five games without a point and is minus-4 in that span.

Dennis Seidenberg -- The veteran defenseman isn't going to generate tons of offense, but after getting 27 points in 62 games, he's gone nine games without so much as an assist and is minus-6 in that span, during which he hasn't been a plus player on any night.
Chris Stewart -- After a hot start with St. Louis, Stewart has cooled down. The big power forward has gone five games without a point after getting 9 goals in his first 11 games since joining the Blues in a deal with Colorado.

Injuries, news and notes -- Few goaltenders enjoyed a victory as much as Anaheim's Ray Emery did when he beat St. Louis 2-1 on Wednesday. It was Emery's first start and first win since Feb. 1, 2010, when he was with Philadelphia -- and before he underwent major hip surgery that kept him out for more than a year.

Out -- Vancouver center Manny Malhotra is out indefinitely after undergoing eye surgery on Thursday, one day after being hit in the eye with a puck. … San Jose forward Logan Couture suffered a lower-body injury when he crashed into the boards on Saturday; the Sharks say he's day-to-day. … L.A.'s Kyle Clifford left Thursday's game with an upper-body injury and didn't play Saturday. … Tampa Bay's Simon Gagne missed Saturday's game with a pinched nerve in his neck. … Toronto defenseman Mike Komisarek is day-to-day after leaving the Leafs' game on Wednesday with a lower-body injury. Leafs forward Colby Armstrong injured his foot blocking a shot on Wednesday and missed games Thursday and Saturday. … Ottawa goaltender Craig Anderson has missed the Senators' last two games with a lower-body injury. … Colorado defenseman Adam Foote hasn't played since leaving Wednesday's game with an ankle injury. … Calgary's David Moss is out indefinitely with a lower-body injury. … Carolina defenseman Jamie McBain could miss the rest of the regular season after sustaining a shoulder injury on Tuesday. … Dallas forward Loui Eriksson hasn't played since leaving Tuesday's game with an upper-body injury. Defensemen Niklas Grossman (lower body) and Karlis Skrastins (undisclosed) left Saturday's game, giving the Stars only four defensemen for much of the night. … Minnesota's Marek Zidlicky missed the Wild's last two games with a hamstring injury. Another defenseman Marco Scandella, left Saturday's game with a broken finger. … Montreal lost forwards Jeff Halpern and Tomas Plekanec on Tuesday with lower-body injuries; they haven't played since. … Nashville has been without Joel Ward since he sustained a lower-body injury during pregame warmups on Tuesday. … Chicago defenseman Brian Campbell (leg) will miss his third consecutive game on Sunday.

Returning -- Islanders goaltender Rick DiPietro returned Saturday after missing more than six weeks with facial fractures and beat Florida 4-3 in a shootout -- despite two goals by Panthers rookie Evgeni Dadonov, who was returning from a broken finger suffered on Feb. 2, the same night DiPietro was hurt. … Washington's first-line center, Nicklas Backstrom, returned Friday after missing 11 days with a broken thumb. … St. Louis activated defenseman Tyler Strachan on Friday after he missed two weeks with a concussion. … Pittsburgh reactivated forward Arron Asham, who's been out since Feb. 1 with a concussion.

Still out -- Anaheim goaltender Jonas Hiller, sidelined with vertigo, skated at practice but there's no word as to when he might be able to play. … Buffalo forward Jochen Hecht skated Friday but didn't play Saturday; he's been out since March 13 with an ankle injury. … Edmonton defenseman Ryan Whitney is also skating but isn't expected to play again this season after undergoing ankle surgery. … Rangers goaltender Martin Biron, out since Feb. 28 due to a broken collarbone, isn't even able to ride a bike and isn't likely to return before the end of the regular season.

The week ahead -- It's a little bit of a less-hectic week -- only six teams play four games, while three have only two games on the schedule.

Games to watch: (March 21-27)

Pittsburgh at Detroit (March 21; Versus/TSN2) -- The Penguins make only their second visit to Joe Louis Arena since winning Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final there in June 2009.

Washington at Philadelphia (March 22; Versus/TSN2)
-- The surging Caps are on the Flyers' heels in the race for first place in the Eastern Conference and will be coming off a three-day break.

Vancouver at Detroit (March 23; Versus/TSN) -- The Canucks, who've already won the Northwest Division title, could all but salt away the top spot in the West with a win against the second-place Wings, the leaders in the Central Division.

Washington at Montreal (March 26; NHLN-US/CBC) -- The Caps finish a six-game road trip the same way they started -- with a visit to the Bell Centre, where they won 4-2 on March 15.

San Jose at Phoenix (March 26) -- The Sharks and Coyotes, the top two teams in the Pacific Division, play the first of three games in the final 15 days of the season.

Tough week ahead:

Anaheim Ducks -- The last 10 days of March gets considerably tougher for the Ducks after they spent most of the first three weeks at home. Anaheim has back-to-back games at Dallas and Anaheim, then gets a night off before visiting Chicago.

Florida Panthers -- After a couple of weeks at home, the Panthers pay the price -- four games in six days on the road, including games in consecutive nights at New York and Chicago.

Washington Capitals -- The Caps play the second half of a two-week, six-game trip, starting in Philadelphia on Tuesday before back-to-back games at Ottawa on Friday and Montreal (where they started the trip) on Saturday.

Easy week ahead:

Chicago Blackhawks -- After a hectic couple of weeks, the Hawks get a breather -- they have only two games, both at home (vs. Florida and Anaheim) and two days off before each one.

Minnesota Wild -- On paper, this is about as easy a week as the Wild could have asked for -- two games, both at home, against teams not currently in the top eight in their conferences (Toronto and St. Louis).

Nashville Predators -- The Predators are back from a Sunday trip to Buffalo that followed a five-game homestand for three more games at Bridgestone Arena as they scramble for a playoff berth in the West.
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