Raise your hand if you had the Los Angeles Kings
at the top of the Western Conference standings in the middle of December.
After finishing 14th in the conference last season, the Kings have ridden an 8-1-1 streak to the top of the charts. And helping lead their charge is goaltender Jonathan Quick
By going 3-0-0 last week, and stopping 80 of 85 shots, Quick was named the NHL's First Star of the Week. In his last seven games, Quick is 6-0-1 with a 2.20 goals-against average.
Second Star: Daniel Sedin --
Daniel had a hat trick in a 4-2 win against Atlanta and had a goal and an assist in each of the Canucks' other two games last week, giving him 5 goals and 2 assists for 7 points. He has 18 points in the 14 games he's played.
Third Star: Ilya Bryzgalov --
The NHL's hottest goaltender continues to play brilliantly. Bryzgalov allowed just three goals in three games for Phoenix last week, going 2-0-1 (the only loss came in an eight-round shootout) with a shutout. Bryzgalov is 6-0-1 in his last seven games, allowing just 10 goals.
Three up --
Three more players who've been hot:
Alex Ovechkin --
Ovi returned from his two-game suspension none the worse for the brief vacation. He scored a pair of goals in his first game back for Washington and finished the week with 3 goals and 7 points.
Dustin Penner --
The Edmonton Oilers
signed Penner in the summer of 2007 and have waited for him to become a big-time offensive force. This is the season. Penner went 3-3-6 in three road victories for the Oilers last week; he's now 18-18-36 and plus-13 in 32 games.
John Tavares --
The No. 1 pick in the 2009 Entry Draft is doing just about everything the New York Islanders
could ask. He had a pair of 2-goal games and added an assist Saturday for 5 points in three games -- giving him 15 goals and 27 points, both tops among rookies.
Five down --
Five players who are struggling:
Chuck Kobasew --
The Minnesota Wild
were delighted when Kobasew had a hat trick the day after Thanksgiving. The problem is, he's done nothing offensively since then. Kobasew hasn't had a point in the eight games since his big day and is minus-5.
Devin Setoguchi --
San Jose has struggled to get scoring from any line other than its big unit, and Setoguchi's struggles are a big reason why. He hasn't had a point in seven games since returning from a leg injury.
James van Riemsdyk --
After an impressive start, the No. 2 pick of the 2007 Entry Draft has struggled along with the rest of the Philadelphia Flyers
. He has gone without a point in his last seven games.
Ryan O'Reilly --
O'Reilly surprised a lot of people by making Colorado's roster as an 18-year-old -- and surprised ever more by producing 17 points in his first 24 games. But he's gone without a point in his last 11 games despite averaging more than 16 minutes of ice time per game in that span.
Ondrej Pavelec --
Pavelec has hit a few bumps in recent weeks after his goaltending helped Atlanta get off to a hot start. He was 0-2-0 last week and allowed nine goals in the two losses; backup Johan Hedberg
has been getting more playing time.
Injuries, news and notes
Columbus forward Derek Dorsett
will miss four weeks after breaking his left hand Saturday. … Philadelphia defenseman Braydon Coburn
sprained an ankle against New Jersey on Saturday. He's listed as day-to-day, but definitely won't play Monday in Boston. … Colorado's Marek Svatos
sat out Sunday's game with a groin injury, and Milan Hejduk
didn't play due to a knee injury. … Buffalo forward Nathan Gerbe
missed Saturday's game with a groin problem. He's listed as day-to-day. … Islanders defenseman Jack Hillen
blocked a shot with his left foot in the first period of Saturday night's game and didn't return. Earlier in the week, the Islanders lost forwards Tim Jackman
(hip) and Sean Bergenheim
(shoulder). There's no date set for their return. … Nashville's Jordin Tootoo
was hit in the foot by a shot from teammate Shea Weber
and didn't return. He had an MRI on Sunday. … Detroit lost another forward when Dan Cleary
separated his shoulder Wednesday. He's expected to miss about a month. … Anaheim forward Mike Brown
sustained an upper-body injury in Saturday's game against Columbus and didn't return. … Los Angeles forward Wayne Simmonds
missed Saturday's game against Dallas with a lower-body injury; there's no word how long he'll be out. … Carolina forward Sergei Samsonov
has missed the Hurricanes' last three games with a lower-body injury. The Hurricanes also lost two other forwards last week: Eric Cole will miss 2-3 weeks with an upper-body injury, while Chad LaRose
will be out 3-4 weeks with a lower-body injury. … Washington defenseman Brian Pothier
went down with a rib injury Wednesday and could miss several weeks. … Vancouver defenseman Alexander Edler
injured his arm and will miss a week or two. … Florida center Dominic Moore
left Friday's game with an apparent abdomen injury and didn't play Saturday.
Columbus forward Fredrik Modin
played his first game of the season Saturday. He had been out with a knee injury sustained in the Jackets' final preseason game. … Philadelphia hopes forward Simon Gagne
, out since late October with groin surgery, might be able to play by the end of the week. … Anaheim forward Joffrey Lupul
, out for a couple of games with a leg injury, hopes to be back Wednesday. Forward Kyle Calder
returned Friday after missing six games with an eye injury. … Pittsburgh forward Chris Kunitz
, out for a month with a lower-body injury, returned Saturday. … Washington forward Mike Knuble
, who missed 13 games with a broken finger, was back in the lineup for the Caps' games Friday and Saturday. … Dallas defenseman Karlis Skrastins
returned Friday after missing two games with a lacerated finger. … Nashville center Dave Scatchard
returned Thursday after missing nearly two weeks with a lower-body injury.
Still out --
Islanders goaltender Rick DiPietro
played two periods in an AHL game Friday before leaving with what was called tightness in his leg. He'll need at least another game in the minors before trying to play an NHL game. Defenseman Andy Sutton
(groin) still wasn't ready to play Saturday. … Detroit's Jason Williams
had the cast taken off his broken leg; he still hopes to be back by mid-January. … Rangers forward Brandon Dubinsky
, out with a broken hand since Nov. 7, is taking contact in drills. … Florida center Gregory Campbell
still is feeling the effects of a concussion and isn't likely to be back before the end of the week at the earliest. … Vancouver forward Michael Grabner
, who broke his right ankle in early November, is skating again. He won't be back before Christmas. … Detroit forward Valtteri Filppula
, out since October with a broken wrist, is skating again, but his return could be as soon as Dec. 26. … Colorado defenseman Ruslan Salei
, who's played just one game this season, will undergo back surgery and will be out indefinitely. … Philadelphia goaltender Ray Emery
had successful surgery on Wednesday after being diagnosed with an abdominal tear. He'll miss about six weeks.
The week ahead --
It's an odd week as 14 teams have four games in the next seven days, but Colorado plays just two and San Jose has one on the schedule.
Games to watch
Phoenix at Detroit (Dec. 14) --
The Coyotes beat the Wings in the desert earlier in the season, but face a tough test when they begin a road trip with a visit to Joe Louis Arena -- with the Wings coming off back-to-back OT wins.
Philadelphia at Pittsburgh (Dec. 15, 7 p.m. ET, VERSUS, TSN2, RDS) --
The struggling Flyers play their third road game in four nights in the unfriendly confines of Mellon Arena in the opener of a home-and-home series.
New York Islanders at New York Rangers (Dec. 16) --
The Isles pay their first visit of the season to Madison Square Garden in another opener of a home-and-home -- the Rangers go to Long Island on Thursday.
Washington at Edmonton (Dec. 19, 10 p.m. ET, CBC) --
The Capitals wrap a western trip with their first visit to Rexall Place since October 2006. Not that the Caps have minded the long absence -- they've lost seven in a row in Edmonton since their last win -- in February 1996.
Detroit at Chicago (Dec. 20, 7 p.m. ET, NHLN-CA, RIS) --
The Wings visit the United Center for the first time since last spring's Western Conference Finals, when they won Game 4 en route to taking the series in five games.
Tough week ahead
Phoenix Coyotes --
The Coyotes, one of the NHL's bigger surprises this season, get a big test this week, with four games on the road in six nights.
Tampa Bay Lightning --
The Bolts spent the weekend visiting Colorado and Chicago; this week, they'll be touring the Midwest, with visits to Nashville, Detroit and St. Louis in a trip that ends on Long Island next Monday.
Washington Capitals --
After a disappointing loss at Toronto on Saturday, the Caps will spend a week out West, with visits to Colorado, Vancouver and Edmonton.
Easy week ahead
Colorado Avalanche --
The Avs will have a chance to do a little Christmas shopping this week, since they play only twice -- hosting Washington and Columbus.
Edmonton Oilers --
The Oilers, who got the weekend off after winning in St. Louis Friday night to end a six-game trip, are back home for the week before the holidays -- hosting Los Angeles on Tuesday, Nashville on Thursday and Washington on Saturday.
San Jose Sharks --
The Sharks will have even more time to get ready for the holidays -- their lone game of the week is at home Thursday against Anaheim. Bet on coach Todd McLellan
putting his slumping team through some workouts during the slow week.