If it's possible for a goaltender to be playing better than Minnesota's Josh Harding, NHL shooters will be having nightmares.
Harding is the biggest reason the Wild have won their last four games. Not only was Harding in goal for all four games, he pitched a 1-0 shutout in the first one before allowing one goal in each of the next three.
It's quite a turnaround for a career backup who nearly saw his career end due to injuries – he missed all of last season with a knee injury. Harding got only one start before getting the call last Saturday and blanking Detroit 1-0; he allowed only one in the rematch, a 2-1 Minnesota win at Detroit on Tuesday, then surrendered singletons in wins over Vancouver (5-1) and St. Louis (2-1). That's three goals allowed on 129 shots faced – more than enough for even the offensively challenged Wild.
Patrick Kane – The top pick in the 2007 NHL Draft has turned his game up a few notches. He sandwiched a pair of three point nights around a single assist in the Hawks' 3-2 shootout win against Florida for a seven-point week.
Nicklas Backstrom – Backstrom has replaced linemate Alex Ovechkin as Washington's top scorer, at least for now. Backstrom had two points in each of the Caps' three games last week and got both the tying goal in the final minute and the OT winner in Tuesday's 5-4 win against Anaheim.
Pekka Rinne – Rinne had one of the greatest birthdays in the history of sports, signing a seven-year, $49 million deal on the day he turned 29, then stopping 35 shots in a victory at Phoenix. He is 3-0-1 in his last four decisions with a pair of shutouts.
Nikolai Khabibulin – The "Bulin Wall" continues to show few chinks. Khabibulin won both his starts last week to improve to 6-0-2. His 3-0 victory in Los Angeles was his second shutout of the season.
Adam Henrique – The rookie center gave New Jersey a pick-me-up with five points in three games. He capped the best night of his young career by getting the OT winner, his second goal of the night, in Saturday's 3-2 win against Winnipeg.
Brendan Morrison – The 36-year-old center missed Calgary's first five games with a knee injury, and his offensive game has yet to make an appearance. Morrison has not had a point in the eight games he's played and has managed only eight shots on goal.
Dustin Penner – Los Angeles traded for Penner at the trade deadline last February but has yet to see much of a return. Penner has not had a point and is minus-3 in his last eight games, and has just one assist in the 11 he's played this season.
Kyle Okposo – The 2006 first-rounder's struggles were one reason Islanders coach Jack Capuano completely revamped his lines on Saturday. Okposo has just three assists in 11 games and was dropped to the third line in the shuffle.
Ryan Miller – The 2010 Vezina Trophy winner played just 6:23 last week – but that was enough for him to surrender three goals to Philadelphia in what became a 3-2 loss. He's lost his last four decisions and sat out Friday and Saturday in favor of rookie Jhonas Enroth.
Jiri Hudler – Hudler had a point in each of Detroit's first four games, but he's gone cold since then. Hudler had no points during the Wings' six-game losing streak and was one of the few players to miss out on Saturday's 5-0 breakout win against Anaheim.
Injuries, news and notes —Sidney Crosby is scheduled to see a doctor on Monday amid hopes that he could be back in Pittsburgh's lineup soon after that.
Out — New Jersey star Ilya Kovalchuk left Friday's game with a leg muscle injury that kept him out of Saturday's game. Defenseman Andy Greene missed the Devils' last two games with a lower-body injury. … Dallas forward Steve Ott missed Friday's game with a hip injury. … Detroit forward Patrick Eaves sat out Saturday with a back problem. … Rangers forward Michael Rupp is out with a knee injury that may require surgery and Wojtek Wolski has a groin problem. Both went on IR last week. … Pittsburgh forward Ben Lovejoy broke his left wrist Thursday night in San Jose and is out indefinitely. … Winnipeg defenseman Tobias Enstrom will miss at least a month after sustaining a broken collarbone on Monday. … Vancouver defenseman Sami Salo missed Friday's game with a groin injury.
Returning — Washington defenseman John Erskine made his season debut on Friday after rehabbing his surgically repaired left shoulder. He hadn't played since the playoffs in May. … Columbus got defenseman Mark Methot back on Thursday after he missed five games with a broken thumb. … Danny Briere was back in Philadelphia's lineup Thursday after sitting for two games with an upper-body injury. … Mike Fisher (upper body) and Sergei Kostitsyn (lower body) both returned to Nashville's lineup on Thursday. … Sean Bergenheim played for Florida on Thursday after missing seven games with a lower-body injury. …
Still out — Martin Brodeur returned to the Devils' lineup on Wednesday, making his first appearance since leaving New Jersey's game on Oct. 13 with a shoulder injury. … Toronto goaltender James Reimer is still sidelined with "whiplash-like conditions" more than two weeks after being hit by Montreal's Brian Gionta. There's still no indication when he'll be ready. … Buffalo placed forward Jochen Hecht on IR because of the concussion-related symptoms that have kept him from playing at all this season. … Colorado forward Brandon Yip is skating again as he works to recover from a broken right forearm. … Ottawa captain Daniel Alfredsson is still out indefinitely after suffering a concussion on Oct. 30. He's missed four games. … Pittsburgh's Tyler Kennedy is skating again but has yet to be cleared for contact as he recovers from a concussion. … Philadelphia defenseman Chris Pronger's absence from an eye injury reached six games on Saturday, but he's been taking part in drills and could be back within a week. … Columbus forward Kristian Huselius is still sidelined with a torn pectoral muscle but has been skating.
The week ahead -- It's a little lighter week than usual for a number of teams -- six clubs play just twice. Just four teams have four games.
Games to watch:
Los Angeles at San Jose (Nov. 7) -- The two Pacific Division rivals meet for the first time since the Sharks sent the Kings home for the summer by eliminating them in the first round of the playoffs.
Philadelphia at Tampa Bay (Nov. 9) -- Versus will be on hand at the St. Pete Times Forum as the Flyers come to town for the first time this season.
Edmonton at Boston (Nov. 10) -- This should be a real test for the improved Oilers -- Edmonton is 6-23-3 all-time in Boston during the regular season and hasn't won in the Hub of Hockey in 15 years, losing six times and tying once.
Dallas at Pittsburgh (Nov. 11) -- The non-conference rivals meet for the first time since a February trade that has benefitted both teams -- James Neal is off to a fast start with the Penguins, while Alex Goligoski has given the Stars a boost on the blue line.
New York Islanders at Vancouver (Nov. 12) -- The Canucks come back home after a six-game trip for their third game in four days -- and grim memories of the Isles' last visit, a 5-2 loss on March 16, 2010, in which John Tavares had five points.
Tough week ahead:
Dallas Stars -- The Stars, who played in Carolina on Sunday afternoon, continue their first big road trip with three tough stops -- they visit Washington, Pittsburgh and Detroit.
Edmonton Oilers -- How good are the surprising Oilers? We should find out this week when they play the last four games of a six-game trip with stops in Montreal, Boston, Detroit and Chicago.
Minnesota Wild -- The Wild head west for four games this week -- they start in Calgary on Tuesday and then play all three California teams in a four-day span, ending with an early-evening game in Anaheim on Sunday.
Easy week ahead:
Anaheim Ducks -- Not only are the Ducks home for all three games this week after a seven-game trip, all three opponents come to Anaheim after playing in Los Angeles the night before.
Columbus Blue Jackets -- The struggling Jackets get a bit of a breather this week, with only two games (against Chicago and Winnipeg), both at home.
San Jose Sharks -- After a six-game trip that ended on Halloween, the Sharks continue a six-game homestand this week at home with three games, beginning Monday against Los Angeles, followed by visits from Minnesota and Phoenix.