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Richards is NHL's most dangerous penalty killer

by John Kreiser
Mike Richards may be the only player in the NHL who's more dangerous when the other team has the man advantage.

The Philadelphia Flyers' center has emerged as one of the League's best two-way players, combining offensive talents, defensive skills and leadership. But he seems to be at his best when the Flyers are trying to kill off an opponent's power play.

Richards has a three-game scoring streak which is nothing unusual. What is unusual is that he has a shorthanded goal in each of the three games, including the only 3-on-5 goal of the season on Feb. 15 against the New York Rangers. His seven shorthanded goals are by far the most in the NHL.

Richards is pretty good in other situations, too.

He had 3 goals and 5 assists for 8 points in Philadelphia's two games last week -- including a five-point performance in a 6-3 win against Buffalo. With 60 points, he's in a three-way tie for 14th in the League in scoring along with teammate Jeff Carter and Detroit's Marian Hossa.

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

Jonathan Toews -- Chicago's captain is on a tear after a slow start. He had 4 goals and 6 points in four games last week and is on pace for a 30-goal season after not scoring in his first 12 games.

Sidney Crosby -- If the Penguins don't make the playoffs, it won't be due to a lack of production from Crosby or Evgeni Malkin. Crosby had 2 goals and 5 assists for 7 points in four games last week, including a two-goal, two-assist performance in Saturday's win at Philadelphia.

Cristobal Huet -- With Nikolai Khabibulin out with an injury, Huet has been in goal during Chicago's hot streak. He went 3-1-0 last week with a 1.50 goals-against average and a shutout. His GAA is down to 2.23; his save percentage is up to .918.

Tomas Vokoun --
Vokoun's goaltending has been a key to the Florida Panthers' surge into the top eight in the Eastern Conference. He won two of his three decisions last week -- but both were shutouts, including Saturday's 41-save whitewash of Boston.

Pavel Kubina --
The rumors swirling around Kubina as the trade deadline approaches haven't bothered his play. He had 1 goal and 5 assists for 6 points last week, including assists on all three goals in a 3-2 overtime win Sunday night against the Rangers.

Five down -- Five players who've struggled:

Martin Erat --
Nashville's offense has almost totally disappeared. The Predators really need more from Erat, one of their few skilled forwards, who hasn't put up a point in his last nine games. He's also minus-6 in that span.

Patrik Berglund -- Berglund has been one of the NHL's most impressive rookies, but his scoring touch has disappeared during the past couple of weeks, putting a crimp in St. Louis' offense. The 20-year-old center has no points in his last six games and just three assists (all in one game) in his last 10.

Robert Nilsson, Andrew Cogliano and Sam Gagner -- Edmonton's trio of kids isn't generating much in the way of offense. All three have gone without a point in the past five games and are a combined minus-9.

Brian Elliott -- The bloom may have come off the rose for Elliott, whose goaltending fueled Ottawa's recent hot streak. He's allowed 10 goals in his last three starts, and been pulled from two of them -- though he avoided being charged with the losses when the Senators rallied.
Dan Girardi -- The undrafted free agent gave the Rangers an offensive boost from the blue line last season with 10 goals. Not this season: He hasn't had as much as an assist in his last 26 games and hasn't scored a goal since the night before Thanksgiving.

Injuries, news and notes -- The NHL's longest active consecutive-games streak ended when Minnesota forward Andrew Brunette sat out Saturday's game against Detroit due to a lower-body injury. He had played 509 games in a row, which was the current NHL high. Brunette also missed Sunday's game against Chicago

Out -- Buffalo's playoff hopes may have taken a big hit Saturday when goaltender Ryan Miller left in the third period with a sprained left ankle. He's out indefinitely, leaving the starting job to Patrick Lalime. ... Dallas center Brad Richards will miss at least six weeks with a broken right wrist sustained Feb. 16 at Columbus. ... Islanders center Richard Park is out for about a month after sustaining broken ribs Wednesday. ... Montreal defenseman Frances Bouillon will miss the next 2-4 weeks with a groin injury. ...Colorado put defenseman John-Michael Liles on IR after he injured his wrist Feb. 15. ... Carolina placed forward Justin Williams on the injured list after he broke his hand. It's been a tough season for Williams, who missed the first two months with a torn Achilles tendon after missing much of last season with knee surgery. ... Tampa Bay defensemen Paul Ranger and Andrej Meszaros both will miss the rest of the season with torn labrums. They're scheduled for surgery March 3. Another defenseman, Lucas Krajicek, missed Sunday's game with a lower-body injury. ... Anaheim center Samuel Pahlsson will miss another week or two as he recovers from mononucleosis. ... Nashville center Radek Bonk left Saturday's game in the second period with an upper-body injury. ... Anaheim defenseman Bret Hedican has missed the Ducks' past two games due to back spasms. ... Minnesota forward Owen Nolan left Sunday's game at Chicago with a lower-body injury and didn't return. He's had injury problems for much of the season.

Returning --
Will Martin Brodeur return this week? The New Jersey Devils aren't saying, though there's been a lot of speculation that he'll make his return from a bicep injury as early as Thursday night. ... Detroit forward Johan Franzen returned Wednesday after missing five games with a hand injury and scored twice in his first game back. ... San Jose center Jeremy Roenick, who's missed 28 games with a shoulder injury, made his return Saturday. The Sharks have also reactivated defenseman Brad Lukowich, who's missed 18 games with a sports hernia. ... Islanders forward Trent Hunter returned Thursday after missing four games with a hip flexor problem; defenseman Mark Streit came back Feb. 16 after missing 11 days with a shoulder problem. ... St. Louis got defenseman Roman Polak back Thursday after he missed a month with a broken foot. ... Buffalo center Paul Gaustad returned Thursday after missing nearly two weeks with a mild shoulder separation. ... Philadelphia center Daniel Briere could be back this week. He's missed much of the season with abdominal and groin injuries, and had surgery last month. ... Phoenix defenseman Kurt Sauer returned Feb. 16 after missing 14 games. ... Colorado hopes to get center Paul Stastny back this week, perhaps as early as Tuesday. He's been out since Dec. 23 with a broken arm. ... Tampa Bay defenseman Marek Malik returned Sunday after missing three games with a lower-body injury.

Still out -- New Jersey defenseman Paul Martin has missed four games with an upper-body muscle pull. ... Colorado center Joe Sakic has begun to rehabilitate his back after surgery in an attempt to return to action this season.  He's also recovering from three broken fingers suffered in a snow blower accident. Avs defenseman Kyle Cumiskey had shoulder surgery and will miss the rest of the season. ... Chicago forward Patrick Sharp went on IR and will miss at least another couple of weeks with a knee injury. ... Nashville forward Scott Nichol is working out off the ice again as he attempts to return to action from a concussion that's kept him out since early December. ... Boston forward Michael Ryder is practicing again as he works to recover from a facial fracture. He could return in early March, but is likely to have to wear a cage.

The week ahead --
No easy weeks for anyone: Six teams play four games -- and the others all play three times. It's the first week of the season in which no team plays just once or twice.

Games to watch:
San Jose at Dallas (Feb. 23) --
A national TV audience (Versus) will see the Sharks begin a four-game trip with a visit to Dallas, where they Stars have been almost unbeatable during the past few weeks.

San Jose at Detroit (Feb. 25) -- The best of the West meet for the final time this season. The Sharks won both meetings at San Jose but took their worst loss of the season (6-0) when they visited Hockeytown in December.

Pittsburgh at Chicago (Feb. 27) --
The Penguins pay only their second visit to Chicago in the Sidney Crosby Era, and their first since Jan. 13, 2006. They've scored only three goals in their last four visits.

Washington at Boston (Feb. 28) -- Like the Sharks and Red Wings, the Caps and Bruins have seen the home team win each of the first three meetings as Washington tries to overtake Boston for the top spot in the East.

Philadelphia at New Jersey (March 1) --
The Flyers need a victory if they have any hope of overtaking the Devils in the Atlantic Division race.

Tough week ahead:
Florida Panthers --
It doesn't figure to be a fun week for the Panthers, who trade the Florida sunshine for four games in six nights in the Northeast -- including meetings with all three division leaders in the East.

Los Angeles Kings -- The Kings have been playing better on the road than at home, but this week will be a tough test -- four games in six nights, with back-to-back games at Minnesota and Philadelphia, followed by Friday-Sunday visits to Detroit and Chicago.

San Jose Sharks -- Like their Southern California rivals, the Sharks head East for a nasty four-games-in-six-nights jaunt, highlighted by Wednesday's showdown with the Red Wings in Detroit.

Easy week ahead:

Calgary Flames --
The Flames, one of the NHL's best home teams, get to spend the week at the Pengrowth Saddledome with games against Columbus, Minnesota and Tampa Bay. The same three teams also visit Edmonton, meaning there will be a lot of hockey in Alberta this week.

Nashville Predators -- The Sommet Center will be busy this week, as the Preds continue their drive for a playoff berth with home games against Chicago, Phoenix and Detroit.

New Jersey Devils -- After spending last week on the road, the Devils have all three of their games at the Prudential Center in a week that could see the return of goaltender Martin Brodeur from an injury that's sidelined him since Nov. 1.
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