A few notes while much of the eastern part of North America digs out:
Playing with an edge
— It's been an up-and-down season for Buffalo goaltender Ryan Miller
, whose inconsistency has mirrored that of his team. If his play Friday night is any indication, he and the Sabres may be on the way back up.
Miller, who looked shaky in a 5-3 home loss to New Jersey two nights earlier, stopped all 40 shots he faced in a 5-0 victory over the Los Angeles Kings
"Sometimes you have to have a little bit of an edge in your game, and I don't think I've had it," Miller said. "There comes a certain point where you're mad at yourself enough but confident enough in your game where you just go out and play."
Play he did — and very well. The 40 saves were the most he's made in any of his 10 career shutouts.
"You could see he was really focused just walking in today and looking at him," said center Adam Mair
, who had one of Buffalo's two second-period goals. ''He looked really in the zone and it showed in his play."
Miller gave up few rebounds and was especially sharp in the first two periods, when Los Angeles outshot Buffalo 25-13.
"He played well for us when we needed him, and made some huge saves," said center Derek Roy
, who led the offense with a goal and two assists.
Sabres coach Lindy Ruff
said he wasn't worried about the high number of shots Miller faced.
"I thought Ryan played really well," he said. "We pretty well kept them to the perimeter, and didn't give them much of the odd-number stuff. We gave them the outside for the most part."
Hot Devils, cold Pizza
— Patrik Elias
and the New Jersey Devils
are as hot as the Ottawa Senators
and their sliced-up Pizza Line are cold.
Elias scored twice and set up two more goals as the Devils routed the struggling Senators 5-1 to improve to 11-2-1 in their last 14 games. He has at least one point in nine consecutive games (7-9-16) and 14 of his last 15, during which he has 11 goals and 27 points.
"Sometimes you go through these streaks," Elias said. "We just have to keep it going. I'm having fun out there, making plays. When they go in, they go in. When they don't, I'll just keep working the same way."
Devils coach Brent Sutter
is impressed with the way Elias has stepped up his play, especially in the absence of All-Star goaltender Martin Brodeur
"He's playing with a lot of confidence,'' Sutter said. ''He's taken his game to a level that everybody would like to see. His work ethic has always been good. He's moving his feet more. He's doing things at top speed, and he's reading situations so well."
Despite having some of the NHL's top forwards, the Senators still can't find the back of the net. They're 1-4-1 in their last six games and have just five goals — including Jarkko Ruutu
's shorthanded tally against the Devils — in their last five games.
Coach Craig Hartsburg
broke up his big line of Jason Spezza
between Daniel Alfredsson
and Dany Heatley
. It didn't help.
"It's about the attitude and having to work for everything we are going to get," Hartsburg said. "I thought we worked harder tonight, but obviously, it's not enough. We can't accept it. We've got to keep pushing forward to get better."
One slump over, one goes on
— One team was going to end its slump when Minnesota hosted the New York Islanders
. The Wild were the ones who went home smiling after a 4-1 victory that ended a six-game losing streak.
Minnesota got a confidence boost from rookie Colton Gillies
. The nephew of former Isles Hall of Famer Clark Gillies
scored his first NHL goal at 4:28 of the third period to break a 1-1 tie. Mikko Koivu
and Pierre-Marc Bouchard
added insurance goals as the Wild, one of the NHL's most offensively challenged teams, took advantage of the League's worst defensive club.
"The guys just needed a little confidence boost out there," said Gillies, the Wild's 2007 first-round draft pick. ''I mean if I can score, anyone can score, right?"
The rare offensive outburst brought a smile from Wild coach Jacques Lemaire
"It's like everyone had 100 pounds off their shoulder," Lemaire said. "Everyone was skating, enjoying the game, having fun. ... Didn't happen too many times the last couple of weeks."
The Islanders have little to smile about. They're 0-7-1 in December and were outshot 39-16 by a team that usually struggles to generate offense. Coach Scott Gordon
blamed turnovers for the disparity.
"Even if it didn't generate an opportunity for them, the turnovers eliminated an opportunity for us to be able to establish a forecheck," Gordon said.
He likes the work
— Anaheim's Jonas Hiller
is one of those goaltenders who'd rather be busy. The Edmonton Oilers
were more than happy to accommodate him.
Hiller faced 53 shots in 65 minutes, allowing only two third-period goals, then stopped three more in the shootout as the Ducks escaped Rexall Place with a 3-2 victory.
The 51 saves matched a team record for the Ducks, who were outshot 21-4 in the third period and got to overtime only because Hiller stood on his head. Edmonton overcame a 2-0 deficit, but Hiller made sure the Oilers didn't win in regulation.
"It happens sometimes," he said of the big workload. "It's almost easier to have a lot of shots. It helps your concentration to stay in the game."
However, he added that: "I don't need it every game."
Edmonton coach Craig MacTavish
wasn't thrilled with the outcome, though he admitted the point was something of a gift.
"It could have been a train wreck," he said. "At one point in the game, if you'd told me we'd have gotten an overtime shootout loss, I would have been pretty excited. But at the end, you're disappointed because you put yourself in an opportunity where you could have won the game."
— The Chicago Blackhawks
are riding Jonathan Toews
and Patrick Kane
to the kind of success they haven't enjoyed in years.
The Hawks extended their winning streak to six games — their longest since 2001-02 — by beating the Calgary Flames
3-2 in overtime at the Pengrowth Saddledome. Kane had the game's first goal and Toews made the play that led to Duncan Keith
's winner 23 seconds into OT.
, who took over as Hawks coach four games into the season, says Chicago's two kids are fun to watch.
"They're special players. I think their upside is tremendous," Quenneville said. "We still want them to get better. Kaner made several quality passes. He seems to find seams in lanes better than anybody."
As for Toews, who has rebounded after a slow start: "Johnny can take it to the net very well, like we saw in the overtime play.
"Tonight he cut to the net and almost scored … He does a lot of things well, and we’ve got a lot of guys who can complement him."
Toews screened goalie Miikka Kiprusoff
as Kane wired a wrist shot into the net 6:24 into the second period to put Chicago ahead 2-1. He then did all the work on the game-winner, stepping around Dion Phaneuf
, then hooking a pass into the slot that Keith backhanded into the net.
The Hawks, who won 9-2 at Edmonton on Wednesday, go for a sweep of Western Canada on Saturday at Vancouver. Toews said he and his teammates realize they can't be too pleased with themselves despite their recent success.
''We go into every game confident about what we can do but most of all, not high on ourselves, not high on what we've accomplished so far,'' the 20-year-old captain said. ''We're never satisfied, there's always something we can do a little better.''
One person who's impressed with Kane and Toews is Calgary captain Jarome Iginla
''They're having another really good year, they're a big part of their club, and they're a big reason why they've turned it around so quickly as an organization," he said. "They've got a lot of things to be excited about in Chicago."
Material from wire services and team broadcast media was used in this report.
Contact John Kreiser at email@example.com