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Second-pick Ryan playing like No. 1

by John Kreiser
Bobby Ryan's NHL season didn't start until mid-November, when the Anaheim Ducks called him up from the minors. He's spent the last two months showing why the Ducks made him the No. 2 pick in the 2005 Entry Draft.

Ryan has averaged a point per game in the 26 games since his recall. He has six goals in his last five games, including three in a 2:21 span last Thursday against Los Angeles, when he became the first Anaheim rookie to get a hat trick and scored the fastest three goals in franchise history. He added another in Sunday's 4-3 win against New Jersey.

Ryan has more than adequately filled the skates of Teemu Selanne, who went down with a lacerated leg a few days before Christmas. He gives the Ducks another big forward who can score as they begin the second half in a battle for a playoff berth in the West.
Five up -- Five players who've been hot as we enter the second half:

Daymond Langkow -- Langkow often seems to get lost in all the attention given to Calgary's Jarome Iginla, but he's done more than his share to help the Flames grab first place in the Northwest Division. He has 6 goals and 12 points during a seven-game points streak and is on target for a 30-goal, 70-point season.

Wojtek Wolski -- With Paul Stastny and Joe Sakic injured, Colorado coach Tony Granato moved Wolski from left wing to center, with impressive results. Wolski had 4 goals and 6 points in three games, including both goals in a 2-1 win at Nashville.

Gregory Campbell -- The line of Campbell, Radek Dvorak and Ville Peltonen has given the Florida Panthers an offensive boost. Campbell is 2-4-6 in his last three games and is plus-6 in that span.

Derek Roy -- After a slow start, Roy has gotten hot and helped the Sabres as they battle for a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. Roy is 5-4-9 during a five-game scoring streak, including four consecutive wins by Buffalo.

Steve Mason --
Columbus' sensational rookie goaltender is the biggest reason the Blue Jackets are battling for the first playoff berth in franchise history. He stopped 45 shots at Washington in a 3-0 victory Friday, and then beat Minnesota 4-2 on Saturday. Mason leads the NHL in goals-against average (1.75), save percentage (.938) and shutouts (6).

Five down -- Five players who have to pick it up:

Steven Stamkos -- The first pick in the 2008 Entry Draft struggled under coach Barry Melrose, and he's struggling under interim coach Rick Tocchet. He has just 3 points in his last 16 games and was scratched Friday at Anaheim.
Jean-Sebastien Giguere -- He may be an All-Star starter, but Giguere hasn't been playing like one. Before Sunday's 4-3 win against New Jersey, he was 0-2-2 in his previous five starts, allowing 16 goals.

Andrew Brunette -- Minnesota brought Brunette back from Colorado to give its offense a boost, but that hasn't happened. He has just 10 goals and 21 points at the halfway mark and hasn't had a point in his last nine games.

Mike Fisher -- The Ottawa Senators have been one of the biggest first-half disappointments, and Fisher's play has been a big reason. He had just 3 goals and 9 assists for 12 points in the first half (36 games played), and has no points with a minus-6 rating in his last seven games.

Mathieu Schneider -- Atlanta brought Schneider in to provide more offense from the blue line, but it hasn't happened. He's battled injuries, but hasn't produced when healthy, going 3-5-8 in 30 games. He's without a point and minus-10 in his last nine games.

Injuries, news and notes -- Nashville got its best news all season when Steve Sullivan was able to play Saturday night against Chicago. Sullivan hadn't played since February 2007 due to a back injury. He didn't play Sunday but is expected to dress Tuesday. The Devils could also get some help from a returnee of sorts -- Brendan Shanahan, who began his career in New Jersey, is headed back there after agreeing in principle to rejoin the team. There's no date set for his debut.

Out -- Pittsburgh lost forward Ruslan Fedotenko for 4-6 weeks when he broke his right hand against Atlanta on Jan. 6. ... Philadelphia placed forward Jon Kalinski on IR with a thigh injury that required hospitalization. Another forward, Josh Gratton, will miss 4-6 weeks after undergoing abdominal surgery Friday. Defenseman Ossi Vaananen missed Saturday's game with a knee problem. ... Los Angeles rookie Oscar Moller's return from the World Junior Championship, where he captained Sweden to a silver medal, will be delayed by a broken collarbone. ... Columbus captain Rick Nash missed the Blue Jackets' weekend games with a lower-body injury that's believed to be a sprained left knee, suffered when he crashed into the boards last Tuesday. ... Buffalo forward Maxim Afinogenov is out indefinitely with a groin injury sustained Jan. 3. ... Edmonton placed forward Zack Stortini on IR with a left leg injury sustained Friday. ... Toronto defenseman Jeff Finger missed Saturday's game with an upper-body injury. ... Islanders center Doug Weight is expected to miss 2-4 weeks with a leg injury. Goaltender Rick DiPietro remains idled with a swollen knee, and defenseman Freddy Meyer sat out Thursday with a groin injury. ... Carolina defenseman Tim Gleason sat out Saturday's game after re-aggravating an ankle injury. ... Coyotes defenseman Kurt Sauer suffered a lower-body injury during the third period of Saturday's victory against Dallas and is expected to miss four weeks. Rookie forward Viktor Tikhonov missed Saturday's game with a hand injury sustained two nights earlier. ... Boston forward Shane Hnidy has missed the Bruins' last two games with an eye injury sustained Tuesday. ... Washington forward Boyd Gordon missed the Caps' games Friday and Saturday due to back spasms. ... St. Louis forward Keith Tkachuk missed Sunday's game in Edmonton due to a foot injury after blocking a shot Saturday in Vancouver. ... Nashville defenseman Greg de Vries has missed the Preds' last three games due to illness, and captain Jason Arnott sustained a lower-body injury Saturday and missed Sunday's game.

Returning -- Washington got center Sergei Fedorov, who missed a month with an ankle injury, and forward Tomas Fleischmann came back Friday. Fleischmann missed six games with pneumonia. However, Fedorov did not play Saturday in Montreal. ... Philadelphia center Daniel Briere is almost ready to return after a groin injury; the Flyers have to make room for him under the salary cap before he can get back in the lineup. Forward Simon Gagne returned Jan. 6 after missing 10 days with a shoulder injury. ... St. Louis center Andy McDonald, sidelined since Nov. 16 with a fractured ankle, is on the Blues' road trip and could be activated next week. ... New Jersey defenseman Colin White returned Thursday after missing five games with an undisclosed upper-body injury. ... Oft-injured Buffalo center Tim Connolly was back in the lineup Friday after missing nearly two months with broken ribs. Defenseman Craig Rivet returned Jan. 6 after missing 11 games with a shoulder injury. ... Columbus hopes to get forward Raffi Torres back sometime this week. He had arthroscopic knee surgery Dec. 4. ... Toronto got rookie defenseman Luke Schenn back Jan. 6 after he missed a month with a knee injury. ... The Islanders hope to get centers Nate Thompson (broken ankle) and Frans Nielsen (leg injury) back for Tuesday's game against the Rangers. ... Dallas got forward Joel Lundqvist back Saturday; he's missed most of the last two months with a shoulder problem. ... Ottawa defenseman Filip Kuba was back in the lineup Saturday night after missing eight games with a groin injury.

Still out --
Vancouver goaltender Roberto Luongo is working out at practice, but there's still no word when he'll be ready to play again. He left the Canucks' Nov. 22 game at Pittsburgh with a groin strain and has been idled since. ... Joe Sakic's miseries continue. Colorado's captain, already idled by back problems and finger surgery, underwent surgery Jan. 7 to repair a herniated disc, which will keep him out for at least 10 weeks. ... St. Louis forward Paul Kariya had hip surgery Jan. 5 and isn't likely to play again this season. He's been out since Nov. 5. ... Edmonton finally placed Ales Hemsky on IR. He's been out since Dec. 28 due to a concussion. ... Boston forward Patrice Bergeron says he'll play again this season. He's been out since Dec. 20 with his second serious concussion in 14 months, but no longer has headaches and is able to work out. ... Columbus put goaltender Pascal Leclaire on IR with an ankle injury that's bothered him all season. He hasn't played since Dec. 18. ... Boston forward Marco Sturm will have knee surgery and miss the rest of the season. ... Washington could get defenseman John Erskine back this week. He's been out since Nov. 24 due to a concussion.

The week ahead -- With the All-Star Game coming up, it's a busy week -- seven teams have four games on tap and just one (Florida) plays only twice. There will be a lot of three-in-four and four-in-six stretches.

Games to watch:
Tampa Bay at Los Angeles (Jan. 12) --
The first two picks in the 2008 Entry Draft, Tampa Bay center Steven Stamkos and Los Angeles defenseman Drew Doughty, meet for the only time in their rookie seasons.

Washington at Pittsburgh (Jan. 14, 7:30 p.m. ET, RIS) --
Alex Ovechkin and Sidney Crosby meet for the first time since Oct. 16, when the Caps rallied from a 3-0 deficit for a 4-3 overtime victory at Pittsburgh.

Boston at Washington (Jan. 17) -- Two of the top teams in the East meet for the second time this season. The Caps' 3-1 victory against Boston at the Verizon Center Dec. 10 was the Bruins' only loss between Thanksgiving and New Year's.

New York Rangers at Pittsburgh (Jan. 18, 12:30 p.m. ET, NBC, TSN) --
NBC's weekly NHL coverage debuts with the Rangers visiting the Igloo, where their 2007-08 season ended last spring in the second round of the playoffs.

Phoenix at Edmonton (Jan. 18) -- The Oilers will raise new Hall of Famer Glenn Anderson's No. 9 to the Rexall Place rafters before battling the former Winnipeg Jets, a team Anderson and his mates used to torment.

Tough week ahead:
Detroit Red Wings --
The Wings head West for four games in six days this week, beginning Monday in Dallas and followed by midweek games at Anaheim and Los Angeles before a Saturday showdown in San Jose.

New Jersey Devils -- The Devils, who spent last weekend in Southern California, start the new week in Vancouver, make a stop in Columbus and finish up on Long Island -- giving them five games in eight days in five cities.

Phoenix Coyotes -- There's no snow in the desert this time of year, but the Coyotes figure to see some of the white stuff as they visit Minnesota, Vancouver, Calgary and Edmonton in a tour of the Northwest Division.

Easy week ahead:

Florida Panthers --
The Panthers are the only team with only two games scheduled this week -- a home game against Philadelphia and a visit to in-state rival Tampa Bay.

San Jose Sharks -- After playing only one home game since Dec. 23, the Sharks spend the week at home, with games against Tampa Bay, Calgary and Detroit. They are 19-0-2 at the Shark Tank.

Vancouver Canucks -- Mats Sundin will have a chance to get used to his new team and fans this week, as the Canucks stay home for three games at GM Place.
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