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Stamkos off to a hot start for Lightning

by John Kreiser
It looks like Steven Stamkos has picked up right where he left off.

The first pick in the 2008 Entry Draft had a breakout season in 2009-10, earning a share of the Rocket Richard Trophy by tying for the League lead with 51 goals.

He's lost none of his scoring touch in the new season.

Stamkos had 4 goals and 8 points in the Tampa Bay Lightning's three games this past week. The biggest night came on Friday, when he had his second NHL hat tricks as the Lightning cruised to a 5-2 win in Atlanta.

Stamkos already has 14 points in the Bolts' first seven games. While he doesn't figure to average two points a game for the whole season, there's no doubt that he's already among the NHL's elite players.

Five up — Five players who've been hot:

John Tavares -- Tavares, picked No. 1 overall the year after Stamkos, is also showing improvement in his second season. Tavares had an assist and the overtime winner at Toronto, an assist in an overtime win at Tampa Bay -- and his first NHL hat trick on Saturday night at Florida. He has 5 goals in the 5 games he's played.

Henrik Zetterberg -- It took Zetterberg a couple of games to get rolling, but he's found his scoring touch. Zetterberg had 2 goals and 2 assists in Detroit's 5-4 win against Anaheim on Saturday and is 3-5-8 and plus-6 in his last three games.

Tim Thomas -- Thomas is playing like the Vezina Trophy winner he was in 2008-09, rather than the player who struggled last season and underwent hip surgery during the summer. He led Boston to back-to-back victories against Washington last week and is 4-0-0 while allowing just three goals so far this season.

Jaroslav Halak -- Halak's playoff magic against Pittsburgh last spring carried over into the new season and with a new team. The hero of Montreal's playoff upset of the Penguins went 2-0-1 for St. Louis, allowed just five goals in the three games and capped his week with a 1-0 overtime victory against the Penguins on Saturday.

Joe Pavelski
-- Pavelski has helped jump-start San Jose's struggling offense. He had a pair of goals in Thursday's win at Colorado and added a goal and a pair of assists in Saturday's 6-1 win at Edmonton.

Five down — Five players who are struggling:

Simon Gagne -- Maybe it's the stiff neck that sat him down for Friday's game at Atlanta. Whatever the reason, the Lightning has gotten nothing from one of their big offseason acquisitions -- as in zero points in six games.

Nik Antropov
-- Six games in a row without a point is not what the Thrashers need from the big center who had the best season of his career in 2009-10. He was a healthy scratch on Saturday night.

Mike Modano -- After scoring on his first shot as a Red Wing, Modano has gone without a point in Detroit's next six games -- as has linemate Dan Cleary.

Mike Knuble
-- After scoring 29 goals last season, Knuble has just 1 this season and has gone without a point in Washington's last six games.

Nikolai Khabibulin -- He looked like the "Bulin Wall" of old in Edmonton's first two games, but Khabibulin and his young teammates have struggled in their last four -- all losses. He's allowed 17 goals in those four games, including six in Saturday's loss to San Jose.
Injuries, news and notes: 

Out — Wednesday's home win against Carolina was an expensive one for Los Angeles, which lost star defenseman Drew Doughty with an upper-body injury. The Kings say he'll miss at least a week. … Colorado captain Adam Foote left Thursday's game against San Jose with a concussion. He didn't play Saturday and is likely to miss more time. … St. Louis defenseman Roman Polak left Saturday's game in the second period with a right arm injury and didn't return.. … Ottawa center Jason Spezza missed the Senators' games Friday and Saturday with a groin injury. … The Islanders' run of injuries continues: Defenseman Andrew MacDonald broke his hand on Thursday and will miss 4-6 weeks. Center Josh Bailey sat out games Thursday and Saturday with a hip pointer. … Columbus forward Ethan Moreau also broke his hand last week while blocking a shot and is expected to miss 4-6 weeks. … Detroit center Kris Draper had sports hernia surgery last week and will be out at least another month. … Nashville placed defenseman Ryan Suter on IR after he injured his leg on Tuesday; he could be back by the end of this week. … Florida forward Shawn Mattias sat out Saturday's game with a foot injury. … Anaheim defenseman Cam Fowler missed Saturday's game with a stiff neck.

Returning -- Washington defenseman Mike Green made a limited return Saturday after missing 10 days with an upper-body injury. He played only a few shifts on the power play. … San Jose forward Jamal Mayers made his season debut Thursday after missing the first two weeks of the season with an upper-body injury. Colorado forward Brandon Yip returned in the same game after missing a pair with a groin injury. … Phoenix forward Ray Whitney returned Thursday after missing two games with an upper-body injury. … Dallas got a boost when Jamie Benn returned Thursday after missing three games with a groin injury and set up three of the Stars' four goals in a victory at Florida. … Los Angeles defenseman Matt Greene played his first game of the season Saturday night. He was activated after recovering from shoulder surgery. … Pittsburgh forward Arron Asham, who has yet to play this season due to a shoulder injury, hopes to play Wednesday. Defenseman Brooks Orpik returned Saturday from a groin injury that cost him six games.

Still out — Boston center Marc Savard is skating again as he tries to come back from post-concussion symptoms. He's still nowhere close to playing again. … Jason Pominville is practicing with the Buffalo Sabres, but he still has to undergo testing before he'll be allowed to return from the concussion he suffered on Oct. 11. … Flyers goaltender Michael Leighton (back) is in less pain but is nowhere near being back in the lineup. He could return after Thanksgiving. … Ottawa goaltender Pascal Leclaire (groin) started skating on Thursday, but there's no word about when he might be back. Defenseman Filip Kuba, who broke his leg at the start of training camp, is skating again. … Tampa Bay defenseman Mattias Ohlund, who hasn't played all season due to a knee injury, began skating last week. The Bolts hope to have him in the lineup in a week or so. … Florida forward Byron Bitz, who hasn't played this season, had sports hernia surgery last week. He'll miss at least another 4-6 weeks.

The week ahead — Young hockey fans who want to spend Halloween trick-or-treating can take heart: After 14 games on Oct. 30, there are no games scheduled for the 31st. Aside from the breaks for Christmas and the All-Star Game, it's the only dead night of the season.

Games to watch (Oct. 25-31):

Washington at Carolina (Oct. 27) -- After a trip that took them to Helsinki, then across Canada, down the West Coast and to Phoenix, the Hurricanes finally get to play their home opener. But having Alex Ovechkin and the Caps coming to town might not be the easiest way to start your season.

Phoenix at Detroit (Oct. 28) -- The Coyotes visit Joe Louis Arena for the first time since Game 6 of last spring's playoffs -- a game they won to push their series to the limit, only to lose Game 7 at home.

Montreal at New York Islanders (Oct. 29) -- Expect lots of bleu, blanc et rouge at the Nassau Coliseum. About 3,000 Habs fans made the trip to Long Island in a snowstorm last December, and a lot of Canadiens backers have made their reservations for this one as well.

New York Rangers at Toronto (Oct. 29) -- These two teams will be tired of seeing each other -- it's their third meeting in 16 days, and the Rangers' second trip to the Air Canada Centre in just over a week. They've split the first two, with the road team winning both.

Washington at Calgary
-- The Capitals complete a week away from home with only their third visit to Calgary since 2003. Washington has won four of its last five visits to the Scotiabank Saddledome, but lost its last trip in October 2008.

Tough week ahead:

Los Angeles Kings -- The Kings wrap up a five-game trip with visits to Minnesota, Chicago and Dallas, then head back home to host New Jersey on Saturday night, giving them four games in six days in four cities.

New Jersey Devils -- The Devils are off to California for the week, with three games in four nights at San Jose, Anaheim and Los Angeles.

Washington Capitals
-- The Caps spend the week working their way across North America with three games in four days, going from Carolina to Minnesota to Calgary.

Easy week ahead:

Detroit Red Wings -- The Wings spend the week at home with visits from Phoenix and Nashville.

San Jose Sharks -- It's a light week in Northern California, with only a pair of home games against New Jersey and Anaheim giving the Sharks a chance to catch their breath after visiting Western Canada.

Vancouver Canucks
-- Coach Alain Vigneault will have plenty of opportunity to work his club at practice: The Canucks play just one game this week, a home contest against Colorado on Tuesday.

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