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These NW players show ability to skate all night

by Brian Compton


It's a necessary trait to skate in the NHL alongside and against the best hockey players in the world. While the average forward is on the ice anywhere from 18-20 minutes per game, there are some special cases out there who are able to stay on the ice as long as they're requested.

The Northwest Division certainly boasts some special players up front, ranging from Calgary's Jarome Iginla to Colorado's Paul Stastny to Minnesota's Marian Gaborik. And those aforementioned players do much more than simply put up points. They're on the ice in all situations. They're doing the little things to help their team win hockey games.

With the new season approaching, takes a look at the Northwest Division's top forward on each team in the ice-time department:

1. Shawn Horcoff, Edmonton Oilers -- The gritty center led all forwards within the Northwest in 2007-08 by logging an impressive 22:13 per game. Although he was limited to just 53 games, Horcoff still managed to produce 21 goals and 29 assists. Six of those goals came on the power play as Horcoff -- who represented the Western Conference at the 2008 All-Star Game -- once again showcased his versatility.

For his efforts, the eight-year pro was rewarded with a new six-year contract extension on July 16.

"Shawn has proven himself as one of the premier players in the National Hockey League and has been and will continue to be an integral part of our organization moving forward," said Kevin Lowe, the Oilers' president of hockey operations.

2. Jarome Iginla, Calgary Flames -- One of the most popular players in the League, Iginla is also one of the best. Iginla, who turned 31 in July, led all Calgary forwards in ice time at 21:26 per contest. It was one of several categories that saw Calgary's captain at the top, including goals (50), assists (48), points (98) and plus/minus (plus-27). His play in 2007-08 earned him a nomination for the Hart Trophy as the League's Most Valuable Player, marking the third time he's been up for the prestigious award.

"I felt my season was consistent," Iginla said. "I felt I was able to help produce. "I'm thankful injury-wise. It was a good year … a healthy year."

3. Paul Stastny, Colorado Avalanche -- The son of former great Peter Stastny certainly learned a lot from his old man. Not only did Stastny avoid suffering from the sophomore jinx, but he excelled in his second NHL season. Even though he missed 16 games during the regular season, Stastny -- who is just 22 years old -- still led all Avs forwards with 21:04 per game. His ability to play on both ends of the ice contributed to his team-leading plus-22 rating.

Given his desire to be a complete, all-around player, Stastny could end up being at the top of this list by the end of the 2008-09 campaign.

4. Mikko Koivu, Minnesota Wild -- He finished sixth on his club in scoring, but that didn't mean Koivu wasn't one of Jacques Lemaire's most-reliable players. While he appeared in only 57 games -- Koivu missed a large chunk of the first half of the season due to a leg injury -- the 25-year-old still led all Wild forwards with 20:53 per contest. Koivu, a highly-responsible forward in his own zone, finished second to only Marian Gaborik with a plus-13 rating.

Clearly, Koivu has shown that he can provide offense when called upon. But the Wild are more than happy with him being a reliable two-way center.

"He's very solid with the puck," Lemaire said. "He's the guy you can put anywhere, anytime and he's going to make the line go well."

5. Henrik Sedin, Vancouver Canucks -- Not only does Sedin shine offensively on the same line as his twin brother, Daniel, but he's also arguably Vancouver's top two-way forward. Sedin, who appeared in all 82 games last season, was atop the ice-time department among Canucks forwards with 19:30 per contest. He also finished fifth on the club with a plus-6 rating.
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