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Two Flames are burning up the Hot List

by John Kreiser

Calgary's Kristian Huselius and Jarome Iginla have certainly turned up the heat on opposing
goaltenders to the tune of a combined 38 goals.
Playing on the road doesn’t bother Jarome Iginla a whole lot.

Calgary’s captain, and the club itself, have been on a tear during his team’s road swing. Iginla scored eight goals and 11 points in the last five games of the Flames’ six-game tour of the Southeast and Midwest, which gave him 24 goals in 35 games — a 55-goal pace.

Iginla’s 49 points are more than half of the 94 he piled up last season.

It’s been easy to forget how good Iginla is — he has six straight 30-goal seasons and has won one Art Ross and two Rocket Richard trophys, but doesn’t get the attention he deserves because he plays in the small market of Calgary. Iginla, 30, has been one of the NHL’s top players for nearly a decade and he’s still improving.

Five up – Five players who have been hot:

Kristian Huselius -- Playing with Iginla has done wonders for Huselius, who has been just as hot as his linemate. Huselius had a pair of five-point games in four nights, including a three-goal, two-assist effort in the Flames’ 9-6 victory at Tampa Bay. He recorded 14 points in his last four games.

Joffrey Lupul -- Wonder if the Edmonton Oilers would like Lupul back? He had a three-goal, three-assist game Dec. 11, then scored three more goals and added one in a shootout five days later. He has 12 goals in 31 games, just four less than he scored last season.

Derek Roy -- Roy has been called upon to step up with Daniel Briere and Chris Drury gone, and he’s producing. Roy has five multi-point games in his last eight contests and is plus-10 during that span. His play is a big reason Buffalo is shaking off its early-season troubles.

Martin Gerber -- Gerber’s goaltending was a big reason the Senators got off to a hot start, and his slump coincided with Ottawa’s slide. Ottawa and Gerber are hot again. Gerber has gone 3-0 in his last three starts and allowed just six goals in 214 minutes in his last four appearances, including a perfect 54:27 relief outing against Carolina.

Boyd Devereaux -- A three-game goal-scoring streak might not be a big deal for a sniper, but it’s Devereaux’s first. He’s given the Leafs a welcome offensive contribution from an unexpected source.

Five down – Five players who have been struggling:

Gary Roberts -- The Penguins don’t expect Roberts to score the amount of goals he did when he was younger. But one goal in 32 games – none since Oct. 17 – isn’t enough on a team looking for secondary scoring. He’s without a point in his last seven games.

Sergei Samsonov -- Chicago hoped Samsonov would revert to his three-time 25-goal-scoring form he had in Boston. Instead, he’s done little for the resurgent Hawks and has recorded just one assist in his last 11 games and four in 22 games this season — and has spent numerous nights as a healthy scratch.

Johan Holmqvist -- It’s been an up-and-down season for Tampa Bay, and Holmqvist is a big part of the current “down.” He’s been hooked in three of his last four games – all Lightning losses – and has allowed 14 goals in his last 126 minutes in Tampa Bay’s crease.

Trent Hunter -- Hunter gets a regular shift, kills penalties and plays on the power play, so one goal in 19 games isn’t acceptable. His meager production of five goals, nine assists, 14 points and minus-11 is a major reason the New York Islanders are the lowest-scoring team in the NHL.

Jeff Hamilton -- Hamilton had 12 points in Carolina’s first 14 games, but his production and much of his ice time has since disappeared. He hasn’t had a point in his last 10 games and has seen his ice time drop to less than 10 minutes a game during that span.

Injuries and notes – Anaheim’s hopes to repeat as Stanley Cup champs got a boost last weekend when All-Star defenseman Scott Niedermayer returned to the lineup. Niedermayer sat out the first 11 weeks of the season deciding whether or not to retire. To make room for him, the Ducks traded centers with St. Louis, sending Andy McDonald to the Blues for Doug Weight.

Returning: Vancouver goaltender Roberto Luongo returned Tuesday after missing four games with a

rib injury and made 32 saves in a 5-0 shutout against New Jersey. … Boston also got its starting goaltender, Tim Thomas back. Thomas dressed but did not play Tuesday after missing nearly three weeks with a groin injury. … Defenseman Sergei Gonchar was back in Pittsburgh’s lineup Tuesday after missing a game with the flu. … Nashville got leading scorer Martin Erat back Tuesday after he missed two games with a neck injury. … Tomas Holmstrom scored two goals Monday for Detroit after missing two games with a knee problem. … Los Angeles goaltender Jason LaBarbera stopped 36 of 39 shots Monday against Colorado in his return after missing eight games with a rib injury. Kings center Alexander Frolov has played the Kings’ last two games after missing 11 with a groin injury.

Out: Toronto defenseman Bryan McCabe had surgery this week after breaking bones in his left hand Saturday night in Montreal. … Raffi Torres is out of Edmonton’s lineup for at least three weeks after suffering a torn knee ligament Saturday, but hopes to avoid season-ending surgery. … Anaheim placed forward Brad May onto IR with a broken foot.

He played with the injury against San Jose. … Vancouver forward Brad Isbister will miss some or all of this week with a hamstring injury. Isbister’s teammate, forward Brendan Morrison, hopes to return for the last month of the season after he underwent wrist surgery last week that ended his consecutive games played streak at 542. … Ottawa center Mike Fisher went down Saturday with an abdominal strain in Atlanta and may not be back until after Christmas. … Columbus center Michael Peca has missed the past two games with a pectoral muscle strain. … Colorado placed center Tyler Arnason onto the injured reserved list after he suffered a wrist injury last Wednesday. Arnason is scheduled for wrist surgery and could miss four weeks. ... New Jersey forward Cam Janssen, who has not played a game yet this season because of shoulder surgery, hopes to practice again after Christmas. Forward Jay Pandolfo missed his last 10 games with a torn abdominal ligament and isn’t skating yet. … Tampa Bay lost center Chris Gratton for another 10-14 days with a hip injury.

Still out: Boston forward Shawn Thornton, who has been out for a month with a broken foot, has gotten the OK to return. … Philadelphia forward Simon Gagne continues to practice but still won’t participate in any contact drills as he recuperates from a concussion. … San Jose forward Jonathan Cheechoo hasn’t played since Dec. 7 because of a

groin injury and isn’t likely to be back before Christmas. … Detroit forward Kirk Maltby is enduring his third week sidelined with a bad back, but linemate Kris Draper could return this week from a knee injury. … Toronto defenseman Carlo Colaiacovo could resume skating this week; he’s missed all of the Leafs’ games so far recovering from knee surgery. … Minnesota center Mikko Koivu had pain in his left leg while practicing this week while recovering from a fracture sustained Nov. 16. The Wild hope to get him back before the end of the month. … Patrick Eaves, who has been out with a separated shoulder, might be able to play for Ottawa by the end of the month. … Florida defenseman Mike Van Ryn is slated to undergo surgery this week to fix his right wrist, which hasn’t healed after an earlier operation. … Columbus forward David Vyborny, who is recovering from a hip injury, is skating again and could resume practicing this week. … Colorado’s Joe Sakic has missed nine games due to a groin injury and may not be back until after Christmas.

The week ahead – NHL teams are racing to get those last pre-holiday games in before the Christmas break brings play to a halt for two days. Several teams have three games in four nights.

Games to watch:

Los Angeles at Detroit (Dec. 19) -- The NHL’s best team plays its last home game before the holidays against the struggling Kings.

Ottawa at Atlanta (Dec. 20) -- The Senators haven’t succeeded in slowing down Ilya Kovalchuk, who scored six goals in three games against Ottawa this season, but the Senators are bidding for a four-game sweep of the season series against the Thrashers.

New York Rangers at Colorado (Dec. 21) -- The Rangers visit Denver for the first time since Nov. 20, 2003; they haven’t won there since New Year’s Eve in 1998.

Anaheim at San Jose (Dec. 22) -- The Pacific Division rivals meet for the third time in seven days. They split the first two, with each team winning its road game.

Ottawa at New York Rangers (Dec. 23) -- This is the final game in the season series between these two teams. Ottawa won twice in October, while the Rangers beat the Senators 5-2 in Canada’s capital three weeks earlier.

Tough week ahead:

Los Angeles Kings -- The Kings are off to the Midwest, and travel to Detroit, Columbus and Nashville in four days.

Montreal Canadiens -- The Canadiens go south and play Thursday at Washington, Saturday at Atlanta and Sunday at Dallas.

Dallas Stars -- The Stars might be tired when the Canadiens come calling Sunday because the Stars will be playing their third game in four nights after playing Thursday in Vancouver and Friday in Calgary, capping a Western Canada swing.

Easy week ahead:

Tampa Bay Lightning -- The Bolts prepare for Christmas with home games Thursday against Toronto and Saturday against Carolina.

Florida Panthers -- The Cats play Thursday against Hurricanes and Saturday against the Leafs.

Columbus Blue Jackets -- The Jackets have had plenty of time to do their holiday shopping because they’ve been home for the bulk of December. That trend continues Friday against Los Angeles and Sunday when Nashville visits Nationwide Arena. 

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