Hot or not has returned after a two-month break.
Before I get into my selections, I'd like to express my condolences to the family members of the 50 people who died Thursday night when Continental Connection Flight 3407 crashed into a home in suburban Buffalo.
Our thoughts and prayers are with you as you get through this tough time.
As if the opposition didn't have enough to worry about in Washington. Mike Green became the first defenseman to score in eight consecutive games on Saturday. The previous mark was seven games by Mike O'Connell in 1983/1984. Green has gotten the attention of everyone with 50 points (22 goals, 28 assists) in just 44 games. If you ask me, he already had it after shattering Patrick Thoresen's cup with a slap shot.
Brian Gionta had 48 goals in 2005/2006, which is the most ever scored by a New Jersey Devils player. Zach Parise is only 16 shy of 50 goals with 25 games remaining on the schedule. If injuries keep out of it, the 24-year-old should reach it before we know it.
Fresh off his hat-trick last night in Anaheim, Ilya Kovalchuk has struck six times in the past four games. It doesn't take much analysis to realize the poor team the Russian is stuck with. With his contract ending in 2010, all eyes will look to see where he ends up. At least he's not complaining and continues to play hard every night.
Four wins in a row. Are the Ottawa Senators finally awoken? Cory Clouston has been able to give the team their confidence back, and the offense is starting to look like an offense for a change. The new head coach has worked with players like Brendan Bell, and Ryan Shannon in the minors, so the potential is there. However, the road into a playoff spot is still a long ways away for Ottawa.
Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau made life quite miserable for a few goaltenders this week. For Marleau, his four goals and three assists allowed him to total 30 in each category for the season. Thornton meanwhile scored one goal to go along with six helpers, four of which came in Buffalo Friday.
He's 37, but that isn't slowing him down. Owen Nolan has given plenty of production when healthy for the Minnesota Wild. His 27 points in 35 games are more than was expected, and the Belfast native has three goals in the last three contests.
When you think about speed, there's nobody better than Matthew Lombardi. A few players may be close, but his jets are unmatchable. After a forgettable start, he has come to life with seven points in the last four games. More encouraging is the fact that his presence is being felt on the penalty kill and he was rewarded with his first shorthanded tally on Monday.
Mononucleosis couldn't stop him. Steve Mason is back after missing a little over a week and looks just as sharp and energetic. His return marked back-to-back performances against Detroit and Carolina. Both were wins, and the rookie only allowed a total of three goals combined. We may be looking at this year's Calder and Vezina Trophy winner. He's just amazing to watch.
Everyone had to be pleased to see Richard Zednik score two goals exactly one year after his neck injury occurred. Maybe not the Toronto Maple Leafs, because they threw away a three-goal lead that night. Zednik's comeback is an inspiration and let's hope his solid play becomes a habit.
Now that Mike Green's out of the way, how about Brian Rafalski in Detroit? His second year in Hockey Town see's him leading all Wings defensemen in points, including the great Nicklas Lidstrom. The 35-year-old has 10 points (one goal, nine assists) in his last seven matches.
For the first time in Toronto, Jason Blake is resembling the 40-goal scorer he was with the New York Islanders. The 5'10" forward has 20 points in 13 games and is giving the Leafs plenty to look forward to. You may have caught his highlight-reel goal against Pittsburgh Saturday somewhere on TSN.
Sergei Gonchar returned Saturday, but it didn't stop the Pittsburgh Penguins from getting blown out 6-2 by the Toronto Maple Leafs. The team must win 16 of their remaining 25 games to reach 91 points, and even that hasn't been enough to reach the playoffs since the lockout. The good news is Gonchar logged more than 20 minutes in Toronto and didn't appear to hold back on the shoulder at all.
The bad news is Michel Therrien has been fired months after taking the Penguins to the Stanley Cup Finals. Dan Bylsma is behind the bench now on an interim basis. I guess that's what happens when you continuously scratch Alex Goligoski, who was Pittsburgh's best defenseman for quite a while.
Another team going down quickly in the standings is the New York Rangers. They've lost four of five, including a 10-2 thumping at the hands of the Dallas Stars. The team's best players need to begin playing as they're expected. For starters, they can practice not allowing shorthanded goals during a five-on-three. Side note: See yesterday's goal by Mike Richards in New York.
When the NHL is lending you financial support, you should give it something in return. Maybe a five-game winning streak. Wayne Gretzky's Phoenix Coyotes coughed the puck up too many times to remember the exact count against Calgary Saturday. With Olli Jokinen, the Coyotes are struggling, but the Panthers are shining since he left. Coincidence?
Then there's the Montreal Canadiens, who are seemingly crumbling under the massive expectations in their anniversary season. Has Alexei Kovalev taken the year off after his comeback season in 2007/2008? Will Carey Price get his game together? These questions need answering before it's too late.
Phil Kessel hasn't been finding the back of the net nearly as much as he was earlier in the year. The Boston Bruins have lost four straight and Kessel hasn't scored in 12 games. It's a good thing they already have so many games under their belt and don't need to necessarily panic.
Streaky is how J.P Dumont can be described lately. Three straight games with a goal, followed by a few games with no points. The one-two connection with Jason Arnott isn't paying the dividends it did in the past. Nashville desperately needs the Quebec native to be at his finest, which is a point per game.
Seven points in 32 games. Makes you wonder what is happening with Justin Williams. The two-time 30-goal man hasn't been himself since returning from injury. But then again, neither has the rest of the Carolina Hurricanes team.
The Wizard of Oz? I think not. Chris Osgood's 18-5 record is due to the fact that he has an amazing team in front of him. His .879 save percentage and 3.29 GAA have you wondering if he should follow Manny Legace to the minors. Ty Conklin has my vote for undisputed starter in Detroit.
Words can't even describe how awful the New York Islanders are. There are teams in the league with more victories than the amount of points Long Island holds. I'll leave it at that.
The league issued Tomas Plekanec a two-game suspension for running Denis Grebeshkov into the boards feet-first. The Edmonton defenseman who was having a superb year will return in late March. Plekanec's ugly season just got uglier.