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Nearing the quarter mark of the hockey season is a good time to pass out some early awards, while still keeping an eye on the biggest storylines in the sport.
So far, my MVP is Los Angeles Kings center Anze Kopitarwho, whose high marks in goals and points scored is leading his team to surprising, but early on season playoff talk.
Buffalo Sabres Ryan Miller is a big reason his team is leading the division. The best in the league in Goals Against Average (GAA) (1.77), save percentage (0.939) and tied for lead with 12 wins, Miller is a safe shot for best goalie.
Best defenseman goes to the Philadelphia Flyers as-good-as-advertised Chris Pronger, who is fourth among defensemen scoring with 17 points and an amazing +13 while playing a league high 27:01 minutes a game.
Awards aside, let's get to the Hat Trick —or the three storylines I am following this week in the hockey world.
1) Win, Lose or Draw
From the highs of the New Jersey Devils, who have won eight games in a row, to the lows of the Carolina Hurricanes dropping 12 in a row, the rest of the season might not be much different for these two. Between the Zachs (Parise and Zajac) and rookie Niclas Bergfors, each player on the line has eight points in the last seven games, making the Devils as hot as their mascot suggests.
But a healthy Martin Brodeur and an improving Patrik Elias could makes things even scarier for their opponents. Brodeur has a 1.48 GAA and .942 save percentage in the last seven games, and it's just a matter of time for Elias to get going, though he has yet to gain a point in the four games since returning from injury.
The woeful Hurricanes are a team devastated by injuries. With the losses of top flight goalie Cam Ward and top line center Eric Staal, Carolina is relying on the likes of Manny Legace in net. How has this team gone from Eastern Conference Finals appearance last season to the bottom of the NHL?
Though the revolving door to the infirmary has not helped, every team is dealing with injuries. But their depth has to be called into question. Banking on Eric Cole (one goal), Chad Larose (0 goals) and Sergei Samsonov (two goals) to be top line scorers was a mistake. Having a defense based around offensive defensemen Joni Pitkanen (-12) and Joe Corvo (-9) was another one. Although the Hurricanes won on Sunday to end their streak, I am interested to watch these two teams going in opposite directions.
2) AHL Report:
Here at Pucking Awesome, we also keep you up to date with what is happening on the farm teams. The two hottest teams in the AHL are the Rochester Americans (13-2-1) and the Texas Stars (11-2-2). The Florida Panthers-affiliate Americans are led by 22-year-old goalie Alexander Salak. The Czech rookie is 10-1-0, while being near the top in all goalie categories.
The Dallas Stars-affiliates have given up only 31 goals in 17 games this season. The goalie tandems of Matt Climie and Brett Krahn have shut opponents down with a 1.85 and 1.38 GAA respectively.
3) Game of the Week: Bruins at Sabres, Friday
Northeast division rivals Boston Bruins and Buffalo Sabres will face off this week for the second time this season. The first matchup went to the defending division winners as the Bruins defeated Jhonas Enroth in his NHL debut, 4-2. This time around the goal-starved Bruins will most likely be facing Ryan Miller, and that is not a good combination for Boston who has been shut out three times this season.
Milan Lucic could return to the Bruins this week, but he has been told he can’t fight, making this division rivalry game a good measuring stick for him.