BY THE NUMBERS
Career hat tricks surrendered by New Jersey goaltender Martin Brodeur, the latest coming on Wednesday, after Joe Thornton scored three times in the San Jose Sharks' lopsided 5-2 win over the slumping Devils.
Goals by Anaheim Ducks winger Teemu Selanne, moving him past Bobby Hull into 15th place on the career NHL list. Selanne is second behind only 12th-placed Jaromir Jagr (646) among European-born, European-trained players and has a chance to reel in former Colorado Avalanche teammate Joe Sakic (625) by season's end.
They said it:
"Bobby who?" Teemu Selanne, in jest, after passing Bobby Hull on the career goals list. Selanne and Hull are both alumni of the Winnipeg Jets. Selanne went on to say: "I know who he is. I've met him many times. I could never imagine that I'm going to score more goals than him. Obviously, it's a great milestone."
"Wally Pipp missed one game at first base, and you know what happened there," Washington Capitals head coach Bruce Boudreau, after an injury to Semyon Varlamov paved the way for Michal Neuvirth to land the No. 1 goalie job for the defending Presidents' Trophy winners.
AROUND THE RINKS
Tampa Bay's fast start this season is most amazing because it's happened despite minimal contributions from newcomer Simon Gagné, who was supposed to help Vincent Lecavalier get back on track and form two-thirds of a strong second line. But Gagné was blanked in his first six games of the season and is now on injured reserve recovering from a neck injury. But the Lightning's dynamic duo of Martin St. Louis and Steven Stamkos is off to another sensational start. Their scoring contributions, and coach Guy Boucher's award-winning power play, have kept Tampa in the early season running for top spot in the Southeast, a division the Washington Capitals won by a mere 38 points last year.
Cellar dwellers in the Eastern Conference, the New Jersey Devils began what was supposed to be a clear-the-air, get-back-on-track road trip to the West Coast this week. Instead, they laid an egg in the first stop, getting routed by the Sharks on a night when San Jose captain Joe Thornton managed the second five-point night of his NHL career. Like Tampa, the Sharks had been living off the power play in the early going, but against the Devils, they were good at even strength too, something that helped reduce that ugly minus-9 beside Thornton's name on the stats sheet. New Jersey had zero chemistry in the game and fewer answers afterward. Ilya Kovalchuk, benched last weekend by coach John MacLean, said to the Newark Star Ledger: "You should ask somebody else, not me. I don't know what's wrong." The Devils played twice more in California on Friday and Saturday, before venturing to Vancouver for a date against the Canucks on Monday. At some point, all the votes of confidence in the world won't matter for MacLean if the grossly underachieving Devils don't turn a corner soon.
The Chicago Blackhawks would love to have their new-look lineup together just so they could see what they have and what may be lacking, but it doesn't look as if it's going to happen for a while. Just as blueliner Brian Campbell is about to return after missing the first four weeks with a sprained knee, the Blackhawks lost leading scorer Marian Hossa to an upper-body injury in a win over the Los Angeles Kings. Hossa missed the start of last season recovering from shoulder surgery, but was off to a fast start, playing mostly on a line with fellow Slovak Tomas Kopecky. Coach Joel Quenneville liked the chemistry between the two so much he moved Kopecky to centre and shifted Patrick Sharp up to the top line with Jonathan Toews. Among the new members of the Blackhawks supporting cast, ex-Toronto Maple Leafs forward Viktor Stalberg has been a pleasant surprise, scoring three goals in his first 10 games while playing only about 10 minutes a night.
The Capitals' plan to give both their young goalies, Semyon Varlamov and Michal Neuvirth, playing time in the early going went off the rails because Varlamov cannot stay healthy. He has lingering groin issues, so Neuvirth has received the bulk of the ice time in the early going, and made the most of it with six wins, including a shutout Wednesday over the Carolina Hurricanes. Neuvirth is technically an NHL rookie in the same way Jimmy Howard was technically an NHL rookie last year with the Detroit Red Wings. Although Neuvirth has played parts of two years in the NHL, he didn't exceed the threshold of games played (25 overall or six in each of two successive years) to be ineligible. Taylor Hall (Edmonton Oilers) and Tyler Seguin (Boston Bruins) may still be heard from in the second half, but right now, Neuvirth and teammate John Carlson are two of the early-season Calder Memorial Trophy contenders.
The Bruins know they'll have salary-cap issues as soon as Marc Savard and Marco Sturm return from the long-term injured reserve list (perhaps some time in December). So Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli has some contracts to deal - and the speculation in Boston is it may be forward Blake Wheeler on the move, given Wheeler has some value as a tradable commodity because of his size and strength. Exiling winger Michael Ryder would be more beneficial in the long term; the trick would be to get somebody to take on Ryder's contract and its $4-million (U.S.) annual cap hit. Players in that $4-million range are tough to move. Toronto dumped one contract like that - Jason Blake - on the Anaheim Ducks last year. The other night, Ducks coach Randy Carlyle made Blake a healthy scratch.