By the Numbers
Career NHL points for both Alex Ovechkin and Sidney Crosby heading into Saturday's Winter Classic game. Crosby made up a 23-point deficit this season, and has reached that total in 25 fewer games than Ovechkin.
Losses in a row and counting for the New Jersey Devils, who scored just one goal in each of their first three games under new head coach Jacques Lemaire to sink even further into the NHL basement and put them in line for the first pick in the 2011 entry draft - something they've never had in franchise history. The closest was in 1984, when they took Kirk Muller second overall behind Mario Lemieux, and 1987, selecting Brendan Shanahan after Pierre Turgeon was off the board. (The team's prior incarnation, the Colorado Rockies, did have the No. 1 pick in 1979, nabbing Rob Ramage.)
They said it:
"I think it's mostly conditioning. To me, the proof of that is a team that is good in the third period is a team that is in shape. A team that wins in the third, that keeps playing, skating and working, that is a team that is in shape."
The New Jersey Devils head coach has a theory on what ails his slumping team.
"We go to sleep for five to 10 minutes. You can't do that in this league. You're going to lose every night in this league if you do that."
The San Jose Sharks forward (and NHL's leading rookie scorer) on what ails his slumping team.
Around the rinks
Some injuries are easier to overcome than others, but if defenceman Ryan Whitney's ankle problem keeps him sidelined for an any extended period, it could significantly undermine the Edmonton Oilers' progress in the second half of this rebuilding season. Eight years after the Pittsburgh Penguins selected him with the fifth-overall pick in the 2002 entry draft - and after a disappointing stay with the Anaheim Ducks - Whitney has finally found a home in Edmonton. He was in the midst of his best-ever season, gobbling up ice time (an average of 25 minutes 20 seconds per night) and was plus-13 on a team that had given up 29 more goals than it had scored and was bringing up the rear in the Western Conference.
Sedin twins producing points
Once again, the Sedin twins are producing points with a pleasing, metronome-like consistency for Vancouver, but the real reason the Canucks are on a 12-1-2 run is the play of centre Ryan Kesler, who has been on a scoring tear in December, managing 19 points (nine goals) in 13 games and going plus-12 in that time. Even strength, Kesler is anchoring a surprisingly effective second line featuring Jeff Tambellini and Jannik Hansen and on the power play, the decision to play him in front of the net with the Sedins has paid big dividends as well, with 14 of his 34 points coming with the man advantage.
The San Jose Sharks, last year's regular-season Western Conference champions, continue to sputter along. And while they miss former team captain Rob Blake (retired) far more than anticipated, the biggest statistical change issue is the drop off in scoring. San Jose was fourth overall in offence last year, but it slid into a three-way tie for 10th as of Thursday, and were going to be without centre Joe Pavelski for at least a couple more games. Last year, the Sharks had three scorers finish in the top 15 (Joe Thornton, Dany Heatley, Patrick Marleau). Thornton is their leader again, but he is just 24th overall. In the five years since the lockout, Thornton has finished first, second, fifth, 11th and eighth, respectively, in the league scoring race.
Normally, a mid-season player signing tends to be unremarkable, but the fact the Dallas Stars were able to ink defenceman Trevor Daley to a six-year extension worth $19.8-million (U.S.) is significant, given the financial uncertainty permeating the franchise. The Stars are on the block, but a sale may not go through until the summer, or even later, so for now, general manager Joe Nieuwendyk has permission to start talks with pending free-agent centre Brad Richards, in the hopes of getting him locked up too - and keeping the Stars intact for a playoff run after two consecutive years on the sidelines.
The Anaheim Ducks suffered a fluke injury to their leading scorer the other night, when Ryan Getzlaf took a deflected puck in the face and suffered multiple nasal sinus fractures, an injury serious enough for him to go on injured reserve immediately. Further tests were scheduled for Friday, but he has already been ruled out of games through Sunday. In Getzlaf's absence, the Ducks moved Bobby Ryan to centre on the top line.