GAME OF THE WEEK: It might be Tuesday’s date between the Kings and the Ducks in Anaheim. The Ducks are the only NHL team undefeated at home in regulation this season (10-0-1 at the Honda Centre), while L.A. had a team record points in 11 games streak snapped with the loss to Calgary Saturday night. If there was any question about Ryan Getzlaf’s status as an Olympian, he’s answered them this year, with points in the last 10 games he’s played (15 points in all). It is not an official NHL scoring streak, because Getzlaf missed three games in the middle of it with an undisclosed upper body injury.
Getzlaf’s strong start (tied with Alex Steen of the St. Louis Blues for third in the NHL scoring race) has also helped linemate Dustin Penner get his game back on track. After scoring 31 points in 98 regular-season games over two years with the Kings, Penner has 21 points in 22 games with the Ducks this year, and that’s counting time missed as a healthy scratch.
The Ducks have been doing all that without getting a meaningful contribution from Teemu Selanne (zero points in his last 12 games) and despite a defence corps riddled by injuries. For the game against the Sharks, Anaheim played without four defencemen who would be in their top six if not for injuries: Francois Beauchemin, Bryan Allen, Luca Sbisa and Sheldon Souray, who has yet to play a game this season. Currently, their bluline consists of Cam Fowler, Ben Lovejoy, Hampus Lindholm, Sami Vatanen, Alex Grant, Nolan Yonkman and Mark Fistric.
There are currently eight Western Conference teams on pace to record a hundred points this season. Even in this devalued era of three-point games, thanks to shootouts and overtime, that’s an impressive pace.
“We’re all moving together like a peloton in cycling,” is how San Jose coach Todd McLellan put it. “The group just keeps moving. Nobody seems to be able to break away.”
THIS AND THAT: As expected, James Neal’s return to the Pittsburgh Penguins lineup helped ignite his regular centre, Evgeni Malkin, who had a four-point night Saturday, capping a month in which Malkin recorded 21 assists, the most by any NHL player since Wayne Gretzky did it for the Los Angeles Kings in January of 1996, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. Malkin’s surge carried him to within a point of teammate Sidney Crosby for the overall NHL scoring lead … Islanders’ coach Jack Capuano is the latest to hear it from the boo birds at Nassau County Coliseum. The fans have been calling for his head, most vehemently during a 5-0 loss at the hands of a Detroit Red Wings’ team playing without star forward Pavel Datsyuk. All the promise of last year’s playoff berth – and a wholly respectable opening-round performance against the Pittsburgh Penguins – evaporated, partly because of goaltending issues, injuries to key defencemen, and a lack of production from young players such as Josh Bailey, who was a healthy scratch the other night after his goalless streak was extended to 15 games. The Islanders have been forced to play defenceman Andrew MacDonald almost 27 minutes per night, and Travis Hamonic is close behind at a little over 25. It’s too much. General manager Garth Snow tried to send a message by trading away the popular Matt Moulson (plus a first and a second-round draft choice) for Thomas Vanek, but he might have been better off targeting an established starting goaltender or a minute-munching defenceman, if he was prepared to sacrifice that much of the future to win in the present.
AND FINALLY: It appears as if the Sabres’ attempt to rehabilitate Patrick Kaleta by teaching him to play with more discipline is going to have to wait. According to the Buffalo News, Kaleta tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee this past Friday, playing in the American Hockey League, and will miss the rest of the season. Kaleta had been suspended 10 games earlier this year for a hit to the head of the Columbus Blue Jackets’ Jack Johnson.