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Former Buffalo Sabres left winger Thomas Vanek (Associated Press)

Former Buffalo Sabres left winger Thomas Vanek

(Associated Press)

Duhatschek: Vanek deal shows Islanders believe they are playoff contenders and more Add to ...

Rinne’s start was up-and-down by his standards, but coach Barry Trotz saw his game headed in the right direction before the infection was discovered: “His last game was maybe his best game in two years,” Trotz said. “Real unfortunate.”

HOT AND COLD: The notoriously slow-starting Jarome Iginla is starting to get into a rhythm with his new Boston Bruins’ linemates, David Krejci and Milan Lucic, contributing three points in Saturday’s 4-3 loss to the New Jersey Devils. When Iginla signed with the Bruins as a free agent this past summer, he structured his contract so as that it included a low base salary ($1.8-million), but easy to achieve bonuses to help Boston with its cap issues. The Boston Globe reported Sunday that Iginla’s first bonus payment (of $3.7-million out of a total $4.2-million) was triggered this weekend after he played his 10th game of the season. If needed, the Bruins can defer the bonus until next year, when the cap is expected to rise significantly ... The Toronto Maple Leafs long ago gave up on Alex Steen, a former first-round draft choice, trading him to the St. Louis Blues in the Lee Stempniak deal. In St. Louis, Steen evolved into a solid two-way player, someone that a succession of coaches from Andy Murray and Davis Payne to Ken Hitchcock relied on in every situation. But Steen has never scored goals the way he has this year. In that win over Nashville that chased Hutton, Steen scored twice, giving him 10 in the Blues’ first nine games, the first NHLer to manage that total in so few games off the start of a season since 2006-07. It leaves Steen tied with the Capitals Alex Ovechkin for the NHL goal-scoring lead, though he was quick to note Ovechkin had been racking up the big numbers for years, and he’s managed to do it for a handful of games. Still, he is in good company. In St. Louis history, only Brett Hull (twice), Brian Sutter and Scott Young have gotten off to similar starts ... Also in uncharted scoring waters: The New York Islanders’ nifty Dane, Frans Nielsen, who until this year, was primarily known for his penalty killing and shootout prowess. Nielsen is up to seven goals already, surpassing his total from 48 games last year ... Nielsen’s former teammate with the Islanders, Mark Streit, made his return successful, assisting on two goals as the Flyers won back-to-back games for the first time this year, in no small part because of Vincent Lecavalier’s seventh career hat trick and first in more than five-and-a-half years. The Flyers’ reversal of fortune had something to do with a week off between games, permitting the team an early-season reset, and a chance for new head coach Craig Berube to introduce his system to the team. It didn’t hurt that Scott Hartnell and Lecavalier are back playing after early-season injuries hobbled them both ... Philadelphia was fighting it out with the New York Rangers for the bottom rung on what looks as if it’ll be the weakest of the four NHL divisions this season – the newly christened Metropolitan, which also features former Western Conference refugee, the Columbus Blue Jackets. Under the new playoff format, the top three teams in every division, no matter how mediocre, make the playoffs, which was the best news the Flyers and Rangers had after their discouraging starts. New York, at least, had an excuse – a season-opening nine-game road trip, necessitated by massive renovations to Madison Square Gardens. By defeating the Detroit Red Wings in overtime Saturday night, the Rangers salvaged arguably the toughest test of all – on a goal by Derick Brassard with 13 seconds left on the clock, for their first win at the Joe Louis Arena since 1999.

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