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NHL: Pluses and minuses around the league

Steven Stamkos is a bright spot for the Lightning, which otherwise is struggling. The Flyers' Chris Pronger is having trouble dealing with a season-ending concussion.

January 16, 2012|By Helene Elliott
  • Lightning center Steven Stamkos points above in the third period of the game against the Capitals on Monday afternoon in Washington.
Lightning center Steven Stamkos points above in the third period of the… (Nick Wass / Associated Press )

Times columnist Helene Elliott rates the pluses and minuses in the NHL from the last week:

+ Tampa Bay center Steven Stamkos became the first player to score 30 goals this season, reaching that mark Friday. But he's one of the few bright spots for the Lightning in a season gone sour. Tampa Bay's defense and goaltending have declined sharply and the team is winless in seven games in January. The Lightning will be sellers at the Feb. 27 trade deadline.

+ The Detroit Red Wings set a club record Monday by winning their 15th straight home game. With the 5-0 victory over Buffalo, the Red Wings have outscored opponents, 68-21, in that span. Away from Joe Louis Arena they're only 11-13-0, but they're too good for that to continue.

+ The Nashville Predators have won five straight games and eight of their last nine and are 14-4 since Dec. 8, putting them in a playoff position. But hanging over their success is the question of whether they will keep or trade standout defenseman Ryan Suter, who can be an unrestricted free agent July 1. They haven't gotten Suter to re-sign and they don't want to lose him with no return. He left their 3-1 victory over the New York Islanders on Monday because of an upper-body injury

- The Philadelphia Flyers last week released a statement from concussion-stricken defenseman Chris Pronger, who was ruled out for the rest of the season: "It is very, very tough right now. I don't feel well and it hurts so much not to be playing." He has played 13 games, the last on Nov. 19. The Flyers also lost forward James van Riemsdyk to a concussion last week.

- Islanders goaltender Rick DiPietro is injured again. He's scheduled to undergo surgery on a sports hernia Tuesday and isn't expected back until April. DiPietro, who signed a 15-year, $67.5-million contract in 2006, has played 47 games the last four seasons. Can't blame him for the contract, but it's a cautionary tale for owners and general managers.

- The Winnipeg Jets have lost five of their last seven games and Coach Claude Noel benched Evander Kane for much of a game last week because of his poor play. Injuries to Dustin Byfuglien and Zach Bogosian are contributing to third-period collapses. Fans have been incredibly supportive so far but could become restless soon.

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