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NHL: pluses and minuses around the league

Roberto Luongo is having a resurgence with the Canucks. The Kings' Stanley Cup defense has been hurt by injuries to some of their top defensemen.

February 03, 2013|By Helene Elliott
  • Canucks goaltender Roberto Luongo stops a shot by the Blackhawks' Brandon Saad in the second period of a game Friday night in Vancouver.
Canucks goaltender Roberto Luongo stops a shot by the Blackhawks'… (Darryl Dyck / Associated…)

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

Plus

+ Roberto Luongo, supposedly demoted to backup status in Vancouver, isn't playing like a No. 2 goalie. He has made three straight starts and has given up three goals in that span, including a shutout of Colorado and a shootout victory over Chicago on Friday. Do the Canucks still trade him? Or do they move Cory Schneider instead? Luongo has shown class in handling a difficult situation.

+ There's a fine crop of rookies making an impact this season. Tampa Bay's Cory Conacher (five goals, 12 points), St. Louis' Vladimir Tarasenko (five goals, 10 points), Montreal's dynamic Alex Galchenyuk (one goal, seven points) and Edmonton's Nail Yakupov (five goals, six points) have been standouts. Boston defenseman Dougie Hamilton, who's averaging 18 minutes and 51 seconds' ice time, Dallas defenseman Brenden Dillion — who had the Gordie Howe hat trick against Phoenix last week — and Florida's Jonathan Huberdeau (two goals, five points) are also among a fine freshman class.

+ Goalie Dan Ellis, who missed most of last season with the Ducks because of a torn groin muscle, went into this season without a job. He got a tryout with the Charlotte Checkers of the American Hockey League and parlayed that into a spot as the Carolina Hurricanes' backup. He shut out Ottawa on Friday, 1-0, and is 2-0-0 this season with a 0.75 goals-against average and .977 save percentage.

Minus

- The defending Stanley Cup champion Kings seemed to have a reasonable chance of repeating: Their roster stayed almost intact and the lockout gave them extra time to recover from a possible Cup hangover. But the absence of injured defensemen Willie Mitchell (knee) and Matt Greene (back surgery) has weakened their penalty killing and forced other defensemen to play above their capabilities. Their identity last season was based on goaltending and defense, and neither aspect has been consistent yet. Plus, they still need scoring from the left side.

- Six games into the season, the Calgary Flames (1-3-2) have the fewest wins in the NHL. They played five of their first six at home, so they can't blame travel for their woes. Veteran Jarome Iginla has yet to score a goal and rookie left wing Sven Baertschi, their top prospect, injured a hip flexor and is expected to be out about two weeks.

- The Jets' honeymoon in Winnipeg probably will last for a while, but reality is setting in with the inescapable fact that they are not a good team. Winnipeg's penalty killing is an eye-poppingly bad 59.3% (11 power-play goals against in 27 disadvantages), a key reason the Jets are struggling and have lost three straight games. Defensemen Dustin Byfuglien is out because of a lower-body injury, making it even more difficult for the Jets to make a run at a playoff spot.

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