Phoenix Coyotes take one point Pacific Division lead thanks to seventh consecutive win

Remember when it looked like the Phoenix Coyotes were primed to plummet back to mediocrity after their Cinderella 2009-10 season?

Much like fellow out of left field hot team the Columbus Blue Jackets, the Coyotes’ early season troubles are starting to seem like a distant memory at this point. After befuddling the struggling Edmonton Oilers tonight, Dave Tippett’s team is now on a seven game winning streak and are 7-0-2 in their last nine games.

This win also gave them a brief lead over the Los Angeles Kings in the Pacific Division, although the Kings have a game in hand.

Phoenix 5, Edmonton 0

While the Blue Jackets are reaping the benefits of strong play from two goalies (Steve Mason and outstanding backup Mathieu Garon), the Coyotes are leaning heavily on their talented Russian starter Ilya Bryzgalov. He earned a 23-save shutout tonight, bringing his record in that 7-0-2 stretch to 6-0-2 (Jason LaBarbera only received one start, which began the team’s winning streak.)

The Coyotes are scoring goals by committee during this stretch, although tonight’s win featured some pretty dominating performances from a few Coyotes forwards. Lee Stempniak scored two goals and one assist, big Martin Hanzal scored two goals of his own and Eric Belanger earned the primary helpers on each of Stempniak’s tallies. Wojtek Wolski also had a nice night, scoring one goal and adding an assist.

It’s unclear if this is a blessing (for rest) or a curse (if they lose momentum), but the Coyotes won’t play again until Saturday’s game at home against their division rivals the Anaheim Ducks. The Pacific Division is still pretty brutal, but the Coyotes seem like they regained that scrappy form that propelled them to an impressive fourth seed finish last season; five of their seven consecutive wins came by one goal.

Meanwhile, the Oilers are showing faint signs of life with their big goalie Devan Dubnyk in net (1-1-1 in his three games since Nikolai Khabibulin went on the injured reserve). Still, the team must find a way to play better defense in front of him, as they allowed 42, 40 and 34 shots against in those three contests.

Video: Marc Staal was no match for Alex Ovechkin on this goal

WASHINGTON, DC - OCTOBER 15: Alex Ovechkin #8 of the Washington Capitals looks on against New York Islanders during the second period at Verizon Center on October 15, 2016 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
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After being held without a point in his first two games of the season, Washington Capitals forward Alex Ovechkin has now scored a goal in three consecutive games.

That includes his goal on Saturday night in the first period against the New York Rangers.

It’s one that will probably make the personal highlight reel for Ovechkin, but it certainly won’t make the highlight reel for Rangers defenseman Marc Staal.

To say that this head-to-head matchup turned out to be a mismatch would be … well … a bit of an understatement.

As Ovechkin crossed the blue line into the Rangers zone he started to toe-drag around Staal, only to stop midway through and just rip it from outside the circle, using Staal as a screen and beating Henrik Lundqvist for the goal.

It is probably not a good sign when the defenseman has his back to the shooter when the puck is released.

That goal gave the Capitals a 2-0 lead.

Red Wings’ Abdelkader out with lower body injury

PHILADELPHIA, PA - MARCH 15: Justin Abdelkader #8 of the Detroit Red Wings skates against the Philadelphia Flyers at the Wells Fargo Center on March 15, 2016 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The Flyers defeated the Red Wings 4-3.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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The Detroit Red Wings will be without veteran forward Justin Abdelkader on Saturday night when they host the San Jose Sharks.

The official word from the team is that he is sidelined with a lower body injury.

He will be replaced in the lineup by Andreas Athanasiou. Athanasiou has appeared in three games this season and yet to record a point.

He was not only in the lineup on Friday in the Red Wings in their 5-3 win over the Nashville Predators, but also scored his first goal of the season and played a season-high 17:55.

After scoring 19 goals and recording 23 assists in 82 games in 2015-16 the Red Wings signed a seven-year $29.7 million contract extension.

According to general manager Ken Holland (via Helene St. James) he is expected to be back in the lineup on Tuesday.

Former Canadiens coach Jacques Demers hospitalized

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OTTAWA, Ontario (AP) Former Montreal Canadiens coach Jacques Demers has been hospitalized.

Demer’s director of parliamentary affairs confirmed Saturday that the 72-year-old Demers, a Canadian senator, had been admitted to a Montreal hospital, but couldn’t immediately provide any details.

Demers had a stroke in April. He was at the Canadiens’ home opener Tuesday night, smiling in a wheelchair while handing a torch to captain Max Pacioretty to close out a pregame ceremony.

Demers led the Canadiens to their last Stanley Cup in 1993. He also coached Quebec, Detroit, St. Louis and Tampa Bay in the NHL, and Indianapolis, Cincinnati and Quebec in the WHA.

Ales Hemsky returns to Stars lineup tonight

NEWARK, NJ - OCTOBER 24:  Ales Hemsky #83 of the Dallas Stars skates against the New Jersey Devils at the Prudential Center on October 24, 2014 in Newark, New Jersey. The Stars defeated the Devils 3-2 in the shootout.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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When the Dallas Stars take on the Columbus Blue Jackets on Saturday evening one of their top forwards will be making his 2016-17 debut.

The team announced on Saturday afternoon that forward Ales Hemsky will be activated from injured reserve after missing the first four games of the season due to a groin injury at the World Cup of hockey.

He is expected to skate on the Stars’ top line on Saturday night alongside Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn.

Now 33 years old, Hemsky isn’t quite as dynamic as he was during his prime years in Edmonton, but he is still an extremely skilled playmaker that is a solid fit in Dallas’ system. He is entering his third year with the Stars and has 71 points (24 goals, 47 assists) in 151 games with the team.

With Hemsky now activated and back in the lineup, the Stars also announced on Saturday that veteran forward Jiri Hudler has been placed on IR retroactive to Oct. 15 due to illness.