Ondrej Pavelec

Sidney Crosby joins Thrashers Ondrej Pavelec and Dustin Byfuglien as NHL’s three stars of the week

Beyond being a nice achievement for a small sample of games, the NHL’s weekly three stars awards can be a solid snapshot for teams (and most specifically players) who are hot at the moment.

Perhaps it makes sense, then, that two of the hottest teams in the East are represented (and before you shout “East Coast bias!” last week featured a West-only group including Rick Nash): the Pittsburgh Penguins and Atlanta Thrashers. The Penguins – represented by Sidney Crosby – are on a six game winning streak while the Thrashers (represented by Ondrej Pavelec and Dustin Byfuglien) have won five in a row themselves.

So let’s take a look at the weeks enjoyed by those three players, with blurbs from the league’s press release along with observations of our own.

1. Pavelec

If you want to be inspired, just look at Pavelec: the young goalie went from that frightening incident in which he suffered a concussion after collapsing during his team’s opening night game to becoming one of the hottest goalies in the NHL.

Pavelec stopped 97 of 99 shots in backstopping the Thrashers (12-9-3) to three consecutive home victories as the Southeast Division’s hottest club extended its winning streak to five games. Pavelec began the week by turning aside 32 of 33 shots in a 5-1 victory over the Detroit Red Wings on Nov. 24. He made 25 saves for his fourth career NHL shutout as the Thrashers defeated the Montreal Canadiens 3-0 Nov. 26 and posted a season-high 40 saves in a 4-1 victory over the Boston Bruins Nov. 28.

He’s only allowed three goals during Atlanta’s five game winning streak, including two shutouts. Yup, that sounds like number one star of the week material to me.

2. Byfuglien

When the Thrashers traded for Byfuglien, it seemed like a desperate (perhaps loyalty/familiarity-based) decision made on a player whose focus seemed scattered at best. Now, the only real question about the forward-defenseman hybrid is if this is happening mainly because he has the monetary motivation of a contract year.

You’d have to be virulently anti-Byfuglien to question his legitimacy at this point, as he scored nine goals and 16 assists for 25 points in 24 games this season … as defenseman, by the way.

Byfuglien played a key role in the Thrashers’ surge last week by leading all defensemen in scoring with six points (two goals, four assists), including his League-leading fifth game-winning goal of the season.

The highlight of his week was a one goal, three assist performance on Sunday against the Boston Bruins.

3. Crosby

Say what you will about Crosby, he (along with his media counterpoint Alex Ovechkin) tends to deliver under intense pressure and scrutiny. His 40 points in 25 games averages out to a rate of 1.60 points per game. If he keeps up that 131-point pace, he’ll put together the best point scoring season of his already impressive NHL career. (His career high is 120 in 79 games played, a 1.52 ppg rate.)

Crosby climbed to first place in the NHL scoring race by recording seven points (four goals, three assists), helping the Penguins (15-8-2) post four consecutive victories and close within two points of first-place Philadelphia in the Atlantic Division.

Goal-starved Flyers recall AHL Phantoms leading scorer Cousins

Nazem Kadri
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Desperate for offense, Philly made a fairly noteworthy move on Friday — Nick Cousins has been brought up from the minors.

Cousins, 22, has been a solid scorer at the AHL level in each of the last two seasons. He led Lehigh Valley with 56 points in 64 games in ’14-15 and, this year, has 18 through 15 — putting him in a tie for seventh in league scoring.

The former OHL Sault Ste. Marie standout does have some NHL experience, having played 11 games for the Flyers last season. He averaged just under nine minutes per game over that span, and failed to register a point.

Looking ahead, Cousins could make his season debut today, when Philly hosts the Preds. Right now it’s unclear where he’d fit in the lineup.

To make room for Cousins on the roster, the Flyers sent Taylor Leier down to the Phantoms.


NHL on NBC Doubleheader: Rangers vs. Bruins; ‘Hawks vs. Ducks

Rick Nash, Ryan Spooner
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After a break in the schedule on Thursday, the NHL is back with a full slate of games on Friday.

It all gets underway at 1:00 p.m. ET when the Rangers take on the Bruins on NBC.

Boston is coming off a 3-2 OT win over Detroit on Wednesday night to extend their winning streak to four games.

Although backup Jonas Gustavsson has been between the pipes for two of the four wins, there’s no denying that Tuukka Rask‘s improved play is a big reason for Boston’s turnaround.

The 28-year-old is 4-2-0 in his last six starts and he’s given up 13 goals (five came in one game against the Sharks) during that span.

The Bruins have won each of their last two home games, but are still just 4-6-1 at the TD Garden this season.

New York didn’t go into the Thanksgiving break the way they had hoped.

The Rangers are coming off a 5-1 loss, on home ice, to the Montreal Canadiens.

Henrik Lundqvist was pulled for the first time all season after he allowed five goals on 24 shots.

The 33-year-old’s rough outing was presumably just a blip on the radar, as he comes into this game with a 12-4-2 record, a 1.94 goals-against-average and a .939 save percentage.

New York currently sits atop the Metropolitan division with 34 points.

At 5:00 p.m. ET, NBCSN will broadcast the rematch of last year’s Western Conference final between the Ducks and ‘Hawks.

After a brutal month of October that saw them win just one of their 10 games, the Ducks have been slightly better in November.

Anaheim opened the month with a four-game winning streak only to drop their following three games. They’ve alternated wins and losses in their last eight contests.

Ryan Getzlaf has six points in his last two games (all assists), but it’s clear that the Ducks need more from him.

The 30-year-old has always been a pass-first player, but one goal in 19 games just isn’t cutting it.

A guy who’s having no trouble finding the back of the net is ‘Hawks forward Patrick Kane.

The 27-year-old comes into this game with 13 goals and 34 points in 22 games in ’15-16.

He’s riding a 17-game point streak and has found his name on the scoresheet in all but two games this season.

Chicago currently sits in fourth place in the Central division.


New York Rangers at Boston Bruins, 1 p.m. ET, NBC

Chicago Blackhawks at Anaheim Ducks, 5 p.m. ET, NBCSN

For online viewing information via NBC Sports’ Live Extra, click here.

PHT Morning Skate: General Managers around the league are happy for Bergevin

Marc Bergevin
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PHT’s Morning Skate takes a look around the world of hockey to see what’s happening and what we’ll be talking about around the NHL world and beyond.

The Montreal Canadiens gave Marc Bergevin a contract extension on Wednesday and fellow General Managers around the league are happy for their colleague. (TSN)

Are the Washington Capitals the best team in the Eastern Conference? (ESPN)

Here’s a funny cartoon depiction of the reported feud between Mario Lemieux and Sidney Crosby:

Read an excerpt from Tie Domi’s book “shift work”. In this portion of the book, he talks about some crazy times at a New York City nightclub. (ESPN)

“It’s a lot more complicated than the net and the goalie equipment, it’s the systems that teams play, the willingness of players to block shots every part of their body.” Steven Stamkos weighs in on the decreasing number of goals in the NHL. (Tampa Tribune)

After the first quarter of the season, Henrik Lundqvist is NHL.com’s favorite to land the Vezina Trophy. (NHL.com)

Matt Beleskey donated 400 pies to various charitable organizations around Boston.

Preds place Salomaki on IR, recall Sissons

Jake Allen, Miikka Salomaki
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Nashville made a minor roster transaction on Thursday, putting forward Miikka Salomaki on IR while recalling fellow forward Colton Sissons from AHL Milwaukee.

Salomaki, 22, was a fairly regular lineup presence through the of November, appearing in eight games while averaging just under 12 minutes per night. Despite his relatively small frame (5-foot-11, 198 pounds), he racked up 28 hits over that time and emerged as a decent energy guy for the Preds.

As for Sissons, he’s about to get yet another crack with the parent club.

Having spent most of the last two seasons in Milwaukee, Sissons — the 50th overall pick in 2012 — has seen some action with the Preds this year. He has one goal in five games with Nashville, and eight points in 12 games with the Admirals.