Ryan Miller, Michael Grabner

Michael Grabner, Drew Stafford and Ilya Bryzgalov named Three Stars of the Week

The NHL handed out its three star awards for the week of February 7th to 13th: New York Islanders speedster Michael Grabner (first), Buffalo Sabres winger Drew Stafford (second) and Phoenix Coyotes goalie Ilya Bryzgalov (third).

Here are summaries of their exemplary seven days, with comments from the league’s press release and our own thoughts.

First star: Grabner

This is the second three stars appearance for Grabner in 2011, as he seems to be heating up since winning the fastest skater competition in the all-star game. He had an impressive eight goals and nine points overall in four games this week. The Islanders managed to win three in four games during that span.

Winner of the ‘Fastest Skater’ competition at the 2011 NHL All-Star Weekend in Raleigh two weeks ago, the 23-year-old Villach, Austria native has an active five-game goal streak — the longest by an NHL rookie since Bobby Ryan of the Anaheim Ducks scored in five consecutive games in January 2009, and the longest by an Islanders rookie since Patrick Flatley had a six-game streak in November 1984.

Second star: Stafford

Stafford’s success has been one of the surprises of this season. He earned two hat tricks this week alone, giving him the league lead with four in 2010-11.

Stafford scored three goals and posted a +3 rating in a 7-4 victory over the Tampa Bay Lightning Feb. 8 and posted another three-goal, +3 performance in a 7-6 overtime loss to the New York Islanders Feb. 13. Playing in his fifth NHL season, the 25-year-old Milwaukee native leads the Sabres in goals with a career-high 23. He has scored 20 goals, including all four hat tricks, in his past 24 games.

Third star: Bryzgalov

The Russian goalie is making good on a contract year, as he has 23 wins and an impressive 93.8 save percentage on the season. The Coyotes are a serious threat for the Pacific Division crown, largely on the strength of Bryzgalov’s strong work.

Bryzgalov posted a 3-0-0 record, 1.29 goals-against average, .948 save percentage and one shutout as the Coyotes (29-19-9) climbed to sixth place in the Western Conference standings. Bryzgalov stopped 73 of 77 shots last week, beginning with a 26-save performance in posting his fifth shutout of the season, a 3-0 victory over the Colorado Avalanche Feb. 7.

Video: Beagle gets stick stuck in visor

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Through 40 minutes of action in Game 1 of the second round series between Pittsburgh and Washington and we’ve already seen some big moments, along with a pretty unusual one.

Beagle ended up with a stick lodged into his visor towards the end of the second frame. He tried to get it out himself, but ended up having to go to the bench for assistance. You can see that below:

Stamkos close to game shape, but return might be weeks or months away

Tampa Bay Lightning forward Steven Stamkos (91) competes in the hardest shot competition at the NHL hockey All-Star game skills competition Saturday, Jan. 30, 2016, in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)
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Steve Stamkos began to practice again on Tuesday and he was back out there on Wednesday and Thursday, which some might interpret as him being close to returning. It seems premature to say that definitively.

“It could be weeks. It could be months,” Stamkos said of his timetable, per ESPN. “That’s the tough part.”

The problem isn’t getting back into game shape after undergoing vascular surgery in early April. He feels he’s already close to reaching that objective. The issue is that Stamkos is on blood thinners, which prevents him from taking any contact. It remains to be seen how long he’ll be on blood thinners.

For what it’s worth, Tampa Bay’s Andrei Vasilevskiy underwent the same surgery and was out for two months and the original timetable provided on April 4 for Stamkos was one-to-three months. So based on that, it sounds like it would be surprising if he returned anytime soon.

Bergeron, Kesler, Kopitar named Selke finalists

Boston Bruins center Patrice Bergeron celebrates after scoring against the Montreal Canadiens during the second period of an NHL hockey game Tuesday, Jan. 19, 2016, in Montreal. (Ryan Remiorz/The Canadian Press via AP)
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Will Patrice Bergeron join Bob Gainey as the only players to have ever won the Selke Trophy four times?

That’s a distinct possibility after the Bruins center was named as a finalist along with Anaheim’s Ryan Kesler and Los Angeles’ Anze Kopitar.

The Selke Trophy honors the league’s top defensive forward and for three of the last four years, that distinction has gone to Bergeron. However, Kesler and Kopitar have been popular with the voters of this award as well.

Kopitar has finished second in the voting in each of the previous two campaigns while Kesler won back in 2011, though he finished outside of the top-five in each of the last three years prior to the 2015-16 campaign.

Among the trio, Kesler excelled this season on the draw with a 58.5% success rate, which was good for second in the league among forwards who took at least 200 faceoffs. Bergeron was up there too, winning 57.1% of his draws while Kopitar posted a 53.5%. Meanwhile, Bergeron ranked seventh in the NHL with 67 takeaways compared to Kesler’s 39 and Kopitar’s 43. Where Kopitar stood out was in plus/minus as he finished second in the league at plus-34. Kesler was plus-five and Bergeron was plus-12.

Kopitar similarly led the trio with a 57.4% Corsi For versus Bergeron’s 55.9% and Kesler’s 52.9%.

Capitals get Orpik back for series opener

Washington Capitals defenseman Brooks Orpik (44) celebrates his goal with teammates on the bench during the third period of an NHL hockey game against the New Jersey Devils, Saturday, Feb. 20, 2016, in Washington. The Capitals won 4-3. (AP Photo/Nick Wass)
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Capitals defenseman Brooks Orpik missed half of Washington’s first round series, but he’s back in time for the opener against his former team.

Orpik last played on April 18 and was regarded as questionable going into tonight’s contest against Pittsburgh. He’s expected to be paired with John Carlson throughout the contest.

Washington’s other projected pairings are Karl Alzner and Matt Niskanen as well as Dmitry Orlov and Nate Schmidt.

Orpik was limited to 41 games during the 2015-16 regular season, but when he did play he averaged 19:48 minutes per contest. He also recorded 125 hits and 102 blocked shots despite missing half the season. The 35-year-old blueliner got his start with Pittsburgh and played in 703 regular season contests with them and an additional 92 postseason contests. This is his second season with Washington.