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.

Replacing Beauchemin with Bieksa hasn’t worked out so great for Anaheim

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Are the Anaheim Ducks missing Francois Beauchemin more than they thought they might?

It’s a question we’ve been hearing more and more lately, as the Ducks’ goal-scoring woes of October have been replaced by defensive issues in November.

Anaheim is 3-4-2 in its last nine games. The Ducks have allowed 27 goals in regulation during that stretch — that’s three per game on average — plus two more in a pair of overtime losses.

In a related story, per the O.C. Register, here’s what coach Bruce Boudreau said the other day about offseason acquisition Kevin Bieksa:

“He’s a veteran guy that has to fight his way out of this. We count on him to not make mistakes. We will go as far as guys like him take us.”

Bieksa, 34, is minus-7 in his last four games combined. True, he’s forced to play a lot of hard minutes against good players. But then, that’s exactly what he was brought in to do. The Ducks even gave him a two-year, $8 million extension, locking him up through 2017-18.

Now consider what Boudreau said during last year’s playoff run, about the guy Bieksa was brought in to replace:

“He’s the voice. Everybody else is so young. [He] is the voice back there.”

And Beauchemin was more than just a talker. He led the Ducks in ice time. He had nine assists in 16 playoff games. Bottom line: he was a big part of a team that fell one win shy of making the Stanley Cup Final.

Beauchemin, of course, signed a three-year deal with Colorado on July 1, for a cap hit of $4.5 million. So far, he’s been as advertised for the Avs. The 35-year-old has two goals and 10 assists. He gets the most ice time on the team, an average of 23:33.

Looking back, Anaheim GM Bob Murray never did want to lose Beauchemin. The Ducks just weren’t prepared to offer what the Avs did.

“Beauch’ has been a pretty good warrior for us,” Murray said in June. “He has a one-time chance for free agency and maybe somebody will give him $5 million.… I couldn’t do that.”

One has to wonder now if Murray wishes he’d found a way.

The Ducks host the Blackhawks tonight on NBCSN.

Devils sign veteran Kennedy to one-year, $600K deal

Tyler Kennedy, Lee Stempniak
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A second forward has converted a PTO with New Jersey into a shiny new contract.

Tyler Kennedy, who’s on his second professional tryout with the club, has agreed to a one-year, two-way deal worth $600,000 at the NHL level, the Devils announced on Friday.

Kennedy, 29, first caught on with the Devils in the preseason, only to be released in early October. He then rejoined the club on a second PTO in mid-November, and earned himself a deal from GM Ray Shero (previously, the two were together in the Pittsburgh organization).

A former 20-goal scorer with the Pens, Kennedy fell on hard times last year. It began in San Jose — where he never fit in Todd McLellan’s plans — and ended on Long Island, where he sat for over half of the Isles’ opening-round playoff loss to the Caps.

As for where he’ll fit in the Devils lineup?

Kennedy said he’s ready to play tonight — the Devils take on Montreal — and it’s possible Stefan Matteau could be scratched, allowing Kennedy to stpe into a bottom-six forward role.

As for how the Devils will free a roster spot — Jiri Tlusty remains on IR with a shoulder issue, while David Schlemko could be away from the club for a bit, as his wife is due to give birth.

Rangers park Boyle, Stalberg in press box for Thanksgiving Showdown

Washington Capitals v New York Rangers - Game Seven
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I’m not going to make the “it really is Black Friday for Dan Boyle and Viktor Stalberg” joke, but had to recognize it as a semi-viable lede.

So that’s out of the way.

Now, onto the business at hand — per the New York Daily News, Boyle and Stalberg will be scratched today when the Rangers take on the Bruins in the annual Thanksgiving Showdown (1 p.m. ET, NBC). Dylan McIlrath will draw in on defense for Boyle, while Emerson Etem will take Stalberg’s spot up front.

It’s not really surprising Alain Vigneault made some lineup changes.

The Blueshirts’ last outing was arguably their worst of the season — a 5-1 home loss to the Canadiens, a game in which Boyle finished minus-2 and Stalberg played the least among all Rangers skaters, with just 11:20 TOI.

More: Dan Boyle isn’t thrilled with all these healthy scratches

What’s more, McIlrath hasn’t played in nearly two weeks (Nov. 15, versus Toronto). It’s been even longer for Etem — he’s been out of the lineup since a win over the Blues on Nov. 12.

Related: Just a friendly reminder about Friday’s Bruins-Rangers Thanksgiving Showdown, on NBC

Goal-starved Flyers recall AHL Phantoms leading scorer Cousins

Nazem Kadri

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.