Ten games were in full swing on Saturday night as the NHL continues to rev up its action. Competition is hot in the first third of the season as teams jockey for positioning. Former Islanders are instrumental on so many of those teams. Let us take a look at the FI contributions from Saturday night including 3 goals and 8 assists for 11 points (9 of those points from defenseman alone):
* Not to be one-upped by a foe FI defenseman, Roman Hamrlik shone in the Montreal Canadiens' 7-4 explosive win over the visiting Boston Bruins. Of course the rival d-man we are mentioning is Bruins' captain Zdeno Chara who also flashed some offensive brilliance. Hamrlik scored the game-winning goal and added an assist to cap a multi-point effort, his second such game of the season. In 19 games, Hamrlik has been an on-and-off force for Les Habs scoring 2 goals and 8 assists for 10 points. He has also taken a gentlemanly low 8 penalty minutes. Before Hamrlik turned it on Chara was there to bolster the early competition. Chara scored his first goal of the season and added a powerplay assist for a 2 point night. Chara has posted reasonable, yet mixed numbers, so far this season having now scored 10 points (1 goal, 9 assists) on 18 games this year. The tally snapped a 23 game goal-less streak dating back to last spring. As well, Chara extended his current point-scoring streak to 3 games having scored 1 goal and 3 assists for 4 points in that time.
* Defensive journeyman Brent Sopel had a couple of less-than-ordinary assists for Chicago in their 5-3 win over the host, Western Conference-leading Detroit Redwings. Sopel was credited with a shorthanded assist in the second and added a helper on the emtpy net goal for his first multi-point game since December 29, 2006, two teams ago with the Los Angeles Kings. Not renowned as an offensive powerhouse, Sopel has provided a stable 5 points (all assists) on 17 games this season. Let us go one stat further, the shorthanded assist was Sopel's second of the season. Sopel had gone 149 regular season games between shorthanded goals when he scored his first of the season on October 6, but he now has 2 in a span of only 16 games. Quite a step-up after 6+ years without any of these specialty helpers.
* As the Carolina Hurricanes downed the visiting Florida Panthers 2-1 on Saturday night, competing FIs yet again contributed. Jeff Hamilton received the secondary, powerplay assist on the opening goal of the game. On 21 games this season, Hamilton has 14 points on 5 goals and 9 assists. He has been especially effective on special teams where he has 4 goals and 6 assists with the man advantage. Panthers' captain Olli Jokinen gave as much as he could providing a powerplay assist in the too-little-too-late goal to conclude the game scoring. On 21 games this year, O-Jok has 9 goals and 12 assists for 21 points. With the assist, Jokinen snapped a 2 game point-less streak. Jokinen has also been very efficient on the powerplay scoring 7 of his 9 goals and an additional 5 extra man assists.
* Not famed for his mental acumen, Maple Leafs defenseman Bryan McCabe flashed some brilliance from his strong suit, offense, on Saturday night. Toronto blanked the Eastern Conference-leading Ottawa Senators 3-0 at home, with McCabe scoring powerplay assists on the first two goals. McCabe received first star of the game and now has 9 points (3 goals, 6 assists) on 15 games this year. He has scored 4 assists in the last 3 games all on the man advantage. In fact, the powerplay has been his saving grace as 7 of his 9 points (2 goals, 5 assists) have come with the extra skater.
* Out of the "I haven't heard that name in a while" file comes defenseman Jason Strudwick who scored the OT game winner in the New York Rangers' 4-3 win over the host Pittsburgh Penguins. Playing in his 14th game of the season, Strudwick notched his first point of the year. Where do you start with a rarity like this? The goal snapped a 49 game goal-less AND point-less streak dating back to January 28, 2006! It was Strudwick's first game winner since November 21, 2000 (last century!). A career 11 goal scorer, this was only the 2nd game winner ever for Strudwick.
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