THE HOT SEAT
Phil Kessel: The most talented player on the Toronto Maple Leafs has just three goals and two assists over his last 14 games. Kessel is the third-leading scorer on his team, behind Clarke MacArthur and Mikhail Grabovski. He performed well last year despite the pressure of a large contract and the high cost to acquire him from Boston. This year, Kessel has not played up to his standards -- even if he is still on a pace to score close to 40 goals.
PLAYER OF THE WEEK
Ondrej Pavelec: So many worthy candidates, but let's salute Pavelec for his starring role in the turnaround of the Atlanta Thrashers, winners of five straight. This week, Pavelec allowed just two goals over three wins against Detroit, Montreal and Boston. That's on 101 shots against, including 42 in Atlanta's 4-1 win Sunday over the Bruins.
QUOTE OF THE WEEK
"I'm not gonna get into a He Said-She Said thing with the refs. I'm a He." -- irritated, but smiling Flyers defenseman Chris Pronger after being called for the "Avery Rule" in overtime Friday, negating a game-winning goal in a 3-2 shootout loss to Calgary.
JACK ADAMS AWARD WATCH
This week, the Cycle looks at the NHL's best coaches at the quarter-pole.
1. Scott Arniel: The first-year coach inherited a better squad in Columbus than GM Scott Howson is credited for assembling, but Arniel has done a superb job giving the Blue Jackets an identity. if Arniel can get this team into the playoffs and somehow develop Nikita Filatov on the fly, he'll lock up one of the three Adams nominations.
2. Davis Payne: The Blues have come back to earth after a 10-1 start. Still, Payne has his team playing disciplined, hard and for each other.
3. Jacques Martin: After hearing all summer how their rise to the Eastern Conference Final was all about Jaroslav Halak, the Canadiens continue to play well with Carey Price in goal. The constant is the coaching staff led by Martin and deputy Kirk Muller.
Ones to Watch: Terry Murray deserves applause for being the instructor in Dean Lombardi's steady rebuild in Los Angeles. The Atlanta Thrashers, behind another veteran teacher in Craig Ramsay, could be one of the surprise teams in the East.
BEST PERFORMANCES OF THE WEEK
1. Sidney Crosby, Pittsburgh vs. Calgary, Saturday: Just another afternoon for the artist formerly known as Sid the Kid -- a hat trick in his team's 4-1 win over the Flames, including his 200th career NHL regular season goal. His goals were at even strength, on the power play and shorthanded. The shorthanded goal, his milestone tally, was with Calgary goaltender Miikka Kiprusoff pulled late for an extra attacker.
2. Dustin Byfuglien, Atlanta vs. Boston, Sunday: A majority of the hockey world laughed when Thrashers general manager Rick Dudley first told FanHouse in August that he was seriously considering making Byfuglien a full-time defenseman. Now Byfuglien is one of the best two-way defensemen in the league, as his dominating performance in a 4-1 win over the Bruins illustrated. Big Buff had a goal and three assists and was plus-2 in 20:49 of icetime.
3. Alexander Semin, Washington vs. Tampa Bay, Friday: Semin scored three goals in a span of 4:29 in the second period for his fourth career hat trick. After the Capitals' 6-0 wipeout of the Lightning, teammate Nicklas Backstrom said of Semin, "I don't know if I've even seen anyone more skilled than him." Strong words, considering Backstrom plays on the Washington Capitals.
Plays Of The Week
1. Jame Benn, Dallas Stars: We always see players perform the "Peter Forsberg Move" on penalty shots and during the shootouts, but it's not every day you see somebody gutsy enough to pull it off during actual game play like Jamie Benn did in 3-2 win against St. Louis this week. The goal tied the game at two in the third period.
2. Nik Zherdev, Philadelphia Flyers: Nik Zherdev is the definition of an enigma. Brilliant at times, frustrating at others. During Philadelphia's shootout loss to Calgary on Friday, the brilliant Zherdev was on display with this goal.
3. Dan Hamhuis, Vancouver Canucks: Just because it's worth one more look: This is how you perform a hip check. Perfect.
Bizarre Video Of The Week: Kevin Weekes Meets A Zamboni:
And it doesn't even disrupt him. He just keeps going like nothing is out of the ordinary.
GAMES TO WATCH THIS WEEK
Islanders vs. Rangers, Thursday and Friday: The New York-New York rival is not close to what it was in the '70s and '80s, but the home-and-home series between the rivals this week will be a fascinating watch. With the Islanders just having ended a 14-game losing streak, this is a chance to put the pain behind them by securing four points in two nights against the Rangers. For John Tortorella's impressive squad, it's a chance to put the other New York team in its rear-view mirror. Just one-quarter into the season, the Rangers are 14 points up on the Islanders.