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Norris Trophy Watch: Lidstrom still a contender

At 40 years old, Nicklas Lidstrom is still one of the best with nine points through eight games. (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images)

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At 40 years old, Nicklas Lidstrom is still one of the best with nine points through eight games. (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images)

James Wisniewski’s two-game suspension early this year landed his name in the headlines, but it’s his stellar play that’s keeping it there.

Lewd gestures aside, Wisniewski is off to a torrid start this season, especially with the man advantage. In fact, when it comes to power play points, everybody in the league – Steven Stamkos, Sidney Crosby, all of ’em – can get behind the Islander assassin and his 10, which have come in just seven games thanks to the aforementioned disciplinary issue. Wisniewski has a point in every game he’s suited up for this year and is tied for the defenseman scoring lead with Colorado’s John-Michael Liles at 11.

The 2004 major junior defenseman of the year boasts a wicked point shot, which is a big reason why the surprising Islanders have the third-best power play unit in the league.

Wisniewski’s minus-3 rating indicates things aren’t going quite so well at 5-on-5, but for a 26-year-old eligible to become an unrestricted free agent next summer, things are shaping up nicely so far.

One of the biggest back end stories in the NHL this year is the re-vamped Penguins blueline. The biggest news is the internal growth from young rearguards Alex Goligoski and Kris Letang, the latter of whom has put up nine points in 10 games, while the former has seven. Even better, Letang’s plus-7 mark leads the Pens, while Goligoski is second at plus-6. Toss in the ultra-cool addition of Paul Martin and, when fellow free agent signee Zbynek Michalek returns from a shoulder injury, Pittsburgh will have a great defensive foundation for its new house.

And they better stay good, because Marc-Andre Fleury’s save percentage is the second-worst in the league at .861…but that’s a story for Vezina Watch.

Strangest defenseman stat of the new season? Washington rover Mike Green has not been on the ice for a single Caps power play goal this year.

Check out this discussion in video form as well.

Game of the Month:
The Islanders lost 5-3 to Montreal on Wednesday, Oct. 27, but Wisniewski did his best to get the win, wiring a goal and drawing two first assists. He also led all Islanders in ice time with 24:05.

THE HOCKEY NEWS NORRIS TROPHY WATCH

RK.

TEAM

PLAYER

MAKING THE CASE

1

Detroit Red Wings

Nicklas Lidstrom

Ho-hum, just a 40-year-old who – when you add everything up – is still the guy you’d want most on the ice when the game is on the line. Lidstrom has nine points in eight games, is plus-3 and plays almost 25 minutes a night.

2

Colorado Avalanche

John-Michael Liles

Remember when everyone thought Colorado was going to trade this guy? He’s got points in all but one game this year, is plus-7 and tied for the league lead in ‘D’ scoring.

3

Pittsburgh Penguins

Kris Letang

Coming into his own at age 23.

4

Edmonton Oilers

Ryan Whitney

Long thought to have much potential, Whitney has been a bright light on a defensively loose team. His 26:39 of average ice is third-most league-wide and he has eight assists in eight contests.

5

Boston Bruins

Zdeno Chara

New contract extension, same player. ‘Big Z’s’ freakish conditioning allows him to play more than 28 minutes a night and he’s got two goals in four points through seven games.

6

Chicago Blackhawks

Duncan Keith

The points aren’t coming just yet, but Joel Quenneville can’t keep this guy off the ice; Keith plays more than any NHLer at 29:25 per game. Is this June or October?

7

Pittsburgh Penguins

Alex Goligoski

His three goals are tied for the league blueliner lead with Dustin Byfuglien, Tyler Myers and Brent Burns.

8

Atlanta Thrashers

Tobias Enstrom

Probably the most underrated rearguard in the league. He plays almost 26 efficient minutes a night and boasts eight points in nine games.

9

New York Islanders

James Wisniewski

Hot start is great, but focus will be consistency and defensive play

10

Philadelphia Flyers

Chris Pronger

Nothing great stat-wise, but you know the big man will always be there when it counts.

Outside Looking In: Things have been pretty gruesome on the back end in Anaheim so far, but tough to pin much on Lubomir Visnovsky. The veteran has eight points in 10 games and plays 26 minutes a night, more than any other Duck and just about everyone in the league. Other notables: Brent Seabrook, Paul Martin, Dustin Byfuglien.

THN.com's Norris Trophy Watch will appear monthly throughout the season and don't miss out as we'll also track the Hart, Vezina and Jack Adams.

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