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THN.com Blog: Wild about defense

Sam McCaig
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The Hockey News
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THN.com Blog: Wild about defense

Sam McCaig
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From zero to 4.60
Toronto, Los Angeles and Atlanta have each given up more goals per game than the Minnesota Wild has surrendered all season. The Leafs, with a league-high 29 goals against through seven contests, have a 4.14 goals-against average, while the Kings are at 4.50 and the Thrashers 4.60. The Wild, meanwhile, have three shutouts in five games and have allowed four goals all season for a stingy 0.80 GAA.

Sens' stamina
There's no debating Ottawa's talent level and depth; the Senators are one of the best teams in the NHL, period. But it's still a little surprising to see the Senators get off to such a strong start (6-1-0) after enduring a lengthy playoff run to the Stanley Cup final, followed by an abbreviated off-season. The Anaheim Ducks, who bested Ottawa in five games in the 2007 final, have won just two of their first seven games this season (2-4-1).

Atlanta's issues
The Atlanta Thrashers, featuring Marian Hossa, Ilya Kovalchuk and Slava Kozlov, have nine goals – and zero victories – through five games. The Thrashers, who made their post-season debut last season, started 2007-08 with a 0-5-0 record, surely putting coach Bob Hartley on notice. “When you're 0-5-0, everything is an issue,” Hartley told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “It's as simple as this.” One of the team's issues is the fact it the Thrashers are averaging a league-worst 22 shots per game, but are allowing about 35 shots against.

$weet 16
Sixteen NHL players are earning at least $7 million this season, including $10-million men Thomas Vanek of Buffalo, Philadelphia's Daniel Briere and the Rangers' Scott Gomez. At $7.15 million, Leafs defenseman Bryan McCabe is the most overpaid. He's making more than Jarome Iginla ($7 million), Joe Sakic ($6.75 million) and Joe Thornton ($6.67 million), among others. Philadelphia's Kimmo Timonen, at $8 million this season (including signing bonus), Detroit's Nicklas Lidstrom ($7.6 million) and Boston's Zdeno Chara ($7.5 million) are the only three blueliners making more than McCabe.

Nik on the rise
Toronto's Nik Antropov, a frequent and favorite whipping boy of Leafs fans in past seasons, leads the league at plus-9; three other players are plus-6, including fellow Toronto pivot Matt Stajan. At the other end, five players are minus-7, including Kings defenseman Rob Blake.

Not-so-special teams
Calling Sheldon Souray: The Edmonton Oilers are 1-for-25 on the power play this season, despite adding Souray's howitzer from the point. Not all is lost, though: Edmonton's rival in the Northwest Division, the Minnesota Wild, are 5-0-0 despite starting the season 1-for-19 on the man advantage. On the penalty kill, Ottawa is operating at 97-percent efficiency, negating 32 of 33 man-down situations.

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THN.com Blog: Wild about defense