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Sunday, October 15, 2006

STARRY NIGHT
On Sunday night, the Dallas Stars hope to make it a clean three-game sweep in Southern California.
After earning back-to-back victories over the L.A. Kings at the Staples Center (Thursday and Saturday), the Stars travel to Orange County to contend with the Anaheim Ducks. It's been a perfect start to the 2006-07 campaign for Dallas so far, with a road win at Colorado and home victory against the New Jersey Devils to add to the double destruction of the Kings. TheyÙll wind up the road trip Tuesday night at San Jose, before returning home for a Friday tilt with Chicago. Starting netminder Marty Turco, who has appeared in all four games to begin the campaign, may be between the pipes again on Sunday. Rookie Mike Smith is still looking for his first NHL appearance, but the 24-year-old puck-stopper may have to wait it out a little longer.

As for the Ducks, they're coming off their first loss of the season--a 5-4 shootout defeat at home against the New York Islanders--after wins against L.A., at Phoenix and against St. Louis. They've earned seven out of a possible eight points, but haven't yet reached peak form. After four games, they have produced 12 goals but only one from their vaunted defense corps (Chris Pronger). Captain Scott Niedermayer has three assists in four games, but regular partner Francois Beauchemin--a breakthrough player in 2005-06--has yet to register a point. As for the goaltending situation in Anaheim, Jean-Sebastien Giguere has so far appeared in three of the first four games (2-0-1, 1 SO, 2.27 GAA, .931 Sv%) but expect Ilya Bryzgalov (1-0-0, 1.00 GAA, .971 Sv%) to get the nod against the Stars Sunday night.

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SLICK OILERS
The Edmonton Oilers are quickly making believers out of all the naysayers that had them regressing this season.
Led by an explosive offense that hasn't been seen in Northern Alberta since the days of No. 99 (Wayne Gretzky), No. 11 (Mark Messier), No. 7 (Paul Coffey) and No. 17 (Jari Kurri), the Oilers are off to an impressive 3-1 start to the 2006-07 campaign. After splitting games with archrival Calgary last week, the Oilers came back to win impressively by a 6-4 margin Thursday night against San Jose.

On Saturday night, they came back once again to earn a 4-3 road win at Colorado. Long-time Oiler Ryan Smyth scored two more times against the Avs, giving him five goals in his last two games. While there are still question marks along the Edmonton blueline, so far they've past every test thrown their way.

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CAPITALS
With most of their forwards now back healthy--only Matt Pettinger (IR--shoulder) and Boyd Gordon (lower body) remain sidelined--the Capitals decided to send Czech winger Tomas Fleischmann back to the AHL's Hershey Bears on Friday. Acquired in the Robert Lang trade with Detroit in 2004, the 22-year-old Fleischmann figures to return to Washington later this season. Though he's mainly played left wing in the pros, he's expected to spend most of his days in Washington on the other side of the ice, since Alexander Ovechkin and Alexander Semin occupy the first two left-wing spots in Washington.

DEVILS
Defenseman David Hale (eye) is now expected to miss the next three weeks (at least), after undergoing retinal surgery prior to the start of the regular season. The 25-year-old Hale, who attended training camp as a restricted free agent without a contract and waited for the Devils to clear salary-cap space, was injured during the final days of the preseason. When he recovers, Hale is expected to play on the third defense pairing. For now, the team will continue to go with rookie Swede Johnny Oduya and former Shark Jim Fahey.

FLYERS
Instead of being out indefinitely due to a herniated disc in his back, veteran defenseman Mike Rathje will soon try to play through the pain. To that end, the 32-year-old Rathje received a cortisone injection over the weekend and will join the Flyers at practice on Tuesday in Buffalo. Rathje is the second Flyer to avoid a lengthy stay on the sidelines by taking cortisone, with the other being current starting netminder Antero Niittymaki (torn labrum in hip).

HURRICANES
Winger Trevor Letowski left the ice on a stretcher Saturday night against the Pittsburgh Penguins at Mellon Arena, after getting checked in the middle of the ice by Colby Armstrong. Letowski sustained a concussion, one day after being a healthy scratch in Atlanta. Also, defensemen Bret Hedican (upper body) and Glen Wesley (lower body), as well as left wing Andrew Ladd (arm), missed Saturday's game against the Pens. As a result, the 'Canes dressed only 17 skaters.

ISLANDERS
Starting netminder Rick DiPietro was unable to play in Saturday night's home opener because of a hip flexor. As a result, Mike Dunham made his second straight start for the Isles, while Wade Dubielewicz was summoned from the AHL's Bridgeport Sound Tigers to serve as Dunham's backup. DiPietro is considered day-to-day. Dunham won his second straight game by stopping 31 of 32 Bruins shots to go to 2-0 on the season. A goaltending controversy on Long Island? No.

LIGHTNING
Swedish center Andreas Karlsson continues to sit out because of his lingering groin issue, and missed both ends of the back-to-back series against the Florida Panthers this weekend. Eric Perrin continues to see action as the third-line center as a result, while head coach John Tortorella has dressed seven defensemen with Karlsson out of the lineup. However, veteran blueliner Luke Richardson is seeing very little ice time with his new team.

MAPLE LEAFS
As expected, Brendan Bell (ankle) made his regular-season debut Saturday night against the Calgary Flames, and finished with a minus-1 rating and two shots on goal in 12:18 of ice time. He replaced enforcer Wade Belak, who returned to right wing versus the Flames. Meanwhile, checking-line center Michael Peca missed Saturday night's game due to a lower body injury and was replaced by Matt Stajan between Chad Kilger and Alexander Steen. Peca is day-to-day.
 
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