News Blog: Wild about defense

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.

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$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.