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The Hockey News

The Hockey News

The Christmas season has passed, but miracles haven't ceased.

Tuesday's game between Carolina and Toronto alone contained two astounding events – not including the fact the Leafs won a hockey game.

The first incredible happening was Sergei Samsonov scoring three points in a single NHL game, bringing his season total to eight.

Samsonov's goal was the first time he's found the back of the net all year. In fact, it was his first tally (not including the AHL, of course) since Feb. 22, 2007.

His last three-point game? Try April 3, 2006, during the first year of the new, freewheeling NHL geared toward accentuating skilled, fast players regardless of their size.

The second item of wonder was Andrew Ladd scoring a nice goal despite suffering the damaging disadvantage of wearing a full-cage facemask.

Ladd, who sustained a fractured bone under his eye a couple of weeks back, proved there's no obstacle – even one adorned with clips and wires – the human spirit can't overcome.

Dare we glean, from Ladd's ability to shoot the puck, find a rebound and fire it past Vesa Toskala, that other NHLers might have both the aptitude and fighting spirit to overcome the impediment of sporting the protective facemasks they all wore into their teenage years?

To some, Ladd's goal was merely one tally on a random Tuesday.

To others, it represented the foundation of a dream that sanity and scoring can co-exist.

Now that I've nearly poked my tongue through my cheek, do my eyes deceive me or are the Phoenix Coyotes really chasing down a playoff spot in the West?

Their ascent has coincided with the crash of Chicago, and just as the Hawks, in happier times, were led by a pair of rookies, the Coyotes lead dog of late has been a freshman.

Peter Mueller has six points in his last four games, throwing his hat into a Calder Trophy race made at least a little tighter by the emergence of Washington's Nicklas Backstrom and the injury to Jonathan Toews.

With Mueller up to fifth in the rookie scoring race, teammate Martin Hanzal one spot behind and last year's third overall pick, Kyle Turris, tearing up the college ranks, it's officially OK to start making horrifically clichéd observations like "Phoenix is rising" and "Things are about to heat up in the desert."

Ryan Dixon is a writer and copy editor for The Hockey News magazine, the co-author of the book Hockey's Young Guns and a regular contributor to His blog appears Wednesdays and his column, Top Shelf, appears every second Friday.

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