No. 1 star: Sean Avery, Dallas Stars
You got it, he doesn't play and Sean Avery helps his team. The Dallas Stars won again Friday night as their controversial winger served the third of a six-game suspension announced earlier in the day. The Stars are now 2-1 without Avery, and the argument could be made this is Dallas' best three-game stretch of what has been a very trying early season for the proud team in the Lone Star State. The Stars won two of three games three times with Avery in the lineup, but only once did they do it over the course of four nights as has been the case during Dallas' current stretch. The difference is a 5-0 blowout loss at New Jersey sandwiched between a 2-1 win against the host Rangers and a 5-3 victory on Long Island during late October. Over the last four nights, Dallas won in Calgary 3-1, lost the next night in Edmonton 5-2 (it was a 3-2 game before the Oilers scored twice in the final minute and once into an empty net) and, after the long flight back to Texas, had enough energy to take a tight-checking game into a shootout where the Stars won 2-1 on Friday. With two games having allowed just one goal, and the other in which only three goals were scored in the first 59 minutes, just maybe the Stars are starting to resemble the real Dallas Stars again.
No. 2 star: Dion Phaneuf, Calgary Flames
Well, look at this strange twist of fate? The physical defenseman, who got dragged into the Avery controversy without any say in it, came up big on the offensive end as he figured in the scoring in all four goals of Calgary's overtime victory at St. Louis. Two of Phaneuf's helpers were of the primary variety, and two came on the power play. A plus-2, Phaneuf put five shots on goal while logging a game-high 29:02 of ice time.
No. 3 star: Cory Schneider, Vancouver Canucks
OK, maybe the rookie goalie wasn't tested that much, but a first career win is a special event, and it came on the road against a division rival when the Canucks needed a lift. Cory Schneider was 10-1 with a 1.37 goals-against average at the time of his promotion from the minors as a result of Roberto Luongo getting hurt. Schneider produced similar success at St. Paul by stopping 16 of 17 shots in Vancouver's rough-and-tumble 2-1 victory over Minnesota.
Honorable mention: Ales Hemsky scores Edmonton's shootout winner against Los Angeles' Jason LaBarbera, who was sparkling in a heavy relief load. … A goal and an assist from captain Jarome Iginla helped to ignite a comeback win for the Flames. … Struggling Dallas goalie Marty Turco was back to his old self against the Avalanche, who watched him stop 26 of 27 shots in regulation and three of four in the shootout to end their streak of eight straight wins during the skills' competition.
Dishonorable mention: The Oilers forgot to show up for the second period after enjoying a 3-0 lead after the first 20 minutes. Edmonton watched host Los Angeles score four goals in barely over half a period. … In a night of lost leads, the Blues got outshot 10-0 at the outset of the third period and blew a pair of two-goal leads while losing in overtime at home.
- Sean Avery