Over the first month-plus of a season, the top NHL scorers tend to start to sort themselves out. Sometimes, a newcomer sneaks in or an established offensive player has a slow start.
This season, pushed back more than three months and shortened to 48 games because of a lockout, the top 10 scorers are pretty much a roster of stars.
"I don't think there's any real easy way to predict how it's going to go or who's going to be where," said Penguins center Sidney Crosby, who before the games Saturday was tied with Buffalo's Thomas Vanek for the league lead with 25 points. "There are so many factors.
"Anybody who's on that list is playing well. There's still a lot of season left, though. That may change."
Steven Stamkos was third with 24 points, and Martin St. Louis was tied for fifth with 22. Those two Tampa Bay stars -- along with Crosby and linemate Chris Kunitz, who was 10th with 20 -- are expected to be on the ice tonight at Consol Energy Center when the Penguins play host to the Lightning.
Another Penguins player, Evgeni Malkin, was tied for eighth (21 points), but he will miss the game because of injury.
The others in the top 10 were Chicago's Patrick Kane (23 points), the New York Islanders' John Tavares (22), Detroit's Henrik Zetterberg (22) and New Jersey's Patrik Elias (21). All had played between 16 and 18 games.
"There's probably not anyone that you're surprised to see there," Crosby said.
Just like dad
With the formal portion of an optional practice over after about 25 minutes Saturday at Southpointe, Penguins wingers Craig Adams (Rhys and Francesca) and Kunitz (Zach) brought their young children onto the ice. They practiced hockey at a slightly slower pace than about 10 Penguins who moved to the other end of the ice.
"It's tough with our schedule, and the kids are busy, too, so it's nice we can get them out on the ice," Kunitz said.
Zach Kunitz seemed to instinctively head for the front of net, an area where his father makes his living.
"Unfortunately, he follows his dad," Kunitz said, smiling. "He should be a defenseman -- they get paid pretty well."
Adams, whose son Rhys became something of a star during HBO's reality series "24/7" leading up to the 2011 Winter Classic, noticed that the Kunitzes played alike.
"I saw him kicking a few pucks into the net, too," Adams joked of Zach Kunitz.
Chris Kunitz had a goal disallowed this week because it was ruled he kicked the puck into the net.
Vokoun enjoys Fleury's antics
With just 12 roster players plus unsigned defenseman Mark Eaton at practice, there was no shootout, something that often comes at the end of a workout. First-year backup goaltender Tomas Vokoun has enjoyed watching No. 1 goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury in those, when he can sneak a peek.
Fleury often lets his personality shine through. In addition to endless chatter aimed at the shooters, he taunts his teammates by performing all sorts of acts -- a couple of jumping jacks or pushups, or maybe a pirouette -- as they are closing in before he turns serious about making a save at the last second.
"Yeah, he just likes to have fun with it," Vokoun said of Fleury. "He's like a little kid sometimes. That's good. It's fun, and it's fun for the guys, too. For me, I'm just trying to save my energy because I can barely make it through it without doing all that stuff."
Vokoun has not seen another goalie act like that.
"No, not really," Vokoun said. "But he's good at it. He's quick enough to have time to get up and stop the puck."
Players who participated in practice were forwards Kunitz, Adams, Dustin Jeffrey, Zach Boychuk, Beau Bennett, Joe Vitale and Tyler Kennedy; defensemen Eaton, Deryk Engelland and Robert Bortuzzo, and the two goalies.
First Published February 24, 2013 5:00 AM