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Jonathan Toews, Antti Niemi, and Johan Hedberg NHL’s three stars for February

Mar 1, 2011, 2:31 PM EDT

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February was a big month for Chicago’s Jonathan Toews. He finished the month with six goals and 15 assists and helped lead the Blackhawks to a 8-3-2 record. That record helped bring the Hawks from out of the playoff discussion to fifth place in the Western Conference. That kind of effort gets noticed and today the NHL named him the number one star for February. The Blackhawks captain has picked up his play enough that people are starting to whisper his name in talks about the Hart Trophy. We’re still a ways off from that and Chicago’s hold on the playoffs is still tenuous with things being as tight as they are in the West, but Toews’ play is the glue holding it together.

Antti Niemi‘s great February that saw him go 10-2-0 with a 1.89 goals against average and a .934 save percentage with three shutouts was more than good enough to earn him the second star of the month. With Niemi taking charge, the Sharks have stormed to the lead in the Pacific Division and third place in the Western Conference. His play was also inspiring enough to Sharks GM Doug Wilson to give him a four-year contract extension.

Johan Hedberg‘s work to get the New Jersey Devils out of the basement and thinking about the playoffs during February didn’t go unnoticed either. With Martin Brodeur sidelined with an injury, Hedberg stepped in and provided seamless and steady work between the pipes. Hedberg went 7-1-1 with a 1.43 goals against average and a .943 save percentage with two shutouts in 10 games. That kind of action made Hedberg the NHL’s number three star of the month. The Devils resurgence in the second half can be pinned on Hedberg as much as it can new-old coach Jacques Lemiare. Without Hedberg’s steady play while Brodeur was out, the Devils are dead in the water. Instead they’re hanging on the fringes of the playoff discussion which is a lot better than where they were before.

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