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Kunitz out of shadows

PITTSBURGH -- Chris Kunitz planted himself in the crease, bent over, put his stick on the ground and waited.

Even as a New York Islanders defenceman leaned on the Pittsburgh Penguins forward trying to nudge him away from goaltender Evgeni Nabokov, Kunitz's skates appeared to be glued to the ice.

When the pass came from teammate James Neal moments later, Kunitz -- a statue in the middle of chaos -- casually tapped it into the wide-open net.

With an almost sheepish grin, the nine-year veteran lifted his stick in celebration, as if to say, "Again? For real?"

For real.

Such is life these days for one of the NHL's hottest players, one who has spent most of his nine-year career living comfortably in the shadow of his high-profile teammates only to find himself maybe becoming one himself.

A quick scan of the NHL's leading scorers more than halfway through the season includes the usual suspects, including Pittsburgh's Sidney Crosby and Tampa Bay's Steven Stamkos at the top.

At the moment, it also includes a blue-collar guy who has developed a knack for lighting the red lamp.

Heading into tonight's showdown with the Boston Bruins, Kunitz is third in the league in scoring. His 36 points on 17 goals and 19 assists puts him well ahead of guys whose résumés are littered with all-star appearances and whose paychecks come with a few more zeros.

The 31-year-old's plus/minus ratio of plus-21 is the highest in the league and he's turning an eye-popping 29 per cent of his shots into goals. Kunitz, as is his way, insists he's not doing anything differently.

Ask Kunitz what's the secret to the dramatic uptick in his production and he deflects any praise onto a guy more used to the spotlight.

"I get to play with the best player in the world every night," Kunitz said, nodding toward Crosby's locker. "It makes going out and playing a lot of fun."

 

Montador put on waivers

CHICAGO -- A person familiar with the situation says the Chicago Blackhawks have placed defenceman Steve Montador on waivers.

The person spoke Monday on the condition of anonymity because the deal has not been announced. Teams have until noon today to claim him or Chicago will retain his rights.

Montador has appeared in only one game since he suffered a concussion in February 2012 and that was in late March. He has not played this season.

 

Coyotes sign top pick

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- The Phoenix Coyotes have signed forward Henrik Samuelsson, their first-round draft pick last year, to a three-year entry-level contract.

Coyotes general manager Don Maloney announced the signing Monday, but didn't disclose financial details.

The 19-year-old Samuelsson is from Scottsdale and is the son of former NHL defenceman and ex-Coyotes assistant coach Ulf Samuelsson.

He has been playing for the Western Hockey League's Edmonton Oil Kings and has 32 goals and 47 assists in 67 games this season. He currently ranks third on the team in goals and points.


-- from the news services

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition March 12, 2013 D2

History

Updated on Tuesday, March 12, 2013 at 10:24 AM CDT: corrects headline

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