To measure the play of checking forwards, coaches use the plus-minus rating. In second-year wing Wayne Simmonds
(below), a powerful skater who was +20 at week's end, and heady veteran center Michal Handzus, who was +8, the Kings have two of the best—a big reason they're playoff-bound for the first time in eight seasons.... The finest rookies have been Sabres defenseman Tyler Myers, 20, who's averaging more than 23 minutes, and 19-year-old Avalanche center Matt Duchene, a magician with the puck who has scored 23 goals.... The top free-agent pickup of last summer? Mikael Samuelsson, whom the Canucks lured away from the Red Wings for three years and $7.5 million. The versatile winger has a career-high 30 goals.