Around the league: Senators on fire
It's still a bit early to draw conclusions, but the Ottawa Senators
are 3-for-3 against their bitter rivals, the Toronto Maple Leafs this
Dany Heatley's four goals Saturday night led the Senators to an 8-0
blasting of the Leafs that caused hockey observers throughout North
America to take note. In Ottawa, the fans are jubilant and can't help
but feel optimistic that their homeboys are on the verge of ending
the Leafs' mastery particularly stinging in the Stanley Cup
"They've got a lot more offense," Toronto defenseman Bryan McCabe
said of the Sens. "But gritty? Who knows? We'll see. It's a long
The teams meet eight times during the regular season, so there's
plenty of room for the momentum pendulum to swing the other way.
Meanwhile, Ottawa continues to be one of the NHL's early season
"The rivalry is huge," said veteran Ottawa goalie Dominik Hasek, who
stood tall in two shootout victories and was in the nets for Saturday
night's massacre of Toronto. "Everybody talks about beating the Maple
Leafs, but now it's over. We needed this win."
Hasek has been a large part of the Ottawa makeover, which began after
the Leafs eliminated Ottawa in the 2004 playoffs. That series cost
coach Jacques Martin his job he's now the coach at Florida. Bryan
Murray took over behind the bench. It also led to the departure of
fixtures such as goalie Patrick Lalime, forward Radek Bonk and winger
Marian Hossa, who was dealt over the summer to Atlanta for Heatley.
"I'm having a lot of fun with this team," said Heatley, who asked to
be traded so he could start anew after being behind the wheel in a
serious auto accident in 2003 that killed former Atlanta teammate Dan
Snyder. Heatley set a club record longest point streak from the
start of a season by recording at least one point in each of the
Senator's first 10 games this season (8 goals, 9 assists). Heatley
and linemate Jason Spezza, give Ottawa one of the most prolific
scoring tandems in the league.
"I was just trying to get playing again," said Heatley, who missed
most of the 2003-04 season recovering from injuries sustained in the
accident. "Whatever was written about me in the past doesn't affect
me. I wanted a good start and to help this team win. I think I've
improved, I'm confident and I'm happy to be here."
This could be the year of the Senator. Ottawa has the youngest team
in the league, but its players have plenty of post-season experience.
The big question that remains is whether they have the heart and grit
to overcome Toronto or someone comparable come playoff time.
One thing is certain: Firepower is not the issue. Neither is
goaltending, where the 40-year-old Hasek is showing signs of being as
dominant as he was 10 years ago. Hence the nickname, "The Dominator."
Meanwhile, the inevitable letdown occurred Sunday night as Ottawa
dropped a 5-3 decision at home to rested Philadelphia. It couldn't
erase the sweet taste of three wins over Toronto, however.
Elsewhere around the league:
Buffalo Sabres The loss of premier defenseman Toni Lydman to a
groin injury comes at a bad time for the Sabres. Lydman led all
Buffalo defensemen in ice time more than 21 minutes a game and
had one goal and five assists.
"We don't exactly know what the severity of it is," said Sabres coach
Lindy Ruff. "We can go day-to-day. It's tough."
Left wing Taylor Pyatt will also be out indefinitely after suffering
a head injury in a 3-2 loss to New Jersey on Friday (Oct. 28). Ruff
is unsure when Pyatt, who is being evaluated for a concussion, might
return. Enforcer Andrew Peters will replace Pyatt in the lineup.
Boston Bruins Defenseman Jonathan Girard's gallant attempt to
return to pro hockey from near-fatal auto accident has apparently
ended. Girard, who suffered a broken neck and shattered pelvis in a
July 2003 wreck in Quebec, went home last week after starting the
season with Boston's Providence minor league team, for which he
played just one game. Girard is reportedly seeking medical advice and
Insurance issues will reportedly weigh heavily in his decision,
according to several public reports, because Girard could forfeit a
$3 million insurance payout if he plays in 20 pro games, which
includes the NHL and the minor leagues.
"I'm sure that's part of his decision," said Boston GM Mike
O'Connell. "Let's put it this way: I know it's an issue for him, but
I don't know the specifics of the insurance, the money, all that."
Montreal Canadiens Defenseman Sheldon Souray is in the midst of a
nasty domestic dispute with his wife, former Baywatch actress
Angelica Bridges, who is accusing him of spousal abuse. The former
Playboy magazine cover girl claims, according to court documents
filed in a California family court last Friday, that she has "often
for good reason been afraid for my safety" because of
Souray's "violent outbursts, threats, insults and physically
Bridges was granted a restraining order until Nov. 21. According to
court documents filed by her attorney, Bridges said, "I have tried
over the years to tell (Souray) that he should leave his physical
force and intimidation on the ice."
The two apparently were involved in an incident Friday at Souray's
Montreal apartment that resulted in the police being called.
Toronto Maple Leafs Coach Pat Quinn was fined for venting his
comments about the new wide-open NHL. A traditionalist with a long
history as a player and coach in the NHL, Quinn isn't enamored of the
rules changes, saying: "Where it is right now, in spite of everybody
saying, 'Oh, I love the new game,' I don't love the new game. I don't
think it's hockey. It's special teams situations and we've got
gimmicks to decide games. It's totally different. You're not going to
see the physical playoff style if everybody is afraid of penalties.
So far, we've won our games on special teams and we've lost our games
on special teams. Five-on-five is like the dodo bird."
One report out of Toronto claimed Quinn was fined $10,000 for airing
his remarks. So much for freedom of speech, eh?
New York Rangers There is something about the Montreal Canadiens
that brings out the best in Rangers forward Dominic Moore, who scored
two goals Saturday night in a 5-2 victory over Les Habitants. The
Harvard University graduate had three assists in his NHL debut in
2003-04. The 25-year-old center has captured the fancy of coach Tom
Renney, who called Moore a "relentless player."
New York Islanders The Islanders' slow start this season cannot be
laid at the feet of captain Alexei Yashin, who had seven goals and
eight assists in his team's first 11 games. Keeping opposing pucks
out of their net has been the problem for the Isles, who ranked 25th
in the NHL in goals-against average (3.70) after the weekend.
New Jersey Devils Further proof that enforcers are going the way of
the dinosaur can be found in Jersey, where GM Lou Lamoriello released
Krzystof Oliwa last week. Oliwa, who led the NHL in fighting majors
with 31 in 2003-04, cleared waivers.
"When we signed Oliwa, it was two years ago," said Lamoriello. "The
game was different at that time than it is today. There was a lot
more emphasis on that kind of role player. The game has changed and
you adjust accordingly."
Philadelphia Flyers Before their Sunday night encounter with
Ottawa, the Flyers learned that leader and veteran center Keith
Primeau would not be in the lineup. Primeau was scratched with
apparent concussion symptoms after two days of headaches and
"I have been feeling lethargic the last couple of days, and it has
progressively gotten worse," said Primeau, who was hit in the jaw in
a game last week against Montreal.
The Flyers captain missed 21 games down the stretch in 2003-04 after
suffering a concussion against the Rangers and, two other times in
the playoffs, sustained head injuries that didn't force him from the
"It's a lot similar symptoms as last time," said Primeau, who was
expected to be out at least the rest of the week.
Pittsburgh Penguins The fact that the Pens lost 10 of their first
11 games apparently did not put coach Ed Olczyk in danger of losing
his job. So said GM Craig Patrick.
"At this point, we have to adjust the mix of the players," said
Patrick, adding that firing Olczyk is "not a consideration."
Patrick is reportedly in trade talks with several NHL teams even
though the Penguins added several marquee free agents in the off-
season in addition to winning the lottery to draft forward Sidney
Crosby No. 1 overall.
To make matters worse, Pittsburgh lost the services of offensive
defenseman Dick Tarnstrom to a torn MCL in his left knee. The injury
will not require surgery, but Tarnstrom is expected to miss about
Florida Panthers An uneasy feeling gripped members of the Panthers
as they left South Florida for Pittsburgh last week, just before
Hurricane Wilma's arrival. The storm damaged the BankAtlantic Center
and a number of homes belonging to the players. Several families
temporarily relocated to Toronto, where the Panthers opened a four-
game road swing with a 2-1 loss to the Leafs Monday night.
"Us Canadians, we're used to some bad winters," said Panthers left
wing Gary Roberts. "But hurricanes at over 100 mile-an-hour winds is
a step up."
Washington Capitals Call it a return to sanity for veteran Capitals
goalie Olie Kolzig, who saw an average of 38 shots a game in
Washington's first eight outings. In one of those games, Florida took
28 shots in one period to set a record for most shots allowed in a
period. In the next two games, however, the Capitals allowed a total
of only 45 shots.
"Something needed to change," said captain Jeff Halpern after the
Caps allowed 17 shots in a victory over Buffalo and 28 to Tampa Bay
in a loss.
"We changed the system," Kolzig said. "We're not allowing teams easy
entry into our zone. We're really limiting odd-man rushes, and the
penalty killing has really picked up. That's all contributed to the
lower shot count against us."
Kolzig said an average of 10 shots a period is a good standard to aim
"That's ideal," he said, hoping the trend continues.
Carolina Hurricanes One might think filling the skates of retired
captain Ron Francis would be a daunting task, but don't tell that to
Rod Brind'Amour. In Carolina's first 10 games, Brind'Amour felt no
pressure as the new Hurricane captain and had 12 points.
"The best way to put it is that when Ronnie was here, Rod just kind
of stayed on the backburner," forward Erik Cole told the News &
Observer in Raleigh, N.C. "We've seen a little more of leadership
come out ... we see a lot more of his personality now. It used to be
he kept a little more to himself, kind of went about his business.
This year he's really opened himself up to the guys."
Tampa Bay Lightning Coach John Tortorella offered a half-apology to
Atlanta's Erik Boulton, whom he skewered recently following Boulton's
elbowing of the Lightning's Paul Ranger. Tortorella said a coach
shouldn't criticize another team's players.
"I respect what players have to do in this league, especially those
types of players who do a lot of things other people aren't willing
to do," Tortorella said to the St. Petersburg Times. "But there still
has to be some honor in it."
Ranger said Boulton called him and "felt pretty bad." Ranger said he
apologized, adding that he didn't think Boulton meant to cheap shot
"It was a natural kind of reaction," said Ranger. "I kind of fumbled
for the puck and he tried to catch a piece of me."
Atlanta Thrashers Veteran captain Scott Mellanby is expected to
rejoin the Thrashers soon. The right wing suffered a groin strain
last week against the Islanders. His loss left Atlanta with just 18
healthy skaters. Meanwhile, goalie Kari Lehtonen is expected to miss
another month with a groin strain.
Detroit Red Wings Manny Legace has arrived, ar at least he had
before suffering a knee injury Tuesday night. Any questions about
Legace's ability to carry the load for an elite team, when healthy,
have been erased by the Red Wings' early season dominance. Last week,
Legace became the first goaltender to win 10 games in a month.
"When my grandkids are around, I'll be able to tell them I wasn't
just a slug in a rocking chair," said Legace.
The Wings were off to the best start (12-1) in team history. Legace
got a breather Saturday night when veteran Chris Osgood was in the
nets for Detroit's 4-2 win over Chicago.
Columbus Blue Jackets Fighting is on the decline in the NHL this
season, but enforcer Jody Shelley savors the opportunity to drop the
gloves. Recently, Shelley had a go with Nashville's Darcy Hordichuk.
"It was awesome to air it out," said Shelley, who led the league in
fighting majors (27) and penalty minutes (249) in 2002-03. He
followed that season with 30 fighting majors in '03-04. The tango
with Hordichuk was just Shelley's second fight of the season.
"That was the longest I've ever gone without a fight since I started
playing junior," he said. "You get antsy, you get edgy, you get
Chicago Blackhawks Disappointed by the Hawks' poor start after such
high expectations, coach Trent Yawney decided he'd had enough. During
the morning skate before Saturday's loss to Detroit, Yawney observed
his players skating for eight minutes, didn't like what he saw and
booted them off the ice.
"There was a lack of execution, and they acted like they didn't want
to be out there," said Yawney, hired last summer to replace Brian
Sutter. "I didn't want to waste their time or my time."
The tactic seemed to inspire the Blackhawks, who played an OK game
but still lost to the Red Wings 4-2 before 20,658 at United Center.
Yawney wasn't ready to brag about lighting a fire under the players.
"You be the judge," he said. "Five years ago, I went down to the
minor leagues with basically nothing, a bunch of players. I had to
create an environment that you could build a foundation off of, so I
know what I'm up against here."
St. Louis Blues As if things weren't bad enough for the Blues. In
the midst of losing three straight road games last week, the Blues
lost captain Dallas Drake for two games. Drake was suspended by the
NHL following an illegal check on Anaheim's Corey Perry on Friday
night (Oct. 28).
The league levied the suspension after Anaheim put Perry on the
injured reserve list with a concussion.
"I was really surprised and shocked," Drake said upon learning of the
concussion. "They said they want to keep the physical play in the
game. That's all I did was finish my check there. I don't see that
there was anything wrong with the hit. Obviously, they did. That's
their choice I think a bad choice on their part."
The hit will cost Drake more than $12,000 in salary. He is eligible
to return Friday night (Nov. 4) when the Blues play host to Edmonton.
Nashville Predators GM David Poile surprised even himself during
the off-season when he was able to land superstar winger Paul Kariya
as an unrestricted free agent.
"A couple of major factors came into play with Paul," said
Poile. "There were some out there who didn't believe Nashville
belonged in the league. We're in a non-traditional hockey market and
we'd never had the money to spend on free agency."
Poile bucked up $9 million over two seasons for Kariya.
"So it was important to show the league and people around the country
we're serious here about competing in a league where the playing
field has evened out financially. But primarily it was a message to
Anaheim Mighty Ducks GM Brian Burke was not happy about the hit St.
Louis captain Dallas Drake laid on his player, Corey Perry, Friday
night (Oct. 28).
"It was an intentional shot to the head," said Burke. "No question
about it. I didn't like it when I saw it, and on replay I liked it
even less. It would have been wonderful hit if (Perry) had the puck,
During the game, Burke called Colin Campbell, NHL director of hockey
operations, to inform him of the hit, but Campbell had already seen
the play on TV in Toronto. Drake was suspended for two games without
Dallas Stars Goaltender Marty Turco has never encountered a stretch
like the one he's going through, and he has no idea why. In his last
five games going into the weekend, Turco allowed five goals three
times. In another game, he was yanked after surrendering three goals
on nine shots.
"I feel great, I'm doing the things I should be doing," said
Turco. "I mean, obviously, there's stuff you can work on every day,
but I don't feel like I'm making mistakes that should allow four or
five goals to be scored."
Turco's career goals-against average of 1.91 coming into this season
is in danger of serious inflation because his current goals-against
is 3.64, to go with an unimpressive .872 save percentage. Very un-
Turco-like numbers, to be sure.
San Jose Sharks Bryan Marchment, recently picked up by the Calgary
Flames, reflected on his extended stay with the Sharks as the best
time of his career. Marchment has played for nine clubs, but his six-
season tenure in San Jose holds a lot of good memories.
"I was very, very happy to have been a part of it here," he said
recently before a Flames-Sharks game at HP Pavilion. "My family was
upset we had to leave."
Marchment was traded by the Sharks to Colorado in 2003. He's in
Calgary with former Sharks coach Darryl Sutter to help fill the void
left by defenseman Robyn Regehr, out with a knee injury.
Los Angeles Kings It's always satisfying for a player to have a big
night against a former team. Pavol Demitra had the chance to
experience that feeling Saturday night (Oct. 29) when the right wing
scored two goals in the Kings' victory over the St. Louis Blues, who
opted to let Demitra walk after the 2003-04 season. Demitra signed a
multiyear deal with the Kings as an unrestricted free agent in 2004.
"It was a little bit weird I was there for so long," said Demitra,
who scored his sixth and seventh goals of the season. "I had a hard
time to sleep in the afternoon. I was pumped up. Craig Conroy (Kings
center) was there, too. Every time you go on the ice, you want to
beat those guys and win the game."
Conroy noticed the elevated adrenaline level in Demitra during the
"He played there so long," he said. "Usually I can understand him,
but (Saturday night) I couldn't even understand what he was saying to
me. I think it was just Slovak. He was pretty happy, though."
Phoenix Coyotes It's not so great being the king in Phoenix, where
rookie coach Wayne Gretzky has had to use tough love in an attempt to
get the Coyotes on the right track.
First he had to limit good friend Brett Hull's ice time, which led to
his retirement. Since then, he's had to pull another friend Curtis
Joseph from goal during a rocky outing and bench another buddy,
family friend Mike Comrie. Gretzky has also had sit a number of
"I think the message being sent is, you'd better play well or else
there's a chance you might be next," defenseman David Tanabe told the
Colorado Avalanche The buzz in Colorado surrounds Brett Clark, a
relatively unknown 28-year-old defenseman who has stepped up and
earned a job. In fact, Clark's play has been so impressive, he has
bumped veterans Kurt Sauer and Bob Boughner from the lineup.
"Last year, I could develop and work on some things I needed to work
on," said Clark, who played for the Hershey Bears of the AHL during
the lockout. "It was tough not to have any NHL, but playing was good
for me. I wanted to go there and work hard. It helped a lot, and so
far, so good this year."
Coming into the season, Clark was considered a depth guy who would
probably play a lot in the minors and be available to fill in when
"He's been great," said coach Joel Quenneville of Clark. "He had a
great camp, and we made the decision to open the season with eight
defensemen because we thought he could play and contribute at our
Minnesota Wild Tough guy Andrei Nazarov became the latest enforcer
to lose his job when the Wild cut him loose. Nazarov cleared waivers
over the weekend. With the rules changes, teams can no longer afford
to carry one-dimensional players, said GM Doug Risebrough.
"It's more a reflection of skating," he said. "Historically, some of
those guys haven't been great skaters. Do you still need guys to be
physical? Yes, the bigger the better. But if they're not good
skaters, you're going to have a hard time playing. His skating was
getting better. But, in fairness to him, we weren't using him. So why
keep waiting for him? It's not fair to him."
The Wild signed Nazarov for $625,000 last summer to fill the spot
left by Matt Johnson. He played in only two games.
Edmonton Oilers There's been plenty of heat on GM Kevin Lowe about
the disappointing Oilers, who were predicted to be a power when they
signed marquee free-agent forward Michael Peca and dealt for
defenseman Chris Pronger during the off-season. Now the speculation
is about when coach Craig MacTavish will get the gate. Lowe put an
end to that in a hurry.
"It's typical to start pointing fingers at the coach when a team is
losing," Lowe told the Edmonton Journal. "But I played on
championship teams here and we never did that, and I'm not doing it.
If we have a problem, we're all responsible. I'm not making a
He might make a player change or two, however, and Peca who makes
$4 million might be tough to move at that salary.
"He's been very average," said MacTavish. "The time of feeling his
way into a situation here is over. We need more intensity from him
and a better performance."
Pronger, too, has been ordinary. The Oilers lost seven in a row
before beating Dallas on Friday night (Oct. 28).
Vancouver Canucks The Canucks were dealt a blow Saturday (Oct. 29)
when goalie Daniel Cloutier suffered a concussion when teammate Nolan
Baumgartner ran into him during a goal by Colorado's Andrew Brunette.
Cloutier will miss at least a week.
"The doctor told me the symptoms could last one or two days or a long
time," said Cloutier, who is also sore from whiplash. Doctors
pronounced him fit to fly with the team and said first concussions
typically aren't serious.
"It becomes a problem with certain players the more they have them. I
can see why," said Cloutier.
Calgary Flames Going from Stanley Cup finalist to mediocre also-ran
has been difficult for the Flames to handle this season. The Flames
did undergo a major shift in personnel after the lockout, adding
three new defensemen and six new forwards. Could it be a lack of
"No, I don't think so," said defenseman Rhett Warrener. "I think that
all the guys here are veteran guys. I think that all the guys we
brought in have relationships with Darryl (coach Sutter) and know the
type of game we want to play and are willing to play that type of
game. And everyone enjoys each other."
Some believe the loss of popular players Craig Conroy, Martin Gelinas
and Mike Commodore has had an impact.
"I don't think it holds much weight," said Warrener. "I just don't
think we've played up to the expectations that we've created for