BY THE NUMBERS
In millions of dollars, what the NHL is paying to rent the Big House on the University of Michigan campus for the 2013 Winter Classic between the Detroit Red Wings and the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Points in his past five games for Edmonton Oilers centre Sam Gagner, giving him 36 on the season (through Thursday), and advancing him about 130 places in the NHL scoring standings to a tie for 70th overall, ahead of such notables as Brad Richards, Rick Nash and Ryan Getzlaf.
Days between goals for Scott Gomez of the Montreal Canadiens, a running tally that had been helpfully updated second-by-second by the website www.didgomezscore.com. The streak ended Thursday when Gomez broke through with his first of the year in a 4-2 win over the New York Islanders.
THEY SAID IT
“I’ve never seen him play better. We are all very happy for him and it’s neat to do it [reach 300 NHL wins]back where he started his career.”
The Calgary Flames’ captain comments on the play of goaltender Miikka Kiprusoff, who won his 300th career game in San Jose Wednesday, where his career started a decade ago.
Tweet of the week
#NYR Tortorella suggested NHL adopt NFL-style review in last minute of game. “In the last minute of the game, you need to get it right.”
@KatieStrangESPN passes on advice from the always helpful John Tortorella, the New York Rangers’ garrulous head coach.
AROUND THE RINKS
Preds have magic wands
For all of Philadelphia’s panting attraction, odds are that Ryan Suter will re-sign with the Nashville Predators, just because he is happy there. The primary holdup isn’t money, but Suter’s desire to see that the franchise is committed to winning a Stanley Cup. Question: Who is a stronger candidate than the Predators right now? Since Jan. 1, they have the best record in the NHL (followed by the Detroit Red Wings and the Anaheim Ducks). But the Ducks are too far back to worry about, and there are injury issues with Detroit’s starting goaltender, Jimmy Howard. The Predators clearly have the NHL’s biggest stash of magic wands – how coach Barry Trotz and GM David Poile keep them competitive year after year. But since Jan. 1, they also have the most goals in the league (an average of 3.25 a game; Boston is second at 3.24), and though you’d be hard pressed to identify their most dangerous forward (Martin Erat leads in points with 30), they’ll end up with 10 players in double digits in goals this year, even after losing last year’s playoff scoring hero, Joel Ward, to free agency.
Quietly and with little fanfare, the perennial 30-game winner with the San Jose Sharks, goaltender Evgeni Nabokov, is starting to assert himself again. Nabokov didn’t play last year beyond an unhappy 22-game stint with St. Petersburg of Russia’s KHL. He tried to sign with Detroit in the second half, but the New York Islanders claimed him on waivers and Nabokov wouldn’t report. He’s been there all this season, and after recovering from a bad groin injury, has been superior of late, evening his record at 12-12 this week and whittling his goals-against average down to 2.21 (from 2.50 three weeks ago). Nabokov is an unrestricted free agent following this season. If the Islanders ever decide they’re out of the playoff race, Nabokov – playing for just $570,000 (U.S.) this season – becomes a cheap goaltending insurance policy for any contender with issues between the pipes. Detroit maybe?
The Presidents’ Trophy winners two years ago with 121 points, and a credible 107-point team a year ago, the Washington Capitals are no sure thing to even make the playoffs this year, although a big 4-0 win over the fading Florida Panthers will surely help their chances of winning the Southeast Division, which is likely the only way they’ll get in. The Capitals are one of the NHL’s biggest regular-season disappointments this year, but weirdly, that is not always the worst thing, given how expectations will be tamped down accordingly. Maybe that’s what Alex Ovechkin needs to assert himself in the playoffs – the feeling that the Caps will be first-round fodder, as they were twice in the four years since they turned the corner (they were second-round losers the other two years). Meanwhile, the Caps’ former coach is executing a turnaround in Anaheim. After a slow start, the Ducks are 14-11-4 under Bruce Boudreau and started a make-or-break eight-game trip Friday in Detroit. Since Boudreau’s NHL coaching debut in November of 2007, he has the second-best win percentage in the NHL – 215-99-44 (.662) with both Washington and Anaheim. Only Todd McLellan of San Jose (181-79-37, .672) is better.