DEVILS BANGED UP
Zach Parise is out indefinitely, Martin Brodeur's elbow injury hasn't come around as fast as the New Jersey Devils hoped and, on Wednesday night, bad actually turned into worse. Faced with a chance of earning an extra valuable point, Ilya Kovalchuk lost the puck off his stick in a failed shootout attempt that permitted the Buffalo Sabres to skate away with a 5-4 win in Lindy Ruff's 1,000th game behind the Sabres' bench. About the only saving grace in New Jersey these days is that the Devils haven't peddled their first-round draft choice, which given how badly they're playing, could be a lottery pick. Yes, the Devils do forfeit a first-rounder to the NHL as punishment for the way they bungled the Kovalchuk contract negotiations, but it will be up to them to decide which one to give away - and if things continue to go this badly, it certainly won't be their 2011 pick. Hello, Sean Couturier. Meanwhile, Kovalchuk is stuck at three goals, has been blanked in his past seven and after scoring 40 or more in six consecutive years, is on pace for the lowest total of his career (29, in an injury-shortened rookie campaign, 2001-02). Karma, as we've said before, can be a funny thing.
NHL general managers deferred a proposal by the Ken Holland of the Detroit Red Wings to extend overtime to eight minutes and make the final four minutes 3-on-3 so as to lessen the impact of shootouts on the standings. Would it matter? Consider that last year, the Phoenix Coyotes went to overtime 26 times and were brilliant in extra time - 14-6 in the shootout, 5-1 in games that ended in overtime. It was a big reason why Phoenix finished with a surprising 107-point season. This year, with virtually the same personnel, the Coyotes are an abysmal 0-5 in extra time, worst in the league after losing Monday to the Red Wings. All the close games went their way last year; this year, they're finding ways of coming up one goal short. And according to Coyotes coach Dave Tippett, it's not as if teams are making great plays to beat them. They're making that one extra mistake to lose that they didn't a year ago.
FOUNTAIN OF YOUTH, PART 1
A new world order emerged in the NHL's defensive ranks last year, as Duncan Keith of the Chicago Blackhawks and Drew Doughty of the Los Angeles Kings enjoyed breakout seasons and Washington Capitals blueliner Mike Green led the way in scoring for the second year in a row. It also meant the Red Wings' venerable Nicklas Lidstrom missed the cut as a Norris Trophy finalist for the first time in forever. This year? Doughty and Green were both hurt early and Keith was overplayed because of the injury to Brian Campbell. Meanwhile, the 40-year-old Lidstrom keeps chugging along, quietly putting up brilliant numbers again: 12 points in his past nine games following a win Monday over the Phoenix Coyotes, 15 overall to tie him with Kris Letang of the Pittsburgh Penguins for the league lead. If Lidstrom wins another Norris, it'll be his seventh, tying him with Doug Harvey for second most. Only Bobby Orr, who won eight in a row between 1968 and 1975, has more.
FOUNTAIN OF YOUTH, PART 2
Lest we forget, Anaheim Ducks veteran Teemu Selanne set a rookie goal-scoring record that no one will ever touch - 76, on behalf of the 1993 Winnipeg Jets - and now at 40 he continues to amaze. On a Ducks team that has been up and down all season, Selanne has a mere 18 points in 17 games, tied for fourth overall in the scoring race. Selanne is playing with a level of consistency that belies his advancing years. Just two years ago, he was as good as gone - sitting out half a year and coming back only because Scott Niedermayer did. Now Niedermayer is retired and Selanne's scoring exploits, alongside former Montreal Canadiens captain Saku Koivu (who seems far more comfortable in his second season with the Ducks), has helped red-hot Anaheim win five in a row.
NHL BY NUMBERS
Through Friday, goals in the past 30 regular-season games dating to last year for Calgary Flames captain Jarome Iginla, a two-time winner of the Rocket Richard award for the NHL's top goal-scorer who is off to a dreadfully slow start this season.
From a list of 100, the number of players who will be selected to the NHL all-star game in fan balloting. In the past, fans voted for 12 players, the starters in each conference. With changes made to the all-star format, the six successful candidates in fan balloting are not even guaranteed to start any more.
You know what they say - that hockey is 40 per cent physical and 80 per cent mental.
The New York Islanders defenceman channels his hero Yogi Berra, then adds for good measure about the team's seven-game losing string: "I mean, we thought about bringing in a goat and sacrificing a goat." The Isles' 4-1-2 start seems like a long time ago.
"He's doing much, much better,"The Boston Bruins general manager gives a hopeful status report on Marc Savard, who has been out since training camp with postconcussion symptoms but is on the verge of returning to practice.
While the NHL received a big whack of publicity for its revolutionary new way of picking all-star teams - entrusting the task to the respective captains - it will not be the first time that strategy has seen the light of day. Women's pro soccer did the same thing this past week, according to the Washington Examiner, for its all-star game, played this past Wednesday. The two captains, Abby Wambach and Marta, took turns picking players, with Hope Solo of Atlanta having the honour of being the first player picked.