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BY THE NUMBERS

2

Number of Canadian-based teams to qualify for the NHL playoffs, the fewest since the 1977-78 season, when there were only three Canadian clubs operating in what was then an 18-team league.

262

Wins by Miikka Kiprusoff in a Calgary Flames' uniform, tying the franchise record set by Stanley Cup-winning goalie Mike Vernon.

30

Goals scored by Carolina Hurricanes Calder Trophy candidate Jeff Skinner, the seventh-youngest player in NHL history, at 18 years 325 days, to reach that number.

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AROUND THE RINKS

Sharp's return

Patrick Sharp, the Chicago Blackhawks' leading scorer, returned to the lineup Wednesday, missing just seven games and about three weeks with a knee injury that was supposed to keep him out for the balance of the regular season. Sharp was playing on a line with Marian Hossa that night in the pivotal game against the St. Louis Blues, won 4-3 by Chicago, which had the effect of knocking the Calgary Flames out of the playoff race. According to the Chicago Tribune, Sharp said he didn't think Hossa's controversial goal would count (which went off his skate and then skittered along the goal line), but they were prepared to take the gift anyway. "Our playoffs started a while ago," said Sharp of the Blackhawks, who don't want to go down the same path as Carolina in 2006, when the Hurricanes won the Stanley Cup one year and missed the playoffs the next.

Video replay under fire

Not surprisingly, St. Louis Blues goalie Ty Conklin, who made a rare start, wasn't prepared to be as forgiving or generous toward the NHL war room, which refused to overturn the call on the ice - of a good goal by Hossa - because they could find no conclusive evidence on the replay one way or the other. "The reason we have video replay is to get the right call," Conklin said. "They [the Blackhawks]are probably going to make it into the playoffs anyway, but do we really have to make it that obvious that the league wants them in?" A strong and interesting point and a cry that had been heard in Calgary the previous week, when the Flames lost a crucial goal - by Matt Stajan against the Anaheim Ducks - for the same official reason, no "conclusive" evidence on the video review.

Turco's harmless bet

Good move by the NHL not disciplining Blackhawks' goalie Marty Turco for making a $5 bet with a fan at the Bell Centre during last week's game against the Habs. Turco reportedly won the first bet when the Blackhawks tied the game, but ultimately lost it after a series of double-or-nothing wagers. When Turco eventually returned the fiver, he'd crossed out the word "Habs" in "Habs Rule" and replaced it with "Turco Rules." It was a harmless bit of theatre, no threat to the NHL's strict gambling protocols and showed a far lighter touch than the league demonstrated by fining Leafs' coach Ron Wilson in January for putting money up on the board if Toronto could knock off the San Jose Sharks on the occasion of his 600th NHL coaching win.

Hejduk to return?

Here's a switch on the usual salary-cap conundrum facing NHL teams. The Colorado Avalanche will need to bump up their payroll to meet the cap floor next year, if it goes up the $3-million or so that most GMs anticipate. That could be good news for the veteran Milan Hejduk, whose contract expires, but doesn't really want to leave town and is prepared to help work through the team's youthful rebuild. Hejduk turned 35 in February and is still a reliable point producer, but his fragility is becoming more of an issue. He missed 26 games to injury last year and nine more this season. Even so, Hejduk should still crack the top 50 and when healthy, is usually a good fit with Paul Stastny.

Goaltending isn't Ducky

Philadelphia's goaltending issues annually dominate the postseason chatter, but the Anaheim Ducks are looking at a similar level of uncertainty between the pipes, after starter Ray Emery left Wednesday's 6-2 win over the San Jose Sharks with lower-body pain. Emery, remember, is coming back after major hip surgery and has been their go-to guy down the stretch, with starter Jonas Hiller still recovering from vertigo symptoms. If anything ever does happen with Emery, the Ducks could either turn to Dan Ellis, who has given them reasonably steady play when called upon, or drop Hiller in cold. In what was supposed be his comeback appearance about three weeks ago, Hiller surrendered three goals in 12 minutes to the Nashville Predators and looked awfully rusty.



 

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