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NHL Notebook

Bouchard knows concussion struggle all too well Add to ...

SINGING THE BLUES: Meanwhile, back on the waiver wars, the St. Louis Blues were so sure that Kyle Wellwood, whom they signed to a one-year contract, would slip through waivers that he was participating in their morning skate Tuesday when the news came that San Jose had grabbed the ex-Leaf, ex-Canuck for themselves. It was the second time in a month that the Blues went to the trouble of signing a player who'd left the KHL and lost him on waivers to an opponent - Nashville grabbed Marek Svatos under similar circumstances. Wellwood signed for $650,000, prorated, meaning the Sharks salary cap charge is in the $300,000 range - small change if Wellwood can help bolster the team's badly flagging secondary scoring. Understandably, Blues president John Davidson wants the waiver rule amended as it relates to KHL casualties so that it protects the teams that do all the leg work on these contracts.

THIS AND THAT: Minnesota is unexpectedly pushing the Colorado Avalanche for what now would be the final playoff berth in the Western Conference (only one point behind as of Friday morning), thanks to a 7-3 surge. Injuries, meanwhile, finally appear to be catching up to Colorado, who lost another player Thursday, when productive point-per-game man Tomas Fleischmann was lost for the season after it was discovered that he had blot clots in his lungs. As a result, Fleischman will need to take blood-thinning medication for at least a couple of months and won't be playing as a result. Fleischmann had been playing on the top line since coming over from Washington and had made an impact on the Avs, who are still the second highest scoring team in the West behind Detroit.

SHARK ALERT: Patrick Marleau broke into the NHL as a teenager a decade ago, when it was far less common than it is today, which is why he was able to reach the 1,000-game plateau earlier this week, just four months past his 31st birthday. The Stars' Jamie Langenbrunner reached the milestone mark on the same day, but it took him four years longer to do so. Marleau is the third-youngest in history to get there and at the rate he's going, provided he wants to play until he's close to 40, he has a chance to become the all-time leader in NHL games played. Gordie Howe currently holds the mark at 1,767, followed by Mark Messier at 1.756 and Ron Francis at 1,731. Chris Chelios, in case you're wondering, played parts of 26 seasons, same as Howe, and topped out at 1,651, fourth on the all-time list.

ETC, ETC: The Kings had a 12-3 run to start the season, a 9-2-1 stretch through most of December, but they've also had a 2-10 run of late that's dropped them five points out of a playoff spot and searching desperately for answers that don't appear to be coming from within. GM Dean Lombardi suggested a coaching change is not in the works and he has previously acknowledged that attempts to acquire a significant dressing-room force have failed. L.A. appears to be frittering away its opportunity to become relevant again in that very tough market ... The twin losses of Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin proved too hard for the Penguins to overcome in the shutout loss to New Jersey - who is surprised? - but thank goodness Jordan Staal is back and producing again. Stall had six points in three previous games prior to the Devils loss as the Penguins try to tread water until their big dogs return ... Nashville's J.P. Dumont has four career hat tricks. Three came in the first couple of years of his career and the fourth after a nine-and-a-half year drought. Dumont scored three in a 5-2 win over the Phoenix Coyotes this past Tuesday, the first time he'd scored three in a game since Nov. 12, 2001. The Preds' recent hot streak pushed them past Chicago into second in the Central and fourth overall in the Western Conference. Unbelievable how they do it year after year ... The Flyers played just one home game in a 28-day span that began Dec. 21 and ended Jan. 18, a time which included two massive road trips. For all the travel, Philly managed to stay atop the Eastern Conference standings by posting a 7-3 mark. Things look even brighter for the home stretch. Not only is Chris Pronger back after a month-long absence, the only time they'll need to leave their time zone from here until the end of the season is this Sunday's game against the Blackhawks, a much-anticipated Stanley Cup final replay that will be broadcast across the U.S. on NBC.

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