By the numbers
Official attendance for the Columbus Blue Jackets' home game against the visiting Anaheim Ducks last Wednesday, the lowest in franchise history.
Kilometres recorded by the Carolina Hurricanes on a season-opening road trip that took them from Raleigh, N.C., to St. Petersburg, Russia, and then on to Helsinki, Ottawa, Vancouver, San Jose, Los Angeles and Phoenix for a game Saturday, the final stop on their world tour. Carolina finally plays its home opener next Wednesday against. the Washington Capitals.
They said it
"This was the first time - and hopefully the last," Ondrej Pavelec
The Atlanta Thrashers goaltender reflects on the concussion he suffered falling to the ice during a fainting spell in the season opener. Pavelec is medically cleared to play and returned to practice this week.
"It was inexcusable. You play at home 41 times a year, and you've got to make it a hard building to play in. You want teams coming in saying, 'You know what? I don't like playing in the Garden," Milan Lulic
The Boston Bruins forward rails against the team's mediocre 18-17-4 home record last year, the primary reason they were touch-and-go to make the playoffs.
Around the rinks
The Atlanta Thrashers were the only team in the NHL completely skunked in the preseason, and yet six games in, are a respectable 3-3, with victories over the Washington Capitals and San Jose Sharks, the two top teams in the NHL a year ago. Under new coach Craig Ramsey, a defensive specialist is his playing days, the Thrashers play an aggressive, attacking style, with a roster of comparative unknowns leading the way. Florida Panthers castoff Anthony Stewart is the unexpected offensive leader, with four goals, and the strangest part of all is that Niclas Bergfors, the key player coming Atlanta's way in the Ilya Kovalchuk deal last year, has been a healthy scratch in two of the past three games.
You could build an all-star team around the number of elite young defencemen on the shelf, beginning with Washington Capitals blueliner Mike Green, who is usually the runaway leader in points among defencemen, but remains sidelined with an upper body injury. In Green's place, rookie John Carlson has been getting the power play time on the first unit, and is among the top points getters among defencemen. Also sidelined: Los Angeles Kings star Drew Doughty, who like Green, was a Norris Trophy runner-up last season; Zach Bogosian of the Atlanta Thrashers; Ryan Suter of the Nashville Predators. One reason for the Vancouver Canucks' struggles of late has been the injuries that forced their two newcomers on the blueline, Keith Ballard and Dan Hamhuis, to miss games this week as well.
Overshadowed in the Minnesota Wild-Vancouver Canucks game Tuesday because of Rick Rypien's altercation with a fan is how well the Wild played in a 6-2 win that night, after an awful start to the year. Things were so bad before then that coach Todd Richards employed the old-school tactic of a bag skate earlier in the week to get the players' attention. The Wild responded with a heartening effort and calmed the waters considerably. Wild forward Guillaume Latendresse, speaking to the Minneapolis Star Tribune, was candid in his assessment. "It should be fun for the coach to see he still has the respect of the guys," Latendresse said. "Sometimes you might be nervous about that when the season doesn't go the way you want off the bat. But guys responded well."
With Darren McCarty doing television commentary and Kirk Maltby acting as the team's pro scout, the Detroit Red Wings' Grind Line is down to its last member. And even he's on the sidelines at the moment. Kris Draper was scheduled for surgery for a sports hernia Thursday and will miss up to six weeks recovering. Normally, an injury of that magnitude would automatically send a player to the long-term injured reserve list, but the Red Wings unbelievably have no immediate salary-cap issues and thus can afford to see what happens next.
In an era when all the focus is on youth, the unhappy byproduct is that a lot of veteran players who might still have some miles left on the odometer can't find work. Bill Guerin, a 45-point player for the Pittsburgh Penguins last year who also contributed nine points in 11 playoff games, didn't stick after a tryout with the Philadelphia Flyers. Owen Nolan, who had a decent 33-point season for the Minnesota Wild last year, wasn't able to land a contract, either. Nolan, according to ESPN.com, signed a contract with Zurich of the Swiss League that includes an escape clause permitting him to return to the NHL if there's any interest. Injuries are their best hopes - that and time, because as the season advances and the dollars click off the salary cap daily, teams might be more inclined to gamble on a veteran insurance policy.