By the numbers
Number of goaltenders to play in the NHL past their 41st birthdays. Dwayne Roloson of the New York Islanders joined their ranks with a strong performance in a tough 2-1 loss to the Washington Capitals on Wednesday.
Number worn by Calgary rookie T.J. Brodie, the first player since Mario Lemieux to don the famous double digits. Under NHL rules introduced largely for marketing reasons, once Brodie wore the number for one regular-season game, he is obliged to wear it for the rest of the year.
They said it:
They've always booed the Red Wings there. I think I'm just guilty by association now.
After playing in the Minnesota/Dallas Stars organization for 20 years, he returned to Dallas Thursday night for the first time since signing as a free agent with the Detroit Red Wings.
One thing that happens when you're not having much success is you have a lot of meetings.
Anaheim Ducks coach after his team started 0-3 and was crushed in all three games by a combined 13-2 margin. The team's one-hour-plus, players' only meeting must have done some good, as the Ducks rallied to win their home opener 4-3 over the Vancouver Canucks, behind four points from Ryan Getzlaf.
Around the rinks:
The two-game suspension handed to Niklas Hjalmarsson of the Chicago Blackhawks expires Saturday, just in time for the rematch against the Buffalo Sabres and tough guy Patrick Kaleta, who made the usual veiled threats about retribution. Hjalmarsson was banned for a hit from behind that left popular Sabres forward Jason Pominville concussed. Presumably the league put Kaleta and the Sabres on notice - that it would monitor the game closely for any hint of retaliation, which is probably not what Sabres goalie Ryan Miller had in mind either when he talked about the need for an NHL culture change this past week.
With Brian Campbell out a month or more and Niklas Hjalmarsson suspended this week, reigning Norris Trophy winner Duncan Keith was averaging a ridiculous 32 minutes 3 seconds of playing time through the club's first four games, almost five minutes more than second-place Mike Green of the Washington Capitals. One of the beneficiaries of all the injuries and absences on the Chicago blueline was the teenaged Nick Leddy, acquired from the Minnesota Wild last year in the Cam Barker trade and ticketed to begin the season in the minors. Leddy, 19, is already looking as if he has a more complete game than Barker. One of the things that general manager Stan Bowman did so well in dumping his supporting cast for salary-cap reasons was getting blue-chip kids back, not just Leddy but also training-camp sensation Jeremy Morin, who did start the year in the minors.
Injuries decimated the Detroit Red Wings in the first half of last year, so there must have been a few long faces this week when they lost workhorse defenceman Brian Rafalski for a month or so after he had his knee scoped to remove some loose cartilage. Rafalski is 37 but unusually durable. In his first 10 NHL seasons, after serving a four-year apprenticeship in Europe, Rafalski missed just 50 games.
The Detroit Red Wings are also muddling along without another 37-year-old, but this was by design. Kirk Maltby, one of the NHL's most enduring good guys, announced his retirement after 16 seasons, 1,072 games and four Stanley Cup championships. Maltby signed a two-way contract in the off-season and, when he didn't make the team out of training camp, was given the option of playing for the Grand Rapids Griffins of the AHL or joining the organization as a pro scout. He opted for the latter and will replace Pat Verbeek, who was part of the Detroit exodus to the Tampa Bay Lightning, following Steve Yzerman out the door. Maltby joined Detroit in March of 1996 in a lopsided trade from the Edmonton Oilers for Dan McGillis.
The AHL has always been a primary development league for the NHL, and now it is also playing the opposite role, as a dumping ground for contracts of players either on their way out of the game completely or in organizational limbo. Edmonton Oilers defenceman Sheldon Souray was the latest to find himself unexpectedly in the minors. He reported to the Hershey Bears, the Washington Capitals' primary affiliate. Washington placed Michael Nylander with the Rochester Americans, the Florida Panthers' farm team, and Wade Redden is with the Hartford Wolf Pack, not playing for the New York Rangers. In all, that's almost $15-million (U.S.) in contracts hiding out in the minor leagues, and about the only saving grace for the players is that their contracts are no longer subject to the NHL's 17-per-cent escrow levy. In effect, they earn more by playing down than they would by playing up, and with more jingle in their jeans down on the farm, presumably they are treating a lot of underpaid kids to steak dinners on the road.
When goaltender Pekka Rinne went down with an early-season injury, the Nashville Predators had a chance to land a couple of experienced backups after both Thomas Greiss (San Jose Sharks) and Erik Ersberg (Los Angeles Kings) were farmed out by their respective teams. Instead, the Predators stayed with rookie Anders Lindback and it paid off in successive victories. Lindback recorded his first win in relief over the Anaheim Ducks and then made his first NHL start on the road against the defending champion Chicago Blackhawks, emerging victorious there, too. Chicago started their Stanley Cup march last spring with a narrow opening-round win over the Preds, who had a 2-1 lead in the series before frittering it away. Nashville isn't the only NHL team to pick a goalie out of the Swedish Elite League. The Calgary Flames signed Henrik Karlsson and he looked like a keeper in training camp. As usual, though, once the season starts, it is hard to get Miikka Kiprusoff out of the cage.