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NHL saturday Week 16 Add to ...

BY THE NUMBERS

38

Points by the Edmonton Oilers through their first 49 games, putting them on pace for 64 points this season. That would leave them tied for the second-worst total in franchise history, but in prime position to draft Taylor Hall in the first round.

45

Points by Chicago Blackhawks defenceman Duncan Keith, right, in the team's first 50 games, a personal best. Keith's previous high was 44, recorded in 77 games last season.

52

Points by the New York Islanders in their first 50 games this season, just nine shy of the 61 they recorded all of last year, en route to a 30th-place finish and the chance to draft John Tavares in the first round.

******

THEY SAID IT

I've got to find a way to get this guy to perform, because he's too good of a player for us to watch him play that way.

Boston Bruins coach Claude Julien, on the play of slumping defenceman Dennis Wideman, above, who is following his breakout 2008-09 with a season in which nothing is going right - including an awful performance against the Ottawa Senators this week, in which he was on the ice for four goals against.

They're dangerous any night just because of the personnel that they have.

Buffalo Sabres defenceman Steve Montador, on his former team, the Anaheim Ducks, who are showing signs of life again (7-3-0 in their past 10 games) after a dismal start.

They are good goaltenders, don't get me wrong, it just remains to be seen whether they can really knuckle down and take it to the next level and allow this team to win a Stanley Cup.

Outspoken former Chicago Blackhawks star Jeremy Roenick, wondering, as a lot of people do, whether the team's current netminding tandem of Cristobal Huet and Antti Niemi can carry the team to its first championship since 1961.

****

AROUND THE RINKS

There's something admirable about the way the Carolina Hurricanes are going about their rebuilding phase, without any pretence about their prospects for the current season. First, they installed Eric Staal as captain in place of Rod Brind'Amour so he can adjust to the yoke of leadership, with comparatively little stress. Secondly, they've acknowledged publicly, through general manager Jim Rutherford, what everybody knew already - the last-place club will be sellers at this year's NHL trading deadline and that any number of veteran players with Stanley Cup championships on their résumés ( Ray Whitney, Matt Cullen, Scott Walker, Joe Corvo, Niclas Wallin) will be available to the highest bidder. In recent years, playoff-contending teams have paid a premium for 11th-hour help just because the buyers vastly outnumbered the sellers. This year, the separation between the good and the bad came earlier in half-a-dozen precincts, meaning the market could be deeper than it has been.

If the Atlanta Thrashers make Ilya Kovalchuk available but, at the same time, do not want to wave the white flag on their season, would they have any interest in Alexei Ponikarovsky of the Toronto Maple Leafs? Ponikarovsky and Thrashers forward Nik Antropov had some chemistry when they were in Toronto togethe. Ponikarovsky might be a short-term fit in Atlanta and maybe that would permit the Leafs to get a first-round draft pick in return.

If we're fuelling wild trade talk in Leafs Nation anyway, would the Pittsburgh Penguins ever make a meaningful offer to Toronto for Nikolai Kulemin, with a view to reuniting him with reigning scoring champion Evgeni Malkin? Kulemin and Malkin were linemates during Malkin's final year in Russia. The Penguins didn't grab Petr Sykora off waivers this week, suggesting they have different ideas about how to bolster their flanks for a possible Stanley Cup defence. Kulemin has been solid for the Leafs this season, but he is a restricted free agent and, if he gets to July 1 unsigned, the Russia-based Continental Hockey League will presumably figure into the equation as well.

Teemu Selanne will almost certainly retire after this season as an Anaheim Duck, and the only reason that anyone thinks he might not is if the Los Angeles Kings make an offer on his services. Selanne doesn't want to leave southern California, but with the Kings, he wouldn't have to. And the man running the Los Angeles club, general manager Dean Lombardi, made that deal once before. That was at the 2001 trading deadline when Lombardi, then in charge of the San Jose Sharks, gave the Ducks Jeff Friesen, Steve Shields and a second-round pick in exchange for Selanne. History - not often but sometimes - does repeat.

The Calgary Flames, meanwhile, are desperate for additional scoring, but would they reaquire underachieving Alex Tanguay from the Tampa Bay Lightning? Tanguay had 81 points (and 59 assists) in his first of two seasons with the Flames and might be the set-up man Jarome Iginla so desperately lacks. Tanguay was supposed to be the set-up man that Vincent Lecavalier lacked with the Lightning -and that hasn't worked out so well.

The Flames incidentally don't have a first-round draft choice to deal in 2010. Iit belongs to the Phoenix Coyotes, thanks to the Olli Jokinen trade. Jokinen had 32 points in his first 50 games this season. The player going the Coyotes' way, Matthew Lombardi, had 30 in 46. Pretty much a wash - except Lombardi's cap hit is $1.817-million, while Jokinen's in $5.25-million, and there's that pesky matter of a first-round draft choice lost.

This will be Joe Nieuwendyk's first trading deadline as the Dallas Stars general manager and his weightiest decision will revolve around goaltender Marty Turco, who is on an expiring contract and probably won't be re-signed by the Stars. If the Stars opt to go younger in goal, two possible options are Jaroslav Halak of the Montreal Canadiens or Kari Lehtonen of the Atlanta Thrashers. But what if Dallas re-signs Dan Ellis, who likely will be the odd man out in Nashville? Ellis is an unrestricted free agent. In 2007, the Stars let Ellis - a player they chose 60th overall in the 2000 entry draft - walk away for nothing. This would be a way of remedying that miscue, and his acquisition cost would be considerably less than what either Montreal or Atlanta would want.

Follow on Twitter: @eduhatschek

 

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