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Colby Armstrong #9 of the Toronto Maple Leafs falls into Marc Staal #18 of the New York Rangers during game action at the Air Canada Centre October 21, 2010 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Abelimages/Getty Images) (Abelimages/2010 Getty Images)
Colby Armstrong #9 of the Toronto Maple Leafs falls into Marc Staal #18 of the New York Rangers during game action at the Air Canada Centre October 21, 2010 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Abelimages/Getty Images) (Abelimages/2010 Getty Images)

The Usual Suspects

The body count mounts Add to ...

It was a throwaway line from Kevin Weekes late in Hockey Night In Canada during the Washington Capitals' drubbing of the Calgary Flames. Yes, the Flames had been pole-axed 7-2 by Alex Ovechkin and the Caps. But no one on Calgary had been hurt, said Weekes, sounding a little like a helicopter parent after a tots' soccer game.

No doubt the Sutterite colony that runs the Flames took no consolation in the sentiment, but in today's NHL, Weekes was expressing a brutal truth. A game without losing a regular to the disabled list is a blessing. And triage has become a necessary part of the accounting in every NHL broadcast.

It's always dangerous in the NHL, but this fall the injuries seem disproportionately high. Drew Doughty, Zach Parise, Kyle Okposo, Kris Versteeg, Craig Anderson, Marian Hossa, Colby Armstrong. The Vancouver Canucks have played without four of its starters. The Pittsburgh Penguins, six. New Jersey Devils, seven out with injuries.

In a salary-capped league, injuries tip a team out of the playoffs and distort the competitive balance of a division. It's no surprise that the Chicago Blackhawks and Philadelphia Flyers - the two healthiest playoff teams last May - met in the Stanley Cup final. TSN's Pierre McGuire, who broadcasts from ice level, says that speed and size of players have increased incrementally, even in the past few years. But the parity wrought by the salary cap has also pushed players to the brink, making October games critical. "Every game is like a playoff game," he tells Usual Suspects. "It's very intense. Conference and divisional play really matters. You can't afford to give away points even this early." In a league in which there's little to choose between almost all teams, health care will be a key talking point right up until April.

Ovie and out

Thanks to Twitter-happy owner Ted Leonsis, no team is more media savvy than the Capitals. Ovechkin's new TV skate commercial, in which he's a scary disembodied head in a school locker, has gone viral. Saturday, the Russian star explained how it was done. "They had me inside a green screen," Ovechkin explained. "I had to keep it still. After they did the graphics, all you could see was my head in the locker."

So how did he get the demonic laugh that punctuates the ad? "I had one of my friends there. He was telling me jokes. That's why I laughed so much. It's perfect for Halloween, I guess." The commercial has made the jump across the Atlantic. "My friends back home have seen it on the Internet and they're all calling me to talk about it."

Good to go

The new Apple iPad is expected to sell 4.8 million units this year, making it a critical platform for marketing purposes. But it did not support the NHL's Game Center app. Until this week. The NHL announced its premium game-viewing is now compatible. The league says it's working to do the same for the coming iPad competitors as well.

Brett 'n Jenn

Versus, the NHL's partner on U.S. television, has just cancelled The Daily Line. Apparently no one was watching. Duh. The reason the cancellation is interesting, however, was the presence on The Daily Line of one Jenn Sterger, the alleged recipient of alleged sexting from alleged Minnesota Vikings QB Brett Favre. Until the cancellation, Sterger had refused to meet the NFL officials, make a public statement, talk to the cops or otherwise involve herself in the story that was allegedly spilled by a third party with whom Sterger shared the texts in question.

Now, with The Daily Line flat-lining, it appears Sterger may want to chat with NFL suits after all. Hmm. Did Sterger take the Fifth as a means of self-preservation for her and her show? Did Versus's long-held desire for a piece of the NFL pie have anything to do with The Daily Line's cancellation? Will John marry Martha? Guess we'll all have to stay tuned.

Laugh-In

Finally, The Wall Street Journal is getting its laughs. Or counting laughs, to be precise. The WSJ calculated the percentage of time the TV panels before NFL games spends in chortling, guffawing and hardy-haring. Shock result: The Fox jocks led the way laughing 20 minutes 27 seconds (11.6 per cent of the time).



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