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Phoenix Coyotes goalie Mike Smith (41) defends the goal against the Anaheim Ducks during the second period at Honda Center. (Gary A. Vasquez/USA Today Sports)
Phoenix Coyotes goalie Mike Smith (41) defends the goal against the Anaheim Ducks during the second period at Honda Center. (Gary A. Vasquez/USA Today Sports)

NHL Notebook

Duhatschek: Mike Smith and the excitement of a rare goalie goal Add to ...


Matt Frattin, the ex-Leaf who went to the Los Angeles Kings in the Jonathan Bernier trade, started the season on the second line, with Jeff Carter and Mike Richards. When that didn’t work out, the Kings dropped him on the depth chart and on Saturday, in a 5-2 win over the Dallas Stars, he was watching from the press box, bumped out of the lineup by Colin Fraser … The Buffalo Sabres’ Ryan Miller will be linked to all sorts of teams as trade speculation continues to swirl, but maybe the best landing spot for him would be Long Island, with the young New York Islanders, a team that has a lot of good prospects in the pipeline but is relying for the moment on 38-year-old Evgeni Nabokov as their No. 1 man. Nabokov has been a serviceable addition for the Islanders since they claimed him on waivers in January of 2011, but Miller would be a far more secure long-term answer. He is just 33 and about the only reason the lacklustre Sabres are competitive most nights … Right after Miller, the most talked about name in Buffalo is Thomas Vanek, who is on an expiring contract and believed headed to the Minnesota Wild once the season ends. Your first thought might be, after signing Ryan Suter and Zach Parise to contracts worth almost $200-million, how could Minnesota possibly shoehorn Vanek’s contract into their payroll? The short answer is, they probably can’t this year. The good news in Minnesota is that underachieving Dany Heatley is in the final year of that six-year, $45-million contract he signed with the Ottawa Senators way back in 2008. Even though the contract was backloaded, meaning Heatley’s actual contract this season pays him $5-million, the cap hit remains a pricey $7.5-million. Once that’s gone, there’ll be money available to sign Vanek, especially if he gives the Wild a hometown discount, which he could. Vanek, an Austrian, played his college hockey for the University of Minnesota and his wife is from there. It was the lure of playing at home that convinced Suter and Parise to choose Minnesota from among a host of free-agent suitors two years back … Heatley, in the meantime, has seen his production fall of a cliff since a 39-goal season with the Sharks back in 2009-10. From there, he’s’ gone to 26, then 24, then 11 (in 36 games last year). This year, Heatley was said to be in the best shape of his life and determined to get his career back on the rails. But he has no goals and just two assists in nine games and the Wild had gotten zero production out of its second line thus far this season. Heatley got dropped out of a top-six role for Saturday’s game against Florida, a 2-1 shootout defeat that dropped Minnesota to 3-3-3 on the season. After all the dollars they’ve spent over the past two seasons, the assumption is that the Wild will need to make significant strides this year; otherwise, major changes are coming. Right now, the three players tied for the team’s scoring lead are Jonas Brodin, Matt Cooke and Mikko Koivu. That can’t continue …


Here’s something you don’t hear very often: Detroit defenceman Nicklas Kronwall, via the Detroit News, acknowledged that he was at least partly culpable on the hit last week that saw him leave the ice on a stretcher, concussed, and for which the Colorado Avalanche’s Cody McLeod will face a disciplinary hearing with NHL vice-president Brendan Shanahan on Monday. Kronwall noted that he put both himself and McLeod in a bad spot by turning at the last second. “I know he’s a forechecker, one of their more physical guys, and he’s just trying to do his job. For some reason I thought he was closer to me than he was. I almost turned right into him. But that’s history. I’m feeling pretty good and looking forward to getting back on the ice with the guys.” Kronwall has been symptom free and hopes to play again later in the week.

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