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Weekly News Wednesdays (2011-2012 NHL Week #20)

It’s that time of the year again where fans become excited with the approaching Trade Deadline just 12 days away (February 27th).  Teams need to make the decision to either be buyers or sellers.  Many deadline acquisitions in the past have helped their teams fight back to get good playoff position and some have helped their team win the Stanley Cup.  It’s the time when GM’s assess their team and see what holes need to be filled on their roster.  For many players, their homes will be uprooted and they will be trying to start over in a different city.  It’s an exciting time for fans of all teams, and the speculation/rumors always generate a lot of hype.  Here’s a look back at this past week’s events in the NHL.

The 2013 Winter Classic: Last Thursday, the commissioner of the National Hockey League, Gary Bettman, confirmed the rumors of where the annual outdoor game will be held.  Although the majority of Red Wings fans wanted the game to be held in the home of the MLB Detroit Tigers, Comerica Park, the NHL decided otherwise and went a different route.  The Classic is being held at the “Big House” (Michigan Stadium) of the University of Michigan on January 1st, 2013.  The contest will have the Detroit Red Wings taking on the Toronto Maple Leafs in what will be the largest attended hockey game of all time.  The league hopes to draw upwards of 110,000 fans to the venue.  The owner of the Wings, Mike Ilitch, also owns the Detroit Tigers, who play in Comerica Park, in downtown Detroit.  Although the game is 40 minutes away in Ann Arbor, Detroit does get to host the Winter Classic festivities of the day before in Detroit.  Comerica Park will play host to the Ontario Hockey League’s Plymouth Whalers and Sarnia Sting, and the Saginaw Spirit and Windsor Spitfires.  The American Hockey League affiliates of both the Maple Leafs and the Red Wings will both be playing each other in Comerica as well, the Grand Rapids Griffins and the Toronto Marlies.  Also the Great Lakes Invitational, the annual 4 team college tournament that includes the University of Michigan, Michigan State, Michigan Tech, and Western Michigan will be held there.  The GLI is usually held at Joe Louis Arena, home of the Red Wings.  The event that most people are looking forward to in Detroit will be the Alumni game.  The list of all-time greats that could possibly play is outstanding.  Mike Vernon of the 1997 Stanley Cup team could tend the net for Detroit, since he played last year at the Heritage Classic for the Calgary Flames Alumni team.  Curtis Joseph (Cujo) has said he would want to play for the Leafs along with fellow player Brian Leetch.  We will have to wait and see who will decide to play, but for now, speculation will have to suffice.

Streak ended: Montreal Canadiens’ forward Scott Gomez scored his first goal in 369 days.  According to CapGeek.com the cap hit that Gomez has is $7,357,143 per year, which is a mind-blowing fact.  Fans should be correct in assuming players making that kind of money should be able to score some goals.  A website was even made for the streak, called didgomezscore.com.  By the time this is published, it will have been 5 days since his last goal, and for the sake of all Canadiens’ fans, let’s hope it doesn’t take another year for the next one.

Retirements: Star power forward Owen Nolan announced his retirement last week in an emotional press conference in San Jose, California.  The right winger’s career stretched from 1990 to last year.  He played for a long list of NHL clubs consisting of the now-defunct Quebec Nordiques, Colorado Avalanche, San Jose Sharks, Toronto Maple Leafs, Phoenix Coyotes, Calgary Flames, and most recently the Minnesota Wild.  Last September, Nolan received an invitation for a try-out with the Vancouver Canucks, but the Canucks released him later in the month.  Fans of EA Sports’ NHL series remember him for being on the cover of NHL 2001.  His career was very successful and fans admired his hard work.  His NHL totals include 422 goals, 463 assists, and 885 points in 1200 regular season game.  He wasn’t solely a goal scorer, and his 1,793 PIM prove that.  He may not have ever won the Cup, but he was chosen for the All-Star game 5 times and won gold at the 1997 World Championship and 2002 Winter Olympics while playing for Team Canada.

Monday night, forward Mike Comrie also called it a career.  His career spanned from 2000-2011 and he played for the Edmonton Oilers, Philadelphia Flyers, Phoenix Coyotes, Ottawa Senators, New York Islanders, and the Pittsburgh Penguins.  He was unable to play full seasons the last 4 years due to hip injuries and 3 surgeries.  His career numbers include 168 goals, 197 assists, and 365 points through 589 games played.  In 2003 Comrie won gold at the 2003 World Championship.

Milestone: Miikka Kiprusoff, the goaltender for the Calgary Flames recorded his 300th win in their game against the San Jose Sharks, who coincidentally is the team that drafted Kiprusoff in the 1995 Entry Draft.  With his 301st win in the Flames’ last game, he is now tied with Mike Richter for 26th all-time in wins. Next on the list is Turk Broda (302), Olaf Kolzig (303), Billy Smith (305), Roberto Luongo (308), and Nikolai Khabibulin (316).

Milestone Watch: Jaromir Jagr of the Philadelphia Flyers has extended his NHL legacy this season by racking up 13 goals and 39 points.  This now puts him at 659 career goals.  This season he passed Brendan Shanahan and sits at 11th all-time.  Teemu Selanne is not far behind with 655 career goals, putting him at 13th all-time.  Jagr is 40 years old and Selanne is 41.  If either forward plays another season after this one ends, they both have a chance of reaching the elusive 700 goal club.

Record: The Detroit Red Wings amassed their 21th regular season home win in a row on Tuesday night, and they have passed the 1929-30 Boston Bruins team and the 1975-76 Philadelphia Flyers for the longest streak in NHL history.  With All-Star goalie Jimmy Howard out of the lineup, the Red Wings had turned to the veteran Ty Conklin, but he struggled early in his first game without Howard on the roster, so Joey MacDonald, the goalie for the American Hockey League Grand Rapids Griffins was called up.  He has extended the streak in Howard’s absence.  The Red Wings will look to extend their streak even further on Friday when they play their Central Division rival Nashville Predators.

If The Playoffs Started Tomorrow: The Eastern Conference  – The New York Rangers would safely be 1st in the East by a mile.  With 2 games in hand on the 4th place Flyers (69 points) they have an outstanding 77 points with a record of 36-13-5.  The 8th spot would be inhabited by the Toronto Maple Leafs (62 points) with the Washington Capitals and Winnipeg Jets just missing out at 61 and 58 points respectively.  The first round matchups would be: 1.) Rangers vs. 8.) Maple Leafs, 2.) Boston Bruins vs. 7.) Ottawa Senators, 3.) Florida Panthers vs. 6.) New Jersey Devils, and 4.) Philadelphia Flyers vs. Pittsburgh Penguins.  An original six matchup and an inter-Pennsylvania matchup would be some great hockey.  The Florida Panthers now have goalie Jose Theodore back from injury and are on a surge.  Look for the Cats to be a playoff contender.  The New Jersey Devils are on a hot-streak since the All-Star break with veteran Marty Brodeur and star forward Ilya Kovalchuk leading the way.

The Western Conference – The Detroit Red Wings would be the first seed (assuming the Canucks and Blues lost their games in hand).  The Phoenix Coyotes would just make it into the 8th spot.  The 1st round matchups would consist of: 1.) Detroit Red Wings vs. 8.) Phoenix Coyotes, 2.) Vancouver Canucks vs. Los Angeles Kings, 3.) San Jose Sharks vs. 6.) Chicago Blackhawks, and 4.) St. Louis Blues vs. 5. Nashville Predators.  The Blues, with Ken Hitchcock at the helm are a very strong team with depth, while the Blackhawks continue to slip in the standings.  Not many could have predicted this trend, and we will see if it continues in the upcoming weeks.

Season Stats: Evgeni Malkin (PIT) currently leads the NHL in points with 69 followed by Steven Stamkos (TB, 62) and Claude Giroux (PHI, 62).  Stamkos leads the league with 37 goals, trailed by Malkin (32), and Toronto’s Phil Kessel (30).  The William Jennings Trophy (for lowest GAA) leader is Brian Elliot of the red-hot St. Louis Blues, led by veteran long-time coach Ken Hitchcock.  Despite being injured for approximately 2 weeks, Detroit goalie Jimmy Howard still leads the NHL in wins with 32, followed closely by Pekka Rinne (NSH, 30) and Marc-Andre Fleury (PIT, 29).

A Look Ahead:  My Next Article is on Feb. 17 (Fantasy Fridays) where I will be writing about which players are hot and which players you should drop on your fantasy hockey team, among other aspects.

(Stats referenced from hockeydb.com, espn.com, wikipedia.org, thn.com)


Kevin Sporka

Kevin Sporka

Kevin Sporka is the Senior Media Analyst and Detroit Red Wings beat writer at HOHM. He is also the author of the Fantasy Hockey Fridays, In Retrospect, Milestone Monday, and Legends By the Number segments.
Kevin Sporka

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