Tribute to Russian Hockey, KLM line re-united in first exhibition game played at Moscow's Red Square

Russian hockey tribute game Red Square

After leaving the 2004 film Miracle, which told the story of USA's improbable 1980 olympic hockey upset over Russia, Igor Larionov told New Yorker magazine:

At the end of the movie, there was a standing ovation in the theatre, I just left. To be honest, I felt like I'd lost. My friends played there, Krutov, Makarov, Fetisov, Kasatonov. I wish the guys in Hollywood had spent more time, maybe even just five minutes, to show the Russian side of the story.

Little detail was afforded to to the Russian team, which Larionov joined shortly after the 1980 loss. Boris Mikhailov and goaltender Vladislav Tretiak were painted as the best players in the world, but a few brief black-and-white film clips were all that completed the "us vs them" scenario at the heart of the movie. Viacheslav Fetisov, Alexei Kasatonov, Vladimir Krutov, former Shark Sergei Makarov and actors who played the rest of the Russian team were described by one film reviewer as "scowling automatons".

KLM Russian hockey Line

Longtime Dynamo Moscow and Red Army head coach Viktor Tikhonov re-assembled the hockey greats on December 9th, 2006 for the first hockey game ever played in Moscow's Red Square.

The first hockey game ever played at Red Square honoured the 60th anniversary of the birth of Russian hockey, the 50th anniversary of the former Soviet Union's first hockey victory at the Olympics and the 25th anniversary of the creation of the famous KLM line in the 1980s.

"This is a historic event - to come to Moscow and play at Red Square," (Scotty) Bowman said. "And it's an honour to have all these great players to play here at a time to honour the heritage of the Soviet and Russian ice hockey."

If the visuals do not immediately grab you in the Youtube video above, Igor Larionov's daughters Alyonka and Diana Larionov sang a beautiful rendition of Ave Maria over a clip of classic Russian hockey highlights during the first intermission. Correction, highlights of players "that are not with us anymore".

Larionov capped the evening on the ice by scoring 4 goals for Team Russia.

A Hockey Game on Red Square - Kommersant.

Shooting in Red Square! Of Pucks, That Is - New York Times (paid article).

More from the archives on Miracle's portrayal of the USA Olympic team and the Soviet national team can be found here, here and here.

[Update] Igor Larionov discusses his "Farwell from Moscow" DVD on San Jose's pre-game show Shark Byte - Youtube.

Former Shark Byte host Drew Remenda notes in this video that Igor Larionov won 4 World Championships with Russia, 2 Olympic Gold Medals, and 3 Stanley Cups with the Detroit Red Wings. The famed member of the KLM line (Krutov, Larionov, Makarov), which many called the best forward line to ever play the game, played three seasons in San Jose with Sergei Makarov and Johan Garpenlov. The third year expansion franchise scored a first round playoff upset over top seeded Detroit in 1994.

[Update2] TSN's Ellen Pinchuk published another excellent video feature on Russian hockey about Vladislav Tretiak's grandson #20 Maxim Tretiak. The young goaltender told a reporter, "I want to play better than my grandfather". Vladislav Tretiak, HHOF member and the head of the Russian Hockey Federation, told his grandson Max that no player is perfect and that the key to being successful is playing consistently.

During the lockout in 2004, Ellen Pinchuk posted this amusing video feature of Fred Brathwaite's adjustment to Ak Bars Kazan of the Russian Super League (New York Rangers East). There is a clip of him staring at a McDonald's outside his apartment window which still makes me laugh.

[Update3] An email from Alexey points to drugoi's live journal photo gallery from the Red Square tribute game. Drugoi had an invitation to take photos and posted a simply incredible gallery.


Phoenix Coyotes down Sharks 3-2 in the last minute of play

Phoenix Coyotes goaltender Curtis Jospeh
Phoenix Coyotes Oleg Saprykin
San Jose Sharks Phoenix Coyotes

The Phoenix Coyotes jumped out to an early 2-0 lead Thursday night on goals by Oleg Saprykin (PP) and Shane Doan (PP). The Sharks answered with a strong forecheck in the second period, evening the score with goals by Joe Thornton and Marc-Edouard Vlasic (PP).

Veteran center Yanic Perreault earned first star of the game in the final period. After winning several key faceoffs, "no panic" Yanic notched the game winning goal with under a minute to play in the game. Perreault then gained possession of a late faceoff to stifle the Sharks last second attempt at a comeback.

The Coyotes left San Jose with a 3-2 win against a tough Pacific division rival. Curtis Joseph made 27 saves on 29 shots for his 8th win of the season.

Youtube video highlights of the Sharks-Coyotes game are available here. A photo gallery from the game is available here.

Sharks shut out Coyotes - La Voz Weekly.

[Update] Coyotes Withstand Pressure - One Fan's Perspective.

The Phoenix Coyotes find a power play, find a confident Oleg Saprykin, and find a solid effort to close out the game against the San Jose Sharks.

Mike Comrie, Shane Doan, and Ladislav Nagy are supposed to be the big guns for the Phoenix Coyotes, but in the last 2 games in San Jose it has been left wing Oleg Saprykin making an impression on both sides of the ice.

Last night Saprykin scored a power play goal, assisted on another, and had a near miss at even strength. During a 4-0 loss to San Jose on December 12th, Saprykin was one of the lone forwards crashing the net and consistently creating chances in the offensive zone.

In the Arizona Republic yesterday, David Vest wrote that any one of Nagy, Doan and Comrie could be on their way out of Phoenix. The Christmas trade freeze has been lifted, and the franchise is not happy with the lack of production from the top offensive players. Vest notes that all three have combined for only 17 goals through 35 games this season.

The return of defenseman Ed Jovanovski and Nick Boynton from injury could also fuel the trade winds. The play of young defenseman Keith Ballard and Zbynek Michalek, who were on the ice in most of the key situations last night, in addition to contributions from Dennis Seidenberg and Derek Morris give the Coyotes a formidable lineup from the goal out.

ESPN's John Buccigross ripped the Coyotes, their development system, and head coach Wayne Gretzky in a column earlier this week. It was across the board negative. An earlier post from this blog was slightly less negative. The foundation for a strong team is there in Phoenix.

With a few crafty trades, possibly a callup of Bill Thomas or Yanick Lehoux from the AHL, the Coyotes have a shot at the postseason this year. With 46 games remaining, Phoenix is 8 points behind teams tied for the last two playoff spots in the Western Conference (Calgary, Colorado, Edmonton, Minnesota). Phoenix plays 9 of 12 games on the road to open January, after which the fans and media will know if this team is in a rebuilding mode, or if it needs to reload for a new home white out in the playoffs.

[Update2] In end, Coyotes prevail, Last minute decision goes against Sharks - San Jose Mercury News.

Ran into Victor Chi on my way to meet a brother for pho in Mountain View. Not too often you get to say hello to someone before reading their column, but I also wanted to read Mark Purdy's feature naming Sharks captain Patrick Marleau the 2006 South Bay Sports Person of the Year.

Also nominated were 49ers running back Frank Gore, SJSU Spartans football head coach Dick Tomey, the Palo Alto high school mascot "Viking", Bill Walsh (recently announced he has been fighting Leukemia since 2004), and Stanford basketball's Candice Wiggins.

Not quite as entertaining a lineup as Deadspin's Sports Human of the Year, but inspirational nonetheless. Barbaro should have have been a lock for SHOTY.

[Update3] Anything you can do, I can do better - Mike Chen at FoxSports.com. Scratch one more from the Sharks blogs column.

[Update4] It's Time for Bodies to Start Moving - Damien Cox.

If Phoenix GM Mike Barnett chooses to move Doan, he's a player who could theoretically make a Butch Goring-like impact for a playoff team.

Imagine, for example, how Doan could change the look of a smallish Montreal Canadiens squad that's already looking very impressive these days and has excess youth - Canadian junior goalie Carey Price, Kyle Chipchura, Andrei Kostitsyn - to make a move.

If the Coyotes could put together that kind of a deal and then draft high next June, the Barnett-Gretzky program would get a huge boost.


San Jose and Anaheim top Western Conference NHL Allstar voting

A press release from the NHL:


NEW YORK (December 27, 2006)

The voting will determine the starting lineups for the 2007 NHL All-Star Game, which will be played on Wednesday, Jan. 24, in Dallas (8 p.m. ET, VERSUS, CBC, RDS, NASN, NHL Radio). Fans can vote for six Eastern Conference All-Stars and six Western Conference All-Stars: three forwards, two defensemen and one goaltender for each team. If a player is not listed on the ballot, a space is provided for write-in votes. The three forwards, two defensemen and one goaltender from each Conference receiving the most votes will comprise the starting lineups. Each of the 30 NHL Clubs has at least two representatives on the ballot.

The leading vote-getters by position are forwards Thornton, Colorado Avalanche center Joe Sakic (431,961) and Cheechoo; defensemen Niedermayer and Nicklas Lidstrom of the Detroit Red Wings (522,345); and Vancouver Canucks goaltender Roberto Luongo.

Through Jan. 2, fans around the world can "CLICK TO VOTE" for the Eastern and Western Conference All-Star starters for the 2007 NHL All-Star Game on-line at NHL.com, through Bell Canada cell phones and via Sympatico.MSN.ca, the official portal of the NHL in Canada.

On NHL.com, the COLD-fX/NHL All-Star Fan Balloting, Presented by 2K Sports section features an interactive ballot that showcases players with video clips, photos and virtual video game highlights created by 2K Sports. Residents of the United States and Canada who vote will be able to register for a chance to win a trip for two to the 2007 NHL All-Star Game. As part of the sweepstakes, sponsored by COLD-fX, NHL great and 16-time All-Star Mark Messier will meet the winner and a guest at the NHL All-Star Game.

The 2007 NHL All-Star Celebration, hosted by the American Airlines Center in Dallas, will feature live national broadcasts of the Dodge Nitro/NHL SuperSkills event on Tuesday, Jan. 23, and the NHL All-Star Game on Wednesday, Jan. 24 on VERSUS in the United States and CBC and RDS in Canada starting at 8 p.m., ET. NASN, the NHL’s exclusive broadcast partner in Europe will provide live coverage of the Dodge Nitro/NHL SuperSkills event and the NHL All-Star Game to more than 25 countries and territories in Europe. NHL RADIO on Westwood One will provide exclusive, national radio coverage in the United States and Canada, while Sirius Satellite Radio and XM Satellite Radio each will provide radio play-by-play coverage of the game.

COLD-fX/NHL All-Star Fan Balloting, Presented by 2K Sports
Western Conference (as of 12/26/06)

Joe Thornton San Jose 614,753
Joe Sakic Colorado 431,961
Jonathan Cheechoo San Jose 407,366
Patrick Marleau San Jose 394,710
Jarome Iginla Calgary 346,067
Markus Naslund Vancouver 314,742
Teemu Selanne Anaheim 296,048
Martin Havlat Chicago 280,658
Daniel Sedin Vancouver 264,880
Henrik Sedin Vancouver 264,779
Brenden Morrow Dallas 254,666
Mike Modano Dallas 230,736
Paul Kariya Nashville 175,767
Ryan Smyth Edmonton 160,923
Brian Rolston Minnesota 134,561
Pavel Datsyuk Detroit 133,878
Petr Sykora Edmonton 133,065
Henrik Zetterberg Detroit 122,150
Rick Nash Columbus 119,434
Ales Hemsky Edmonton 116,827
Marian Gaborik Minnesota 115,974
Andy McDonald Anaheim 105,287
Milan Hejduk Colorado 98,426
*Milan Michalek San Jose 96,088
Steve Sullivan Nashville 85,517
Pavol Demitra Minnesota 84,334
Ladislav Nagy Phoenix 80,246
Doug Weight St. Louis 78,932
Shane Doan Phoenix 75,893
Keith Tkachuk St. Louis 70,991
Nikolai Zherdev Columbus 68,355
*write-in candidate

Roberto Luongo Vancouver 438,155
Miikka Kiprusoff Calgary 367,242
Marty Turco Dallas 333,443
Jean-Sebastien Giguere Anaheim 249,643
Dwayne Roloson Edmonton 199,563
Nikolai Khabibulin Chicago 135,419
*Vesa Toskala San Jose 125,820
Tomas Vokoun Nashville 118,633
Manny Fernandez Minnesota 108,143

Scott Niedermayer Anaheim 540,380
Nicklas Lidstrom Detroit 522,345
*Rory Fitzpatrick Vancouver 486,842
Chris Pronger Anaheim 389,342
Dion Phaneuf Calgary 359,071
Scott Hannan San Jose 357,619
Mattias Ohlund Vancouver 297,307
John-Michael Liles Colorado 215,450
Robyn Regehr Calgary 209,018
Sergei Zubov Dallas 202,685
Mathieu Schneider Detroit 170,675
Rob Blake Los Angeles 163,659
Lubomir Visnovsky Los Angeles 162,350

Players from the San Jose Sharks and the Anaheim Ducks hold half of the top 10 spots among Western Conference vote-getters in the COLD-fX/NHL All-Star Fan Balloting, Presented by 2K Sports. Sharks forward Joe Thornton and Ducks defenseman Scott Niedermayer lead the Western Conference with 614,753 and 540,380 votes, respectively. Thornton’s teammates Jonathan Cheechoo (407,486) and Patrick Marleau (394,710) are ranked seventh and eighth, while Anaheim defenseman Chris Pronger is ninth with 389,342 votes. To date, more than 25 million votes have been cast in the all-digital voting program.

Vote for your 2007 NHL Allstar selections here. The Vote for Rory campaign is discussed at length by Chuqui, USA Today, and the CBC.

[Update] NHL Allstar Game election update - Sharkspage.

[Update2] Why Rory won't go - James Mirtle.


Two Pacific Division heavyweights square off on Boxing Day

The Anaheim Ducks 4-3 win over the San Jose Sharks on Tuesday night had all the makings of a heavyweight prize fight. The Sharks avenged a 5-0 loss in Anaheim on November 21st with a come from behind 4-3 win in San Jose a week before Christmas.

Both teams were confident, looking to dictate the physical play early, and send a message to the rest of the league in the process.

Highlights of the Ducks vs Sharks game are available on YouTube. Next up on Yahoo streaming is the Stars at Avalanche on Wednesday (6PM), and a double header on Thursday night; Hurricanes at Sabres (4PM) and Kings at Oilers (6PM).

San Jose Sharks vs Anaheim Ducks

Key plays of the game:

The Sharks goaltending rotation was flipped prior to the start of the game. Vesa Toskala was scheduled to start, but with the two-day Christmas break and 5 days in between game action for Toskala, Evgeni Nabokov earned his third straight start against Anaheim. Kyle McLaren, Rob Davison, and Scott Parker were scratches for San Jose. It was announced that rookie center Joe Pavelski changed his number from 53 to 8.

Sean O'Donnell, Shane O'Brien, and George Parros were scratches for Anaheim. The loss of defenseman Sean O'Donnell would mix up Anaheim's defensive pairings, and put a lot of pressure on rookie Shane O'Brien to step up. Todd Marchant was held out of the game with a lower body injury.

San Jose - Marcel Goc, Mark Smith, Curtis Brown, Marc-Edouard Vlasic, Scott Hannan, Evgeni Nabokov. Anaheim - Teemu Selanne, Chris Kunitz, Andy McDonald, Francois Beauchemin, Scott Niedermayer, Jean-Sebastien Giguere.

Veteran Anaheim center Travis Green skated across the blueline and unleashed a shot that beat Nabokov to open the scoring. It was Green's fourth start, and he added a goal to go along with his lone assist on the season. Jean-Sebastien Giguere robbed Joe Pavelski by sliding across the crease to make a save. A few minutes later, Jonathan Cheechoo picked the puck out of a scrum, and tried to bank a shot off Giguere and into the net. The puck drifted a few inches from a prone Giguere. Ehrhoff, also sprawled on the ice, tapped the puck home. Game tied 1-1.

Noticed that the Sharks were dropping back a little on the penalty kill, and stacking up at the blueline. Curtis Brown and Mike Grier lead the team with 2 short handed goals apiece. With a delayed penalty on Shane O'Brien (excellent rookie season, 2G, 9A, +11, 101PIMs), Joe Thorton found Patrick Marleau on the point who slaps one home.

Shawn Thornton drops the gloves with Mark Bell at the end of the period. They circle around the logo at center ice, before Thornton lands several rights to the body and one to the head. Thornton pushes Bell up and almost over the Anaheim bench. Thornton loses his helmet. Bell fires a number of short right hands, but gets his arms tangled in his jersey. Shawn Thornton takes advantage and winds up for several hard looping right hands. Bell gets in one last shot before Thornton falls to the ice. Edge to Thornton.

Anaheim has 4 players on the Hockeyfights.com FM leaderboard: Shane O'Brien 9, George Parros 8, Travis Moen 6, and Shawn Thornton 6. San Jose has 1: Mark Bell 6.

San Jose rookie defenseman Matt Carle lost his footing, and Anaheim left wing Chris Kunitz took the puck behind the net and wristed a shot over Nabokov to tie the game at 2-2. Later in the period, Dustin Penner gathered a rebound and again beat Nabokov on a wraparound. Sharks are on the ropes.

Announced attendance of 17,496. A sellout crowd made more impressive by the cold and very wet weather outside. On the fourth Sharks power play of the game, Josh Gorges sends a 3-line pass to Milan Michalek. Michalek is cut off by Scott Niermayer. He drops the puck to Joe Pavelski, who circles behind the net with speed. Pavelski tries to stuff a puck past Giguere, but the rebound bounces to Bernier. Goal, game tied at 3-3.

Jean-Sebastien Giguere grabbed his groin after attempting to make the save on Bernier. He is helped off the ice. There were reports Giguere was placed on a gurney in the hallway, but he returns to serve as a backup. Michael Wall (1GP, 1-0-0, 3GAA, .864SV%) enters the game. Momentum has swung to San Jose, but they will need to jump on Wall early before he can get his feet under him. Sharks fans mix it up from the usual Ducks (are bad) chant, complete with a duck whistle, to a Prong-er Prong-er chant.

Initial impression after 2 periods, both teams are dangerous with each line. San Jose needs to develop a killer instinct, which Anaheim has this year in spades. Not sure of the extent of Giguere's injury, but with Ilya Bryzgalov out with a groin strain, the Ducks could face their first big hurdle of the season. Anaheim lost goaltender Michael Leighton on waivers to the Nashville Predators November 27th.

Marleau posts up in front of the crease and the Ducks are having little success moving him. As a San Jose power play ticks down, the Sharks generate a good scoring chance up high in the slot. The puck bounces to the boards, and center Sammy Pahlsson shields the puck with his body and uses his stick to one hand it out of the zone. It creates a rush in the opposite direction. This was one of the "little things" coaches often refer to after winning or losing a game.

Scott Niedermayer skates the puck up ice, and backhands a pass to Samuel Pahlsson. Pahlsson crosses the blueline and winds up for a big slapshot. Corey Perrey redirects the puck past Nabokov, and the Ducks take the lead 4-3 midway through the third period. The Sharks overcame a late 3-2 deficit in their last game against Anaheim, can they do it again tonight? They will have to wait, Matt Carle given 2 minutes for holding. Sharks in trouble, shot total is 29-18 for Anaheim. It was 23-17 after two.

Shawn O'Brien's interference call at 14:35 puts him over 100 PIMs on the season (101). Chris Pronger conveniently takes a delay of game penalty when he shoots the puck over the glass. The penalty elicited a roar of mock approval from the San Jose fans, loudest cheer of the night. Earlier in the game the Anaheim announcers mentioned that San Jose fans were not booing Pronger because he was with the Ducks, they were boing him as a leftover from his days in St Louis. A few fans might remember a certain playoff series with Edmonton as well.

The Sharks have a 5-on-3. Big scramble in front of the crease. Michael Wall covers a lot of space down low, and Samuel Pahlsson ends up making a crucial block. You may have to look past the stat sheet, but Pahlsson is the player of the game in my opinion.

Ducks overcome Sharks, injuries; They play without Marchant and O'Donnell, then lose Giguere and Beauchemin during the victory - Orange County Register.

Ducks get job done in a pinch - Los Angeles Times.

The Ducks had every excuse to feel a bit defeated Tuesday night.

Already having an injured Sean O'Donnell on the sideline, they lost center Todd Marchant to a lower-body injury before their key Pacific Division battle with the San Jose Sharks.

And as the game went on, the Ducks' situation grew dramatically worse when Jean-Sebastien Giguere and Francois Beauchemin left in the second period and didn't return.

Giguere's injury mars Ducks victory - LA Daily News.


Hockey Night in San Jose, Sharks extinguish the Flames 4-1

San Jose Sharks S.J. Sharkie
Christian Ehrhoff Calgary Flames
San Jose Sharks Calgary Flames hockey

The San Jose Sharks came from behind to score 2 goals in each of the final two periods, and earn a 4-1 win over the Western Conference rival Calgary Flames. The 4th line of Brown, Smith, and Goc (3 centers dubbed the "Helicopter line" by the San Jose broadcasters), combined for 2 goals and 3 assists. Sharks goaltender Evgeni Nabokov [11-6-0] made 21 saves on 22 shots.

Center Matthew Lombardi scored his 11th goal for Calgary 17:55 into the first period. It was only the second shorthanded goal the Sharks have allowed all season. A 2-0 Coyotes win over Anaheim at Phoenix meant that San Jose picked up 2 points in the standings on the Pacific and NHL leading Anaheim Ducks.

San Jose Sharks head coach Ron Wilson dicussed the importance of defensive responsibility in his usual sardonic fashion during the post-game press conference, "I want our defense to be a part of the attack, but not to be ahead of the forwards".

In an answer to another question, Ron Wilson detailed what he wanted from this team for Christmas.

[Q] They didn't earn a power play tonight. Is that just a part of the team being nimble?

[A] Yes, and that is what I wanted for Christmas. That is what I asked Santa Claus for. We were moving and worked a little smarter than they did in most situations. They have had a tough little trip here since getting stuck in Denver and not being able to practice until basically last night here, after 2 or 3 days. They were a little rusty, and if you are moving your feet you are not going to take any penalties. If you don't get caught on the wrong side of things by being mentally prepared to play, you are not going to take too many penalties.

Don Cherry and Ron MacLean discuss the NHL Allstar Game voting, Rory Fitzpatrick, Alexander Ovechkin, and Jim Vandermeer's hit on Michael Peca for Hockey Night in Canada's Coaches Corner. Don Cherry calls the "Vote for Rory" campaign a joke, and says they are laughing at him, not with him. Ron MacLean described the Allstar Game as a celebration of the sport, and this vote as a positive response from hockey fans.

Hockey Night in Canada's Satellite Hotstove featured host Ron MacLean, the Globe and Mail's Eric Duhatschek and CP journalist Pierre Lebrun from Toronto, and insider Drew Remenda from HP Pavilion in San Jose. Pierre Lebrun broke the story this week of a proposal to realign the NHL. Atlanta and Columbus would switch conferences, the number of divisions would be reduced, and an extra round of playoffs would be added under the proposal. Drew notes that no Pacific Division team has won the Stanley Cup, and that may be due to the amount of travel teams have to do throughout the season. The Hotstove also discusses hockey in Pittsburgh after the Isle of Capri casino/arena vote fell through.

Sharks overpower visiting Flames - CBC.

Sharks get it right against the Flames, Players show more after after that loss to Dallas - San Jose Mercury News.

Evgeni Nabokov, who had a 1.17 goals-against average in his previous six starts, finished with 21 saves. Marcel Goc scored San Jose's first goal and skated with a menace. Curtis Brown had two assists. Mark Smith had a goal and an assist, earning a postgame interview on "Hockey Night in Canada".

"I gave a shout out to Eyebrow, to all the boys back home watching," Smith said of his hometown in Saskatchewan. "I'm sure somebody's got CBC out there on the farm with the old satellite. Unless a snowstorm came in there and blew everything down. That's quite possible."

[Update] Leftoverdome - Deadspin.com.

[Update2] Even without big fish, Sharks chomp on Flames; Thornton, Cheechoo held silent in victory - Calgary Herald.

[Update3] San Jose Sharks vs Calgary Flames video highlights are available on YouTube.


Japanese-born Yutaka Fukufuji and Asian Hockey League gain exposure

Yutaka Fukufuji Asia League Ice Hockey

Japanese-born goaltender Yutaka Fukufuji was called up to the Los Angeles Kings to serve as a backup last week against the Dallas Stars.

"I was shaking" said Fukufuji of stepping onto the ice at Staples Center arena for the first time. "I can't believe it. I don't know what to say. It is a good opportunity for me"...

"He is a good kid and he is hardworking," Los Angeles coach Marc Crawford said. "This will give a little more notoriety to hockey in Japan. We will consider using him."

Fukufuji has run into a logjam of goaltending prospects with the Kings affiliate in the American Hockey League, the Manchester Monarchs. Highly touted Jason LaBarbera has earned a 14-11-1 record, with a 2.49GAA, and a .925SV% in 27 games played with Manchester this season. Shortly after his callup to Los Angeles, Yutaka Fukufuji was reassigned to the Long Beach Ice Dogs of the ECHL.

Barry Brust, who was thrust into a starting role with injuries to Dan Cloutier and Mathieu Garon, earned his first win with 34 saves against the San Jose Sharks.

Where rising sun meets ice. In Japan, skaters try to build momentum - Boston Globe.

In 2004-05, the JIHL disbanded, and now four Japanese squads, including Kokudo, are part of the nine-team Asian Hockey League that includes two clubs from China, two from Korea, and a team from Scandinavia, the Nordic Vikings, who play "home" games in Beijing. The Vikings last season were made up mostly of Swedes, with a sprinkling of Finns, and one player each from Norway, Iceland, and Japan.

The Bakersfield Californian posted a profile of Josh Liebenow, who played for the Kangwonland ALIH club in South Korea. The culture, the food, the lack of physical play on the ice, and the Olympic-size rinks were an adjustment, but Liebnow said the experience was a 10. (Note: My brother Peter trained with the Yonggin University Yungmudo martial arts team in South Korea last summer).

Oji Paper's "Kid's Camp" has been held in Toyohashi - Asia League Ice Hockey.

The Nippon Paper Cranes lead the ALIH with a 22-4-1 record after 27 games played. Nippon's Masatoshi Ito leads the league in scoring with 24 goals and 30 assists for 54 points.

Esa Tikkanen Asia League Ice Hockey

Two years ago during the NHL lockout, fans sent in photos and updates from 3 of the 4 ALIH countries at the time (Japan, Korea, Russia). The update included photos Esa Tikkanen skating for Halla Winia in Korea, photos of warmups at Yoyogi Arena in Tokyo, and notes/links to a RSL and Khabarovsk City photo gallery from Igor Saranchin of Eastern Russia.

A few weeks after that post, former Islanders GM Mike Milbury made a development trip to evaluate ALIH teams in China. Hockey Days in China - ESPN2.

My mission was to evaluate the hockey teams of Harbin and QiQihar. Each city has a team that plays in the Asian Hockey League (AHL), an entity with clubs in Japan, Korea and China. The Chinese teams have struggled in AHL play and I have been sent to consider ways that we might help them. Since the Chinese national team consists entirely of players from these two teams, it might be indirectly helped as well. The thinking is that if these two teams and the national team can achieve some success, hockey in China can regain some needed attention and perhaps some private and governmental sponsorship.

A followup on Milbury's trip, which was made at the behest of Islanders owner Charles Wang, can be found on the Boston Globe column linked above. The Islanders and Nike Bauer shipped 300 full sets of hockey equipment to China, and Milbury estimates that the league should see a Chinese player make the jump to North America by 2008.

[Update] Darche nets hat trick, five points as Worcester Sharks win - TheAHL.com.

[Update2] Suddenly, interest in this team spans globe - Los Angeles Times.

Fukufuji is the stuff of national pride. He became the first Japanese-born player to dress for an NHL game Saturday, and that was enough to double the size of the media corps in the Kings dressing room after the game.

"I wasn't expecting this," Fukufuji said of the attention. "It's nice. I hope I get a chance to play. But I'm just here to work hard."


Smashmouth Hockey, Dallas dominates the physical game en route to 3-0 win

Vesa Toskala Niklas Hagman
Dallas Stars Marty Turco
San Jose Sharks
San Jose Sharks Dallas Stars

Marty Turco made 20 saves on all 20 shots he faced as the Dallas Stars earned a 3-0 shutout win at HP Pavilion on Thursday night.

Kyle McLaren and Patrick Marleau tried to answer the physical tone set by Dallas in the first period, but the Stars outhit and outworked a San Jose club that could not recover. Jeff Halpern, Jussi Jokinen (PP), and Brenden Morrow scored for Dallas.

NHL Video posted Dallas vs San Jose highlights on Youtube here, and a highlight package of the best saves of the week here. Highlights of the Stars 4-1 loss to Anaheim on Wednesday are available here.

Key plays of the game:

Dallas held a team meeting to address a 6-game winless in regulation streak after the 4-1 loss to Anaheim. They were going to come out fired up from the drop of the puck and San Jose would need to match their intensity. The Stars outplayed the San Jose in October, but the Sharks escaped with a 2-0 win. Dallas is capable of getting a one goal lead, and then shutting it down defensively.

A point shot by Philippe Boucher deflected to the right of Vesa Toskala, and Jeff Halpern hammered home the rebound to give the Stars a 1-0 lead. San Jose outhit Dallas 23-20 for the game, but the Stars established the physical play early and often in the first period. Kyle McLaren tried to answer with big checks against Nicklas Hagman and Antti Miettinen, and by pasting Mike Ribeiro along the end boards.

Stephane Robidas fed Jussi Jokinen a long pass through the neutral zone to create a breakaway while the Stars were on the man advantage. Jokinen broke in on Toskala, brought the puck to his backhand, and then lifted it up over the glove to make it 2-0. If this was the NFL, it could be said that Patrick Marleau de-cleated Trevor Daley behind the Stars net. Instead, Daley just lost his helmet in the collision.

With 12:30 remaining in the third period, a power play attempt by Patrick Marleau was stuffed as Marty Turco stacked his pads. It was the best scoring opportunity for the Sharks during the game, although there were not many to choose from. Vesa Toskala made the initial save on a Dallas Stars two-on-one, but Brenden Morrow grabbed the rebound and flicked it past the sprawled goaltender. Two photos of the play are here and here.

A transcript of San Jose Sharks head coach Ron Wilson during the post-game press conference:

[Ron Wilson] I have no idea why for the first five minutes. I was feeling pretty good, we had our legs, we were skating. We hadn't shot the puck yet, but we were flying around. As soon as they scored their first goal, it seemed like we lost the will to battle, and especially at home that is disappointing.

We didn't do the little things we need to do to win, things we have been working on in practice. We couldn't make a 10 foot pass. Its got nothing to do with the layoff because we did it against L.A, and we did it against Colorado. Its not the layoff, it is being mentally prepared. Some of the veterans need to lead better, and some of the younger players need to understand that every night you need to prepare mentally for the game.

[Q] Did the inability to make a 10 foot pass compound the difficulty of trying to make the low percentage play?

[Ron Wilson] The little plays are there, but you look beyond them to find something better and the play that was the easiest one, which is always the first pass that your D makes, is always there. It gets intercepted, or your passing lanes go and you end up flipping it off the boards.

That is not the way we want to play. We have to be a puck possession team. As soon as you stop doing that, you got the forwards 2 lines ahead, they are standing in the passing lanes and everybody gets frustrated.

Stars Dominate Sharks 3-0 To Close Two-Game California Trip - SJsharks.com.

Former Sharks assistant coach, radio and television broadcaster Drew Remenda returned to San Jose for the game Thursday night. Remenda was in town prior to working Saturday's Sharks-Flames game for Hockey Night in Canada.

The Razor was also in the building. His broadcast partner commented that Niklas Hagman generated scoring chances with his puck pursuit and strong defensive play, but that he needed to finish more of the opportunities he created. He also labeled one scrum in the corner as a player "foraging" for the puck. The Razor noted that the Sharks were admiring their own passes, while the Stars were finishing every check. It was also said that Stars goaltending coach Andy Moog coined the phrase the "Finnish Flick". It is when a Finnish goaltender positions his glove akwardly and then flicks it to make a save.

Mike Heika reports in the Dallas Morning News that the Sharks were showered with boos on Thursday night. Marty Turco also said that this might be the best win of the season for Dallas. David Sessions writes in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram that this may have been a turning point win for the Stars. Andrew's Starspage echoed the crunch-time sentiments.

Ross McKeon of the San Francisco Chronicle focuses on San Jose's four days between games, Sharks Lack Any Bite. Victor Chi of the San Jose Mercury News also noted the Sharks uninspired play. Maria Avila posted an audio slideshow for the Merc.

[Update] NHL considering significant overhaul including realignment and a reduction in the number of divisions - TSN.

[Update2] You can send questions for San Jose Sharks captain Patrick Marleau to Hockey Night in Canada's Afterhours here.


Hockey Notes - December 20th

- San Jose's performance in the last 5 games:

4-1, 16 goals for, 9 goals against, 1 shutout (Vesa Toskala over Phoenix), Jonathan Cheechoo and Joe Pavelski tied for scoring lead with 3 goals each, Steve Bernier leads the team with 9 hits, 8-33 on the power play (24%) including 5 straight games with a PP goal (6 including Colorado), 2-24 on the penalty kill (92%) including 4 straight games holding the opposition scoreless with the man advantage.

4 of the next 5 games are at home for the Sharks: Dallas (12/21), Calgary (12/23), Anaheim (12/26), Phoenix (12/28), @Phoenix (12/30). Anaheim holds the top record in the NHL (26-4-6), and a 10 point lead over San Jose for first place in the Pacific Divison. Dallas trails Anaheim by 16 points.

The Calgary Flames lead the Northwest Divison with a slim 1 point lead over 3 teams (Colorado, Edmonton, Minnesota). Struggling all season, Phoenix holds the third worst record in the NHL.

- Pacific: Ducks, Sharks feeling the burn - NHL.com.

In the NHL, a rivalry isn’t really a rivalry until the two principles meet in the playoffs, and this could be the year that a postseason showdown elevates games between the Ducks and the Sharks from mere intra-state series to a full-fledged passion play.

Until that happens, the Ducks and Sharks will have to be content to stoke the fire of their burgeoning rivalry with regular- season meetings that feel like playoff games.

After Anaheim dominated the first meeting of the year, 5-0, Nov. 21 at Honda Center, the Sharks came back to win the second contest, 4-3, Saturday at San Jose. The rematch was more indicative of the completive balance that exists between the two teams.

One more reason for Californian fans to heap scorn on Edmonton. The Oilers ousted the Sharks in 6 games last year in the Western Conference Semi-Finals (preventing an Anaheim-San Jose Battle of California final). Edmonton unceremoniously showed the "Mighty" Ducks the door in the Western Conference Finals in 5 games. One team deprived an entire state of a playoff hockey rivalry.

- NHL Video posted an NHL Plays of the Week highlight reel on Youtube. Also worth a look are the Joe Thornton and Lecavalier/Richards promos. There is a double-header tonight on Yahoo streaming, Blue Jackets at Red Wings (4:30PM) and Stars at Ducks (7PM).

- Each Saturday on Hockey Night in Canada host Ron MacLean's will break down one aspect of the game with an expert to help develop a more complete hockey player. Adam Graves helped illustrate puck protection and shooting with an extended reach, Drew Remenda discussed goalie warmups and playing the puck along the boards, Kirk Muller teaches penalty killing and faceoffs, and Wendel Clark breaks down positioning in the offensive zone.

Video of these lessons and more are available from the CBC.

In the future we will add a schools/instruction section to the links page so all of the information will be in one place.

- Updated the Team Blogs section below to the right. Added links to two Islanders blogs (All Islanders, Bossy's blog), one Boston Bruins blog, the popular player blog On the Road by Tampa's Doug Janik, Flame Talk, and three Maple Leafs blogs (Ferguson, Bowen, Ulmer).

The best by a wide margin is still the Atlanta Thrashers Blueland blog. NHL team podcasts will be updated next week. This blog focuses on Sharks and Californian hockey, but feel free to send in links to other hockey articles/blogs or add them in the comments. Photos are welcome too.

- Big Joe (Thornton) leaves agent in favor of brother - The Hockey News.

- A whirlwind NHL beginning for Pavelski - Hockeys Future.

- On Tuesday, the San Jose Sharks recalled goaltender Dimitri Patzold from the Fresno Falcons of the ECHL.

Patzold has posted a 4-2-3 record in 10 games with Worcester this season with a 3.85 goals-against average and a .872 save percentage. He was recently recalled to Worcester from Fresno of the ECHL where he posted a 2-2-0 record with a 2.01 goals-against average and a .930 save percentage.

This can be a sign that something is in the works trade-wise, but San Jose Sharks GM Doug Wilson appears content to ride two number one goaltenders unless another lopsided deal of Joe Thornton proportions comes down the pike.

[Wilson} knows his team has the third-best record in the National Hockey League, and he knows it has not played nearly as well as it can, and he knows that most folks still believe he is one defenseman short and will need to trade one of his two goaltenders before the deadline to fill that need...

The best guess, ultimately, is that San Jose does need that defenseman, and that there will be one significant injury between now and the deadline, and that either Toskala or Nabokov will take command of the goaltending job. This has been going suspiciously easy for the Sharks so far, and another skate surely must drop.

Fans, media, and bloggers occasionally forget there are real people behind the rumors they are floating, but for a sport with visibility issues you can not deny the entertainment value. Trade rumors can pierce the NFL/MLB grip on talk radio, make the rounds in the newspapers and on blogs faster than almost every other hockey story.

- Prince of Pucks: Datsyuk-for-Gomez proposed. With the NHL's Christmas "trade freeze" to begin Dec. 19 here is the latest from the trade rumor mill. - Fox Sports.

- All bucks, no bang. Theodore not delivering performances to warrant $5.5 million Avs salary - Denver Post.

The other "defense" is that Colorado's two-goalie expenditure - $6.1 million this season - isn't out of line when compared to other teams. Giguere brings up the San Jose Sharks, who have been alternating Evgeni Nabokov ($5 million) and Vesa Toskala ($1.375 million). The difference there is that both have been excellent all season and are third and sixth, respectively, in goals-against average in the league. Although GM Doug Wilson is playing coy, the Sharks are expected to trade one of them if the right offer comes along - and install the other as the No. 1 down the stretch.

- Marcos Breton: Hoping his game grows down on the farm, The Stockton Thunder's Devan Dubnyk is the Oilers 'goalie of the future' - Sacramento Bee.

Stockton and the surrounding San Joaquin Valley is fertile ground for the best tomatoes, bar none. It's also where they are trying to grow some world-class hockey players.

Yes, hockey players. A bushel of them are training for NHL careers on the Stockton Thunder -- a distant outpost from the frozen ponds of Canada -- but a budding hockey farm nonetheless.

The prize of the harvest is a 6-foot-5 kid considered one of the best young goalies in the NHL's minor leagues.

Miracle of miracles is a hockey article in the Sacramento Bee. The farm metaphors are lame of course, but as long as they spell the name right... The Bee's sports page should be stoking the central valley I-5 rivalry between Stockton and Fresno this Friday in Fresno.

- Dubnyk chosen to play in Spengler Cup - Stockton Record.

- The NHL in Las Vegas? It might happen, but with the sale of the Penguins falling through a lot of Pittsburgh fans are hoping Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban takes the plunge. Crosby, Malkin, Staal and Fleury are about as bright a future as you could hope for. Add one or two first round defensive draft picks and this is a dynasty in the making.

- Former Pittsburg native John Buccigross posted his I told you so moment yesterday on ESPN, I've got one word for Jim Balsillie: phony.

I don't know what's going to happen Wednesday with the license decision. I don't know what's going to happen the day after. I do know that, all along, Balsillie was going to move the Penguins. He was going to take them and move them to Kansas City or Ontario and spit in the face of the good people of Pittsburgh, like Terrell Owens spit in the face DeAngelo Hall.

I don't know if the Penguins are going to stay in Pittsburgh. I only know the chances are much better now that Jim Balsillie is out of the picture and back where he belongs.

Buccigross also tells Ryan from Sunnyvale to youtube Islanders draft pick Kyle Okposo. The video is here. That was a sick between the legs move. As of December 9th, Okposo leads University of Minnesota in scoring with 15 goals and 8 assists in 18 games played.

- Minnesota Unanimous No. 1 in USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine Men's College Hockey Poll - USA Hockey. Mercuryhurst leads the Women's Poll for the second straight week.

- T on the HF messageboards lists a few of the Danish prospects trying to make it to the NHL this season:

[LW] Jannik Hansen (VAN) Manitoba Moose
[LW/C] Kim Staal (NAS) Milwaukee Admirals
[C] Frans Nielsen (NYI) Bridgeport Sound Tigers
[C] Kirill Starkov (CBJ) Red Deer Rebels (WHL)
[C] Morton Madsen (MIN) Victoriaville Tigres (QMJL)

More on the Danes soon. I need to mobilize my people in Denmark to help me write an article on this.

- This lawsuit involving paparazzi photo agencies and a celebrity blogger will have a big impact on the way the blogosphere operates.

- Local Phildalephia coverage of the Domi vs Fan penalty box fight.

[Update] Kukla's Korner has an extensive roundup of links on the Pittsburgh Slot License vote today. The Isle of Capri, who promised to build a new $290-million hockey arena in Pittsburgh, was denied in favor of the Majestic Star Casino.

[Update2] Penguins future in further doubt - TSN.


Hockey Night in San Jose, Third period Sharks comeback sinks Anaheim 4-3

San Jose Sharks Evgeni Nabokov
Anaheim Ducks Jean-Sebastien Giguere
Mark Bell Shane O'Brien

A second period fight between left wing Mark Bell and Anaheim defenseman Shane O'Brien sparked a 4-3 come from behind win for San Jose on Saturday night.

The Sharks stormed back to tie the game with goals by Patrick Marleau and Mark Smith (PP). After Dustin Penner converted on a power play to give Anaheim a 3-2 third period lead, Jonathan Cheechoo and Joe Thornton (PP) scored goals to complete the San Jose comeback. Evgeni Nabokov made 30 saves on 33 shots to earn his 10th win of the season. Anaheim Ducks goaltender Jean-Sebastien Giguere [21-3-5, .922SV%, 2.20GAA, 4SO] made 25 saves on 29 shots in a losing effort.

Anaheim at San Jose Youtube video highlights are available here. Tuesday on Yahoo streaming Avalanche at Oilers [6PM], Wednesday Stars at Ducks [7PM]. Monday night on Versus Detroit at Columbus [4PM], Tuesday St. Louis at Pittsburgh [4PM].

Key plays of the game:

PREGAME: A few Anaheim stats from the league: The ducks are off to the best record in franchise history 25-3-6, have won five straight, and have earned points in 31 of the 34 games played this season. The Ducks have the top offense in the NHL with 123 goals scored, and two perennial Norris trophy candidates on the blueline in Chris Pronger and Scott Niedermayer.

Right wing Dustin Penner is making a case for rookie of the year. He is 2nd among NHL rookies in goals (12), tied for 4th in points (20), and tied for first in shots taken (94). Evgeni Nabokov is going to start in goal for the San Jose Sharks.

Ryan Getzlaf scored his 15th goal of the season on a 4-on-3. Andy McDonald and Chris Pronger assisted on the play. With a lot of speed through the neutral zone, Anaheim right wing Corey Perry skated around Christian Ehrhoff to take a pass of the boards. Perry snapped a shot up over Nabokov to make the game 2-0 Ducks. Nabokov was hugging the post short side, but he found a sliver of open space.

The Sharks 5-0 loss in Anaheim was on a lot of fan's minds at the start of the second period. Anaheim left wing Chris Kunitz laid a huge hit on Josh Gorges who was touching up a puck behind the Sharks net. The lack of a penalty called had fans booing the referees as loud as they were booing Chris Pronger each time he touched the puck.

With the game in danger of getting out of hand in Anaheim's favor, Mark Bell initiated a fight with Shane O'Brien 4:48 into the second period. Thanks to the clip available at Hockeyfights.com, a quick fight recap is possible. Both players jostled for position as Bell landed the first blow. O'Brien lands a left while Bell is leaning back trying to avoid getting hit. O'Brien gets his hand free and lands two rights before missing with a third. O'Brien falls to the ice and Bell lands a solid left on the way down. Edge to O'Brien for the fight.

Patrick Marleau put the Sharks on the board in the second. After skating behind the net, Marleau tried to tee up two Sharks driving the crease. He then circled around to the left of Giguere and hammered home a pass by Joe Pavelski. The cheer from the crowd was deafening, a true playoff atmosphere. 2-1 Ducks. Pavelski also triggered the second San Jose Sharks goal that tied the game. Pavelski found Mark Smith at the blueline. Smith fired a shot/pass to Joe Thornton, who tried to backhand the puck off of a sprawling Giguere. Smith scored on the rebound to tie the game.

After the Sharks almost clear the zone on an Anaheim man advantage, Ryan Getzlaf saves the puck and skates to the top of the crease. Getzlaf finds Perry to Nabokov's right, and Perry quickly sends it to Penner at the left of the crease for a one-timer. Tic-tac-toe, it is 3-2 Anaheim.

San Jose won two 1-on-1 battles for the puck at the Anaheim blueline. Thornton, falling to the ice, found Carle who wristed a shot on net. Jonathan Cheechoo looked like an NBA forward getting position in the paint. He got inside of Sean O'Donnell, turned his back to him and flicked home a rebound inside the post. A turnover by Beauchemin as he entered the Sharks zone lead to a long break out pass to Mike Grier. Grier generated yet another penalty as Kunitz took him down before he could get a quality shot off. On the ensuing power play, Joe Thornton skated off the boards and scored a goal through traffic to give San Jose a late 4-3 third period lead.

The San Francisco Chronicle felt that this Sharks win avenged an earlier 5-0 loss in Anaheim. Kyle McLaren added a little stability to the blueline, returing to the lineup after missing four games. Mark Smith also returned from the IR.

The Mercury News published "The Ducks Stop Here" as a lead, and also posted an audio slideshow from the game. San Jose Sharks head coach Ron Wilson noted what the second period Mark Bell fight meant to the game.

"You want to make a statement in a game like this," Sharks Coach Ron Wilson said. "We were OK in the first period, but in the second when they scored -- it wasn't a good goal -- we just seemed to wilt a little bit. But then Beller stirred things up."

The OC Register's Dan Wood had a reaction from the visitor's locker room, and it was not a pleasant one. Anaheim Ducks head coach Randy Carlyle wanted Jonathan Cheechoo's game winning goal to be called offsides. Carlyle felt that the goal should have been called off because both of Thornton's feet were in the crease before the puck crossed the goal line. Also noted was the fact that injured goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov (strained groin) did not return to practice in San Jose on Friday, that Carlyle is a top candidate for the Western Conference Allstar game head coach, and that Andy McDonald stretched his scoring streak to 6 games with an assist.

In his Duck's blog, Wood points out that an Anaheim win would have given the Ducks a 12 point lead over the Sharks in the Pacific Division. An almost insurmountable lead the way this team has been playing. The next meeting is December 26th in San Jose.

The Los Angeles Times also posted he-said, she-said coverage with regards to hockey in Southern California. On Monday, Chris Foster writes that interest in (the Los Angeles Kings) spans globe.

Hellene Elliott took a contrarian approach on the same day saying that the high-flying Ducks just aren't on our radar; Anaheim team is the NHL's best, But in local popularity, it can't rival the Lakers or Dodgers.

If the Lakers were the top team in the NBA and had set a league record for road victories, all of Southern California would be talking about it.

Lakers flags would be flapping outside car windows. The south wall of the Hotel Figueroa across from Staples Center would have those giant portraits — maybe Bynum, Abdul-Jabbar, Chamberlain. No first names needed. Sports talk radio would be ablaze with Lakers callers. Sports bars would overflow with fans cheering every jump shot and roaring at every rebound.

The Ducks, whose Anaheim home at the newly renamed Honda Center is only 40 minutes away, have the best record in the National Hockey League.

But there are no flags. No giant portraits. And their games might not even be on the TV at the local sports bar — Lakers, Clippers, Bruins and Trojans often take precedence. And in the spring, add Dodgers and Angels to the list.

Elliott describes Los Angeles as a Laker and USC football town, but she also notes the serious problems facing the NHL. Attendance is a concern, years without success has stunted the Anahiem fan base, and a move from ESPN to Versus (formerly OLN) only compounded the lack of television revenue. She notes a few positive signs, but omits the fact that all of the sports leagues are facing serious challenges.

The ratings for the World Series and Superbowl, the NBA, World Cup, Tour de France, and boxing are all down. Newspaper coverage of the NHL is shrinking, but sports departments around the country are hemmoraging jobs, column space and ad revenue. They are trying to stay alive in a changing environment. Elliott does an excellent and detailed job painting a picture of the NHL situation in Southern California, but it has the taint of someone trying to justify their lack of coverage.

Prior to the start of the NHL season, the Los Angeles Times reported that their paper would no longer send reporters on the road with the Ducks or the Kings (one showed up for the Sharks-Ducks game). Puckupdate posted a link to an interview Helene Elliott did with sportsmediaguide.com where she also mentioned a number of the problems facing the league.

J.S. Giguere Anaheim Ducks

There were a number of Teemu Selanne and Dustin Penner jersey-clad fans during warmups. Former Shark Teemu Selanne received cheers his first couple of laps around the rink. Chris Pronger received a few scattered boos which grew to rink-wide boos each time he touched the puck during the game. San Jose fans like to designate a villain for each game, and Pronger was it.

[Update] Improving Clowe continues to impress Sharks - NHL.com.


Hockey Night in San Jose, Kings down Sharks 4-2 as Barry Brust picks up first NHL win

Los Angeles Kings Anze Kopitar
Kings vs Sharks Brust
San Jose Sharks Joe Pavelski
San Jose Shark head

Kings rookie phenom Anze Kopitar scored the first two goals of the game to put the Sharks behind early. Kopitar wristed home a rebound from out wide, and scored a second on a drop pass by Alexander Frolov while shorthanded. Dan Cloutier was injured taking a shot during warmups, so backup Barry Brust earned his first NHL start. Brust made 34 saves on 36 shots to help the Kings to a 4-2 win in San Jose.

Youtube Los Angeles at San Jose video highlights are available. NHL saves of the week are here. YouTube added a new feature, top sports videos discussed in the last 24 hours.

Key plays of the game:

The Kings radio broadcast noted a few things Los Angeles would have to accomplish in order to escape from HP Pavilion with a win. L.A. would have to cycle the puck down low, create distractions in front of Toskala, stay out of the penalty box, and play disciplined in their own zone.

Sharkspage and an usher agreed that San Jose needed to put upwards of 30-40 shots on Barry Brust, and create a lot of traffic in front of the crease. Brust [1-4 in the AHL, 0-1 in the NHL this season] was making his first NHL start after Dan Cloutier was injured by a shot in warmups. Kings broadcasters speculated that late notice of Brust's start may work in his favor. He had less time to think about it, and the team may tighten up in front of him given the circumstances.

First period:
A point shot rebounds to the right of Vesa Toskala. Two Sharks check 2 out of 3 Kings in front of the crease. An unchallenged Anze Kopitar gathers the rebound, gets Toskala to go down, and scores up high from a wide angle. A breakout for the Kings is started in the defensive zone by Kopitar. Frolov drives into the Sharks zone, and is checked by Ehrhoff. Frolov turns his back to the net and finds Kopitar for a point blank goal. It was the first short handed goal the Sharks have allowed in 33 games this season.

Second period:
Brent Sopel, back from an extended stay on the IR, wrists a point shot wide of Toskala. The puck caroms to the right of the crease where Mike Cammalleri backhands in a goal before being hammered to the ice. Sopel logged 26+ minutes, earned an assist, and registered a +2 on the night after missing 16 games with a foot injury. Sopel also denied Joe Thornton in the third to stifle the Sharks comeback.

Third period:
Derek Armstrong gains possession along the end boards, skates directly to the front of the crease, and roofs a shot over the left shoulder of Toskala. The score is 4-0 Los Angeles 1:28 into the third period. Sean Avery tries to check Patrick Marleau at center ice, but ends up sprawled on the ice instead. After limping back to the bench, Avery can be seen wincing in pain. Marleau sits a few feet away unphazed. Joe Thornton with his back to the boards, finds Ehrhoff in the slot for his 6th goal of the season. With 3:23 left, Mike Grier capitalizes on a pileup in front of Brust to bring the Sharks within 2. Too little, too late. Kings win 4-2.

Rookies are key in Kings' victory - Los Angeles Times (AP).

LaBarbera makes the best of it. - Los Angeles Times.

Jason LaBarbera's life right now is being determined by the fine print in the collective bargaining agreement. The only catch-22 the Kings' goaltender cares to talk about involves the answer to the question: What does LaBarbera do when 22 shots are fired on net?

As for the NHL loophole that has become a noose around him, he shrugs that off. That LaBarbera is still at Manchester, the Kings' American Hockey League franchise, has nothing to do with his play and everything to do with the league's salary cap.

When Mathieu Garon went down with a groin injury Nov. 29, LaBarbera was the no-brainer call-up. Except, he would have to clear NHL waivers — a risk the Kings didn't want to take. So Barry Brust got the call and not LaBarbera. That would be enough for some players to be oozing with angst. But LaBarbera has always been a what-me-worry guy.

The Kings goaltending situation was covered very well in the blogosphere. Earl Sleek of the Battle of California was the first to point out the disparity between performances by Mathieu Garon and Dan Cloutier, when Garon went down with a groin injury [Mathieu Garon, 5-5-2, 2.65GAA, .903SV%, Dan Cloutier, 4-8-2, 3.85GAA, .862SV%].

Garon goes down, the simple reaction is to call-up Jason LaBarbera. LaBarbera saw NHL action in 29 games last season and registered a 11-9 record. In 22 games with Manchester of the AHL this season, LaBarbera has an identical 11-9 record [2.37GAA, .929SV%] with 7 less appearances. Unfortunately for Los Angeles, LaBarbera's one-way contract meant that he would have to clear waivers before playing with the Kings. Each team would have a shot at a solid backup with potential to be a #1 in the very near future.

James Mirtle wrote a post covering the topic for the Globe on Hockey blog, Waiver rules drive Kings crazy.

Due to the fact that LaBarbera has a one-way contract, he would have had to clear waivers in order to join the NHL team, and after having watched the Anaheim Ducks lose their minor-league ‘tender Michael Leighton earlier in the week, the Kings were understandably leery over the fact they could give up LaBarbera over what was going to likely be a short-term call-up.

Had Brust simply warmed the bench for the Kings game against Phoenix, none of this would have been a problem. But when Cloutier got off to yet another poor start and allowed three goals on the first five shots he faced, Crawford gave him the hook in favour of Brust.

The rookie would allow four more goals against one of the league's weakest teams, and when Crawford was asked why LaBarbera wasn’t called up the next day, he nearly blew a gasket.

When asked about this in a subsequent press conference, Los Angeles Kings head coach Marc Crawford could not contain his anger.

That led to the question whether recalling LaBarbera was now worth the risk. The Kings claim to be playoff contenders, need goaltending help and LaBarbera is a restricted free agent after the season. But Crawford did not wait for the question beyond the word well.

"Well? Well what? Well what?" Crawford asked, not so calmly.

Told the question was still in the process of being phrased, Crawford got indignant, "Phrase it right. It's not going to change. Look around the league. Who are half the players getting hurt? Goaltenders. Who are half the players picked up [on waivers]? Goaltenders…. The Ducks tried and lost their guy. I'm sure they're happy about that up in Portland…. Jason is having a good season and he is also helping our young players. He is still a value to this organization."

On a related front, the Kings have more talent coming down the pipeline in their development system. The three top prospects at each position in my assessment during the 2006 Pacific Division rookie tournament were Anze Kopitar at forward, Marc-Edouard Vlasic at defense, and Los Angeles Kings prospect Jonathan Bernier in goal.

Last month Bernier earned QMJHL player of the month honors:

The defensive player of the month award winner is Lewiston MAINEiacs goaltender Jonathan Bernier. The third-year backstop has played a big part in the rise of the MAINEiacs in the Eastern division standings, where they currently sit in first place thanks to 44 points in 28 games. In ten contests, Bernier boasted nine wins, including a shutout, while posting strong numbers: 2.47 goals-against-average and .912 save percentage.

Bernier was among the final cuts for Team Canada's 2007 World Junior roster.

[Update] Kukla's Korner links to a local article on color commentator Marty McSorley, McSorley fitting in with Sharks' broadcast team - Contra Costa Times.

[Update2] Brust shocks Sharks in first NHL game - Letsgokings.com.


Devin Setoguchi disappoints At Team Canada's WJC Selection Camp

To say this year has been a trying one for the Sharks 8th overall selection in the 2005 draft, Devin Setoguchi, would be an understatement. Setoguchi was not able to take part in the Pacific Division Prospect tournament in Los Angeles, the Sharks training camp, and the NHL pre-season because of a knee injury. After Setoguchi was healthy enough to play in the WHL again, he was instantly traded to the Prince George Cougars, where he took a long time to adjust and regain his confidence. Devin's goal scoring ability and pure offensive gifts have carried his play early in the season, however many scouts have labeled his play as lackadaisical.

Team Canada began the selection process for the roster that will hit the ice in Sweden for the 2007 U-20 World Junior Championships. Setoguchi was invited to camp, and he skated in both Red vs. White scrimmages wearing #18 for team White.

Max Giese's Take:

Setoguchi was impressive in spurts .. He surprisingly excelled on the penalty kill where his speed and puck pursuit allowed him to be a nuisance to the opposition .. Took the proper angles playing defense and used his stick well to clog the oppositions lanes .. Showed a lightning quick on his release, has a natural goal scorers shot .. Missed way wide, to the left on the shoot out .. Was very inconsistent shift to shift, only came through with a strong shift one out every five or so .. Lacked the competitiveness to take charge .. Skill set is through the roof, but he has disappointed with his on ice work ethic all year .. Despite his fantastic skating ability, he appeared to be lumbering on long shifts, showing he's still affected by the knee injury .. The one stable in his game that was missing over this week was his tenacious physical game.

NHL Scouts Take:

"To be frank, I didn't notice him. He was invisible in both games and I had to remind myself to identify him on the ice to give you a brief report on how he performed. That's usually a bad sign, as you want a player to stand out at least once in a two game stretch, Devin did not. Seems like a fish out of water with anything Team Canada related as of late, and his lack of confidence showed."

What does this mean for Devin? It means he will likely be sitting at home watching the World Junior Championships instead of playing in them himself. Last season he used being cut as a spring board to a successful season, hopefully he can do that again. The WJC's aren't a be all, end all event to make for a prospective NHL player. Steve Bernier, Patrick Marleau, Scott Hannan and many other successful NHL players weren't chosen to represent their country while others like Anthony Stewart and Jani Rita have struggled to be a regular player in the NHL, let a lone a good one. However, all of those players worked tirelessly to improve their games and that's the task for Setoguchi now.

Devin still has a long time to go before we can say if he was a bad selection at 8th overall, but with Anze Kopitar leading the league in assist by rookies, the selection makes one wonder. It's probable that the Sharks chose Devin's goal scoring exploits and speed over Kopitar's strong two way game and creativity. Obviously short term that was a poor decision, but it's one that will be open to its final judgment for years from now. Kopitar will likely never be a better player than Milan Michalek and Steve Bernier, but still, the Sharks could use a player like him in the system as any other NHL team could. One also has to hope that Setoguchi will turn his game around back to his 2005-2006 form when he scored 36 goals, 47 assists in the regular season, and 8 goals, 4 assist in the playoffs.

Luckily, Devin is such a gifted hockey player, and considering the circumstances he has faced in the first quarter of the season, his struggles are understandable. Personally, hope has not been lost in Devin and it's expected that he'll turn out to be a fine selection for the Sharks.

[Update] The latest December 13th prospect report from the Sharks is available at SJsharks.com. More news from Team Canada's WJC selection camp is available from Hockey Canada.

[Update2] Sharks junior prospects update - Hockeys Future.

NHL, NHLPA, USA Hockey, and Hockey Canada joined together to support youth hockey at Onegoal.com

One goal supports youth hockey

The NHL, NHL Players Association, USA Hockey, Hockey Canada, Nike Bauer and Reebok/CCM joined together to support youth hockey as part of the One Goal program. Noting a recent decline, One Goal's mission is to increase youth hockey participation by 15% over 3 years.

A website at onegoal.com, and an upcoming television ad campaign on Versus and regional networks will promote the non-profit venture.

OneGoal Launches Web Site This Week—First of Many Consumer-Oriented Efforts To Increase Youth Participation in Hockey

MONTREAL, Quebec, Sept. 11, 2006—Major stakeholders in the hockey world have unified to create the new nonprofit organization, OneGoal, which is dedicated to increasing youth participation in the sport of hockey.

The organization's membership includes the National Hockey League (NHL), National Hockey League Player’s Association (NHLPA), USA Hockey, Hockey Canada and the International Hockey Industry Association (encompassing most of the industry’s equipment suppliers), as well as hockey rinks and retailers. Major brands such as Nike-Bauer, Reebok/CCM, Easton-Bell and Mission-ITECH, which usually compete for business, are also part of the coalition and are working together to create a broad-scale "invitation" to new hockey families, easing the beginner process. In addition to the vast marketing and personnel resources that these organizations bring to this initiative, OneGoal has already raised nearly one million dollars for its first year’s efforts to reach out to its audience and increase youth participation in hockey.

"We are proud to be part of an initiative to grow the game of hockey," said Brian Jennings, senior vice president, consumer products marketing for the NHL. "Through the OneGoal program, the NHL will extend its long-standing efforts to increase participation in the sport and support minor hockey programs worldwide."

"It is vital that we all work together to expose more youth to this great game, which is why we are thrilled to be a part of OneGoal," said Ken Kim, NHLPA senior director, business.

The hockey industry took a meaningful step in January of this year, when it hosted the industry's premier trade show – The OneGoal Show – with proceeds going to the OneGoal Foundation. "Those of us in the hockey industry have been going to trade shows for years, but never before has the money spent to attend or exhibit, been directed to such a worthy cause – increased youth participation," said Randy Hooper, president of Source for Sports, Canada's largest independent hockey store chain.

Now, OneGoal is ready to go public with a new web site at onegoal.com (as well as onegoal.ca and onegoal.org), which launched last week. The site is just one of a number of tactics the organization will use to reach out to the public about the benefits of youth hockey. Onegoal.com is designed to take the mystery out of hockey by easing parents and kids into the sport. Parents will find an introduction to the game, answers to many "first-timer" questions, and information about rinks (or retailers) near them and programs in their communities to help their kids take that first step onto the ice.

"At USA Hockey, we are committed, both physically and financially, to this initiative and its objective of increasing participation with kids," said Mike Bertsch, senior vice president at USA Hockey. "We are looking forward to sharing the life lessons learned in our game, such as teamwork and self confidence, with kids."

"Minor hockey is the backbone of our sport," said Glen McCurdie, director, Hockey Canada. "We are thrilled that each of our organizations has been able to come together to support the game and the positive benefits that it has for kids."

OneGoal invites and inspires kids ages four and up, and their families, to join in the great game of hockey. The organization will work to broadly communicate the many virtues of the game and support local "grow hockey" initiatives across North America, via a nation-wide television campaign, retailer/rink programs and local outreach initiatives.

"NHL players were fortunate to learn the sport when they were young, experiencing the camaraderie, teamwork, exercise, and fun that comes along with playing hockey, and it would be fantastic to have more kids enjoy that same opportunity," said the NHLPA's Kim, encapsulating the OneGoal team’s feelings about the new organization.

About OneGoal. OneGoal is a nonprofit, whose mission is to grow the sport of hockey by building awareness of the positive aspects of the game, and helping to break-down the barriers of entry into the sport. The organization's goal is to increase youth hockey participation by 15 percent over three years, targeting four- to eight-year-old boys and girls across North America. For more information about OneGoal, visit www.onegoal.com.

Thanks to Ken Berard for most of this information. More is available at Offwing.

The two upcoming television advertisements entitled "Peas" and "Spitball" were created by the Periscope ad agency. They are available for viewing here and here.


Sharks power past Los Angeles 3-1, Pavelski scores two

Los Angeles Kings Anze Kopitar street art
Los Angeles Kings Anze Kopitar street art

San Jose Sharks rookie forward Joe Pavelksi scored 2 goals to help the Sharks to a 3-1 win over division rival Los Angeles on Wednesday. Steve Bernier added a power play goal in the first, and Evgeni Nabokov made 36 saves on 37 shots to earn his 9th win of the season.

More soon.


Hockey Night in San Jose, Sharks blank Phoenix 4-0 as Ricci and Nolan return to the Tank

San Jose Sharks Phoenix Coyotes
Phoenix Coyotes Owen Nolan
San Jose Sharks Rob Davison

The San Jose Sharks blanked the Phoenix Coyotes 4-0 Monday night at HP Pavilion. Four different forwards scored for San Jose (Michalek-PP, Bernier, Pavelski-PP, Brown), and Vesa Toskala saved all 23 shots he faced to earn his 14th win of the season. Mike Ricci and Owen Nolan were held off the score sheet in their return to San Jose.

A brief take on the Phoenix Coyotes:

The Coyotes appear to be building in the wrong direction. With a mobile defensive corps, and solid goaltending in Curtis Joseph, the foundation for a successful team is there. Up front Phoenix is more suited to a pre-lockout, clutch and grab style of play.

Forwards Ladislav Nagy and Shane Doan have combined for only 9 goals, and 33 points this season. While other teams are opting for youth and speed, veterans Jeremy Roenick, Owen Nolan, Yanic Perreault, and Mike Ricci have been brought in to add depth. Even Oleg Saprykin and Mike Comrie have bought into the team identity, crashing into the goaltender and repeatedly getting under the skin of opponents Monday night.

George Laraque is the uncharacteristic departure. Eschewing the fisticuffs, Laraque has taken advantage of the new rules to become the Coyotes third leading scorer [4G,11A,15PTS]. No matter how well you try to gain position on Laraque, keeping his 6-3, 243 pound frame out of the crease is going to be a difficult endeavor.

The Phoenix Coyotes have a number of bright spots in their development system. Center Peter Mueller has 7 goals and 36 assists in 23 games played for the Everett Silvertips of the WHL. 6-4 centerman Martin Hanzal has put up 15 goals and 33 assists with Red Deer (WHL). Both were key factors in Phoenix's repeat Pacific Division Shootout championship this year, the team's first since 2003.

The Coyotes and Managing Partner/Head Coach Wayne Gretzky need to enter a rebuilding mode sooner rather than later. In the past this club could bang its way to a 5-8th seed and have a shot at a round or two in the postseason. This season the Coyotes are floundering with the third worst record in the NHL.

This club is only postponing its future.

Ross McKeon reported in the San Francisco Chronicle that head coach Ron Wilson is impressed with left wing Mark Bell's performance on the point of the power play. San Jose has been struggling to generate shots from defenseman with the man advantage. McKeon also noted that the Sharks strength on the power play and the Coyotes weakness on the penalty kill, was one of the deciding factors of the game.

Sharks make points in blanking Phoenix - San Jose Mercury News. The Merc also posted an audio slideshow from the game here.

It was announced at intermission that San Jose captain Patrick Marleau tied the record for most games played as a Shark (671). Marleau can surpass Mike Rathje tonight in Los Angeles (live on Yahoo streaming).

Jovanovski prepares to face former team - Arizona Republic.

Curtis Joseph is not known for being a quote machine, but the Coyotes goalie delivered a memorable line after Monday's morning skate worth noting in this forum. Asked how he was feeling after being hit by a flying puck in the right ear during a recent practice, Joseph said he was OK, but that his ability to hear clearly had been affected. After describing exactly how at length, Joseph paused and then cracked: "But I stayed at a Holiday Inn Express last night, so I should be OK for the game." — David Vest

Pittsburgh Penguins Sidney Crosby

[Update] Offwing lead the blog coverage of the biggest matchup so far this NHL season between the Pittsburgh Penguins and Washington Capitals. More photos from Ellen last night at the phone booth are available here, here, and here.

Versus went all out on the television broadcast of the game. A dozen cameras were used, Ovechkin and Crosby were mic'd, Joe Beninati and Darren Elliot were lined up to call the game, former Penguins coach Ed Olczyk was in the studio, and the game was available in HD ahead of the VS HD launch in January.

The next premiere NHL matchup of the season? The Anaheim Ducks travel to San Jose Saturday, December 16th.

[Update2] Phoenix Coyotes Lose in Typical Fashion - One Fan's Perspective.

The Phoenix Coyotes lost against the San Jose Sharks 4-0. They needed to stay out of the penalty box, but they had six penalties in the first period and the Sharks had two 5-on-3 man advantages.

The Coyotes needed to play with a lead, but they were down a goal at the end of the first period, and down by three at the end of the second period. The Coyotes needed to take advantage of any power play opportunity, but they went 0-5.

Also take a look at these posts from OFP for more on the Coyotes: Lisin Heads Home, Trading Spaces, Georges Laraque: Not Just for Brawls Anymore. That is a lot to read, but well worth a look if you want more information on the Coyotes.

One post of PB's I forgot to link to discussed the Evgeni Nabokov for David LeNeveu and defenseman Nick Boynton trade rumors coming out of Phoenix earlier this season.


Hockey Notes - December 11th

- Posted above are the top hockey hits of November from NHL video on Youtube. Colin White's hit on Sean Avery was described by the broadcaster as a "masticating" hit. Had to look that one up, (mas·ti·cate - to reduce to a pulp by crushing or kneading, as rubber). Whatever you want to call it, it was the top check thrown in November.

- Youtube highlights from the San Jose Sharks 3-1 win over the Nashville Predators on Saturday night are available here.

- The Anaheim Ducks kept up their torrid pace with a 4-3 win over the Tampa Bay Lightning on Saturday night. In addition to the best record in the NHL, Anaheim [23-3-6] has a 10 point lead over the San Jose Sharks [21-9-0] in the Pacific division.

Goaltender Jean-Sebastien Giguere has put up Vezina-type numbers this season, with a 19-2-5 record, .925SV%, 2.10GAA, and 4 shutouts. Vitamin G has 9 wins in his last 11 games, with two losses coming by one goal against Los Angeles (2-3), and one goal in overtime at Colorado (2-3). Teemu Selanne is third in the league in scoring, with 17 goals and 24 assists in 32 games played. Chris Pronger is the top scoring defenseman with 31 points, two in front of San Jose Sharks captain Patrick Marleau.

- 'Little Joe' makes big splash in Tank, Rookie Pavelski uses 'hockey sense' to make himself at home - SF Chronicle.

In the span of his first eight NHL games, Joe Pavelski has scored in his debut, put together a three-game goal-scoring streak and scored a game-winner in the final six seconds of regulation to give the Sharks a rare win in Detroit.

He also has picked up the nickname "Little Joe", which might be his proudest achievement to date. Anytime a 22-year-old rookie can get linked to Joe Thornton that fast is impressive indeed.

If Joe Thornton is "big Joe", and Joe Pavelski is "little Joe", who is Hoss?

- Start time for tonight's game with the Phoenix Coyotes is 7PM, not 7:30. The hype is starting to build for the Alexander Ovechkin vs Sidney Crosby matchup tonight. The Pittsburgh Penguins face the Washington Capitals tonight on Versus at 4PM.

Paul Kukla has a roundup of media coverage on Kukla's Korner, and posted the results of an NHL question and answer session with Alexander Ovechkin on his NHL.com blog. Nice to see the Washington Capitals pick up Nate Ewell as Director of Media Relations. Nate, who helped arrange the interview, did an excellent job with Inside College Hockey.

Yahoo streaming NHL schedule this week: Carolina Hurricanes at Colorado Avalanche Monday at 6PM, San Jose Sharks at Los Angeles at 7:30 on Tuesday (blacked out locally), New York Islanders at Pittsburgh Penguins on Friday at 4:30, Detroit Red Wings at New Jersey Devils on Saturday at 10AM.

- From James Mirtle, the NHL's new video ad featuring Joe Thornton.

- Sharks are wary of lesser lights. Phoenix, L.A. games precede showdown against Anaheim - San Jose Mercury News.

- Nolan makes impact - Arizona Republic.

Nolan's greatest moments came with San Jose. He was a team captain, a four-time All-Star and the team's most prolific player as the all-time leader in goals (206), assists (245) and points (451), although Patrick Marleau is closing in on those marks.

But he'll probably be most remembered for his "called shot" in the 1997 All-Star Game as part of a hat trick.

"It just felt right at the right time," Nolan said, smiling. "It was in our home building in San Jose, so I was just having fun with it, having fun with (Dominik) Hasek (East goalie). He had my number up to that point. I said, 'No matter what, I can't make it any worse, so let's have some fun.'"

ECHL Stockton Thunder vs Las Vegas Wranglers

The Stockton Thunder downed the Las Vegas Wranglers 6-2 in the second game at Stockton this weekend. 8,149 fans showed up on a rainy Saturday to see the Thunder inch to within 1 point of the Wranglers for first place in the ECHL.

Stockton forward Troy Brodie notched a Gordie Howe hat trick, with a goal (2), fight, and an assist in the game. A full recap is available here.

- Hockey game cancelled by fog. A matchup between Boston College and Boston University was cancelled earlier this month by fog wafting up from the ice. The video has to be seen to be believed. Play the game and it goes down in history similar to the Fog Bowl in Chicago.

HP Fan Photographer

Here is my photo of HP Fan Photographer Kristine Harris taking pictures of the Sharks vs Colorado Avalanche game on Thursday. The promotion by the Sharks and HP gives one fan a HP Photosmart Digital Camera and Compact Photo Printer, and allows them to take photos during the second period and intermission.

The public votes for who took the best photos each month, and the winner receives 2 VIP tickets up against the glass. At the end of the year, the top photographer will receive a HD LCD television. All of Kristine's photos are available here.

My favorite so far have been the photos by Stan Hughes at the New York Islanders game on October 7th.

- At the end of this La Presse article which examined the hockey blogosphere, Jean-Francois Begin noted the lack of Montreal Canadiens representation online.

The Montreal Gazette recently launched a blog written by journalists Dave Stubbs and Sid Banerjee. The venerable Red Fisher also looks like he will contribute regular features to the site, and participate in a question and answer session with the readers. The blog is available at habsinsideout.com.

La Presse has its own hockey blog in French written by Francois Gagnon at Sans Ligne Rouge. Both blogs have a permanent link on this website under the Media Blogs section to the right.

- Free Online Hockey Software Released to help Minor Hockey Teams "YourTeam Online" developed to aide coaches, players & parents - yourteamonline.ca.

- Added Digg, del.icio.us, and yardbarker support to the bottom of each blog post.

Digg and Yardbarker are social networking websites, where you can submit a news item or a blog post that you think others may be interested in. Yardbarker is soley focused on sports, and they tell me a bunch of new features are going to be launched on the site soon. Digg is a general information site, but it has just added a hockey category to its selection of sports stories. Del.icio.us is a great place to store personal bookmarks. Your links are open to viewing by others, and you can see how many have saved or viewed each one.

If you want to submit a link from this blog, right click "link" below each post and copy the shortcut. Then copy and paste that into the URL form for each, add a brief title, add a sentence or two summary of the post and you are done.


Nashville Predators vs San Jose Sharks preview

Nashville Predators Sean Russell
Nashville Predators goaltender Chris Mason

The NHL.com Nashville at San Jose preview notes a few of the struggles the Predators have faced recently at HP Pavilion.

The Nashville Predators have been tough to beat on the road this season, but winning at San Jose has not been easy for them in recent years. The Predators try to wrap up their four-game road trip with their first win at HP Pavilion in four years when they visit the Sharks on Saturday.

Nashville (18-7-3) defeated the Sharks 4-3 on Oct. 26, but has lost its last four games at San Jose (20-9-0). The Predators have not won there since a 4-2 win on Dec. 7, 2002.

The Sharks lost in Nashville 4-3 on October 26th. Right wing Scott Hartnell scored 2 goals, and the Predators put 29 shots on Toskala with a lot of traffic in front of the net.

Last year in the Western Conference Quarterfinals, the Nashville Predators started the playoffs without goaltender Tomas Vokoun. Chris Mason came off of the regular season with a 6 game winning streak, and that carried over to a 4-3 win at Nashville in game 1 of the series. The Sharks won the next 4 games as the Predators had no answer for San Jose's two top lines.

This season, Vokoun has missed the last 7 games with a thumb injury. Chris Mason is 4-3 in his last seven starts, with a 7-3-2 record, .918SV%, and a 2.73GAA on the season.

Former Tampa Bay Lightning and Calgary Flames head coach, and current Nashville Predators color commentator Terry Crisp broke down the keys to the series last year in an interview with Sharkspage.

[Q] There were key moments in game 2, in game 3, and in game 4, where the Predators controlled play against the San Jose Sharks, but they could not sustain the momentum over an entire 60 minutes. What do you believe the turning points were in the Nashville-Sharks playoff series?

[A] We took penalty after penalty, and the referees called penalty after penalty on us. Five-on-threes killed us. Probably one of our bread-and-butter things all year long was our penalty kill. We were a strong penalty kill team. We prided ourselves on it, and we didn't get it done in the playoffs.

I'm going to give San Jose full marks because they adjusted. Every time we did something, they adjusted, and moved their team around. But it's like our coaches said, they were a team that could improvise. They could create on their power play. They were good at that. That was one of the big differences in the series--how creative their power play was.

Bad news for the Predators if there is a similar situation tonight in San Jose, the Sharks lead the league in power play percentage with a 22.6% conversion rate. Nashville is 12th in the NHL on the penalty kill, negating 84.3% of power plays they have faced.

It was a very shaky playoff series with regards to officiating. I asked Terry Crisp about how rules changes and officiating affected the play on the ice, what the Predators were going to build on for this season, and what did Nashville learn about this San Jose squad in a playoff environment.

The Nashville Predators have several "Preds Extras" flash stats highlights on their gameday preview.

There's work to be done, Sharks chief goal is more scoring opportunities - SJ Mercury News.

With 29 points in 29 games, Joe Thornton is having a good season. Not an MVP-type season, but then there is plenty of time for Thornton to pick up the pace.

Arnott back this week - Nashville Tennessean.

It's been just 2.5 weeks since Arnott's surgery, which was expected to sideline him three to six weeks

His return would be a welcome relief for the Predators, who will also be without center David Legwand, left wing Steve Sullivan, right wing Scottie Upshall and goalie Tomas Vokoun tonight...

As for two of the injured forwards, Trotz is hoping Legwand might return from what the team has called a hand injury by Tuesday, and says Sullivan right now is questionable for Tuesday and probable for Thursday.

Ousting the Red Wings made Jamie Baker part of Sharks' lore - NHL.com.

Jamie Baker will always remember 1993-94 as the year the San Jose Sharks found a home. After two years of makeshift accommodations at the Cow Palace in San Francisco, the Sharks moved into their own sparkling new arena in San Jose. "The Shark Tank", also known as the HP Pavilion, would soon develop a reputation as one of the loudest buildings in the NHL.

[Note] The Sharks December 11th game against Phoenix starts at 7PM instead of the traditional 7:30PM.

[Update] There is a video preview with radio broadcaster Dan Rusanowsky up on SJsharks.com. He asks defenseman Christian Ehrhoff about the recent loss to Colorado, playing a team struggling with injuries, and about his new website.

[Update2] A recap of the Sharks 5-2 loss to Colorado on Thursday night has been re-edited, and the broken links are fixed. It was posted while under the weather. A photo gallery from the game is available here.

Las Vegas goaltender Mike McKenna makes 29 saves in 2-1 win over Stockton, retain 1st place in the ECHL

ECHL Las Vegas Wranglers Mike McKenna

In a Friday night battle for first place in the ECHL, the Las Vegas Wranglers [13-1-7] outdueled the Stockton Thunder [13-2-4] to earn their ninth consecutive victory. The Wranglers extended their Pacific division lead to 3 points with the 2-1 win at Stockton Arena.

A win by the Thunder would have left them at the top of the National Conference with 32 points, tied for first in the ECHL with the Texas Wildcatters of the American Conference.

Las Vegas center Chris Neiszner scored two goals for the Wranglers in the second period. Stockton center Brendon Hodge scored a goal in the third. Mike McKenna made 29 saves on 30 shots to earn his 9th win of the season.

Dubnyk's 20 stops edged by McKenna's 29 in Las Vegas win

STOCKTON, Calif. - Las Vegas forward Chris Neiszner scored twice, and goaltender Mike McKenna turned aside 29 shots to lead the Wranglers to a 2-1 victory over the Stockton Thunder (13-2-4, 30 pts) before 5,042 fans at Stockton Arena on Friday night, extending their winning streak to nine games.

The two clubs traded scoring chances in a scoreless opening period that saw both Stockton and Las Vegas escape penalty trouble unscathed. Thunder goaltender Devan Dubnyk turned aside a one-time attempt from Wrangler defenseman Jason Jozsa from atop the left face-off circle, demonstrating a quick glove-hand to deny a Las Vegas scoring chance.

Stockton forward Tyler Spurgeon, meanwhile, managed to beat McKenna to the stick-side from the slot position, only to have his shot carom off the goalpost and sail wide as a result. McKenna would deny a Spurgeon shot moments later from the right face-off circle that appeared destined for the top-corner of the net.

Neiszner opened the scoring at the 1:35 mark of the second period, corralling a rebound off teammate Lucas Lawson's drive in front of Dubnyk in the high slot, and beating the Thunder netminder for his fifth goal on the season to give Las Vegas a 1-0 lead. Neiszner proceeded to double the Wrangler advantage with 6.6 seconds remaining in the period, the beneficiary of a tape-to-tape pass from Lawson that hit the forward on the rush. Neiszner faked Dubnyk to his right side, and slid the puck into the Thunder goal to put the Wranglers ahead 2-0.

Thunder forward Brendon Hodge narrowed the Wrangler lead to 2-1 at the 5:08 mark of the third period, converting a tape-to-tape feed from forward Stephane Goulet positioned behind the Las Vegas net. Hodge beat McKenna low to the stick-side to record his fourth goal thus far this season. McKenna, however, would not concede a goal for the remainder of the frame, as Las Vegas managed to withstand multiple Thunder flurries in the offensive zone.

The loss was Stockton's first on home ice in regulation time this season.

Before the game, the Thunder announced defenseman Eric Main was activated off the three-day injured reserve list, and left wing Tim Sestito was placed on the three-day injured reserve list.

The Thunder returns to play on Saturday, December 9 against Las Vegas, beginning at 7:30 p.m. at Stockton Arena. The game can be heard live on the internet (free-of-charge) and is available for viewing at a $6 "pay-per-view" rate at www.stocktonthunder.com (courtesy of B2 Networks).

Thunder season tickets, mini-plans and individual tickets for the 2006-07 season are on sale now. For more information about tickets, merchandise, or other inquiries contact the Stockton Thunder offices at (209) 373-1500 or visit www.stocktonthunder.com.

Three Stars of the Game:
1. LV - Chris Neiszner
2. LV - Mike McKenna
3. STK - Brendon Hodge

Link to plain-text box score.

Source: Stockton Thunder Play-By-Play Broadcaster/Manager of Media Relations Mike Benton.

Second-period goals snap Thunder's home streak at 10 - Stockton Record.

[Update] Las Vegas Wranglers goaltender Marc Magliarditi returned from the IR and signed with the Omaha Ak-Sar-Ben Knights of the AHL on Thursday. Earlier in the week, goaltender Mike McKenna was named the Rbk Hockey ECHL Goaltender of the Week [Nov. 27-Dec. 3] for the second time this season.

[Update2] Goalie gets Aces back on track. Gustafson stops 29 shots as Alaska beats Fresno to end skid at home - Anchorage Daily News. Falcons goaltender and San Jose Sharks 2001 fourth round draft pick Dimitri Patzold made 27 saves on 30 shots in a losing effort. New Alaskan hockey blog: Woody on Hockey.


Sharks are far from offensive, but is their offense offensive?

In the NHL you need to score to win, it's as simple as that. Gone are the days where you could defensively trap your way into the Stanley Cup finals. During the recent road trip the Sharks have played like an NHL squad of years past, instead of one that utilizes its youth and speed to create offense in the modern NHL.

In last eight games, the Sharks have only scored 3 goals or more twice. San Jose's defense and goaltending has pulled it's own weight, suffocating the opposition offensive attack. The reliance on playing a near flawless defense can not last much longer. The Sharks need to be the offensive team that their talent would dictate.

When you ice a line up that includes reigning NHL MVP and scoring champion Joe Thornton, Rocket Richard winner Jonathan Cheechoo, a game breaking threat in Patrick Marleau, an emerging dynamic talent Milan Michalek, and arguably one of the most talented young power forwards in the game in Steve Bernier, creating offense should not be a problem.

On top of that threat up front, San Jose hosts two of the most creative young defenseman in Christian Ehrhoff and Matt Carle. Veteran forwards Mark Bell, Mike Grier and Curtis Brown provide a defensive strength, and can bang in the corners to create chances with the rest of the team is flat. With all of this talent and offensive capability, the lack of scoring from the Sharks is inexcusable.

While much of the blame can be placed directly on the players, some of the blame is reserved for the coaching staff. The line of Michalek, Marleau, and Bernier is a dominant one. This line needs to be re-united for an extended period, and given enough time to regain their chemistry. Rumors will circulate about trading for a forward to play alongside Thornton and Cheechoo, but taking Marleau off the 220 plus line cuts the Sharks offense off at the knees.

An incomplete forecheck, a lack of traffic in front of the net, and an ineffective cycle down low left San Jose Sharks as a puck control team without possession of the puck. It is far past time for the Sharks to give an effort worthy of their talent, and produce the offense that they are capable of.


Hockey Night in San Jose, Sakic and Avalanche overwhelm Sharks 5-2

Colorado Avalanche Joe Sakic
Jose Theodore
Mike Grier penalty shot
Vesa Toskala

A high-powered Colorado offense put the foot to the floor in the second period, registering 3 goals on 9 shots taken. Captain Joe Sakic lead the Avalanche, scoring 2 goals and 1 assist en route to a 5-2 road win at HP Pavilion.

The Avalanche were looking to come out strong, after scoring only 1 goal in two straight losses to Vancouver and Columbus. The Sharks were playing their first game at home after a successful 3-1 road trip against top teams in the Western Conference. A game preview by David Pollak in the Mercury News noted that the Sharks sometimes struggle to play their best at home, trying to impress fans instead of grinding out a win. Head coach Ron Wilson said the team wants to establish an identity of being "stingy" defensively.

San Jose played a tight first period, but a 4-on-2 against Vesa Toskala lead to a goal by Colorado Avalanche defenseman Brett Clark. The Sharks answered on the power play, with Joe Thornton feeding Jonathan Cheechoo in the slot for his 8th goal of the season.

The game opened up for the visiting Avalanche in the second period. Colorado scored 3 goals by Joe Sakic, Brett McLean, and a second by Brett Clark. Joe Thornton scored on a breakaway high over the glove of Theodore, but there was a noticeable lack of jump from the home team. According to the shift chart on NHL.com, Sharks head coach Ron Wilson jiggled the lines a little in the second period. Patrick Marleau left a line with Bernier and Pavelski to try to add a spark to Joe Thornton and Jonathan Cheechoo. Rookie center Joe Pavelski was flanked on each side by Michalek and Bernier.

Sharks right wing Mike Grier drew a penalty shot in the second period. Patrick Rissmiller found Grier on the wing with a long cross-ice pass through the neutral zone. Colorado defenseman Ken Klee challenged Grier hard with a diving play that took out his legs (pictured above). With momentum keeping Grier moving towards the crease, he protected the puck with his body and one-handed a shot on Theodore. On his first career penalty shot, Grier skated in slowly and snapped a wrist shot that deflected wide off the glove of Jose Theodore.

All-world center Joe Sakic put the nail in the coffin with a power play goal at 7:34 of the third period. San Jose violated the only Sharkspage key of the game twice against Colorado, don't let Joe Sakic score. The Avalanche played a prevent offense for much of the third period, and they escaped Northern California with a solid 5-2 road win.

Sharks vs Colorado Avalanche YouTube video highlights.

Avs spoil Sharks return, Weak effort ends streak - SF Chronicle.

The visitors put the game on ice 7:34 into the final period when it took them just four seconds to convert a sixth power-play chance of the game. Sakic won an offensive-zone draw and was in the perfect spot to backhand the rebound of a Patrice Brisebois point shot past Sharks goalie Vesa Toskala for a three-goal lead.

The Sharks had a chance to get back into the game earlier in the period, but managed only one shot during 52 seconds of a two-man advantage.

Sharks player (Mark Bell) charged with DUI, hit-and-run - SF Chronicle.

McLaren misses game with lower-body injury - San Jose Mercury News.

Avalanche road ready, After ugly outing at home, Sakic starts trip with win over Sharks - Rocky Mountain News.

"We didn't play good the other night (in a 3-0 loss against Columbus), and this game I thought right from the get-go the guys were hungry," Sakic said. "We went hard and were strong on the puck, and you really have to be against that team. They've got a great hockey club over there and we seemed to get the jump on them."

Avs play like road warriors in easy victory, Turgeon celebrates his return to the lineup as Sakic and Clark each have two goals and an assist in dispatching San Jose - Denver Post.

The Denver Post's Adrian Dater answers questions from fans every Wednesday for Av's Mailbag. Dater has an interesting answer for one fan's question about the Avalanche David Aebischer for Jose Theodore trade. The Denver Post also notes that the Avalanche are pursuing an AHL franchise in the Cleveland market, one year after the Sharks AHL franchise left Cleveland to become the Worcester Sharks.

[Update] Eric McErlain of Offwing notes the new redesign of Hockeyfights.com. The visual design is impressive, but even moreso is the automation and number of features David Singer has added to the site. The FM leaderboard and fight clips are two reasons to check back often. The Offwing contingent is also going to cover the Anaheim Ducks against the Washington Capitals tonight at the phone booth. The Ducks bring the best record in the league [21-3-6] to face Godzilla Kolzig and Alexander Ovechkin.

[Update2] An audio photo slideshow of the Avalanche-Sharks game from Mercury News photographer Maria J. Avila is available here. Another audio slideshow is available at InsideBayArea.com.


NHL Allstar Game election update

Vote for San Jose Sharks center Joe Pavelski

Now through January 2nd 2007, you can vote for rookie center Joe Pavelski to appear in the 2007 NHL Allstar Game.

Five games in the NHL? Pavelski scored 4 goals, including a game winner with 5.9 seconds left in Hockey Town. It took the Dallas Stars and Marty Turco to shut down Pavelski in front of the crease with the game on the line in #6.

Joe Pavelski is on a pace to score 40 goals and 0 assists this season, and that spells confidence with the puck. It might have been Wayne Gretzky who once said "you don't need to pass the puck, when it is in the back of the net". Or that could have been Ed Belfour.

Forget about Western Conference rival candidate Rory Fitzpatrick. He will raise taxes. And Fitzpatrick never lead the Wisconsin Badgers to a 2006 NCAA national championship.

An 11/29 Western Conference All-Star voting update from the Seattle Post-Intellegencer has a few familiar names on top of the leaderboard:

Defenseman: Scott Niedermayer (ANA), Nicklas Lidstrom (DET), Chris Pronger (ANA), Dion Phaneuf (CAL).

Forwards: Joe Sakic (COL), Martin Havlat (CHI), Brenden Morrow (DAL), Joe Thornton (SJ).

Goaltenders: Marty Turco (DAL), Miikka Kiprusoff (CAL)

Eric Duhatschek, How to stuff an all-star ballot box, and James Mirtle, 'Vote for Rory' campaign gains steam, of the Globe and Mail are looking into election chicanery on both coasts.

To combat the shameless pandering by the Dallas Stars, make sure to select Jonathan Cheechoo (F), Patrick Marleau (F), Joe Thornton (F), and Scott Hannan (D) when voting, and nominate Joe Pavelski (F), Matt Carle (D), and Vesa Toskala (G) as your write-in candidates.

That is all.

- HP Fan Balloting Stations To Be Installed For San Jose Sharks Fans - SJsharks.com.

- Crosby, Miller lead Eastern Conference vote-getters in COLD-fX/NHL All-Star Fan Balloting, Presented by 2K Sports - NHL.com.

- Tonight on Versus: the Chicago Blackhawks vs the Minnesota Wild at 5PM. Tomorrow on Yahoo streaming, a double header between the Montreal Canadiens and New Jersey Devils at 4:30PM, and the Mashville Predators vs the Anaheim Ducks at 7:30PM.

- Didn't you used to play for the Blackhawks? Another classic Nike hockey commericial exposes a Chicago Blackhawks goaltender turned into a fast food employee because of Sergei Federov.

Another Nike commerical of a French Canadian goalie turned taxi driver (because of Mats Sundin) is available here. These never get old.

- Note: Voting for Joe Pavelski is not an option with the NHL's Allstar balloting, hence this 'Vote for Joe' campaign to get him on the list.


Stockton Thunder pick up 3 wins at home over the weekend

ECHL Stockton Thunder Utah Grizzlies
ECHL Stockton Thunder Utah Grizzlies
Stockton Thunderettes

The mark of an elite hockey club is having the ability to consistently knock out games against teams beneath you in the standings. The second year Stockton Thunder [13-1-4], now affiliated with the Edmonton Oilers, had 3 games at home this weekend against the Long Beach Ice Dogs [4-12-2] and Utah Grizzlies [5-14-3].

During a 3-1 win over the Long Beach Ice Dogs on Friday, the Thunder outshot Long Beach 37-13, went 2-7 on the powerplay, and kept the last placed Ice Dogs winless on the road for the season. On Saturday night, the Thunder earned a tough 3-2 win over Utah Grizzlies, with both teams amassing 32 penalties for 100 PIMs, including 4 fighting majors and 2 game misconducts.

Stockton came into Sunday's game with Utah 3 points behind the ECHL and Pacific Division leading Las Vegas Wranglers. The Thunder hammered Utah goaltender Sean Fields, who made 45 saves on 47 shots. The Grizzlies were unable to match up physically with Stockton, and they gave up 13 power play opportunities as a result. Stephen Goulet and Steven Slonina scored on the man advantage in the final 2 periods.

Stockton goaltender Cam Ellsworth, undefeated in regulation this season [6-0-1], earned a 2-0 shutout victory.

Ells well that ends well. Ellsworth notches fifth career shutout, first place battle with Las Vegas set for Friday - Stockton Thunder.

With the win, the Thunder has equaled last season's eight-win mark at home, while extending its team-record unbeaten streak to 10 consecutive games and its unbeaten home record to 8-0-2. Stockton has won all three meetings this year against Utah and is 4-4-0 all-time against the Grizzlies.

The Thunder returns to play on Friday, December 8 with an ECHL battle for league and Pacific Division supremacy at stake, as Stockton (second-best record in the ECHL) faces the Las Vegas Wranglers (best record in the ECHL) at 7:30 p.m. at Stockton Arena.

A photo gallery from Sunday's game against Utah is available here. A preview of the Stockton vs Las Vegas series for first place in the ECHL will be posted on this blog Friday.


Hockey Notes - December 2nd

Stanford vs Cal Big Freeze hockey

Stanford dropped the second game of the "Big Freeze" home-at-home to Berkeley 9-7 on Friday night. Cal swept the series with a 7-4 win at home on Thursday.

Both teams struggled to find their defensive footing early, with the score tied at 4-4 after the first period. Forward Cyrus Chee scored two goals for Stanford, but a third was called off because a player had knocked the net off its moorings before the puck crossed the goal line.

Another pivotal moment came when Cal goaltender Brian Yates made a desperation kick save late in the third, after a scramble in front of the crease. Yates finished with 24 saves, and the Bears improved their record to 4-10 (3-8 in the Pac 8 Conference).

- The Palo Alto Daily News sent a reporter and a photographer out to the Ice Oasis in Redwood City to cover the game: Cal freezes out Stanford.

"This is a big rivalry. It's part of a long tradition." Cal head coach Cyril Allen said. "But it was good to see Stanford play tough"...

"We wanted to win this one. You know, the football team is playing on Saturday," (Cyrus) Chee said. "And they probably won't. ...Well, we'll see how they do."

- A short video of the third period is available on YouTube here. The crowd was small, but vocal. The best taunt: "Maybe your kids can go to Stanford". Stanford fan has a ways to go before they reach Flyers fan status.

- Cold Rink, Hot Rivalry - The Daily Californian.

- Sharks hope to have mojo in Motown, Detroit has been a house of pain for SJ in the past - San Jose Mercury News.

- Game Notes prior to the 4PM faceoff between the Sharks and Red Wings:

The Detroit Red Wings (14-6-4) will face a deep San Jose Sharks (19-7) squad that has won twice in Detroit in franchise history. The Red Wings enter tonight's game having allowed the fewest number of third period goals in the NHL. Through 23 games the Wings have allowed just 13 third period goals, while scoring 27 in the third stanza. The Red Wings are one of only three NHL clubs without a regulation loss in a one-goal games. Detroit has posted a 7-0-4 record in one-goal games. The NHL's top two teams, Anaheim and Buffalo, are the only other clubs undefeated in regulation in one-goal games, going 9-0-6 and 11-0-2, respectively. Detroit's last regular season home game on Nov. 27, 2006 vs. Dallas was the team's 365th regular season sell-out. The streak began Dec. 10, 1996, against Edmonton. If home playoff games from 1997 through 2006 are included the streak stands at 422.

The Sharks have outscored their opponents 13 times in the first period this season (11-2-0). During the first period, the Sharks have posted a 38.8% PP percentage, and a 94.6% penalty kill. The Sharks lead the NHL with a 23.8% overall conversion rate on the power play. Goaltenders Vesa Toskala and Evgeni Nabokov have combined to help San Jose to first in the NHL in SV% (92.4%), second in GAA with a 2.15 (Detroit is first with a 2.14), and a second place tie with Anaheim for overall wins at 19 (Buffalo first with 20).

- Sharks vs the Minnesota Wild archive highlights are available on youtube here, Sharks vs St Louis highlights are available here.

- Hasek uses head to help Red Wings beat Minnesota - International Herald Tribune.

- Live on Yahoo streaming Sunday, the Battle of New York. The Islanders take the subway to Madison Square Garden to faceoff against the Rangers at 2PM. The Warriors at San Antonio game will be broadcast on FSN Bay Area Monday in lieu of the Sharks vs Dallas Stars game. The game will be available on Yahoo streaming at 6PM pacific time.

- Stockton improves by leaps and bounds - NHL.com.

Entering only its second season in the ECHL, Stockton was expected by many to simply take baby steps after going 18-40-14 in its inaugural season. But under the guidance of 43-year-old head coach Chris Cichocki, the Thunder are one of the hottest teams in the league out of the gate. Fifteen games into the new campaign, the Thunder have lost just once in regulation, going 10-1-4. Remarkably, though, their 24 points have them three points behind the Pacific Division leading Las Vegas Wranglers (with three games in hand) and only four points ahead of the Fresno Falcons, who won the division crown last season and were 50 points better than Stockton.

- Marleau's Leadership On Display - SJsharks.com.

- Santa Clara may join the ranks of local colleges with an ACHA club hockey team. The Santa Clara student newspaper reports that a few players have joined together and formally petitioned the school for an ice hockey team. The team is on probationary status for one year, but the players are looking to become an official club sport after that time is up.

- Holmgren facing tough call on ailing Rathje - Philadelphia Inquirer.

Rathje has pain in his sciatic nerve that extends from his back down through his buttocks and right leg. The Flyers have told him there has never been, to their knowledge, successful surgery to cure it.

"I don't think there is a doctor, so far, that has told Mike that if he had surgery, it would guarantee fixing the problem," Holmgren said.

"Maybe there is a guy who can give him long-term relief," Holmgren said. "We all feel for Mike... the pain he's gone through. You start to look at life as a person and not a hockey player. Mike is certainly glancing at that right now. Before we jump off that bridge, we want to explore other alternatives."

In Rathje's last visit to the HP Pavilion as a Philadelphia Flyer, the change in his game was noticeable. Once a member of the top defensive pairing in the NHL with former Shark Marcus Ragnarsson, Rathje was a shutdown defensive defenseman would would always put his large frame between a player and the net, and use his gigantic stick to force people outside.

Watching the 6-5, 235 pound Rathje during the Flyers 6-1 loss in San Jose, his mobility looked like it had deteriorated considerably. Rathje did not lean in and use his stick as much, and players were able get by him wide much easier than they had in the past. According to his teammate Derian Hatcher, Rathje has taken a number of shots of pain medication to stay in the lineup.

After 11 seasons with the Sharks, and a season and a quarter with Philly, Rathje has amassed 768 games as an NHL defenseman.

- More soon.


Christian Ehrhoff launches website

Christian Ehrhoff

San Jose Sharks defenseman Christian Ehrhoff launched his website today at ehrhoff.com. Take a look for a little heavy music, updated statistics, audio, player card and wallpaper downloads, news and more.

The website will also hold a lottery among fans for a copy of EA Sports NHL 07. The deadline for entry is December 24th. Just in time for Christmas.

[Update] A Versus interview and highlights of Christian Ehrhoff's game winning goal against Florida (10/31) are available on YouTube.

[Update2] Tonight on Yahoo streaming, the Pittsburgh Penguins face New Jersey at 4:30PM. The game will also be streamed online via Comcast for Comcast hi-speed internet subscribers.