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Evan Grossman

About Evan
Evan Grossman comes to NHL.com after six years as a sports reporter for the New York Post, where he was the Islanders beat writer from 2001-2006. Among Evan's memorable assignments at the tabloid were Shawn Bates' penalty shot against the Maple Leafs in the 2002 playoffs, walking with Phil Mickelson on Sunday at the 2006 U.S. Open at Winged Foot and countless hours waiting in the Yankee Stadium parking lot for Yankees owner George Steinbrenner.

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E-mail your comments at: nhlblog@nhl.com

Recent Posts
“You oughta put Downy in these jerseys”
“Don't be so hard on yourself, judge. ..."
"Do you think I'd speak for you? ..."
What kind of music do you usually have here?
Ranking the Bubble Boys

Season Archive
January 2007
December 2006
November 2006

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

“You oughta put Downy in these jerseys, Charlie.”

There is an old expression in sports. It’s a popular rallying cry among the curmudgeons when they say “I don’t root for the players; I root for the laundry.” The mantra is popular among sportswriters, too, but then again, isn’t a curmudgeon and an ink stained beat writer the same thing?

As the dust settles on one of the wildest trade deadline days in NHL history, after 25 transactions were made and over 40 players had to register mail forwarding service at the post office, this is the week when it seems like, yes, we do root for the laundry. It's easier on the heart that way.

It’s never easy seeing a player get traded away from your team, especially if that player is a face-of-the-franchise-type guy. It’s not an easy day if you’re an Oilers fan who is still getting over the shock of seeing a heart-and-soul guy like Ryan Smyth leave town at the deadline. It doesn’t make it any easier to swallow in Alberta that No. 94 is going to the Islanders of all places. Just like it wasn’t easy seeing No. 99 go to Los Angeles. Or No. 11 go to New York.

But that’s life as a sports fan. That’s life at the trade deadline sometimes. It’s never easy, and that’s why the term “I root for the laundry” came about. It hit me right in the gut how true that is sometimes when I was walking through Times Square Tuesday night on my way home after a hectic and exciting deadline day. As usual, there were plenty of tourists there, but three stood out. Maybe it was because they were wearing sunglasses. Maybe because they were shouting. In French. And maybe because they were wearing Montreal Canadiens jerseys.

They were likely walking downtown to the game at Madison Square Garden, yelling something in a different language about “Go Habs Go!” Clearly feeling the buzz of the Red Bull they were chugging, my tourist friends were wearing their game faces. And big, bubble shades.

Anyway, they all had names and numbers on the back of their shirts. I had to laugh when I spotted the Zednik sweater from across the street. I thought to myself, if this dude was such a big Zed fan, he was walking toward the wrong arena. Zednik made his Islanders debut Tuesday night at the Coliseum, part of Garth Snow’s stunning barrage of deals leading up to the deadline. Zednik was as much a Canadien as I was.

That guy was clearly rooting for the laundry.

It’s a cold way to think about it. Kind of takes the emotion and the passion out of it a little, but on the day the trading deadline shuffled so many decks around the league, rooting for the laundry seemed appropriate. Rooting for the crest on the front, I understand. When you start a new job and get the who-do-you-root-for third degree, nobody says, “I like the Mets in baseball, the Jets in football, and Dion Phaneuf in hockey.” If you want to root for individuals, be a golf fan. Or a tennis fan.

In hockey though, it’s nearly impossible not to root for the name on the back.

Those three Montreal fans made it to the Garden and they saw their team get shut out by the Rangers in a crucial playoff clash. Out in the suburbs, the Islanders were reveling in an exciting overtime win against the plucky Flyers. There was plenty to celebrate on Long Island that night. The Isles got Smyth for the rest of the year. The two points earned got them to the seventh seed in the East. Jason Blake remained an Islander after the deadline. Blake even scored a hat trick in the game and was named the first star of the night.

As such, Blake took part in an on-ice interview after the game, pumped through the Coliseum’s sound system for the crowd to hear. He was asked about the relief in the Isles not trading him, but you could hardly hear what Blake was saying because of the crowd chanting his name again and again. Blake had heard his name chanted in the old barn before, but on Tuesday the show of thanks from the fans nearly put him in tears.

Other players have been traded and returned to their old rinks and received similar treatments. Who can ever forget Eddie Giacomin’s teary return to the Garden after the Rangers traded him? When Mike Piazza returned to Shea Stadium last summer as an opposing player for the first time, he took his first at-bat with tears in his eyes because of the warm reception he got from Mets fans. When – and if – Smyth returns to Edmonton in another team’s colors, he’ll likely get the same treatment.

So it’s easy to say we root for the laundry. On days like the trade deadline day, it’s good for the pain to think that way.

But in the end, when we get down to it, it’s not so easy to just root for the laundry, is it?

Two-handers:

* Ottawa goalie/tough guy Ray Emery can walk with me down a dark alley any day.

* According to a report, Microsoft founder Bill Gates says his 10-year-old daughter is limited to only 45 minutes on the Internet during the week and a total of an hour each day on the weekends, in addition to any time needed to complete homework assignments. Bill, that’s not nearly enough time to read Gross Misconduct several times over and forward it to all your friends.

* Even before they got Bill Guerin at the deadline, the Sharks had the look of a team that can win a Stanley Cup as early as this year. Maybe they will.

* Terminator director James Cameron claims to have stumbled on the archaeological find of all time and says he’s unearthed what he believes are the remains of Jesus, certainly a rarity. NHL historians are holding out for something much older – Chris Chelios’ original permission slip to play pee-wee hockey.

* AOL Sports' Jason Whitlock wrote last week about attending the NBA All-Star Game in Las Vegas: “I was there. Walking The Strip this weekend must be what it feels like to walk the yard at a maximum security prison. You couldn't relax. You avoided eye contact. The heavy police presence only reminded you of the danger.” In addition to the fact that the only howitzers at the NHL All-Star Game were on the ice, the NHL trade deadline is also wildly more entertaining than the one in hoops. Advantage: hockey. Again.

* According to a report, NASA has a set of written procedures for dealing with a psychotic astronaut in space. Documents obtained last week by The Associated Press say the astronaut’s crewmates should bind his wrists and ankles with duct tape, tie him down with a bungee cord and inject him with tranquilizers if necessary. If the sedatives don’t work, the space agency might want to consider carrying tapes of NHL teams playing the trap on board each flight.

* The only thing more annoying than people playing with their Blackberry on the train is people playing with their Blackberry on live television.

* Hard to believe, but this week Martin Scorsese won his first Oscar as best director for The Departed. Scorsese got his first directorial credit in 1959, making his wait longer than the one Dave Andreychuk endured before winning his first Stanley Cup after 22 years in the league.

* Some travelers spent more than a day and a half waiting for flights over the weekend at Chicago’s O’Hare Airport because of continued cancellations and inclement weather conditions. Nobody was left hanging in limbo longer this week, except maybe Jason Blake Monday night into Tuesday morning.

* A Detroit woman who told authorities she was fed up with tailgaters pulled out a gun and shot at the tires of a pickup that got too close, according to a report this week. Imagine her level of rage if they hadn’t cracked down on all the obstruction, hooking and holding.

Posted by Evan @ 1:39 p.m.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

“Don't be so hard on yourself, judge. You're a tremendous slouch.”

I’ve been to Yankee Stadium. I’ve been to Saturday night hockey games in Montreal and Toronto. I’ve been to Madison Square Garden hundreds of times. Been to the Rideau Canal in Ottawa when it was minus-40 degrees out. I’ve walked the final round of a major championship with Phil Mickelson.

But I had never played pond hockey before.

At some point in any sports fan’s life, he or she needs to experience certain things, travel to special places, and see unique sights. I thought I had done and seen just about all of them, until I got to play pond hockey for the first time recently. After working in hockey for almost a decade, I’ve heard the stories about how hockey is firmly stitched in the fabric of local sports in parts of the world like in Canada, Minnesota and Boston; I’ve heard about the campfires and cookouts after long days spent playing shinny. I’ve seen professional players’ faces light up when they got the chance to skate on a fresh sheet of ice.

Now I know what it’s all about.

Last weekend I went to Boston to visit my brother. He’s been skating at a nearby pond, a secluded sheet back in the woods that I had been excited to see. Brought the wheels up with me, the gloves and a stick, and we woke up early Saturday morning for my first pond hockey experience. Actually, up there it’s called pawnd hawkey. And it was awesome. That’s the way the game was meant to be played, out in the middle of nature, part of a winter wonderland. People who have rinks in their backyards, you know what I’m talking about.

All the rest of you out there, playing ice hockey outdoors is something you need to do at least once in your lives.

It was also a lot harder than I thought it would be. I never took into consideration the lumps in the ice, the uneven surface and the rustic grittiness of the game without modern luxuries like a Zamboni to smooth the ice. It was tough sledding, as they say. My feet hurt from the ripples of ice. I can only imagine how good of a skater I would be if I grew up playing pond hockey. It’s a different game out there. It’s more wide open.

It’s hockey in the purest form.

“If you're not over here in fifteen minutes, you can find a new best friend.”

In the spirit of the upcoming Academy Awards, there should be an NHL award for best supporting actor. It could be given to the player who has the most assists, best plus-minus rating and is willing to stand up for teammates. So far this season, if such an award existed, you could make a case for any of the following players to win it:

Sidney Crosby, Pittsburgh -- Looks like he’s going to top the league in assists in his second season of service. Nobody sets up teammates better than "Sid the Kid."

Nicklas Lidstrom, Detroit -- He’s been tops in defense scoring all season and his assist totals have been off the charts all year. Through 60 games, Lidstrom, a strong Norris candidate again, had 41 assists and was tops in the league with a plus-38 rating.

Shane O’Brien, Anaheim --Tied for third in the league with 12 majors, which means he does his share of sticking up for teammates. The rookie defenseman also had 12 assists and was a plus-6 through 61 games.

Two-handers:

* Have you heard about the 15-year-old girl who was hiccupping for four weeks? It’s true. Jennifer Mee, from Florida, was the subject of a media crush with the networks lining up to tell her incredible story after she had the hiccups for over a month. She was doing the morning show rounds this week, however, nobody seems to want to give that kind of attention to the Flyers’ defense. Allowing a league-worst 227 goals going into this week, they have apparently had the hiccups a lot longer than she has.

* The Syracuse Crunch get the award for marketing ploy of the week after the Blue Jackets’ AHL affiliate invited Britney Spears to Central New York to get away from the party scene and the paparazzi. As part of the stunt, female Crunch fans who shaved their heads would be admitted to the Manitoba game for free. “In addition to being 3,000 miles away from Hollywood, Syracuse is light years away from that pretentious environment," Howard Dolgon, owner and president of the Crunch, said. "There won't be paparazzi within 100 miles.”

Separated at birth?
* Separated at Birth: Britney and New York Rangers’ forward Michael Nylander.

* Speaking of the Rangers, that game against the Devils Tuesday night at the Meadowlands, the last regular season game between the two teams before the Devils move to Newark, was one of the best games all year. The best part? That they’ll meet again Thursday at the Garden.

* People are addicted to all kinds of things. Alcohol. Gambling. Pizza Rolls. And now you can add email to that list. Similar to the 12-step program to break other addictive habits, people who check email between golf shots or who send themselves email when one hasn’t come in several minutes finally have a place to turn for help. You know who you are. But as long as those emails sent are kudos for Gross Misconduct, then keep on keeping on, people.

* And last but not least, a University of Southern California hockey goalie had the king of all wardrobe malfunctions last week when Mickey Meyer dropped trou and rode his stick like a horse during a game against BYU. He was ticketed for lewdness after a police officer working security said he witnessed the scene. “We don't treat this as a funny incident,” rink manager Floyd Naegle said. If the competition committee was looking for an advocate of even less goalie pads, they may have found one.

Posted by Evan @ 11:34 a.m.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

"Do you think I'd speak for you? I don't even know your language."

We’re going to break the mold here for a second. A lot of bloggers generally don’t start off with an email they received, but I found this one to be so inspirational that I just had to lead with it.

Hey, I just wanted to let you in on a new term from where I'm from (Prince Albert, SK) ... vesatoskular. Obviously it comes from Vesa Toskala, but it means to excel at goaltending. For example: Martin Brodeur played a pretty vesatoskular game last weekend. Use it if you want.

-- Ryan

Ryan, I will use it. And I will dedicate this week’s edition of Gross Misconduct to you and all the cool dudes out there in Saskatchewan who came up with this stroke of brilliance. Thanks for reading, everyone, and as always, thanks for writing.

Not quite vesatoskular, here are some of my own:

Jeff Beukeboom -- beukelicious (adj.) used to describe a hulking defenseman; Chris Pronger and Zdeno Chara are beukelicious.

Alexander Ovechkin -- ovechkinized (v.) to make a defenseman or goalie look silly; Marek Malik ovechkinized Olaf Kolzig in the shootout when he went between the legs.

Antero Niitymaki -- niitymaki (adj.) average, opposite of vesatoskular; He gave up four goals last night, so he wasn’t spectacular. He was just niitymaki.

Sean Avery --seanavery (adj.) emotional, feisty, a bit out there; The ref slapped him with a gross misconduct and then he went a little seanavery before leaving the ice.

Not sure how many of you have seen the Blue Collar Comedy Tour, but in that classic piece of comedy there is a segment about what they call the redneck dictionary. For example, the word “widjadidja” can be used in the sentence, “You didn’t bring your extra skates widjadidja?”

Another example would be “mayonnaise,” which used in a sentence would be “Mayonnaise a lot of people going to hockey games this year.”

And finally, you can use the term “initiate” when you say, “My wife ate a plate of nachos at the game initiate a hamburger.”

The concept also works in hockey:

Sami Salo -- Salo to my little friend!

Louie DeBrusk -- Did you see the scrap last night? Louie beat debrusk out of him!

Per Djoos -- Do you like your perdjoos with or without pulp?

Haakan Loob -- This cold is killing me, I’ve been haakan loob all day.

Jordin Tootoo -- No way. He hits tootoo hard, so I don’t want to play.

Al Iafrate -- Iafrate might catch me up high with an elbow; or, Iafrate might hurt me if I get in the way of that slapper.

Mats Sundin -- Have you seen my helmet anywhere? Yeah, sundin your hockey bag.

Terry Yake -- Have you got any terry yake sauce for this stir-fry?

Roman Hamrlik -- How many hamrliks does it take to reach the center of a Tootsie Pop?

Wes Walz -- So you think you can just walz right in here whenever you want?

Jonathan Cheechoo -- Hey ref, cheechoo make any decent calls tonight?

Alexandre Burrows -- First, the kid burrows my gloves and now my hands stink!

Rico Fata -- My mudda is married to my fata.

Petr Sykora -- Are you sykora you just feeling under the weather?

Patrice Brisebois -- If you don’t play defense, he’ll brisebois you all day.

Jaroslav Balastik -- He’s a total road-rager; I once saw him go absolutely balastik on someone that cut him off.

John Oduya -- Oduya think the Devils are good enough to go all the way?

Ossi Vaananen -- We took the vaananen we got a flat tire.

Ryan Getzlaf -- It’s the funniest joke I ever heard. It getzlafs every time.

Sami Kapanen -- If he doesn’t pay up, you’ll have to bust a kapanen his butt.

Travis Zajac -- It seems like zajac up the price of gas whenever they want.

Two-handers:

* Bryan Berard collected two assists against Chicago on Sunday to reach 300 points for his NHL career. More impressive is that almost half his points (122) have come since returning from the eye injury that almost ended his career.

* Hackers briefly overwhelmed at least three of the 13 computers that help manage global computer traffic last week in one of the most significant attacks against the Internet since 2002. Experts said the unusually powerful attacks lasted as long as 12 hours, but passed largely unnoticed by most computer users, a testament to the resiliency of the Internet, according to reports. Let this be a lesson, hackers – don’t mess with NHL.com.

* A team of neuroscientists has developed a powerful technique that allows them to look deep inside a person’s brain and read their intentions before they act, according to a report. Essentially, scientists can tell what a person will plan to do after reading their thoughts. The research breaks controversial new ground in the ability to probe people's minds, and raises serious ethical issues over how brain-reading technology may be used in the future, something right out of the movie Minority Report. But what a great concept! NHL officials could call all penalties before games even start, thereby cutting down on the number of whistles.

* Albuquerque, New Mexico was listed as the fittest city in the United States in March’s issue of Men's Fitness, up from a 13th-place showing last year. Of course it is. Imagine how fit your city would be if you had to walk 466 miles – the distance between Albuquerque and Phoenix -- to the nearest NHL game.

* According to a report, a new pair of sneakers will hit stores next month, but instead of a Reebok pump or Nike air or a Kangaroo pouch, the zips will feature a Global Positioning System chip designed to locate the wearer anywhere in the world. Unfortunately for Jonathan Cheechoo, there isn’t a GPS device to locate the scoring touch he had a year ago.

* An Arctic “doomsday vault” aimed at providing mankind with food in case of a global catastrophe will be designed to sustain the effects of climate change, according to a report last week. The vault will be carved into the permafrost of a mountain in the remote Svalbard archipelago near the North Pole, but there’s no indication it will house the post-game pizza popular in all 30 NHL locker rooms.

Posted by Evan @ 10:04 a.m.

Thursday, February 8, 2007

What kind of music do you usually have here? Oh, we got both kinds. We got country and western.

We all need a theme song.

Last week in Washington, presidential candidates who addressed the Democratic National Committee’s winter meeting took care of some serious business. They chose their own theme songs. In a setting that probably looked a lot like your fantasy hockey draft, some even chose two songs – one for when they approach the stage and a second tune for when they walk off.

John Edwards picked This is Our Country by John Mellencamp.

Senator Chris Dodd of Connecticut selected Get Ready (‘Cause Here I Come) and Reach Out by the Temptations.

Senator Hillary Clinton took Right Here, Right Now by Jesus Jones, and Ain't Seen Nothing Yet by Bachman-Turner Overdrive.

Now why do the politicians get to have all the fun? Why are they the only ones who get to pick their own personal soundtracks? Wouldn’t it be fun if the rest of us got to pick the song we’d like to enter and exit a room to?

At one time, personal music tracks were reserved for only closers in baseball. We used to talk about that all the time. What music would you come out of the bullpen to? I was always partial to The End by the Doors. And this, my friends, is the end of the politicians getting to have all the fun and all the best tunes.

If the NHL Universe held a similar song draft, this is how the teams, players and personalities of our game should sound:

The first-place Buffalo Sabres, who have paced the NHL since the start of the season: All or Nothing by Milli Vanilli.

The New Jersey Devils, who every year seem to turn it on at the right time: Flick of the Switch by AC/DC.

The first-place Atlanta Thrashers: So Far So Good by Sheena Easton.

Jaromir Jagr, who has played most of the season with a bum shoulder: I’m Broken by Pantera.

The Pittsburgh Penguins: Only the Young by Journey.

Rory Fitzpatrick: All Star by Smash Mouth.

The up and down New York Rangers: Barely Hanging On by A-Ha.

Islanders head coach Ted Nolan: Second Chance by .38 Special.

Jordan Staal: Electric Youth by Debbie Gibson.

The first-place Anaheim Ducks: Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us by Jefferson Starship.

Calgary Flames defenseman Dion Phaneuf: Sledgehammer by Peter Gabriel.

Flyers center Peter Forsberg: Footloose by Kenny Loggins.

Sidney Crosby: Smooth Operator by Sade.

Chicago Blackhawks: Against All Odds by Phil Collins.

Alexander Ovechkin: Abracadabra by Steve Miller Band.

The last-place Philadelphia Flyers: All Cried Out by Lisa Lisa and Cult Jam.

Martin Brodeur: Been Caught Stealing by Jane’s Addiction.

Nicklas Lidstrom: Superfreak by Rick James.

The St. Louis Blues: Don’t Worry Be Happy by Bobby McFerrin.

Two-handers:

* Islanders forward Trent Hunter was fifth in the league this week with 163 hits and only 12 penalty minutes. That’s six minors in 48 games played. Remarkable. Not for nothing though, but shouldn’t playing the game so hard and so clean make "Hunts" a perfect Lady Byng candidate for gentlemanly play? It should.

* NHL teams generally have a head coach, at least two assistants, as well as a goalie coach. Most also employ a strength and conditioning coach, making it seem like a good time to be in the coaching business, what with so many jobs available. Here’s one more: According to the gossip pages, Lindsey Lohan has added a “sober coach” to her entourage recently. Do you need experience running a power play for that kind of gig?

* Oily yellow and orange snowflakes fell over an area of more than 570 square miles in the Omsk region of Russia last week. Chemical tests were being conducted to determine the cause, but residents were advised not to use the snow for household tasks or let animals graze on it. In other words, don’t eat the yellow snow.

* If the person next to you has an annoying ring tone, things are not getting any better. According to a report, electronics manufacturers, airlines and banks are experimenting with personalized fragrances. Sony and Samsung are both testing signature scents, while Sony Ericsson, the mobile phone company, has launched a handset that releases a faint smell as it is used. One scent that probably won’t be popular with the kids is “sweaty hockey gloves.”

* A marine expedition team discovered what is believed to be thousands of new species of mollusks and crustaceans around a Philippine island recently. The project turned over more than a hundred “holotype,” or representative specimen, of the rare finds to the Philippine National Museum. They represent the single largest entry of holotypes, officials said. Until now, the largest had been the "five-holotype."

According to a report, three amateur explorers have stumbled upon more than 100 fossilized dinosaur eggs in central India. The eggs are thought to be from the Cretaceous Era, at least 65 million years ago, which was about when Chris Chelios first started skating.

Senator Car Kruger from Brooklyn said this week he plans to introduce legislation that would ban people from using an MP3 player, cell phone, Blackberry or any other electronic device while crossing the street in either New York City or Buffalo. Simultaneously walking and chewing gum, however, will remain legal.

Posted by Evan @ 9:42 a.m.

Thursday, February 1, 2007

Ranking the Bubble Boys

It’s that time of the year. We have reached the most important portion of the season, the penultimate period between the All-Star Game and the trading deadline. This is when playoff berths are earned, this is when teams make their final decision on whether they’ll buy or sell at the deadline, and this is when seasons are either made or broken.

The proverbial fork in the road, teams on the bubble can put together a run here and still make the playoffs, and of course, other teams can go in the tank and fall out of the race entirely.

Peter Laviolette used to crack me up when he would answer my hard-hitting questions with the response, “I don’t have a crystal ball.” Well, luckily for you people out there, Gross Misconduct does have a crystal ball and we’re not afraid to use it. This week we take a look at the gridlock-choked NHL standings and predict which teams sitting on the bubble will and will not make the playoffs.

In the Eastern Conference, as of Wednesday morning’s standings, there were six teams within six points of Laviolette’s No. 6 Carolina Hurricanes. The No. 5 Canadiens were just three points ahead of the defending champions, making the bottom half of the East bracket virtually wide open to any and all teams.

Coming out of the break, there were 11 Eastern teams within 13 points of the No. 4 spot in the conference and essentially every team but the last-place Flyers were within striking distance of the eighth and final playoff spot.

Out West, the bubble bath is just as crowded with five teams within 10 points of each other, the No. 6 Stars leading a pack of teams that include Vancouver, Minnesota, Colorado and Edmonton. There were seven Western teams within 12 points of No. 6 Dallas coming out of the break, making at least three playoff spots pretty much wide open.

The following are our sleeper picks to make the playoffs this spring, in no special order.

The Pittsburgh Penguins have got to be one of the most fun teams in the entire league to watch. The youth movement has created a great deal of buzz in the Steel City and with Sidney Crosby scoring points at a ridiculous pace, anything is possible for the Pens. They got themselves in the thick of the playoff race right before the All-Star break, the goaltending is improving with each game and if they can add a top defenseman or another veteran forward at the deadline, they might not just make the playoffs, but they could also make some serious noise in the tournament as well. And let’s be honest, how much do you want to see Crosby in the playoffs for the first time?

The New York Rangers, like many teams in the league, have been maddeningly inconsistent most of the season. They were the NHL’s biggest surprise last season and they return a lot of the same faces. But they have been top heavy all year, get scoring from only so many of their veteran forwards, and the defense remains full of holes. But you can never count out Jaromir Jagr, Henrik Lundqvist has shown steadier flashes of the elite goaltender he was a year ago, and 38-year-old Brendan Shanahan is one of the best locker room guys and power forwards in the game. If there was any team in the league that was just one or two players away from going from the bubble to being a serious Cup contender, the Blueshirts are it.

Another team sitting in the bubble bath right now that appears safe to make the playoffs is Tampa Bay. But in order for the Rangers to sneak in, one of the top eight are going to have to fall out and the Lightning have been hanging on all season. Tampa’s got one of the deepest attacks in the league, but just like everyone else, they could use some help on the back end. Maybe they’ll continue to hang on. Maybe they’ll surge ahead in the standings. Maybe another team like Montreal falls out of the race, or even Carolina runs out of gas.

If that’s the case, then the team we’re looking out for is the sneaky Washington Capitals. There’s no telling where the Caps will finish, but they’ve clawed their way into the peripheral playoff picture and with Alexander Ovechkin in uniform, Olaf Kolzig in nets and their young players getting better each day, they could make the remainder of the season very unpleasant for a lot of the teams around them in the standings. Playing most of the rest of their schedule in the conference and the competitive Southeast Division, a Capitals move could spell doom for a team like Carolina or even Tampa Bay.

Out West, it’s tough to bet against the Edmonton Oilers returning to the playoffs after last season’s late-year surge got them all the way to Game 7 of the Final. The Oilers were six points out this week and had to jump past Colorado and Minnesota to get in, but we like Edmonton, with Ryan Smyth leading the charge, to come out on top in that race.

The Dallas Stars seem like they’re in decent position heading into the home stretch, but just like in the Eastern Conference, there are teams currently in the top eight that will fall out by the end of the season. Could the Stars be one of those teams?

Looking at the standings, Vancouver seems to be in a pretty good spot and there are few teams in the conference with goaltending as good as Roberto Luongo’s been giving the Canucks. So we like them to hold on. Colorado, however, another team on the bubble, might not be as strong as the teams they’re fighting to get in. The Avalanche were four points out this week, which could be too tall a task, unless of course a team like Minnesota sputters to the finish line.

Two-handers:

* Scientists were drafting a report on global warming this week and some of the evidence was staggering. According to reports, the Earth's surface temperature could rise by 8.1 degrees if carbon dioxide levels double over pre-industrial levels. That can only mean one thing. The ground will be hotter, hence NHL ice surfaces are going to be softer, and the game is going to be slower! Good thing those new uniform systems will be in use beginning next season.

* A modified Boeing 747-400F known as the Airborne Laser, will test fire its low-power laser in flight for the first time this week as part of a long-term test phase at the Air Force Flight Test Center at Edwards Air Force Base, according to a USAF report. The laser, part of the Missile Defense Agency’s Ballistic Missile Defense System, is designed to identify, track and shoot down enemy missiles shortly after they launch. The NHL’s Competition Committee will likely not approve the device as part of the new generation of goaltending equipment.

* According to reports, the FBI appears to have adopted an invasive Internet surveillance technique that collects far more data on Americans than previously used in the controversial Carnivore system. Instead of recording only what a particular suspect is doing, agents conducting investigations can assemble the activities of thousands of Internet users at a time into databases that can then be searched for names, e-mail addresses or keywords. Say what you want about the Feds, but these guys must be the kings of their fantasy hockey leagues.

* Ageless wonder Chris Chelios wears shoulder pads that are from 1979, from his freshman year at Wisconsin. His Detroit teammates, and his skates, are thankful he at least changes his socks more often that that.

Rangers' Matt Cullen and TV actor Tom Cavanaugh
* Separated at birth: Rangers forward Matt Cullen and Tom Cavanaugh, AKA “Ed” from Stuckeyville.

* Democratic Assemblywoman Sally Lieber wants to outlaw spanking children up to 3-years-old. If she succeeds, California would become the first state to ban parents from smacking their kids. However, there would be no law forbidding the occasional face wash when necessary.

* Also from California, a lawmaker wants to make his state the first to ban incandescent light bulbs as part of the state's groundbreaking initiatives to reduce energy use and greenhouse gases blamed for global warming. The proposed law would ban incandescent light bulbs by 2012 in favor of energy-saving compact fluorescent bulbs. No telling yet how the crackdown would affect the red lights behind the goals.

* According to a report, Miami civic officials are asking residents to time their trips to the bathroom during the Super Bowl because extra flushing at halftime can put added stress on the sewer system. For real. The city says that to be on the safe side, people should stagger their trips to the bathroom because the so-called “Halftime Flush” could lead to clogs, worsen already leaky toilets and lower water pressure. Imagine the hysteria if the Panthers went to the Finals, and there were two intermissions per game instead of one.

Posted by Evan @ 9:31 a.m.



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