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The Cooler is open for business

Thursday, 12.20.2007 / 9:01 AM / Game-Day Skate

By Brian Compton - NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor

It’s unbelievable what the Chicago BlackhawksPatrick Sharp has been able to accomplish on special teams this season.
Some random thoughts before I book flights for next month’s All-Star Game for half of the Red Wings’ roster:

Sharp As A Tack – If I had a dollar for every time I asked my colleague John Kreiser, “Did Patrick Sharp just score another shorthanded goal?” I’d have, well … $6.

Still, it’s unbelievable what the Chicago Blackhawks’ forward has been able to accomplish on special teams this season. He scored his sixth shorthanded tally – and later scored again on the power play – on Wednesday night in a 5-2 win against the Nashville Predators.

''It's just attacking, being aggressive,'' Sharp said of his short-handed mastery. ''If we're passive, standing around, that allows their skill players to deal the puck and make plays. We knew it was a big game for us.”

It certainly was, as Chicago entered with a December record of 1-6 and has a trip to Ottawa looming Saturday. But the Blackhawks got some timely goals – Robert Lang also scored twice – while Martin Havlat had three assists as Chicago handed Nashville its fifth-straight loss.

Given his shorthanded success – not to mention his 16 goals overall – anyone else thinks Mr. Sharp deserves a trip to Atlanta next month?

Here Comes Buffalo – While it’s going to be near impossible for the Buffalo Sabres to claim another Northeast Division title, give Lindy Ruff’s team credit for clawing its way back into the thick of things.

Miller

Despite losing Derek Roy and Tim Connolly on Wednesday night, the Sabres – thanks to Ryan Miller – were able to leave the Nassau Coliseum with a 2-1 victory against the offensively-challenged New York Islanders.

The Sabres entered the first intermission with a 1-0 lead, even though they were outshot, 14-5. They held that lead into the third period, even though Miller had faced 27 shots through 40 minutes.

He faced another 16 in the third, but made 15 saves (a very rare goal from Brendan Witt was Miller’s lone blemish), and Maxim Afinogenov made the Isles pay for a high sticking penalty on Freddy Meyer late in the third period as the Sabres won their fourth-straight and their fifth in six games.

"They had a lot of shots, there were a few opportunities where they got in tight, they were trying to get a lot of pucks on the net, but our (defense) was able to give me some lanes," Miller said. "Even on the goal they scored, I had a good lane, but they had a guy just pass through, I had my glove up for protection and kind of missed it."

Obviously, that doesn’t happen very often. And if Miller continues to play this way, and the Sabres continue to roll off victories, this could be Ruff’s best coaching job yet.

Another Game, Another Win – Obviously anything can happen in the playoffs, but Detroit Red Wings fans may not want to schedule any vacations for late May or early June.

Because their favorite hockey team still may be playing.

Detroit improved to 25-6-3 with Wednesday night’s 6-2 win against the Los Angeles Kings at Joe Louis Arena. Henrik Zetterberg potted his 25th goal, while Niklas Kronwall had four assists as the Red Wings easily pulled away after Patrick O’Sullivan had tied the game 2-2 just 15 seconds into the second period.

From that point on, the Wings outscored L.A. 4-0 and outshot the Kings 26-13 during the final 40 minutes.

"There's an absolute reason why they're the best team in the League," Kings goalie Jason LaBarbera said. "All four lines are on the same page and all six D are on the same page."

Niedermayer

This ‘D’ Is Quack-tastic – With the return of Scott Niedermayer, is there a team with more depth on the blue line than the Anaheim Ducks?

Highly unlikely.

Wednesday night, the Ducks got a pair of goals from defensemen to pick up a 2-1 overtime win against the Colorado Avalanche (who, by the way, deserve a ton of credit for the way they performed without the services of Joe Sakic and Ryan Smyth).

Chris Pronger erased a 1-0 deficit by storming the net to backhand a rebound home early in the third period, and then Mathieu Schneider won the game late in overtime on a shot that Peter Budaj had absolutely no chance of stopping.

Oh, yeah … the Ducks also held Colorado to just 12 shots on goal.

“You look at the guys we’ve got on the back end now, and there’s an awful lot of patience back there,” Schneider said. “A lot of years and a lot of patience. I think we’re going to be able to control a lot of games.”

No argument here. Be afraid, Western Conference.

Be very afraid.

Brian Compton can be reached at bcompton@nhl.com.


Quote of the Day

I don't know how he does it. I don't know how he gets his body parallel with the player and pulls it through his legs like that. I know he's tried it a couple times in practice and it's never worked, so how he does it in a game, it's incredible.

— Capitals defenseman Mike Green on teammate Alex Ovechkin's highlight-reel goal against the Devils on Saturday