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Saturday night is a hockey bonanza

by John Kreiser / Vancouver Canucks
For the first time since opening night of the 2005-06 season, all 30 NHL teams will be on the ice on the same day. There will be nearly nine hours of action, beginning shortly after 4 p.m. EDT when the Devils and Flyers face off in Philadelphia and likely ending a bit before 1 a.m. when the Edmonton-Vancouver and Calgary-Phoenix games wrap up.

The action will be heaviest between 9 and 10 p.m. — the drop of the puck for the Buffalo-Colorado game in Denver will mean that 12 games are in progress at once. It would have been 13, but the Flyers moved their game up by three hours to avoid a conflict with Game 3 of the World Series.

Some highlights of the biggest day of the season:

The Calgary Flames have the longest trip — 1,600 miles from their game Thursday in Nashville to Saturday's game against the Coyotes in Glendale, Ariz. The Devils and Flyers will go about 100 miles from Newark to Philadelphia to complete a home-and-home series.

Sixty of the NHL's 67 game officials will see action.

The oldest player expected to see action is Tampa Bay's Gary Roberts (42 years, 5 months and 2 days old). The youngest: Atlanta defenseman Zach Bogosian (18 years, 3 months, 10 days). The difference: 24 years, 53 days. Roberts played his first NHL game in 1986-87, more than three years before Bogosian was born.

Only 10 of the 30 coaches who will be behind the bench on Saturday were running the same team the last time the entire League played on the same night. Boston's Claude Julien was also coaching — but he was running the Montreal Canadiens. And Chicago's Joel Quenneville, who's been behind the Hawks' bench for less than 10 days, was the bench boss in Colorado.

Only two teams that played each other the last time there were 15 games are meeting this time. The Ottawa Senators visit Toronto — just as they did on Oct. 5, 2005. Ottawa won that game 3-2 in the first shootout in NHL history.

After putting everyone to work on Saturday, all 30 teams get a day of rest on Sunday. It's the first full day off for the League in the midst of a season (not related to Christmas break, the All-Star break, the Olympic break or the break between games in Europe and the start of the North American portion of the schedule) since Nov. 5, 2001.

Better with age — Here's a scary thought for NHL shooters: Martin Brodeur, now 36, is off to the best start of his career.

Brodeur is 5-1-0 after New Jersey's first six games this season, matching his best won-lost record at this point of the season (he was also 5-1-0 in 2002-03, when shootouts didn't exist). He's allowed just nine goals in those six games, compiling a goals-against average of 1.30, a save percentage of .942 and two shutouts. In '02-03, the equivalent numbers were 10 goals against, a 1.66 GAA and no shutouts.

The Devils hope his numbers are a good omen: They won the Stanley Cup that year.

Flying low — The Philadelphia Flyers had one of the great turnaround seasons in history in 2007-08, going from last in the regular-season standings to the Eastern Conference Finals. If they don't figure out how to keep the puck out of the net, they could make a return trip.

The Flyers are 0-3-3 this season after a 7-6 shootout loss on Wednesday to San Jose at home. It's their worst start since 1999-2000, when they were 0-4-1-1. The problem isn't offense: They've scored 20 goals, a healthy 3.3 per game. But Philadelphia has allowed 29 goals (including one shootout goal) — nearly five per game. Compare that with last season, when the Flyers won five of their first six games largely on the strength of their defense. They scored 21 goals in those six games — but allowed just 10.

There is one saving grace for the Flyers: They don't have to see the Sharks again this season. Wednesday's game completed a home-and-home series in which the Sharks scored 11 times (plus the shootout goal) and outshot Philadelphia 80-46. The Flyers are 0-5-2-2 against the Sharks in their last nine meetings since Philadelphia's last win on Dec. 21, 2000.

0-for-4 — Curtis Joseph became the fourth NHL goaltender to play in a shootout after sitting through regulation and overtime on Tuesday, when Toronto coach Ron Wilson put him in to replace Vesa Toskala, who had allowed only two goals in 65 minutes against Anaheim. Wilson's logic was simple: Toskala has never done well in shootouts (2-9 career record, 18 goals allowed on 35 tries) while Joseph had a 75-percent (24 of 32) success rate on shootout attempts and had won five of the eight shootout's he'd been involved in.

Unfortunately for Wilson, his move didn't pay off — Anaheim scored in both tries against Joseph while Toronto was 0-for-2 against Jean-Sebastien Giguere, giving the Ducks a 3-2 win. That made teams who switch goalies for the shootout 0-for-4: Buffalo's Martin Biron (injury replacement for Mika Noronen) against the Rangers on Nov. 22, 2005; Edmonton's Mike Morrison vs. Dallas on March 7, 2006, and Atlanta's Kari Lehtonen vs. Philadelphia on Oct. 26, 2006.

Flickering Flame — It's been a tough start for Calgary goaltender Miikka Kiprusoff, who struggled during the Flames' 1-3-1 start before making 30 saves in Tuesday's 2-1 win over Washington.

Kiprusoff allowed at least one goal in his first 11 periods this season before holding Edmonton scoreless in the third period on Oct. 17. He also gave up at least four goals in consecutive games for the first time in his career, and allowed three or more goals in each of the Flames' first five games.

Home cooking — Don't be surprised if Montreal coach Guy Carbonneau gives backup netminder Jaroslav Halak most of his work at home.

Halak made 25 saves on Monday night in Montreal's 3-1 victory over Florida. The win improved his career record at the Bell Centre to 9-0-1. Three of the victories have been shutouts. He has a 1.72 goals-against average and .940 save percentage at home. In 12 decisions on the road as a Canadien, he has a 5-7-0 record.

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