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A harbinger of things to come? Snow says no

by Adam Kimelman
The lighthouse beckoning the New York Islanders could be blinking all the way from the Midwest.

That's the common thought on Long Island and elsewhere with the news last week that the Islanders had agreed to play an exhibition game in September at the Sprint Center in Kansas City.

The announcement -- which was followed days later by news that the team was shifting its training camp next year from Moncton, N.B., to Saskatoon, Sask., which nearly lured the Blues from St. Louis in 1983 -- sent shockwaves through the club's fan base.

After all, it's pretty easy to see the potential for a match between team and town. The Sprint Center is a year-old building ready, willing and able to house an NHL club. The Islanders are in desperate need of a new home.

Islanders owner Charles Wang has been working on a development project in Nassau County that would include a new home for the team to replace 36-year-old Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum. Known as the Lighthouse Project, the 150-acre development includes plans, not just for a new home for the hockey team, but a luxury hotel, a sports training center, housing units, retail stores, a minor-league baseball field and acres of underground parking.

The Lighthouse Project first was proposed by Wang and real estate developer Scott Rechler in 2007, but to this point, no significant progress has been made despite numerous meetings between Lighthouse people and officials from the town of Hempstead and Nassau County

Wang, a native Long Islander and passionate hockey fan, repeatedly has said he has no desire to sell the Islanders and certainly no desire to move the team. General Manager Garth Snow said the decision to play the game in Kansas City is a "hockey operations decision," no different than playing preseason games this past September in the Canadian Maritimes, or in past years in Trenton, N.J., Lowell, Mass., or London, Ont.

"I've always been encouraged to find ways to expand our fan base," Snow told reporters. "This is probably a hot-button topic because of the decision to play the game in Kansas City. But I'm being consistent in the way I've scheduled preseason games in the past. It's a good opportunity to touch fans in a different market."

Nor is Town of Hempstead Supervisor Kate Murray worried about the team suddenly leaving town.

"From the article I read, I'm not particularly perturbed or concerned because it's from the mouth of Mr. Wang that he isn't anywhere close to moving the team," Murray told Newsday. "I don't take any threats from an exhibition game in Kansas City."

But there must be a growing frustration on Wang's part that his development dream for his club and his home area is going nowhere. How long will he hold out for the Lighthouse in his home port?

A Devil-ish return -- Brendan Shanahan's last game with the Devils was 1991. To put it into perspective, the team he returned against Monday night, the Nashville Predators, were eight years from beginning their existence.

Shanahan also is a changed player. He's gone to St. Louis, Hartford, Detroit and the Rangers since leaving New Jersey. He returns days shy of his 40th birthday (Jan. 23), with three Stanley Cup rings, 650 goals (11th all-time), 1,340 points (24th all-time) and 2,460 penalty minutes (23rd all-time). He's one of three players in NHL history with at least 500 goals, 1,000 points and 2,000 penalty minutes (Pat Verbeek and Keith Tkachuk are the others).

Shanahan added 23 goals to that total last season with the Rangers, but after spending the last seven months at home, don't expect him to jump into a first-line, team-leader role. Shanahan just wants to fit in and help a team that entered Monday's game with a three-game win streak and four wins in the first five games of its season-long six-game road trip.

"This is a great team I’m joining," Shanahan told The (Bergen) Record. "They've already got a lot of Stanley Cup experience in the dressing room, so I'm just trying to add to what they have. They've got some great, great young players and it's my job to find a way to fit in and help where I can."

Shanahan was expected to start on the fourth line and see time on the power play.

Dubie Dubie don't -- The latest twist in the Islanders goaltending soap opera is the return of Wade Dubielewicz.

Or at least, that was the plan.

With a groin injury sidelining Joey MacDonald for at least 2-4 weeks and Rick DiPietro's season reportedly in jeopardy from continued swelling in his surgically repaired knee, Islanders GM Garth Snow seemed to have stumbled onto a bit of serendipity. Dubielewicz started the season playing in Russia with Ak Bars Kazan. He went 11-8-3 with a 2.77 goals-against average in 21 games, but had lost his starting job and was released right before the New Year.

Dubielewicz, who had spent the four previous seasons as DiPietro's backup, had returned home to Connecticut when the Islanders called. A deal was worked out, and Dubielewicz was excited to return to Long Island.

"This is great for me," Dubielewicz told Newsday. "Very familiar place, good for my family, close to home."

The fairy tale return, though, doesn't have quite the happy ending. To add Dubielewicz to the roster, he had to pass through waivers. Dubielewicz got one practice with the Islanders, but then learned from Snow that he had been claimed by the Blue Jackets.

"I thought he was joking at first, but he wasn't," Dubielewicz told Newsday. "He was disappointed, and I'm disappointed.

"I have mixed emotions a little bit. Once I signed with the Islanders, my heart was set on being here."

Rangers' advantage -- Prior to Friday night, the Rangers hadn't won in Chicago since Oct. 18, 2000. They had to work extra hard to snap the streak.

The Rangers were whistled for 11 minor penalties, were two men down six times and at one point spent 5:45 straight on the penalty kill.

"I've never seen that before in my life, let alone twice in a game, but six times, seven times, whatever it was," Rangers forward Brandon Dubinsky told the (New York) Daily News. "It was absurd. It was ridiculous. Kudos to our boys for hanging in there and finding a way to get the job done."

They did just that, killing five of the Blackhawks' two-man advantages, and limiting Chicago to just one power-play goal.

While coach Tom Renney voiced his displeasure with the officiating during the game, he took a more politically correct stance when asked by reporters for his reactions. When asked if he had ever coached a game like this, he replied, "Not at the pro level. Junior, but not at the pro level. This was ... interesting."

So there must have been a bit of irony that the Rangers won the game on Chris Drury's overtime goal -- which came on the power play.

Asked if the two points were the Rangers' hardest-earned this season, coach Tom Renney told The Journal News, "Yeah, and maybe so far the most satisfying."

News and notes -- Team bonding takes many different forms. For the Devils during their swing through Western Canada, it was curling. The team spent an off day at a curling club in Vancouver. Among those taking part was Travis Zajac. "Trav was probably the best player," Brian Rolston told the (Newark) Star-Ledger. "I think he took it in high school." Zajac wouldn't say who the best was, but did joke, "Paul Martin was awful." … Flyers defenseman Kimmo Timonen played Friday night against the Panthers, 24 hours after being hit in the mouth by a deflected shot during Thursday's loss to the Lightning. Timonen needed 25 stitches inside and around his mouth, but suffered no broken bones or teeth, and he never lost consciousness, so a concussion was ruled out. … Penguins defenseman Sergei Gonchar, who's been out with a shoulder injury since the preseason opener, practiced last Thursday for the first time since getting hurt. Gonchar refused to put a timetable on his return, which is supposed to be sometime in March, although the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette cites club sources that say a February return is possible. The paper reports the current plan is for Gonchar to continue to practice and travel with the team. … The Rangers had their annual Fathers and Sons road trip to Chicago and Pittsburgh. It was double the pleasure for Henry Staal, who got watch one son, Marc, play for the Rangers against another son, Jordan, with the Penguins. … The Rangers have begun negotiations on a new contract with leading scorer Nikolai Zherdev, who could become a restricted free agent this summer. "This is where I want to be," Zherdev told the New York Post. "I don't want to play in Russia next year. I want to stay here and play in the NHL, in New York, with the Rangers. I'm very happy here. I like the team. I like the guys. I like living here. Everything is good." … Saturday was a night of honors for a pair of Islanders. Team captain Bill Guerin received the puck and score sheets, as well as a personalized No. 400 Islanders jersey for scoring his 400th NHL goal on Dec. 26. Weight was honored for playing in his 1,000th game Jan. 2; he received a silver stick, a puck from the game and a personalized No. 1000 jersey. … Penguins center Mike Zigomanis, who hasn't played since Dec. 3, will miss the rest of the season after having shoulder surgery last Wednesday. Zigomanis had just 2 goals and 6 points in 22 games, but he led the Pens with a 62.9-percent success rate on faceoffs when he was hurt, and the team is just 9-14 since he was hurt.

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