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A new Legion of Doom? Perhaps

by Brian Compton /
A few thoughts while the Rangers prepare a contract extension for Petr Prucha:

Road to respectability -- Don't look now, but the Ottawa Senators appear to be finding their game.

Craig Hartsburg's club put forth a solid 60-minute effort on Wednesday night, as the "Pizza Line" of Dany Heatley, Jason Spezza and Daniel Alfredsson showed what it is capable of in a 5-1 rout of the host Atlanta Thrashers.

All three members of the very potent line scored in the first period, with Heatley's tally coming just 78 seconds into the game -- one that the struggling Thrashers were never really in.

''We knew they played last night and obviously tried to get the jump on them early,'' Alfredsson said. ''It was nice to get some goals early, to help settle us down a little bit. We probably won the game in the first period.''

Spezza's goal came via the power play, his eighth of the season. The Sens' No. 1 center knows he and his linemates need to continue to produce in order to remain in the playoff race past Christmas.

''We're expected to generate offense when we play together and we did a good job of tonight of finding each other,'' Spezza said.

Eric Boulton scored his first goal in 47 games for Atlanta, which has lost five in a row (0-4-1) and eight of nine. The Thrashers had a chance to get back into the game into the second period, when they were handed a pair of two-man advantages. No dice.

"That changed the whole complexion of the game especially right after when we get a penalty and the puck bounces into our net," Atlanta coach John Anderson said. "That's just the way things have been going for us of late."

He did all he could -- With Jean-Sebastien Giguere unable to go, Jonas Hiller once again put forth a quality performance between the pipes for the Anaheim Ducks

Unfortunately, his 37 saves wasn't enough to prevent the team's second straight loss, a 4-2 defeat to the Chicago Blackhawks at the United Center.

''He gave us a chance, we couldn't ask more from our goalie,'' Anaheim coach Randy Carlyle said. ''I thought after the first period we were in control of the hockey game and did some things well. We started to play our game. We were in a position to win this hockey game and these are the ones that are tough.''

Martin Havlat erased a 2-1 deficit with just 5:45 remaining, and Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews put Chicago in front with 1:35 left in regulation. Dave Bolland added an empty-net tally to seal the Ducks' fate in a painful last six minutes.

''We played pretty well for a game on the road,'' said Hiller, who made 16 saves in the first period alone. ''We had the lead until about five minutes from the end, what else do you want? As experienced a group as we have, that (losing) shouldn't happen.''

Hartford? Ha! -- He had played in 8 games this season and failed to register a point in any of them. To make matters worse, Petr Prucha had watched the New York Rangers' past 10 games from the press box, and was recently asked by team brass to accept a conditioning stint with Hartford in the American Hockey League.

Prucha respectfully declined. All he wanted was a chance to prove that he could contribute to a team that as of late has experienced difficulty scoring goals.

Rangers coach Tom Renney gave Prucha a chance, and all the 26-year-old did was score the tying goal with 5:53 left in regulation in New York's 3-2 shootout victory against the Pittsburgh Penguins at Madison Square Garden.

"I am really happy and really relieved," Prucha said. "Now I just have to keep it going. Tomorrow is another game and I just hope I can do what I did today."

Scott Gomez -- who had a pair of assists to reach 400 in his career -- was thrilled for his teammate. Prucha, who had 30 goals in his rookie campaign back in 2005-06, has just 30 since then.

"This guy is a big part of our team," Gomez said of Prucha. "He's got the biggest heart. For him not playing all this time, he could easily complain and be a whiner. But he sticks with it every day. He's always got a smile on his face. It was a huge goal. He works hard and he deserves it."

We hear you, Coach -- Whatever Jacques Lemaire said after Monday night's debacle against the Colorado Avalanche -- and we assume it's nothing we can use in this space -- got through to the Minnesota Wild.

Two nights after the un-Wild-lie loss, Lemaire's club dominated from start to finish, as Minnesota scored a pair of power-play goals to back a 22-saves effort by Niklas Backstrom in a 4-0 win against the St. Louis Blues at the Xcel Energy Center.

''I think we learned our lesson Monday that we're not going to get anything for free in this League," said Backstrom, who earned his third shutout of the season. "It was good to have a game today, so we could come out and show we are not that bad how we played Monday.''

While the Wild tightened up defensively, Lemaire was especially pleased with the play of Backstrom, who he pulled after the second period of Monday's 6-5 loss to the Avs.

''He's back the way he was,'' Lemaire said. ''Everyone was open Monday and we couldn't stop the puck. Tonight, we were a lot sharper.''

Too much to overcome -- Sean Avery's suspension forced the Dallas Stars to play with a short bench again for the second time in two nights. While the Stars overcame the adversity on Tuesday with a 3-1 win at Calgary, the game at Edmonton didn't go nearly as well.

Five different Oilers scored in a 5-2 decision at Rexall Place. Naturally, the majority of the questions from the media afterwards were in regards of No. 16. But Avery doesn't seem to be No. 1 on his teammates' priority lists.

"It's out of my hands and not my concern at this point," said visibly fatigued goaltender Marty Turco, who probably would rather answer questions about the struggling economy right about now. "I'm just getting ready to play, travel and get back in the win column."

"It's out of my hands and not my concern at this point.  I'm just getting ready to play, travel and get back in the win column." -- Marty Turco on the Sean Avery situation
Dallas headed home and will begin a three-game homestand on Friday night against Colorado. With Avery's hearing with NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman slated for Thursday in New York, the Stars hope they'll soon know when/if they can expect Avery to return.

That is, if they want him back.

"As far as him coming back and rejoining the team, we’ll have to wait and see what Mr. Gary Bettman says," Stars coach Dave Tippett said. "From a coach's standpoint, I try to build a team where players play for each other and care for each other and play with continuity. I find it hard to believe that Sean can come back in that dressing room and find that continuity again. That's still up in the air, but that's my own personal feelings."

Contact Brian Compton at:

Material from wire services and team and broadcast media was used in this report.

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