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Atlantic: Weight wants to be part of Isles' future

by Adam Kimelman
Islanders center Doug Weight hasn't played since spraining a knee ligament Feb. 11, but he has started skating again with the hope of returning before the season ends.

Weight can become an unrestricted free agent July 1, but said he hopes the few games he aims to play down the stretch aren't his last in an Islanders uniform.

"Let's put it this way," Weight told's Chris Botta. "There's nothing that's making me run from Long Island. I love it here and I love this organization and the guys on the team. There's nothing I'd like more than to get something done for next season."

He didn't say he needed a new deal before July 1 or else, but he certainly would like that assurance. While the Islanders may be last in the standings, Weight sees a very bright future, and he wants to be a part of it.

"This is not a case of seeing if the grass is greener on July 1," Weight said. "I know what we have here with the Islanders and I'm very excited about it. With a lot more health and whatever changes management makes, this team can go from the bottom of the League to the playoffs next season. I truly believe that.
"I can't tell you how much I'd kill to be in the playoffs next season in an Islanders uniform. This place has come to mean a lot to me. They gave me a chance last summer to prove I had something left, and we proved it together. I'm going to play next season, and I hope it's here."

Isles rookie center Josh Bailey also hopes to again have Weight as a teammate and a mentor.

"Dougie's been amazing for me," Bailey said. "Every day I learn something from him. At practices, on the bench during games, he always has some positive input that will stay with me for my whole career."

A little help from his friends --
It's hard to feel bad for Martin Brodeur. Rich, famous and now the owner of one of the most cherished records in NHL history, Brodeur seems to have things pretty easy.

Well, not everything.

When Brodeur decided to cut off the net after winning his record 552nd game last week, the process didn't go exactly as planned.

"It's definitely harder than I think," Brodeur said. "These basketball players, it's only a little net. This is a big net."

Seeing Brodeur struggle, backup goaltender Kevin Weekes led a few teammates over to help complete the process.

"I didn't want to go over there," Weekes told The (Bergen) Record. "I wanted him to have the moment to himself, but he only had one pair of scissors and it wasn't a very good one. We could tell he needed help, so a few of us went over there and jumped in. We wanted him to enjoy his moment."

Brian Gionta and captain Jamie Langenbrunner were among those helping complete the process while Brodeur skated around the ice to the roars of the fans. Part of that skate came with the netting wrapped around him like a mesh scarf.

"I had the help of a couple of my teammates," said Brodeur. "That was nice of them."

Smell that smell -- So what does an igloo smell like?

Johan Hedberg couldn't quite place it, but when the Atlanta Thrashers goaltender played his first game back at Mellon Arena last week, memories of his time with the Penguins came flooding back.

"It's an old building with a lot of character to it, a certain smell, too, that gives me some flashbacks," Hedberg told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, although he could not find the words to describe the aroma. "I've been here a few times since I got traded away, but I never got a chance to play. I have a lot of favorite memories (of the building)."

Hedberg had one of the more memorable NHL debuts when he was called up from the AHL's Manitoba Moose in March 2001. Wearing his blue Moose helmet, Hedberg won his last six regular-season starts and backstopped the Pens on a miraculous run to the 2001 Eastern Conference Finals. Pittsburgh fans became so enamored of Hedberg they started chanting "Moose" after big saves, and foam antlers started popping up.

Hedberg never recaptured that magic, though, and was traded to Vancouver in 2003. Regardless, Pittsburgh always will be a special place for him.

"This was the place where I got a chance to play in the NHL and I'm going to cherish that for the rest of my life," he said.

Same pieces, new puzzle -- In the time it's taken you to read this sentence, it's likely Flyers coach John Stevens has changed his lines.

While that might be a bit of an exaggeration, the reputation Stevens has gained is that a line is together a long time if it stays together more than two straight shifts.

So it's been a bit of a surprise that his top two combinations -- Mike Richards-Simon Gagne-Mike Knuble and Jeff Carter-Scott Hartnell-Joffrey Lupul -- have been together for a large portion of the season.

Part of that is tied to production -- all six forwards have at least 20 goals. Another part has been the near season-long absence of Danny Briere due to lingering groin and abdominal muscle injuries.

But Briere has played all but two games since March 1, including a four-game-in-six-night stretch last week. He played on the third and fourth lines with spot power-play duty, but he and Stevens agreed last week it was time for Briere to get some top-six minutes.

"I'm feeling more confident, more comfortable with my skating and I feel like I can start maybe helping out a little bit more than I have the last few games," Briere said. "At this point we're all trying to figure out what's gone wrong and trying to get back on the winning ways."

So when the team hit the ice last Thursday for practice, there was a whole new look to the top lines. Briere had replaced Lupul on the Carter line, with Lupul forming a new line with Richards and Daniel Carcillo. Rookie Claude Giroux was centering Gagne and Knuble.

"We were working (Briere) in slowly, but clearly we have to get him more involved, and also a guy like Danny Carcillo we want to get more involved," Stevens told reporters. "I think we have guys on our four lines that can move up and down the lineup. ... It gives a pretty deep forward group and allows us to have balanced scoring." Indeed, rather than the top two lines having all 20-goal scorers, now the top three lines each has two 20-goal men.

Stevens said the changes also were an attempt to snap the team out of a scoring funk, and it seems like it's worked. After going just 4-5-0 while averaging 2.44 goals per game to start March, the Flyers have won three straight went into Monday's game with the Devils with two straight wins, during which they've scored 13 goals, including a pair by Briere on Friday in Buffalo, and goal and an assist against New Jersey on Monday.

News and notes -- When Evgeni Malkin scored his 100th point last Tuesday against Atlanta, he helped the Penguins set an NHL record with the franchise's 29th 100-point season. The Pens had been tied with the Oilers with 28. Of the 29 100-point seasons, Mario Lemieux has 10 of them. Others to do it more than once are Jaromir Jagr (four), Paul Coffey (two), Ron Francis (two), Kevin Stevens (two) and Malkin, who had a League-best 106 points last season. Sidney Crosby, who also has two 100-point seasons to his credit, could make it an even 30; he has 95 points with eight games left. ... Malkin was fined an undisclosed amount -- but not suspended -- for his hit to the head of Kings forward Wayne Simmonds on Friday. ... Vince Lascheid, who played the organ at Mellon Arena from 1970-2003 and is a member of the club's Hall of Fame, died Friday at age 85. "He probably is the only organist in the history of professional sports to be inducted into a team Hall of Fame," Tom McMillan, the Penguins' vice president of communications, told the team's Web site. "But that just tells you the kind of impact that Vince had on Penguins hockey and Pittsburgh sports. All of us of a certain age remember trying to guess what Vince would play for certain players or certain situations. He was a Pittsburgh original, and he will be missed." ...  Alaska (Fairbanks) goalie Chad Johnson, the Penguins' 2006 fifth-round pick, was named CCHA Player of the Year and is one of 10 finalists for this year's Hobey Baker Award. His .937 save percentage was second in the NCAA, and his 1.70 goals-against average was third. Colgate center David McIntyre, acquired by the Devils from Anaheim for Sheldon Brookbank on Feb. 3, also is a Hobey Baker finalist. McIntyre was an ECAC First-Team All-Star, and his 21 goals were ninth in the NCAA. ... When Minnesota coach Jacques Lemaire got his first look at the Devils' new home, the Prudential Center, Friday morning, one of the first things he looked for was the team's 1995 Stanley Cup banner. Lemaire coached that team to the franchise's first Stanley Cup championship. "I looked at the rafters and I was pleased," Lemaire said. ... Brendan Shanahan sat out Sunday's game against Boston for what coach Brent Sutter called "maintenance;" the 40-year-old forward played Monday against Philadelphia and scored the game's first goal, his fourth of the season and first in 10 games. Jay Pandolfo, who had been a healthy scratch for six straight games, started in Shanahan's place on Sunday. ... Andy Greene's goal Sunday was the Devils defenseman's first since Oct. 18. ... The Islanders signed fourth-line forward Tim Jackman to a one-year contract extension. Jackman has just 8 points in 59 games, but he has a team-high 133 penalty minutes and he's second with 122 hits. Coach Scott Gordon also has used him on the penalty kill. ... The Lighthouse Development Corporation, the Charles Wang-headed group trying to build a new home for the Islanders as part of a giant real estate project in Nassau County, will hold a Community Education Outreach at 7 p.m. on March 26 at the Long Island Marriott in Uniondale, N.Y. The public will be able to comment on the project. Among those expected to be in attendance are Wang, the Islanders owner, as well as Nassau County Executive Tom Suozzi and Town of Hempstead Supervisor Kate Murray. In other Islanders move news, the (New York) Daily News reports officials overseeing the redevelopment of Willits Point in Queens are open to a proposal for a new arena for the club. The location would be on a 62-acre tract of land near Citi Field, the new home of the New York Mets. ... The Rangers' win Tuesday was the 245th of John Tortorella's career, moving him past Peter Laviolette to become the winningest U.S.-born coach ever. ... The Rangers recalled defenseman Michael Sauer from Hartford of the AHL on Monday. He'll play Tuesday against Minnesota if Michal Rozsival, who suffered a left knee injury Sunday against Ottawa, has to miss time. ... While both Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin drew assists on the team's lone goal, the Flyers held the League's top two scorers without a shot in their 3-1 win Sunday. It's just the second time ever that's happened; the other time was March 14, 2007, when New Jersey did it, but the Pens still won, 3-0.

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