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Chicago stumbles out of the gate

by Brian Compton

A few thoughts as we send our deepest condolences to the family of Alexei Cherepanov:

Oh-For-3 -- Three games into the 2008-09 season, the Chicago Blackhawks still are in search of their first win following Monday's 3-2 shootout loss to the Nashville Predators.

This wasn't how things were supposed to go for the Blackhawks, who spent a lot of money in the offseason on free-agent acquisitions Brian Campbell and Cristobal Huet. So far, though, Chicago has just one of a possible six points in the standings. Clearly, this isn't what the Blackhawks had in mind when they decided to televise all of their home games.

Of course, we need to remember that young stars Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane are a combined 39 years old. Kane's turnover in the first period led to a goal by Nashville defenseman Kevin Klein.

"I don't question our effort -- at all," said Chicago coach Denis Savard. "I question our decision-making with the puck. That's very important. Some of our young guys need to learn right now that that can't happen, period."

Not Even Close -- It’s only one game, but the Vancouver Canucks certainly won't want to watch the video of Monday's 5-1 loss at Washington.

Forty minutes into the game, the Canucks had 3 shots on goal. The Capitals had 25. When the final horn sounded, it was 35-10. Things went so poorly, Canucks goalie Roberto Luongo was pulled after the second period.

"It’s tough to play when they’re on offense the whole time," said Vancouver center Henrik Sedin, who failed to register a shot on goal. "You have to defend, defend, defend."

If there was any bad news for Washington, it was the fact that Alex Ovechkin did not score for the second time in three games. The good news? The Capitals scored five times Monday without any help from the reigning Hart Trophy winner.

"That bodes well for the balance of the team," Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau said, "because eventually, I mean, I think I could state that he’s going to start scoring on a regular basis."

Talk about telepathy!

Rough Start -- After the way he performed in the 2008 Stanley Cup Playoffs, it would have been crazy to think Philadelphia Flyers goalie Martin Biron would be fighting the puck the way he is right now.

Nonetheless, the Flyers' netminder allowed four goals for the second straight game, as Philadelphia dropped to 0-2 following a 5-3 loss to the Montreal Canadiens at the Wachovia Center.

There was some progress made, though, as Biron lasted from start to finish in this one. He was pulled in the first period of Saturday's 4-3 loss to the New York Rangers.

The Flyers had a 2-1 lead after two periods Monday, but Biron allowed three straight goals in the third which gave Montreal the lead.

"There’s no excuse when you give up three goals in the third period and give a team a chance to get back in like that," Biron said. "It should never happen."

But Flyers coach John Stevens is not about to scream through the streets of Philadelphia. After all, there still are 80 games remaining on the schedule.

"The first game is kind of a write-off for me," Stevens said. "I thought he was much better tonight. He looked like his old self, made a couple of big saves."

Backup Plan? -- Poor Joey MacDonald.

The Islanders' backup goaltender was torched for seven goals Monday afternoon, mainly because Rick DiPietro apparently still isn't healthy enough to make his 2008-09 season debut.

Which begs the question … if DiPietro isn't healthy enough to play, why is he in uniform? Whatever the case, the Islanders had no choice but to force MacDonald to go the distance in what was his third game in four days -- a situation he's never experienced at the NHL level.

"I'm not a strong believer in changing goalies to change momentum," Islanders coach Scott Gordon said. "I want our goalies to not get the feeling that if things don't go right for them early or during the course of the game, they're not going to look to the bench or look over their shoulder thinking, 'When am I coming out?' I want them to find a way to battle."


MacDonald did battle. In fact, he was one of very few Islanders who actually put up a fight Monday.

"We didn't really make it easy on him," Isles captain Bill Guerin said. "I don't think he had as rough a night as everybody might think he had. It was the guys in front of him."

Move Over, Marian -- The Pittsburgh Penguins didn't just lose Marian Hossa to the Stanley Cup champions this summer.

They also lost a quality netminder.

Ty Conklin, who was phenomenal in Marc-Andre Fleury's absence last season, had a sparkling debut with the Detroit Red Wings on Monday night. Conklin made 27 saves -- including 13 in the third period -- to lead the Wings to a 3-1 win at Carolina.

Detroit coach Mike Babcock has made no bones about the fact that he'd like to give Conklin as much playing time as possible. With Chris Osgood ready to turn 36 next month, it's reasonable to think Conklin could play in at least 30 games this season.

"There’s always more nerves in the first game with a new team," Conklin said. "You always want to impress, too. You try not to do too much and play outside of yourself. It’s nice to contribute. It was nice to get in there early instead of sitting.”

Now that Conklin has shown he's more than capable of winning hockey games, Babcock certainly won't have a reason to be hesitant about throwing him between the pipes.

"We wanted to get him in early," he said. "We didn’t want to wait because he’s the new guy here to our program."

Aaron Gets an 'A' -- The New York Rangers probably weren't expecting this type of offensive output when they signed Aaron Voros as a free agent, but they'll certainly take it.

The gritty forward scored twice and added an assist Monday, leading the Blueshirts to a 4-1 win against the New Jersey Devils at Madison Square Garden.

"The guys around me make me look good. I just stand there. I have the easiest job in the rink." – Rangers forward Aaron Voros

But even on such a memorable night, Voros wasn't prepared to pat himself on the back. It was a team effort -- the fifth straight by the Rangers, who are off to a flying start at 5-0. Remarkably, they're already 10 points ahead of the Philadelphia Flyers, who reached the Eastern Conference Finals last season.

"The guys around me make me look good," Voros said. "I just stand there. I have the easiest job in the rink."

You don't just stand there, Aaron. It's the Knicks who just stand there.

Rippin' Ryan -- While he tried to divert the attention toward his team's 5-4 shootout win over the Toronto Maple Leafs, St. Louis Blues coach Andy Murray was less than thrilled with Ryan Hollweg's check from behind on rookie defenseman Alex Pietrangelo.

Hollweg, fresh off a two-game suspension for three boarding penalties in a 41-game span, was at it again Monday. He is likely to receive another three games off after yet another major boarding penalty.

"We won in a shootout," Murray said calmly. "To me, Hollweg's an insignificant player in this League. Why are we talking about him?"


"It doesn't matter who's involved in the play there," Murray said. "It shouldn't happen in our game, and it happened tonight. If that was Keith Tkachuk or Alex Pietrangelo, I wouldn't feel any different about it. It's unnecessary, and certainly the League will deal with it."

Contact Brian Compton at:

Material from wire services was used in this report.

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