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Father & Son Night

by Brian Compton
A few thoughts while the Penguins write out their "Thank You" notes to the Thrashers:

Son of a! -- On any other night, Brandon Sutter is a fan of the New Jersey Devils.
After all, his father is the team's coach.

On Tuesday, though, Brandon's job was to help the Carolina Hurricanes win a game. Their opponents? The Devils.

Playing against his father's team for the first time, Sutter nearly gave his team a three-goal lead when he hit the goal post late in the second period. Nonetheless, Carolina earned a 3-2 victory against the Devils at the RBC Center.

"This game had a little special meaning to it (for me), but we got the win and that's all that matters," Brandon said. "I thought I played pretty well."

Dad thought his son played well.

"Once the game got started, my focus was doing the right things behind the bench, his focus was to play, which I figured it would be," Brent said.

At the end of the day, though, Brandon hoped his dad didn't pay too much attention on his performance.

"If he was paying attention to me, that's probably why they lost."

Whatever the case was, the victory moved Carolina just two points behind the Devils, who are seeded sixth in the Eastern Conference, at the halfway point of the season.

"Tonight was a huge win, and maybe more importantly the fans that have come to see us play have seen us win some games, we've been pretty good at home," Hurricanes coach Paul Maurice said.

"We need that. Our ace in the hole is how loud this building gets when we get going. We haven’t showed them fourth gear yet, but we’re working on it."

Fit to be Ty-ed -- Ty Conklin is doing just fine in his new home, thank you.

After losing to the Detroit Red Wings in the 2008 Stanley Cup Final, the former Pittsburgh Penguins goalie jumped ship during the summer and has been splendid for the defending champions.

Conklin stopped all 23 shots he faced for his fourth shutout of the season as Detroit picked up a 2-0 win against the Columbus Blue Jackets at Joe Louis Arena. All four of Conklin's shutouts have come at The Joe, where he hasn't allowed a goal in nearly 140 minutes.

''I feel real good, period. I certainly feel a lot more comfortable than when I first got here,'' Conklin said. ''The first couple games I was tentative and had some butterflies, but now I'm a lot calmer and I feel comfortable behind this team. Hopefully, it works both ways.''

It certainly appears that way.

Thanks, Atlanta! -- Leave it to the Atlanta Thrashers to help the Pittsburgh Penguins find their game.

Twenty-four hours after being blanked at Madison Square Garden, the Pens were much better on home ice and snapped a five-game skid with a 3-1 victory against the Thrashers. Pittsburgh had been outscored 10-1 in its previous two games.

 ''The win feels good -- it's nicer the next morning to wake up and come to the rink,'' said Petr Sykora, who ended the Pens' 0-for-33 slump on the power play in the first period. ''Everybody goes through this, but the sooner you stop it, the better chance you have to come back from it. I think we made a good first step.''

Hard to believe a team this talented had lost its last five games at Mellon Arena and was outscored 23-8 during that span. By the end of Tuesday night's win, the Penguins had to feel more relieved than television viewers were when hearing the news that "Cop Rock" was canceled.

''It was a matter of time, but it was getting a little frustrating,'' defenseman Ryan Whitney said.
Welcome back -- In the end, Bryan McCabe thought it was going to be much worse.

Returning to Toronto for the first time since being dealt to the Florida Panthers, the former Maple Leafs defenseman was booed every time he touched the puck. The effect wasn't too bad, considering the Panthers skated away with a 4-2 win at the Air Canada Centre.

The longer the game went, the more the boos shifted from McCabe to his former teammates.

'The boos weren't too bad out there,'' McCabe said. ''I got it much worse when I played here. It was fine.''

McCabe had some help. His coach, Peter DeBoer, developed a strategy in the days leading to Tuesday night's contest.

''The guys around here have been booing him to get him prepared, kind of getting him immune to it for the last two days,'' DeBoer said. ''I've got all the respect in the world for Bryan McCabe. I think he's handled the situation like a consummate professional and I can't say enough. I can't imagine anyone would handle the situation better than he has.''

A true rivalry -- Don't look now, but there is a heavy rivalry brewing between the Washington Capitals and the Philadelphia Flyers.

After being blown out of the Wachovia Center in a 7-1 loss just before Christmas, the Capitals got an ounce of revenge in a 2-1 shootout victory at the Verizon Center. Not only did the Caps extend their winning streak to seven games, but Tuesday also marked their sixth-straight sellout -- a statistic that prompted Flyers forward Jeff Carter to create some bulletin-board material.

''They're starting to get some fans now, I guess,'' said Carter, who is tied with Washington's Alex Ovechkin for the League lead with 27 goals. ''We can't buy all the tickets.''


After the win, though, Bruce Boudreau wasn't about to rip the Flyers. Instead, he commended his team on its approach and how it stuck to the game plan.

''Enough has been said about the 'war' between Philly and Washington, and we felt this was a business day,'' Boudreau said. ''We wanted to be like machines and go out there and do what we're capable of doing. It's was a 50-50 game right to the end, and that's what happens when two real good teams play.''

What a turnaround -- It's been nearly two months since the Calgary Flames dropped a 6-1 decision to the San Jose Sharks at HP Pavilion. You'd never have known it was the same teams Tuesday night skating at the Pengrowth Saddledome.

Calgary recorded the first 15 shots and raced out to a 3-0 lead en route to an impressive 5-2 win against the Sharks. With the victory, the Flames improved to 15-4-3 since losing at San Jose on Nov. 13.

"Any time you're playing a great team like San Jose, you want to get off to a good start — and we did that," Calgary forward Daymond Langkow said. "We felt good early and we came out strong. I thought we had a pretty strong 60 minutes."

"Any time you're playing a great team like San Jose, you want to get off to a good start — and we did that.  We felt good early and we came out strong. I thought we had a pretty strong 60 minutes." -- Daymond Langkow

It was a rare off-night for the Sharks, who failed to play with the intensity they have put on display for most of the 2008-09 campaign under new coach Todd McLellan. San Jose still leads the NHL with 63 points, one more than the Boston Bruins.

"There's not a lot of desperation in our game right now," said Sharks forward Ryane Clowe, who scored his team's first goal Tuesday. "You come on the road and teams have you circled. They're trying to test their game against the top team in the League. Teams are going to be ready for us."

Maybe he's teething? -- Evander Holyfield may have found his next opponent: Ottawa's Jarkko Ruutu.

The Senators' forward completely denied it afterward, but it appeared as if he bit the gloved thumb of Buffalo Sabres enforcer Andrew Peters during the first period of Tuesday night's showdown at HSBC Arena.

His right thumb wrapped up after the game, Peters said Ruutu broke his skin while biting him through the glove. Replays did in fact show Ruutu using his teeth to tear Peters' glove off of his hand.

Peters doubled over in pain, clutching his thumb before heading to his bench where he was attended to by trainers. Ruutu did not receive a penalty.

''It's a pretty goofy thing that happened,'' Peters said. ''It's not the injury, it's the incident. Just the fact that that happened, it's unfortunate. It's not good for the game of hockey.''

Ruutu, though, insists he didn't bite Peters.

''Nothing happened there,'' Ruutu said. ''His fingers were by my mouth, but I didn't bite him.''

Chipping in
-- With Corey Perry serving a four-game suspension and Teemu Selanne out with an injury, the Anaheim Ducks needed someone to step up and chip in offensively.

Enter Samuel Pahlsson.

The Ducks forward broke a 1-1 tie with a power-play goal at 9:45 of the third period, as Anaheim skated away with a 3-1 victory against the Los Angeles Kings at the Honda Center in the opener of a home-and-home series.

"I’m usually not out there a lot on the power play, but I got a couple of chances there and it is fun," Pahlsson said. "It’s going to be tough to stay when we get some guys back here. I’m going to try to help out when I get my chance out there."

It wasn't the prettiest goal of his career, but Pahlsson gave the Ducks the lead when he redirected Scott Niedermayer's shot past Erik Ersberg.

"I went to the far post, and I guess the puck hit my stick," Pahlsson said after his fourth goal of the season. "It was in the air and it went in. That is all that matters."

Back on track -- Niklas Backstrom is almost single-handedly pushing the Minnesota Wild up the standings.

Backstrom recorded his second-straight shutout by making 28 saves in a 1-0 win against the host Boston Bruins. It marked the first time this season that the Eastern Conference leaders have been blanked. Minnesota is now 10-1-1 against the East in 2008-09.

''It was a really big challenge for us. It's probably one of the best teams out there, especially playing in their rink,'' Backstrom said. ''I think our whole team rose to the challenge.''

Jacques Lemaire agreed.

"I don't want to say a slump. We've lost two games,'' Julien said. ''We've kind of lost that confidence." -- Bruins coach Claude Julien
''We had only a few minutes that guys were not good on defense,'' the Wild coach said. ''You have to when you have a team that moves the puck like they do. You got to have a good stick and your defenseman's got to be good.''

Boston, meanwhile, has lost back-to-back games in regulation, both at home, after winning 10-straight contests. But coach Claude Julien is not ready to push the panic button.

''I don't want to say a slump. We've lost two games,'' Julien said. ''We've kind of lost that confidence.''

He's versatile -- Colorado Avalanche coach Tony Granato had a favor to ask left wing Wojtek Wolski prior to Tuesday's game: Would the veteran mind moving to center?

No problem, coach.

With Joe Sakic and Paul Stastny out of the lineup, Wolski -- who played center in juniors -- shifted to center and promptly scored a pair of goals in Colorado's 2-1 win against the Nashville Predators.

''It is like riding a bike,'' said Wolski, who helped the Avs end a three-game skid. ''Once you have done it for long enough, you are going to get used to it and it will come back quickly. With our coaching staff helping me all the time and giving me pointers it has been a lot easier.''

Wolski may as well get comfortable at his new/old position. After watching him shine against Nashville, Granato has no plans to move Wolski back to left wing.

''He showed that he wants to at that position and play with those guys (Milan Hejduk and Ryan Smyth),'' Granato said. ''He basically won the game for us, along with (goalie) Andrew Raycroft.''

Happy Birthday, Adam -- What a way for Adam Burish to celebrate his 26th birthday.

Skating on the top line for the injured Patrick Kane, Burish had a goal, two assists and a plus-4 rating as the Chicago Blackhawks pummeled the Phoenix Coyotes 6-0 at Arena. Afterward, Burish wondered what would happen to Kane when the latter returns from a sprained ankle.

''The guy I feel bad about right now is Kaner,'' Burish joked. ''I'm not sure how he's going to get his spot back. He's going to have to fight me for it.''

Even though his goal came at 11:46 of the first period, Burish's first goal of the season proved to be the game-winner. The Blackhawks outshot the Coyotes 41-22, as Cristobal Huet earned his second shutout of the season and his 19th of his career.

"That was fun.  It's nice to get your first one, and on your birthday's pretty neat." -- Adam Burish on his first goal of the season
Truth be told, Burish's birthday couldn't have gone any better.

''That was fun,'' Burish said. ''It's nice to get your first one, and on your birthday's pretty neat.''
Contact Brian Compton at:

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

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