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Flames, Oilers make biggest moves at deadline

by Roger Phillips
The big winners in the Northwest on deadline day were based in Alberta.

Calgary added to its dark-horse Stanley Cup mix by adding Olli Jokinen in the big deal of the day, and also picked up defenseman Jordan Leopold. Meanwhile, Edmonton unloaded underperforming Erik Cole and added Ales Kotalik and Patrick O'Sullivan.
Vancouver stood pat, probably figuring it did enough by adding Mats Sundin a couple of months ago. Minnesota's big move was to re-sign goalie Niklas Backstrom, and Colorado didn't exactly launch into a huge rebuilding project.

So what does it all mean?

The addition of Jokinen makes Calgary much bigger and stronger down the middle. The Flames already looked like a serious second-tier threat in the Western Conference; their hope has to be that they now have moved into the top echelon with the Red Wings and Sharks.

The Canucks probably aren't going to catch the Flames in the Northwest, but they certainly look like another team that could cause trouble in the loaded West.

The Oilers hope the changes they made will be enough to help them eke out a playoff berth. The Wild are hoping they have enough to get to the playoffs even without making a significant move. And the Avalanche are biding their time until the end of the season.
Eight is enough -- Trade deadline aside, it was a strange week. The Red Wings lost a game 8-0 and the Flames suffered an 8-6 home-ice loss to going-nowhere Tampa Bay.

Well, maybe it's not so strange. The Flames, after all, want to be seen in the same light as teams like the champion Red Wings, so over the weekend when they rolled an 8-ball, they got their wish. Just not in the way they'd hoped.

The Flames need to do some serious defensive tightening. Tampa Bay has some great offensive talent, but the Flames can't afford any more run-and-gun nights like that one as they try to lock down the Northwest Division title and position themselves as serious Stanley Cup contenders.

"We're definitely not happy with the outcome of the game," defenseman Dion Phaneuf told the Calgary Herald. "We have to be better. … We definitely were not good enough defensively. You have to bounce back. In this League, it's a busy schedule. We play every second night. So you don't dwell on it for very long. You learn from it, and now we move forward to Ottawa.”

The loss marred a night of milestones for Jarome Iginla. He recorded his 400th career goal and moved past Theo Fleury with 834 points for first on the Flames' all-time scoring list. Iginla finished the game with 5 points, yet still somehow managed to have a minus-1 rating.

The Flames may have overlooked the Lightning because they were preoccupied with leaving the next day for a seven-game road trip. Calgary still has a reasonably comfortable lead over second-place Vancouver, but the Flames have yet to completely bury the Canucks.

"The bottom line is you've got to win hockey games at home and on the road," Phaneuf told the Herald. "That's no different when the postseason comes. You have to win on the road if you want to be successful. It's a big trip for our team. We've got to start taking steps forward and keep improving."

Back soon? -- Had he been healthy a month ago, Wednesday might have been moving day for Wild forward Marian Gaborik, a prospective unrestricted free agent. But his latest abdominal injury, which led to January hip surgery, kept him in Minnesota, at least through the trade deadline.

And that could be good news for the Wild, at least in the short term. They certainly could use the talented Gaborik down the stretch as they try to battle their way into the playoffs.

Gaborik has passed a physical examination and is getting closer to returning to the ice. For him to salvage something at contract time -- either in Minnesota or elsewhere -- it's essential for him to produce when he starts playing again. So he should be motivated.

"The test shows that his hip is mechanically sound, repaired and it has healed," Tom Lynn, Minnesota's assistant general manager, told the Minneapolis Star Tribune. "The only thing between today and him playing for the Wild will be basically a training camp -- getting him to NHL readiness, building muscle and endurance."

Denver downfall -- Once upon a time, the Avalanche were the slickest team around, with a squadron of talented offensive players who lit up the scoreboard and won a couple of Stanley Cups.

But those days seem increasingly like ancient history in the aftermath of a swing through the New York metropolitan area in which the Avalanche lost to the Devils, Rangers and Islanders by a combined 14-3 margin. And now, thoughts of making the playoffs have been replaced by the need to regain some self-respect.

It got so bad in a 6-1 loss at Madison Square Garden that the Avalanche started gooning it up late in the game like some latter-day version of the Broad Street Bullies -- only without the success on the scoreboard.

Cody McCormick cross-checked the Rangers' Fredrik Sjostrom in the face, the highlight of 68 minutes of penalties for both teams in the game's final five minutes.

Additionally, rookie forward Chris Stewart fought the Rangers' Colton Orr, and Darcy Tucker battled New York's Paul Mara.

"You're never happy with the way things are going for our team, so it's something that happens in hockey, I'll say," McCormick told the Denver Post.

Tucker added: "It was an emotional time for us. We didn't play well. … They took the game over. It's part of it that you try and stick together. Stewie had to fight somebody he probably shouldn't have to fight at this point of his career."

Colorado coach Tony Granato was not bothered by the late-game rough stuff. What did bother him was watching his team fall behind 4-0 in the first period against the offensively challenged Rangers.

"When we don't come out and dictate the pace and (don't) come out and be physical early in games and get on our heels, that's what happens to us," Granato told the Post. "They came flying, but we didn't do anything to respond to it."

Of the late skirmishes, Granato said, "It got physical and things that shouldn't happen, happened, but that's part of hockey, I guess. … A push leads to a shove, which leads to other things that happen, just like in any other game."
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