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Hey Cheli, what was Lincoln like?

by Brian Compton /

Chris Chelios reaches an impressive milestone this season.
Some random thoughts before we ask Chris Chelios what it was like to travel to road games by train:

Congratulations, Chris -- Yes, he’s older than his coach, Mike Babcock.

Yes, Ronald Reagan was President of the United States when he broke into the National Hockey League.

But, all kidding aside, the fact that Detroit Red Wings defenseman Chris Chelios is still playing this great game of ours at a high level is a testament to his passion for the sport.

At 45 years and 348 days old, Chelios -- who turns 46 on Jan. 25 -- became the second-oldest player to lace up the blades in Tuesday night’s 1-0 win over the Colorado Avalanche. While some may look at his date of birth and think the game has passed Chelios by, consider this: the wily veteran has not finished with a minus rating since he was a minus-4 with the Chicago Blackhawks in 1998-99. He’s been a plus-20 or higher three times since then, and a plus-40 or better twice.

Chelios was a good sport when the milestone was announced at Joe Louis Arena, clutching his back.

"I wouldn't say celebrate," Chelios said of his latest accomplishment. "I guess it's something to be pretty proud of. I guess I'm the oldest American-born ever to play."

You guess? C’mon, Chris … When you broke into the NHL, Alaska and Hawaii weren’t even states yet.

Congratulations, Chris, on reaching yet another impressive milestone.

Broadway Blues -- Many in the New York area assumed the Tampa Bay Lightning would be the remedy to get the Rangers back on the right track.

Instead, the Blueshirts derailed.

St. Louis

Despite the fact that Tampa Bay was 0-5-2 in its last seven, the Rangers were unable to contain the likes of Chris Gratton (two goals, one assist) and Martin St. Louis (one goal, one assist) in a 5-3 loss to the Lightning at Madison Square Garden.

With the regulation loss, New York now finds itself at the bottom of the Atlantic Division with … New York. With the Islanders picking up a point in a shootout loss at Vancouver, the Rangers and Isles share the division basement with 45 points apiece.

The Blueshirts, who are now 0-3-1 in their last four games, tried to mount a comeback in the third period, as they cut a three-goal deficit to one. But St. Louis scored into an empty net to seal the Rangers’ fate.

"It's not fun, that's for sure," Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist said. "But you have to battle through this and remain positive."

Quote of the night goes to Lightning coach John Tortorella, regarding the conclusion of his team’s four-game road trip that saw it go 1-1-2:

"We were good a lot during the trip, we were lousy a lot during the trip, we were awful a lot during the trip, and we were really good during the trip," he said.

Anybody have an aspirin?


No Shutout For You! -- Just when it seemed the New Jersey Devils were going to win another one of their patented 1-0 games, Jason Pominville crashed the party by erasing the one-goal deficit with just 1:47 left in the third period.

While the Devils wound up picking up the victory – 2-1 in a shootout – the Sabres were only looking at the positives following what was their seventh-straight loss.

"We didn't give up," Pominville said. "We capitalized, which was good to see. There is no quit in this team. That's a good sign. We just have to keep working hard."

Buffalo will look to put a stop to its longest skid in more than four years Thursday night at Ottawa.

Who Needs Goals? -- Looks like the Carolina Hurricanes have finally figured out a way to right the ship: Don’t give up any goals.

Such was the case on Tuesday night, when Cam Ward stopped all 19 shots he faced and made Eric Staal’s second-period goal stand up in a 1-0 win over the Boston Bruins. Carolina had dropped three of its last four contests, allowing at least four goals in each of those defeats.

"When you're giving up goals and you're losing because of it, it's something you look at," Hurricanes coach Peter Laviolette said. "There's a fine line between playing too much defensive and giving up offense."

Another Game, Another Thrashing -- There aren’t too many givens in this great League of ours, but it certainly seems like the Philadelphia Flyers know how to handle the Atlanta Thrashers.

Jeff Carter scored twice in a four-goal second period Tuesday night, as the Flyers improved to 12-2-1 in Atlanta with a 4-1 victory over the Thrashers. Philadelphia has now won 23 of 30 lifetime against Atlanta.

“When you have a team's number, it gives you confidence," Flyers forward Scott Hartnell said. "You play with that confidence on the ice. This is no different."

No truth to the rumor that Ed Snider is requesting a move to the Southeast Division.

A Celebration, Followed By More Misery -- Denis Savard took part in a tremendous pre-game ceremony that honored “Original Six” members Montreal and Chicago, then watched his Blackhawks drop their sixth straight in a 4-3 overtime loss to the Canadiens at the Bell Centre.

The Blackhawks failed to hold on to a 3-2 lead, as Patrice Brisebois erased the deficit midway through the second period before Guillaume Latendresse scored in the extra session to drop to Chicago to 0-4-2 in its last six.

”I'm always proud to return to Montreal,” said Savard, who played for both teams during his career and was a member of the Canadiens' last Stanley Cup-winning squad in 1993. “For those who were born here and have been a part of the Canadiens’ family, it's special. It was a fun game. Unfortunately, we only got one point.”


Unstoppable -- Can anybody beat Ty Conklin?

It sure doesn’t seem that way.

The Pittsburgh Penguins’ netminder is now 8-for-8 following Tuesday’s 3-1 win over the Florida Panthers. Conklin’s bid for a second-straight shutout was foiled when Gregory Campbell scored shorthanded with just 4:09 to play. The Pens have won seven in a row and have quickly become viable contenders in the Atlantic Division.

”It starts with our goalie. He's playing great,” Pittsburgh defenseman Ryan Whitney said. “You don't want to get too confident or cocky, but we feel like we can play with any team, and we have been.”

Andy’s Dandy -- They had to send Doug Weight to Anaheim in order to get the deal done, but the acquisition of Andy McDonald has bolstered the St. Louis Blues’ offense.

McDonald scored twice and added an assist as the Blues scored six goals in a game for the first time since Jan. 16, 2007, in a 6-1 win over the Columbus Blue Jackets.

”Once they do start going in,” McDonald said, “everyone starts getting momentum and starts feeling good. We had four lines contributing and we were very good in our own zone.”

Their own zone, of course, begins with Manny Legace, who saw his shutout streak ended at 187:39 before Rick Nash solved the Blues’ netminder in the third period Tuesday night.

”After the second period I was hoping to get the 200 (minutes) mark,” Legace said. “But they are a great, talented offensive team. It's just a credit to the defense the way the guys have been playing in front of me.”

Playoff Bound? -- The last thing I’d ever want to do -- other than attend an N’Sync concert -- is jinx Wayne Gretzky.

But No. 99 has done an unbelievable job with the Phoenix Coyotes. Tuesday night was further evidence of that, as his club marched into the Pengrowth Saddledome and handed the Calgary Flames a 3-1 loss.

The victory has the Coyotes four games above .500 at 22-18-1, as they jumped ahead of Columbus and into 10th place in the Western Conference. Phoenix, which has won five-straight games, is only two points behind Colorado and St. Louis, who are tied for the eighth and final playoff spot with 47.

"We have a great, young team," Ilya Bryzgalov said. "We've started winning games and we have a great future if we keep working hard and believe in ourselves."


What A Battle -- In a game featuring former first-round draft picks of the New York Islanders, Rick DiPietro was better than Roberto Luongo for 65 minutes.

But Luongo was better in the shootout, and handed his former club its fourth-straight loss as the Canucks picked up a 3-2 victory.

DiPietro finished with 43 saves for the Islanders, who were badly outplayed in the early going. In the end, coach Ted Nolan gave all the credit to DiPietro, who stole a point in the standings for his struggling club.

“We wouldn’t have been in the game except for the play of our goaltender,” Nolan said. “We’ll take the point.”

With the No. 1 pick in the 2000 Draft, the Isles passed up on the opportunity to draft either Dany Heatley or Marian Gaborik, but they instead dealt Luongo to Florida and drafted DiPietro. Luongo made 26 saves in the victory.

“It ended on a positive note,” Luongo said. “The guys worked really hard. It would have been really difficult if we had let this one slip away.”

They Love L.A. -- The Nashville Predators certainly enjoy playing the Los Angeles Kings – especially goalie Chris Mason.

Mason made 28 saves for his 10th career shutout, while the team in front of him scored three times in 75 seconds in the first periods as the Predators devoured the Kings, 7-0, at the Staples Center.

Even Darcy Hordichuk got involved, as he snapped a 64-game drought by potting the game’s opening goal.

“The big problem in the first period was that we didn’t want the puck,” Kings coach Marc Crawford said. “We threw the puck away, then complicated things by trapping ourselves in our own zone. This was one of those nights where there was nothing we could do to save us from ourselves.”

I felt the same way the night my wife dragged me to What Women Want.

Brian Compton can be e-mailed at:

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