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Ice Age: Talking trades or the lack thereof

by Phil Coffey
You never say never in this business and anyone who disputes that notion can look back on Aug. 9, 1988 -- the day Wayne Gretzky was traded to Los Angeles.

In this case, Anaheim Ducks GM Bob Murray says he isn't trading Scott Niedermayer enough that you believe him. After all, the Ducks have gotten on a hot streak and reintroduced themselves into the Western Conference playoff race.

So, why would you trade Niedermayer now? Sure, his contract is up at the end of the season, but the Ducks are better with the veteran defenseman, so not surprisingly, Murray is scoffing at the speculation you see all over the internet.

"That's another one that seems to circulate," Murray told Helene Elliott of the Los Angeles Times when asked about rumors that have Niedermayer headed back to New Jersey or home to Vancouver. "No. Scotty and I have been talking and he's going to retire an Anaheim Duck. And that's the way it's going to be unless he tells me different. I have an agreement with Scotty and it's my word.

"We've talked about this. I see him staying here. Who knows, he might play next year."

As for his part, the always cautious Niedermayer told old friend Eric Stephens of the Orange Country Register that he doesn't give the idea much thought.

"You know, I haven't really thought a lot about that," Niedermayer said. "I think when bridges come, then you deal with them. I don't think there's any sense in worrying about that type of thing right now. If that bridge does come by one day, then you look at it. But right now, I'm more concerned about trying to have a good second half. Play as well as I can to help the team.

"That's really where 100 percent of my focus is. The other stuff? If it does come one day, it does. If not ..."

Read My Lips 2 -- For the umpteenth time, Tomas Kaberle says he doesn't want to leave Toronto and Maple Leafs GM Brian Burke has not approached him about a possible trade.

Boy this story never ends. With the Leafs struggling, all eyes are on Kaberle and whether a potential deal would bring back a package of assets that would hasten the Leafs' rebuilding.

But Kaberle has a no-trade clause.

"(Burke) got the list last year," Kaberle told Mike Zeisberger of the Toronto Sun about teams he would consider a trade to. "Besides, he has not come to me about being traded. Nothing has changed.

"I love to play for the Leafs. I want to win a Stanley Cup here. I thought it would be awesome to do that. This is where I want to be. I don't worry about these questions. I just worry about things on the ice. That's it."

As for the rumors, Kaberle says it's part of the job description.

"It's part of the game," he said. "It's like at the start of the season when everyone wants to hear how we feel about the season. January and February are
going to be about moving or not moving."

Kovalchuk takes talk in stride -- Every day that passes without a signed contract extension increases the odds that Ilya Kovalchuk could be traded. And it also increases the talk about such a potential move that would figure to be of the blockbuster variety.

But Kovalchuk isn't sweating it. He told Chris Vivlamore of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that he avoids the distractions be focusing on his game.

"I just try to focus on my game and my goal to make the playoffs. I don't care about the contract situation," he said. "Everybody goes through it. It's not frustrating at all. ... It's not easy to sign a deal. Whatever it takes, we'll take our time."

The Thrashers remain in the hunt for a playoff berth in the East and Kovalchuk has done his part with 26 goals and 24 assists in 39 games. But unrestricted free agency approaches and Thrashers GM Don Waddell runs the risk of losing Kovalchuk for nothing if contract talks go for naught.

For his part, Kovalchuk said he is confident a deal will be reached with the Thrashers.

"Yes, I feel very confident," Kovalchuk said. "Like I said, I like everything that's been done over time. It's not an easy thing to sign a long-term deal, and if it has to take until the last second, that's what it takes. You never know."

Good deal for Wild, Habs -- Let's jump into the time-honored cliché that the best trades are the ones that help both teams.

Exhibit A -- Benoit Pouliot to the Canadiens and Guillaume Latendresse to the Wild on Nov. 23.

In 22 games for Minnesota, Latendresse has 10 goals and 6 assists. In nine games with the Habs, Pouliot has 4 goals.

Pouliot has shown a willingness to crash the net in recent games that has landed him on a line with Brian Gionta and Scott Gomez. He told Pat Hickey of the Montreal Gazette this net crashing thing is a new thing for him.

"I didn't do it in junior and I didn't do it in Minny," Pouliot told Hickey. "It's something that I decided that I had to do this season, because that's where goals are scored. If you go to the net, you have a chance for a rebound or a tip-in. They may be ugly goals, but a goal is a goal."

Pouliot's Montreal debut was delayed by a wrist injury, but now he is healthy again and has an important role.

"That injury set me back, but I'm back in the lineup and things are going well," Pouliot said. "I don't feel any pressure. I just want to play my game and do my best."

Well Said I -- "He doesn't need an angel to tell him what to do. Sometimes a player needs somebody behind him telling him, do this, do that. He's mature enough, he knows what he has to do to perform, and he's a good athlete." -- Jacques Lemaire on Martin Brodeur

Be very quiet, St. Louis is on fire -- Tampa's Martin St. Louis is on a tear with 19 points in his last 13 games heading into play Thursday night.

So, Marty, what's the secret of your success? As Damian Cristodero of the St. Petersburg Times discovered, St. Louis isn't going to jinx himself by talking.

"Just let it be," he said. "Every time we write about it, something happens. The (penalty kill) is unbelievable, bam, two power-play goals. This guy is going well, bam, goalless in five games. So, just stay out of it.

"Just say I'm getting bounces," St. Louis said. "Leave it at that."

Sorry, Marty. When you're on a career-best pace (95 points) we're gonna talk about it.

"He's a big karma guy, so he's a modest and humble player," teammate Jeff Halpern said of St. Louis.

"An unbelievable player," Halpern said. "Whoever plays with him that game is going to get their chances, and that's a credit to him. He makes everyone around him better."

St. Louis did admit to Cristodero that not being named to Team Canada for the Olympics is a burr under his saddle.

"Deep down it definitely motivates me," he said. "Not that I wasn't motivated before. But am I bitter? Yeah, I'm bitter. But there's no reason to pout. Go play and try to prove people wrong."

He sure has done that.

Well Said II -- "I have been a bit disappointed in some of the older guys, and I have talked to them and asked them to look in the mirror and bring more and take the leadership role. I think it really does come down to determination, and we have had great examples of that from players like Stephane Robidas or Jere Lehtinen, and we need that from everybody on a more consistent basis." -- Dallas Stars GM Joe Nieuwendyk

Mutual-admiration society -- Don't look for any bulletin board material when Dave Tippett and Jacques Lemaire talk about each other's teams.

Tippett looks at the New Jersey Devils and sees where he wants to take the Phoenix Coyotes. Lemaire looks at the Coyotes and sees the work ethic and smarts he admires so much.

"They're a solid team," Tippett told the Arizona Republic of the Devils. "(Martin) Brodeur is their rock in goal. They've got some real good high-end forwards, players that can really bite you if you give them those chances.

"I know Jacques very well. His teams are always well-prepared, always play a certain way ... They're on top (in the East) for a reason."

Lemaire retorted that he isn't among those who are surprised by the Coyotes' strong play this season.

"No, no, no," he said. "Dave always believed in teamwork and always managed to get a team that is representative and comes to play hard, so not surprised at all."

Wings' golden opportunity -- Kris Draper looks at the standings and knows the Red Wings need to make a move. He also sees the upcoming break for the Olympics and knows Detroit's fate rests in its hands.

While Brian Rafalski (U.S.), Pavel Datsyuk (Russia), Valtteri Filppula (Finland), Tomas Holmstrom, Niklas Kronwall, Nicklas Lidstrom and Henrik Zetterberg (all Sweden), are scheduled to compete in Vancouver, the remainder of the Wings gets some R&R time to rest and heal for the stretch run. Draper sees it as a golden opportunity.

"Definitely when we have an opportunity, you've got to take advantage of the rest," Draper told reporters.

But there is no time like the present, either.

"When it's game time, you've got to go," Draper said. "We need these points. We need a big push right up until the Olympic break. It seems every time we lose, every other team's winning. We've got to keep winning hockey games and mentally and physically we have to be ready to play. It's going to be a lot of hockey, a lot of travel right up until the Olympic break. It's no excuse. We have to do it, we have to win hockey games and mentally and physically we've got to be ready to go."

Great goaltending -- The Devils and Rangers combined for 96 shots Tuesday night at Madison Square Garden in a game New Jersey won, 1-0, in the shootout.

The Elias Sports Bureau reports the combined shot total made for the most ever in a goal-less game since the NHL first began tracking shots more than 50 years ago. The previous mark was 75 shots. 

The Devils took 45 shots on Henrik Lundqvist and the Rangers fired 51 at Martin Brodeur. It was the first time the Devils failed to score a goal in a game this season.

Brodeur earned the win, while Lundqvist was a very hard-luck loser in this one.

"I was loving it," Brodeur said. "They probably gave me a lot more shots than I probably got. It's not like our building where they take away shots; here they give you shots. Lot of shots that went wide that just hit me, or my glove, or my knob. But they were pretty wide. But we'll take it. It's good for the save percentage."

"It was fun to play," Lundqvist said. "It was a 0-0 game, but there was a lot of action out there. It is tough to lose it. As a goalie, going into a shootout, I play a big part so there is a little extra frustration when you lose it."

See you in Vancouver
-- David Backes says he isn't sending a pre-Olympic message, but in the last several games, the St. Louis Blues forward and members of Team USA for the 2010 Winter Olympics, has gotten into dust-ups with Team Canada's Jonathan Toews (Chicago), Corey Perry (Anaheim), Rick Nash (Columbus) and Robyn Regehr (Calgary's invitee to the pre-Olympic camp).

"No direct agenda there," Backes told the St.  Louis Post-Dispatch. "They just tend to be the guys that are in my way."

"Obviously he's going after the right guys, setting a tone that, 'Hey, the Blues are here to play and it's from top down,'" coach Davis Payne said. "David has made some great statements the last few games."

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