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Karma right for Price's first NHL win

by Phil Coffey

Defenseman Andrei Markov congratulates Carey Price after his 1st NHL win, a 3-2 victory over Pittsburgh at Mellon Arena.
Breaking in as a rookie goaltender for the Montreal Canadiens, brings with it a fair measure of built-in pressure. Especially if you’re Carey Price and comparisons already are being made to both Patrick Roy and Ken Dryden.

In a word: Yikes!

The Penguins’ Sidney Crosby can empathize with Price, since he knows a thing or two about being considered the next big thing.

Price made 26 saves Wednesday night in his NHL debut, a 3-2 road win against Crosby and the Pens. For those who love symbolism, it was 22 years to the day since the legendary Roy started and won his first NHL game, also against the Penguins.

“He played well,” Crosby told reporters when quizzed about Price. “I don’t want to take anything away from him. Some of (the Pens’ chances) it was just a matter of not getting any bounces. He kind of weathered the storm in the first, which really helped them.”

"It hasn't really hit me yet," a composed Price said. "It's pretty exciting."

You might think he would be bouncing all over the place, but when you look at Price’s resume, even his NHL debut seems tame. He helped Team Canada win the World Junior Championships in 2007 and was the tournament’s MVP. After his junior season concluded, Price joined the Canadiens’ AHL affiliate in Hamilton and helped the team win the Calder Cup.

So, what’s a regular-season game?

Moms get their due -- In recent years, a growing number of NHL teams have scheduled road trips with the fathers of the players on board that make for some great memories for all involved.

But what about Mom? Didn’t she drive the players to the rink? Mend equipment? Dried the occasional tear?

Sure she did and the Minnesota Wild are going to show some love to the mothers of their players this season.

“Everything that happens is for the fathers, not the mothers,” coach Jacques Lemaire told reporters. “I thought it was a good gesture for the organization to think about them.

“They’re the ones who feed them and show them how to walk. They go to the arena most of the time. I know my wife did that with our kids. I wasn’t there in the arenas, my wife was. Every morning, 6 o’clock she was there.”

Milestone approaches for JR -- A lot of attention has been sent Mike Modano’s way this season as he approaches the all-time scoring mark for American players. But Jeremy Roenick, who had hinted he was retired during the summer, is not only back in the NHL with the San Jose Sharks, but is rapidly closing in on a big-time milestone. Heading into play this weekend, Roenick is three goals shy of 500 for his career. He also has 675 assists and has long ago topped 1,000 games (1,256) and 1,000 points (1,172)

“JR has been great,” Sharks coach Ron Wilson said. “He’s a man on a mission this year. I think he wants to go out the right way, not the way it has been the last couple of years. He realizes he was a caricature of himself. He sat back and maybe looked at things and said; ‘My God, I didn’t play hockey, I talked about it.’”

”I was retired, are you kidding?” Roenick said. “I had my golf clubs in hand and I was ready to hang it up. Thank goodness a call from Doug Wilson kept me around."

Right man for the job -- Wayne Gretzky thinks big things are in store for Columbus Blue Jackets forward Rick Nash. Why? Coach Ken Hitchcock, who Gretzky likened to Glen Sather during Gretzky’s early days with the Edmonton Oilers.

“He couldn’t get a better mentor than Hitch as far as learning the game on both sides of the puck,” Gretzky said. “Hitch is working with him and he’s destined to be a superstar.

“Glen pushed me harder than any other player on the team. I think you will see the same thing with Nash and Hitch. (The coach) will not let up on him.”

Thrashers protect assets -- It isn’t unusual for a team with a young rookie to make arrangements for the player to live with a veteran and his family. The Penguins did it with Sidney Crosby and Blues’ rookie Erik Johnson is living with Hall of Fame defenseman Al MacInnis and his family.

Thrashers' rookie center Bryan Little has
been living with teammate Ken Klee.
In Atlanta, Bryan Little, the No. 12 pick of the 2006 Entry Draft, is now under the wings of defenseman Ken Klee.

“We added a fourth son to the house,” Klee, who has sons 9, 8 and 2, told the Atlanta Journal Constitution.

Little has a bedroom in the basement, his own couch and TV. He gets Robyn Klee’s home-cooked meals and rides to work with Ken, at least until he can get a Georgia driver’s license and a car of his own.

All while learning that playing in the NHL isn’t all about bright lights and big games.

“Our schedule is extremely demanding,” Klee said. “You’ve got to make sure you’re eating right, sleeping right, rest when you can but yet still not get so wrapped up in hockey that it consumes you.”

Unusual family reunion -- When Andy Murray was behind the St. Louis bench Saturday night and his son Brady was in the Los Angeles Kings lineup, it marked only the fourth time in NHL history that a coach has faced his son.

Brady Murray was drafted by the Kings in 2003, when Andy was the Kings’ head coach.

“It chokes you up a little bit,” Andy Murray told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

“It’s kind of a unique situation,” Brady Murray said. “He’s watched me grow up. It’s pretty exciting for him, and it’s pretty exciting for me.”

From Yzerman to Grimson -- Montreal Canadiens defenseman Mathieu Dandenault wants everyone to know he can score goals. Heck, he nailed 37 along with 70 assists during his final junior season in the Quebec League in 1994-95 and he scored 17 the season prior to that. So, don’t call him a stay-at-home defenseman!

”People forget I was a high-scoring forward coming out of junior,” Dandenault told reporters. “People forget I had more points than most of the guys in this room in junior.”

So, how come only 56 NHL goals over 12 seasons to date?

“I played with Stevie Yzerman my rookie season and I scored five goals in my first 12 games,” Dandenault said. “I was a scratch a lot of the time that year, but when I started the season I was with him. It was amazing. But I ended up the season with five goals because I went to the fourth line. I started the season with Yzerman and finished with Stu Grimson.”

Briere a pain for panes -- In the U.S., Versus runs an intriguing commercial for its NHL coverage with the Flyers’ Daniel Briere breaking glass panes at an abandoned factory, picking his shots.

“See that black pane? Three up and seven over.”


Now Briere is a pretty impressive goal scorer, but that’s really impressive

But according to a Philadelphia Daily News story, there was some slick editing too.

“It was done in Toronto,” Briere said. “I had about 25 pucks and I made four of them. They showed two in the commercial. The director wanted to do it without any cuts. So I would walk in, point at the pane I was going to break, and shoot - all in one continuous take. It took a while, especially since we had to change some of the broken panes. But it was fun. I had a blast doing it.”

All in all, he’d rather play -- Sidney Crosby sat out practice Monday, nursing a couple of bumps and bruises. And even though he got to watch with his father as the Penguins practiced, he would rather be on the ice.

“I don’t like watching,” Crosby told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

“It’s so much easier from there. It’s so much slower from up top,” Crosby said. “Everything happens so much faster on the ice. Just little things you don’t notice when you’re up top. What I found is, I notice a lot more when I’m on the ice. Everyone’s passes look the same speed if you’re up there, but I can tell you different guys pass harder. I can tell you that (Sergei Gonchar) fires passes, but from up there you can’t tell. Same with shooting. From up there you can’t tell who’s got a harder shot than who.”

A souvenir and praise -- Erik Johnson of the Blues got a couple of nice things after the second game of his NHL career.

The first was the puck from his first NHL goal, which came in a 5-3 win against the Los Angeles Kings. The goal was the game-winner and came on the power play. Nice. Plus Keith Tkachuk grabbed the puck and made sure Johnson got the treasured souvenir.

Blues' rookie defenseman Erik Johnson, the top pick in the 2006 NHL Draft, netted his 1st NHL goal on October 6th in L.A.
Plus, Johnson earned a fair bit of praise from the veteran forward.

“As I told him, it’s something you’ll always remember,” Tkachuk said. “Your first goal, who you got it against ... that’s a big thrill for anybody. It’s a huge accomplishment for him, being the No. 1 pick and all. He’s a great kid.”

Make that crazy, wild old man -- Brad Lukowich has made friends at every stop in his NHL career. One reason is he’s as likeable as the day is long. Check out this response to a media query that asked if he was a better player now than in his first go-round with the team back in 2002-2004.

”I’ve been around,” he said. “It’s been almost 150 games. Three years of, I guess, maturing off the ice. I’ve got two kids now. I’m not the wild, crazy, young guy I used to be. Now, I’m just a crazy, wild, old man.”

But seriously folks …

”I think I’ve learned the game a little bit better. ... I was in a place, New Jersey, where if you want to be a defensive defenseman, you couldn’t ask for a better place to be. I don’t know about offensively. I want to learn the system here a little bit longer before I try too much. And if it gets too much, I believe the coaches would say, ‘All right, you stay back a little bit longer.’

A player coming here for the first time, you have to learn how to react to the coaching. It’s a hard place to play. It’s a demanding and critical place to play. And you have to be very strong, physically, as well as mentally, to play here. Playing under Lou Lamoriello in Jersey helped me be a better mental player. I just hope I can put it all together and keep it going.”

Strip hockey -- Andy Murray seems a pretty buttoned-down sort, but the coach of the St. Louis Blues does have an eye for fun. In this case “Strip Shootout.”

According to the Belleville News-Democrat the team does this particular drill at the end of practice that simulates a shootout. Score, and things are fine. No goal, lose a piece of equipment.

Last Monday, Paul Kariya and Doug Weight weren’t doing too well against Manny Legace and Hannu Toivonen, to the point where Weight went in on one skate … somehow.

According to the paper: “The Blues bench was full of equipment and helmets and pads before the drill ended in a showdown between rookie defenseman Steve Wagner and center Jay McClement. The shirtless McClement and Wagner, minus much of his gear, each got plenty of grief from their teammates.

“Andy has always done a really good job of planning practice and he likes to end it on a pretty high note, with guys having fun,” Blues winger Dan Hinote said. “Usually it’s some kind of competitive drill. But something like we saw today is a good thing for team building and camaraderie -- and to give guys some heat.”

Material from personal interviews, wire services, newspaper, and league and team sources was used in this report.



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