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Never a dull moment

by Phil Coffey

In Edmonton, Sidney Crosby made quite the first impression for Oilers fans in his first visit.
Hockey is the fastest game on Earth to be sure, but everything was a little more amped up than usual Wednesday night for sure.

Let’s start on the ice, where there were three come-from-behind victories.

* In Edmonton, Sidney Crosby made quite the first impression for Oilers fans in his first visit to the city, assisting on three of four third-period goals as the the Penguins rallied back from a two-goal deficit for a 4-2 win.

The Flames will be the next Northwest Division club to savor the Crosby Experience tonight in a 9 p.m. ET faceoff.

* In New Jersey, the Devils denied former coach Claude Julien some sweet revenge, rallying back from a three-goal deficit for a 4-3 overtime win over Boston that gave the Devils their eighth-straight win.

"The thing, I think, that our team really has to look at is being able to stay in your game for 60 minutes," Julien said after the game. "We come out hard in the first. We do the same for the first half of the second. Then we lose focus. We start making little mental mistakes that end up in our net. We got away from our game for a while. We came back in the third and still had some chances. It could have been different. But those 10- to 15-minute lapses are crucial against good teams like the Devils."

Losing goalie Tim Thomas to an apparent leg injury in the third period didn’t help much either.

* In Columbus, the Blue Jackets continue to prove a new era is under way. Ken Hitchcock’s crew roared back from a 3-1 deficit after two periods with four third-period goals to post a 5-4 win over the Colorado Avalanche.

"We've got to play off the momentum we had in the third," said Rick Nash, who scored to up his goal total to 18. "Our fans were into it, they were loud. If we can play three periods that way, we could be a pretty good team."

Good idea since chances are Hitchcock isn’t going to be easy to live with allowing the opposition to post 3-1 leads after 40 minutes in each game.

* And hey, the Senators won a game! Still the class of the East, the Senators were nevertheless finding the confines of a seven game losing streak not to their liking. So, while a 5-4 win over the Panthers may not have been an artistic success, the Sens will take it and happily move on.


Welcome back Nieder! -- We will all be able to experience the tremendous skating and heady play of Scott Niedermayer again after he announced Wednesday night that he will be rejoining the Anaheim Ducks and could be in the lineup in a week or so.

The star defenseman had been kicking around the retirement idea since the Ducks won the Stanley Cup and has opted to return for the rest of this season. After that? Who knows? But the Ducks will take it.

”We respect the battle that Scotty has fought over this decision, as far as whether to retire, about whether to come back and play,” Ducks GM Brian Burke said. “We respected that decision right from the get-go. Our position has been that he earned that right. You’re talking about a player that’s going to walk into the Hall of Fame some day and his shoulders aren’t going to touch either side of the door frame. He’s going to be a first ballot Hall of Famer and a player that has accomplished what he has accomplished and contributed to our game what he has contributed has earned that right to wrestle with a decision like this.

”If you look at it, I want to point out one thing,” Burke continued. “Scotty’s 34-years-old. You’ve got to look at his postseason competition and international competition. He’s really 37 from a hockey standpoint. He’s played 183 NHL playoff games and he’s played 43 international games. So, it’s almost like dog years. If you add that additional service on, this is a guy that’s 37 and has really excelled at a high level for a long time and in my mind that player has earned the right to take that time.”

The Ducks will have to make some roster changes to accommodate Niedermayer’s return, but Burke said the team was being evaluated at the 20-game mark anyway.

”Now, much has been made of the fact that we’ve got some salary cap and tagging room issues,” Burke said. “In other words, for Scotty to come back it’s not that simple. We have to look at a roster change. I think people’s natural inclination is to say that that puts us in a tough spot and puts Scott in a tough spot, when in fact I will tell you we set the 20-game mark this year as our barometer. We knew we’d have a hangover after the Stanley Cup, everybody does. We gave the team 20 games to turn it around in our own minds and that’s when we began making roster changes. We let Ilya Bryzgalov go on waivers. We sent Max Kondratiev back to Russia around the same time. With the cap money that was freed up, we made the (Brian) Sutherby trade. We made a move with Mark Mowers.

”We’ve been making active changes to our roster since the 20-game mark and we have offered a number of players for trade during that time, guys on our roster now. And I met with the players today and told them. I said; ‘If anyone wants to blame this on Scott’s return, feel free.’ But the fact of the matter is that we’ve looked at making changes based on the performance of the team since the 20-game mark, the second LA game in that home-and-home. At that point we were eighth in the Western Conference, but all the teams behind us had at least three games in hand, so we viewed it as a non-playoff team at the 20-game mark and that’s not acceptable to us. So, for us it’s a big day.”


Devils tap Langenbrunner -- The Devils made news off the ice too Wednesday, ending speculation about who would be the team captain by naming Jamie Langenbrunner to the role. Langenbrunner has two goals and nine assists in 10 games since returning from sports hernia surgery and is definitely in the mold of head coach Brent Sutter.

"I definitely had some butterflies," Langenbrunner said of his first game wearing the “C”. "It's an honor and I'm proud to be in that company with those guys. I've been fortunate to play with a few of them."

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