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Northwest: Oilers may be division's lone sellers

by Roger Phillips
After the Olympics, the next big event on the hockey calendar will is the March 3 trade deadline. It's a time that will have ramifications for teams hoping to improve themselves before the Stanley Cup Playoffs, as well as for those beginning the process of preparing for next season.

Right now, it looks possible every team in the Northwest Division will be a buyer leading into the deadline. Every team, that is, except the Oilers, who have fallen to the bottom of the Western Conference standings and would need a miraculous run just to draw within sniffing distance of a playoff berth.

Who might be traded by the Oilers? Would you believe defenseman Sheldon Souray?

In the summer of 2007 Souray disproved conventional wisdom that a highly coveted free agent never would sign to play in Edmonton when he agreed to a five-year, $27-million contract.

Included in that deal was a no-trade clause. But now, the 34-year-old Souray appears prepared to waive the clause if the Oilers want to unload him as they begin rebuilding.

"I came here thinking I'd be here for five years," Souray told the Edmonton Sun. "But I wouldn't at this point hold them back from doing anything that makes the team better. I came here with a goal and you hope to try and see it out, but with where we are right now it's tough to say if in the next three years we're going to see that happen.

"Right now we're having trouble seeing that light at the end of the tunnel. If it does come to a point where they ask me (to OK a trade), I wouldn't hold the team back."

Beam me up -- It appears a Flame is more powerful than a laser beam.

That's the conclusion to be drawn from the Flames' 3-2 shootout victory against the Canucks on Jan. 9 in Vancouver. Flames goalie Miikka Kiprusoff prevailed despite having what was believed to be a laser beam shined in his face at times during the game.

"It was going on all night," Flames coach Brent Sutter told the Calgary Herald. "It was brought to the attention of the refs and security, and it's hard to believe that can go on for 60 minutes in a hockey game and it's not located and not found."

Kiprusoff stopped 19 of 21 shots in the game, plus two of three in the shootout.

"It was a distraction to our goaltender and security did mention they were trying to locate it, but I heard after the game it was spotted on TV where it was at," Sutter said. "So it's too bad it went 60 minutes of a hockey game and never was rectified."

Beam me up, Part II -- The Canucks' reaction to the laser issue ranged from serious to amused.

Canucks goalie Roberto Luongo said he was unaware of what Kiprusoff was dealing with during the game.

"It's never happened to me and I don't know how much of a distraction it was for Kipper, but that's definitely not something that you want to have in your face during a rush on net or a power play," Luongo told the Vancouver Province. "If it happens, the fan should be ejected. Maybe a ban. But it's not for me to say.

"It's more of a competitive issue to play a fair game. You don't want to give a team an advantage by doing something like that."

Ryan Kesler, one of the Canucks who most irritates the opposition, gave a tongue-in-cheek thumb's up to the fan with the laser.

"I've never seen anything like that before and good for our fans -- they want to win as bad as we do," Kesler told the paper. "But you don't want to see things like that. I got a little chuckle at the bench and we'll just leave it at that."

Alexandre Burrows added, "I kind of noticed it in the third period and saw it on Kipper's chest -- a big, green laser. It was kind of funny that they couldn't find out who did it and security has to do a better job. I guess it was a really big Canucks fan, but it takes away from the integrity of the game."

Trouble State of Hockey? -- It's been quite a week for the Wild.

Saturday, they had the best comeback in franchise history, rallying from four goals down in the third period against the NHL-leading Blackhawks to win 6-5 in a shootout.

Down 5-1, the Wild got goals from Kim Johnsson, Mikko Koivu and Marek Zidlicky in a 2:05 span early in the third period to make a game of it. Red-hot recent addition Guillaume Latendresse tied it with 93 seconds remaining in regulation.

But the aftermath of the eight-round shootout has resulted in a small controversy. Wild coach Todd Richards used the following players in the shootout: Koivu (goal), Latendresse (wide), Zidlicky (wide), Antti Miettinen (stopped), Eric Belanger (stopped), Kyle Brodziak (wide), Cal Clutterbuck (saved) and Owen Nolan (game-winner).

Wild fans were left wondering why Richards didn't use third-leading scorer Martin Havlat. Richards told the Minneapolis Star Tribune afterward, "It was shootouts this year, it was his past success in shootouts (3-for-16 lifetime, 0-for-2 this season), and then you just talk and try to make the best decision."

Havlat told the paper, "I was in a few shootouts at the beginning of the year (and) we lost those games. They decided to go that way this time. That's how it was. It worked out. I don't care about the shootout. At the end, it's about who wins and I wasn't scoring in shootouts (earlier this season)."

A bigger issue might be Richards not putting veteran Petr Sykora in his lineup. Sykora missed a big chunk of time earlier in the season with a concussion, and now he's having a hard time getting back in the lineup. According to the paper, Sykora's agent Allan Walsh tweeted, "The coach is treating Sykora with less respect than a rookie."

Richards told the Star Tribune that he doesn't want to tamper with his successful lineup, which he would have to do for Sykora to play.

"When your team is going pretty good -- and we've been going pretty decent -- it's harder," he said. "Before him coming back, as a group, we were playing really well.  It's never a personal issue. It's never, 'This guy's playing great and I'm going to keep him out because I don't like him.' That would be completely foolish if you're coaching that way."
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