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Remain calm! All is well! No, really

by Phil Coffey
Remember Kevin Bacon in "Animal House" trying to calm the fleeing masses at the Faber College homecoming parade?

"Remain calm! All is well!"

Of course, Bacon was then trampled by the mob, a fate I hope doesn't befall me when I tell my Canadian brethren that losing to Team USA in overtime of the gold-medal game of the World Junior Championships is no cause for panic.

Disappointment? Sure. But with five straight gold medals and an OT goal away from a sixth isn't a disaster, it's a dynasty.

And it doesn't really impact what will take place in Vancouver in February at the Olympics. Two different tournaments. The U.S. kids winning doesn't mean disaster will befall the Canadian men in 2010 unless there is a psychic connection someplace that I have stupidly glossed over.

"We take any loss hard whether it's World Junior, Olympics, World Championships, inter-squad game, exhibition game, I mean, were all competitors, we all love to compete and we all love to win," Flyers defenseman and Canadian Olympic Chris Pronger told's John McGourty. "We take all those defeats just as hard as the next. With buildup to Vancouver 2010, the Olympics and all that stuff, this was kind of a stepping stone."

So let's look at the WJC title game for what it was ...

"It was a great game, another great comeback by the Canadians, but the U.S. team showed a lot of heart and perseverance and stayed with it when they could have easily crumbled," Pronger said. "You could see in the first few minutes of overtime that both teams were kind of feeling out the 4-on-4 and nobody wanted to take a chance.

"What ultimately happened was Canada took a chance, didn't capitalize and the U.S. went down the other way and scored."

Yes, sometimes the simple answers are actually the correct ones.

But let's have some fun with it -- The U.S. win has given the NHL's American players the chance to chirp a bit at their Canadian teammates, and there is no harm in that.

In Vancouver, Ryan Kesler is the lone American on the Canucks' roster and he thoroughly enjoyed the WJC win.

"Obviously I have been chirping the Canadian guys," Kesler told Elliott Pap of the Vancouver Sun. "I'm surprised four of them actually stepped up to bet me. You guys in the media must have said something because no one wanted to bet me and then, all of the sudden, four guys stepped up. It was nice doing business with them."

The losing foursome was Alex Burrows, Shane O'Brien, Willie Mitchell and Tanner Glass. Kesler said he demanded payment in U.S. funds.

"Kess has been chirping us so hopefully that is going to stop," Burrows told Pap. "He was pretty happy after our game against Columbus and said he thought we played liked Americans. But you know what? The U.S. can have the world juniors as long as we win the Olympics. That will be all good with me."

In Pittsburgh, things were a little more subdued.

"We had an 'America the Beautiful' song going," defenseman Mark Eaton told Dave Molinari of the Post-Gazette. "That was about it. It's nice to have bragging rights. For right now, anyhow."

Getting the point across -- Rookie defenseman Mark Fraser has enjoyed a solid season with the New Jersey Devils, and when you think about it, why not? It isn't like he isn't receiving authoritative coaching.

Earlier this week, Fraser was struggling with putting pressure on a forward, something he didn't do well in a recent game. So at practice the next day, Jacques Lemaire, Scott Stevens and Mario Tremblay all worked with him. That's going to hockey grad school.

"It was something we explained before the game. I guess he didn't get it the way we wanted him to get it," Lemaire told rich Chere of the Newark Star-Ledger.
"He was a little mixed up. That justified why he got beat twice."

Overall, Lemaire remains pleased with the play of the numerous young players who have played for the Devils this season, with many forced into the lineup by injury to veterans.

"Our kids played really well. We're happy with what they've done," Lemaire said. "They've had a little drop. We want them to get back to where they were."

Welcome back -- Rick DiPietro is back with the Islanders and GM Garth Snow said he will play the unwieldy three-goalie situation by ear.

DiPietro, who missed almost all of last season and all of this season up to Wednesday night when he dressed as the backup in Colorado, will return to action soon, giving the Islanders three veterans in DiPietro, Dwayne Roloson and Marty Biron.

"Is it ideal? No," Snow told Katie Strang of Newsday. "But we just have to make sure things go smoothly. If something presents itself we'll do it."

Despite speculation that Biron could be traded, Snow said he is in "no rush" to make a deal.

"Worst-case scenario, we have three No. 1 goalies at the deadline. It's not a bad situation, it's not a great situation," Snow said.

Teemu on the mend -- Good news for the Anaheim Ducks, Teemu Selanne is ready to return to the lineup after missing five weeks with a broken hand.

"It's a matter of time when I can have a normal grip and strength, and go from there," Selanne said. "I'm getting really close, so I'm excited."

Selanne said he would otherwise return for this weekend's road trip, bbut was hoping to get back even earlier.

"Let's see what the doctors say," he told the Orange Country Register on Wednesday. "I felt pretty good today."

Well Said I -- "There was a lot of negative energy around our team at the beginning of the season. But our guys have focused on controlling what we can on the ice. It's been a motivating factor ... there's always little scenarios that come into play where a team is looking for credibility. As a player or a group. You have a bit of that pack mentality. It's an us-against-the-world mentality. We're not the most skilled, but we're competitive."
-- Phoenix Coyotes coach Dave Tippett

Worth the effort -- Like most NHL teams, the Nashville Predators will have a handful of players competing at the 2010 Winter Olympics -- defensemen Alexander Sulzer, Ryan Suter and Shea Weber and forwards Martin Erat, Marcel Goc and Patric Hornqvist.

You might think coach Barry Trotz would be concerned by the extra games as the Preds are one of the teams battling for a lower seed in the Western Conference, but Trotz told John Glennon of The Tennessean that isn't the case.

"You have to manage their time and you give them some time off," Trotz said. "And no one wants to get injured. But if you don't go there and play, there's a lot of guys lined up that want to go.

"So you want them to do it. It just shows you can compete against the best in the world. You get into the elite part of the tournament and you're going against the best of the best."

Back to basics -- Florida Panthers coach Peter DeBoer was very unhappy with his team's effort in a loss to the Maple Leafs on Tuesday. He was especially upset that the Panthers didn't win too many battles with the Leafs.

So, guess what the Panthers worked on Wednesday?

"We're not a good enough team that we can compete if we don't battle," DeBoer said after an intense practice that accented fighting for pucks. "Today was a get-back-to-basics day. ... It's disappointing that you have to send a message this way, but, you know that's what you have to do sometimes. I think we were very clear."

Look who's talking -- Penguins GM Ray Shero knows you cannot keep everyone on your roster indefinitely what with that pesky salary cap and all. Still, Shero remains hopeful the Penguins can re-sign two key defensemen, veteran Sergei Gonchar and youngster Kris Letang.

Gonchar can become an unrestricted free agent on July 1 and Letang is eligible to become a restricted free agent at that time.

Talks with both camps continue, but deals are not close, according to Dave Molinari of the Pittsburgh Post-Dispatch.

"[Talks] are kind of ongoing, I guess you could say," Shero said. "Nothing is imminent on any front. These things, hopefully, take care of themselves. There's certainly no deadline.

"We're hoping we can retain both players. With Kris, hopefully it's just a matter of time because [the Penguins can match any offer he would receive from another team], but you never know."

Well Said II -- "Right from Day One, there's really no surprise with what he's doing right now. What I'm surprised with, maybe, is how mature he is for age 19. ... He's doing a fantastic job just adjusting to the NHL lifestyle and game." -- Sabres veteran defenseman Craig Rivet on rookie Tyler Myers

Gainey in the same boat -- In Montreal, Canadiens GM Bob Gainey wants to get Tomas Plekanec re-upped before he tests the unrestricted free-agent market on July. 1

The Habs have a good chunk of change already committed for next season and like Letang in Pittsburgh, goalie Carey Price can become a restricted free agent.

"It's impossible to keep every player, we've seen that in past years where players became too expensive for us to keep," Gainey told reporters. "But at the same time, you can always find the money for a certain player if you really want to keep him.

"In general, I don't have a hard and fast rule about when we approach and sign potential free agents," Gainey said. "Neither do I like to talk about it while it's ongoing and have it be part of a public debate."

Plekanec has said he would like to remain in Montreal.

"We've had a relationship with him for nearly 10 years," Gainey said. "I'm sure he's comfortable with us, and we are comfortable with him, but the landscape is different today than it was in past eras. We'll find the answer on Tomas Plekanec between now and the beginning of July."

Keeping his promise -- Back in training camp, Ryan Miller said he needed to be better in order for the Buffalo Sabres to be better.

He has kept his word. Miller is among the NHL goaltending leaders and as a result, the Sabres lead the Northeast Division. A lot of that success can be attributed to Miller and Buffalo's overall defense that allowed just 96 goals in 42 games

"You're never going to shut a team down completely, but when we have had letdowns he's been right there to back us up and just give us great goaltending," captain Craig Rivet told John Vogl of the Buffalo News. "It shows the confidence the guys in front of him have, knowing that if we do make a mistake he's going to be there to back us up.

"Millsie's play speaks for itself," Rivet said, "but at the same time the guys have really bought into a real solid defensive system."

Keith: Lots of time left -- Chicago's Duncan Keith has placed himself right smack in the middle of the Norris Trophy debate for 2009-10 with his excellent play for the Blackhawks, that also netted a coveted berth on the Canadian Olympic team.

But as Keith told Tim Sassone of the Arlington Heights Daily Herald, it remains a little early in the season to be thinking about postseason awards.

Sure Duncan, spoil the fun!

"It's definitely nice to be talked about like that, but I realize there's a lot of season left," Keith told Sassone. "With so much season to go a lot of things can happen. I have to keep playing my best and trying to help the team win and focus on those things. The other things take care of themselves. I'm really not worried about those things."

OK, let us worry for you. In's midseason trophy tracker, we tabbed Keith as the Norris winner and with good reason. He is third in scoring with 6 goals and 31 assists in 43 games, a plus-13 and logs 26:38 minutes per game for one of the League's top teams.

"He's unbelievable with his vision on the ice and the way he can shut down top players," Patrick Kane said. "The little plays he makes, it's really amazing what he does for this team. To be honest, I don't see too many guys better than him in the League today."

"He definitely deserves to be considered a top defensive candidate for the Norris," 'Hawks goalie Cristobal Huet said. "He's got speed, he's got vision and plays against the other team's best line every night with (Brent) Seabrook. He's been great for us. He's playing a lot of minutes and never seems he's having a night off."

It's the minutes, man -- At first glance, you might think the St. Louis Blues were rash in sending defenseman Alex Pietrangelo back to junior after the World Junior Championship ended.

There was nothing rash about it. Rather the Blues put a good deal of thought into the idea, designed to help the young D-man further improve his game.

"As an organization, we're extremely proud of what he did," Blues President John Davidson told Jeremy Rutherford of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. "He went there, he showed leadership, they asked him to play important minutes and he delivered. You can see how much he's grown over the last year. We're really proud of him.

"For 'Petro,' essentially it comes down to ice time. There's 2 1/2 months left in his junior season. He's going to play a ton of big minutes. If his (junior) season ends, he's got (AHL) Peoria. If he came to us, we couldn't guarantee him minutes; we can't guarantee him games. We have eight healthy defensemen.

"It's very important to have him understand how important he is to us, and I think he does. Our communication with Alex is paramount. He's a huge part of our future. For next season, the chances are very good that he's one of our key guys."

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