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Same old Scott!

by Brian Compton
Scott Niedermayer certainly looked comfortable in his return to the ice.
Great Scott! – How nice was it to see Scott Niedermayer back on the ice Sunday night?

The outcome wasn’t what the future Hall of Famer was looking for, but the Anaheim Ducks’ defenseman received almost 24 minutes of ice time and was a plus-1 in a 2-1 shootout loss to the San Jose Sharks.

“Getting that first one under your belt is always a big step,” Niedermayer said. “The next two games are back-to-back, so that will be another bit of a test. But it's all part of it, and I've just got to be smart and know what I'm comfortable with out there.”

Niedermayer certainly looked comfortable in his return to the ice. It didn’t take very long for the 34-year-old to prove why he’s one of the game’s best. And as the season goes along, one has to be under the impression that Niedermayer is only going to get better. As he improves, so too will the defending Stanley Cup champs.
“I really didn't know what to expect, just probably play it by ear and see how I was feeling. If I was tired, I'd get off and change,” Niedermayer said.
Welcome back, Scott! The game certainly is happy to have you as long as you’d like to be a part of it.

Congrats, Mike – Calgary Flames coach Mike Keenan reached a remarkable milestone on Sunday, as his team’s 5-3 win against the St. Louis Blues was the 600th of his NHL career.

It’s been a long road for the 58-year-old, one that’s taken him from Philadelphia to Chicago to New York to St. Louis to Vancouver to Boston to Florida, and, now finally, to Calgary.
“It means you can hang around a long time,” Keenan said after notching the milestone win. “It means you’ve got good hockey teams and good players to coach. Not too many people can say that they’ve had the opportunities I’ve had.”

More importantly, Keenan’s made the most of his opportunities – unlike Mario Van Peebles after Jaws: The Revenge.   

Welcome Back, Great One – What a way for Wayne Gretzky to return to Madison Square Garden.

Almost nine years after hanging up the blades as a member of the New York Rangers, the greatest player our sport has ever seen looked like an up-and-coming coach as his Phoenix Coyotes recorded an impressive 5-1 win Sunday against the Blueshirts.
“I don't know if it was revenge,” Gretzky said of beating his former team. “They're a good team. Over 82 games, you're going to have games where it doesn't go your way. We got a couple lucky bounces and did some good things but I know the next game they play they'll be a much different team.”

They better be. The Rangers have lost three straight at home and five of six overall. On Sunday, they couldn’t even compete with Phoenix after the opening period, much like the way Alvin and the Chipmunks couldn’t compete with I Am Legend at the box office.
“Any time you lose like this in front of your fans, you bet it's embarrassing,” said Rangers center Scott Gomez, who has six goals in 31 games. “We have a good team, though. We have a great bunch of guys, and we know what it takes.”
Same Old Marty – How many times in the past 13 years have we seen Martin Brodeur make a huge save -- one that leads directly to a New Jersey goal?
Such was the case again Sunday, when Brodeur made a stick save on a penalty shot from Danny Briere in the second period. Less than a minute after Brodeur stopped Philly’s top gun, John Madden scored to give the Devils a 2-1 lead en route to a 4-2 win at The Rock.
Honestly … other than incessant rambling on “The View,” is there anything more predictable?
“That was the turning point in the hockey game,” Devils coach Brent Sutter said. “They get the penalty shot and Marty makes a great save. It was massive.”
Up To the Task – Don’t look now, but Tomas Vokoun has gotten the Florida Panthers back into the Southeast Division race.
Vokoun made 44 saves Sunday – 21 in the opening period – as the Panthers edged the Chicago Blackhawks by a 3-1 score at the United Center. With the win, Florida (15-16-2) pulled within a game of the .500 mark, and just five points of the pace set by the first-place Carolina Hurricanes.
It marked the second-straight day that Vokoun faced more than 40 shots; he was peppered with 46 in a 5-2 loss Saturday to Detroit. Twenty-four hours later, though, Vokoun was better than anyone could have expected in the midst of yet another barrage.
“They came out hard, but we've got to address that,” Vokoun said. “Tonight we were lucky in a sense. We won the game, but some other nights this game could have been pretty quickly over. You can't put yourself in this situation all the time. Sooner or later these things will catch up with you.”
In other words, Mr. Vokoun would like to face less than 40 shots every now and then. After all, it’s the holiday season.

Brian Compton can be e-mailed at:

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