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Touring the NHL

by Paul Kukla
* With roughly 30 games left in the NHL regular season, 26 of 30 teams are in the playoff hunt.  Every night most games are considered big games and it is only going to get better. The race is on!

* Fans are beginning to target the one or two players their team may acquire before the March 3 trade deadline kicks in. My prediction is most trades will occur after the Olympic break. Teams will save some salary cap money by waiting to deal for a player until the Olympics are completed.

* Plus, with 26 teams still in the playoff hunt, teams may be a bit reluctant to make a move until their situation becomes a little clearer.

* Teams that are surprising me with their play -- Colorado, Phoenix, Los Angeles, the New York Islanders and the Nashville Predators. That's six teams I didn't expect to be challenging for playoff spots, meaning that is up to six teams who were penciled in for a playoff spot who may be watching in early April instead of playing.

* What's more astonishing? Henrik Sedin leading the NHL with 76 points? Or his even-strength point total of 56, which is 9 points ahead of his closest competitor, Alexander Ovechkin?

* What do Jussi Jokinen, Jason Pominville, Henrik Zetterberg, Pavel Datsyuk and Chris Pronger have in common?  All have 37 points.

* Due to the Olympics, the Vancouver Canucks hit the road Saturday, Jan. 30 and won't play on home ice until Saturday, March 13. That's a 14-game road trip, folks.

* Glad to hear Jean Beliveau is recovering nicely from his most recent health issue. A true role model and one of the truly great players ever.

* I no longer read hockey bloggers who don't credit a source while making it look as if they are breaking news. It's unprofessional and deceiving, too.

* I want to hear more from Brendan Shanahan, now the NHL Vice President of Hockey and Business Development. What is he up to and what are his thoughts on the current state of the game are questions I would have for him.

* I am waiting until March, when the NHL General Managers meet to discuss how they are going to vote on hits to the head. Their decision will have an impact on the way the game is played at different levels.

* With the condensed NHL schedule this season, I know I need a break, so I can just imagine how the players feel. Travel, sleep, play, then do it all over again and again. Most players will be able to re-charge themselves by getting some rest during the Olympic break. Those players are going to be key when the NHL starts up after the break.

* Here is a wonderful story -- a Detroit Red Wings fan from Brazil is going to see a Wings game live, and meet many of the Wings fans he has only chatted with via the web.  Read all about it (translated).

*As always, feel free to e-mail me at with any comments you may have.

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