By Stu Hackel
The entire Western Conference is balancing on the Oilers, who sit at the bottom with 11 points. Apart from watching their uber-talented youngsters like Jordan Eberle, Taylor Hall and Magnus Paarjarvi grow, no one expected too much from Edmonton this season (they "resemble a sadsack lottery contender," writes Bruce McCurdy in The Edmonton Journal Cult of Hockey blog). But what little they have been able to achieve has been in some measure thanks to the goaltending of 37-year-old Nikolai Khabibulin. Certainly, Khabi has had ups and downs, but for the time being he's down -- forced onto the Injured Reserve list by a groin injury, according to TSN. The Oilers have recalled Martin Gerber from Oklahoma City and he'll team up with Devan Dubnyk, the former first round draft pick who could very well benefit from the additional work.
Dear Dad: From Vicki Hall of the Calgary Herald, Brett Sutter had this to say about the phone call from his father/GM Darryl telling him he'd been traded from Calgary to Carolina: "Darryl called and we just had a quick conversation. He said: "Be by your phone. Carolina will be calling you shortly." It was professional. It wasn't father-son at all. It was GM-player. (That's how) he always treated things like that. I couldn't ask for that situation to have been better."
Sittin' time: A busy day for Colin Campbell, who doled out a pair of suspensions this afternoon: Mattias Ritola of the Lightning got two games for his hit on Islanders forward Matt Moulson Wednesday and the Flames Olli Jokinen got three for his crosscheck to the face of Coyotes forward Wojtek Wolski Wednesday.
No buyer's remorse: Kevin Allen in USA Today listed the top 15 free agent signings this past off-season. Number 1 is Toni Lydman by the Ducks, followed by Clarke MacArthur of the Maple Leafs, Antero Niittymaki of the Sharks, Eric Belanger of the Coyotes and Jeff Halpern of the Canadiens.
Games to watch: The flying Kostitsyn brothers -- Andrei and Sergei -- have never faced each other professionally, having been Canadiens teammates for three years until Sergei was dealt to the Predators over the summer after enjoying Montreal perhaps a bit too much. But they'll be on opposite sides tonight when the Preds take the Bell Centre ice against the Habs. Andrei has had a strong start (7 goals, 7 assists), but his skillful younger brother misplaced his game after a good rookie season and he hasn't found it yet in Nashville. He's been playing with a broken toe since training camp, but coach Barry Trotz wants more second effort from him, telling David Boclair of Nashville's City Paper, “He’s almost there, but then he’s just off a little bit. He’s really a good player. I’ve had no problems with him at all.”
Tonight's big game, however, has the Lightning in Philly. It could feature a head-to-head matchup of the league's top scorer, Steven Stamkos (16 goals, 30 points) against the Flyers' fierce captain Mike Richards. The Bolts are coming off a win on Long Island, the Flyers are coming off a loss to the Canadiens.
And finally: Hall of Famer writer Red Fisher has a piece today in The Montreal Gazette about his rookie initiation at the hands of the Canadiens in 1956, during the days of Rocket Richard. It's a great read and a glimpse into the Original Six era. The Habs ambushed Red, stripped him, tied him up and shaved him, among other things. "When I opened my mouth to protest, warm water was poured down my throat," he writes. "Wet towels, wielded like truncheons, slapped across my legs, stomach and chest."
Years later he reminisced about the incident with Dickie Moore and Boom Boom Geoffrion and Red told them, "The only thing that really bothered me was the warm water you guys poured down my throat whenever I opened my mouth to yell."
"Tabernac!" Geoffrion exploded, "you don't really think that was warm water, do you?"