Hockey Night in suburban Chicago

Just a short entry tonight because work's been insane with bowl-game-hell going on ...

Both the Chicago Blackhawks and Minnesota Wild welcomed back star players from injury when the teams hooked up Saturday night in St. Paul.

Martin Havlat returned after missing more than seven weeks with a sprained ankle -- and scored both goals in the Blackhawks 5-4 overtime loss to the Wild.

Though they've shown improvement under new coach Denis Savard, this should illustrate how bad the Blackhawks' offense is: playing in just his eighth game overall, Havlat leads the team with nine goals. Martin Lapointe has needed 27 games to score seven goals while Jeff Hamilton has done the same in 25 games.

One more thing ... the Blackhawks are 3-0-3 under Savard, meaning they've posted at least a point in each game under his watch. Not horrible. They'll also have a chance at extending that run Sunday against the Edmonton Oilers (and, yes, I finally will be heading to the U.C. for my first game of the season there.)

Pavol Demitra returned to Minnesota's lineup after missing eight games with a concussion and had a short-handed goal and two assists.

Their other star, Marian Gaborik, missed his 22nd straight game with a groin injury and is not expected back for at least another week.


The Calgary Flames beat the Vancouver Canucks 5-3 for their ninth straight home win to tie a franchise record. This is the fifth time the Flames have won nine straight on home ice and the fourth time in Alberta. Back in 1978 behind 100-point scorers Bob MacMillan and Guy Chouinard, the Atlanta Flames reeled off nine straight wins after two ties. (And I can hear the young'uns now ... Atlanta Flames? Ties??)

Teemu Selanne continues to be the league's hottest player ... since Nov. 1 anyway. In 20 games since then, the Finnish Flash has a league-high 16 goals -- including nine on the power play -- and 33 points for the Anaheim Ducks. Also this season, Selanne has five game-winners, matching his total from last season.

Don't look now, but there's a goaltending controversy in, of all places, Columbus. Fredrik Norrena -- the backup to Antero Niittymaki for Finland at the Turin Olympics -- set a Blue Jackets record for longest shutout streak at 155 minutes, 28 seconds before being beaten in the second period of a 5-1 win over the St. Louis Blues. Norrena, 33, in playing his first season in the NHL after more than a decade in Scandanavia ... and may have unseated Pascal Leclaire as the starter.


This is how bad it got for the Toronto Maple Leafs on Saturday -- they lost their seventh straight after falling 5-1 to the Detroit Red Wings ... and gave up all five goals on the power play to a team's unit that was ranked 27th coming in. The franchise record for longest losing streak is 10 set in 1967. That also was the last year they won the Stanley Cup.

Seems like the Florida Panthers always end up here. How about this ... team captain Olli Jokinen leads the team with 13 goals this season. Of those, only one has come on the road in 2006-07. This is not surprising when you're an Eastern Conference-worst 3-8-5 away from the comfort of home.

DUCK...ER, CANARD!: Got to feel for the Montreal Canadiens' Cristobal Huet. He's one of a growing number of goaltenders that are facing slapshots in shootouts. On Saturday, he was caught flatfooted by Buffalo's Thomas Vanek in a 3-2 loss. Brian Rolston of Minnesota also has been taking netminders by surprise in shootouts recently, blasting pucks past Dallas' Marty Turco and Vancouver's Roberto Luongo.


"I like the environment. It's almost like going to church. You've got almost 22,000 people here and they all love hockey, so you want to bring your best. It's a great rivalry. It's good hockey and the fans seem to like it." -- Buffalo Sabres goaltender Ryan Miller on playing in Montreal's Bell Centre.

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