Hockey Night in suburban Chicago

Due to some personal family issues that forced me to return to New York for a few days, I had to put this on hold for a while.

We now return you to your regularly scheduled hockey fix.

It's not yet known if the Pittsburgh Penguins will leave the Steel City for parts unknown once their lease at Mellon Arena expires at season's end. If they bolt, whichever city gets them will inherit a team that could be shaping up soon as the league's next dynasty.

That may be a little strong, but Saturday night's 8-2 rout of Toronto seemed to bear that out. For one night, it was almost like the early 90s Pens featuring Jagr and Lemieux were on the ice.

Soon-to-be first-time All-Star participant Sidney Crosby had a goal and two assists and heads into the break with a league-high 72 points. (Ask yourself what you were accomplishing at 19.)

Young Stars game headliner Evgeni Malkin -- fast becoming the Jagr to Crosby's Lemieux -- had five assists. All he's done so far is score 24 goals, add 28 assists to trail only Crosby for the team scoring lead.

Even 428-year-old Mark Recchi recorded his seventh career hat trick, scoring all three goals on the power play. And Jarko Ruutu -- well known as one stick short of a bundle -- looked like Jari Kurri as he scored on, of all things, a penalty shot.

Hold a gun to my head, and I'll say they're as good as gone. I would love to see the NHL return to Winnipeg, but Kansas City's new Sprint Center seems a more likely destination. Still, a team that appears poised to challenge for the Stanley Cup soon -- this season is unlikely, though stranger things have happened -- is perhaps the perfect selling point for Lemieux.

Wonder if Russians and Newfies like barbecue?


LUCKY LUC HONORED: The Kings raised Luc Robitaille's No. 20 to the rafters prior to their game against Phoenix. Robitaille spent 14 of his 20 seasons in Los Angeles, finishing second on the Kings' career points list with 1,154 to trail only Marcel Dionne. Robitaille finished his career with 668 goals and 1,394 points, the most in NHL history by a left wing.

WARMING UP BEFORE HEADING TO DALLAS: With the All-Star game coming up Wednesday, three players showed why they're headed to Dallas. Calgary's Miikka Kiprusoff made 32 saves in the Flames' 4-0 win over Edmonton in the ongoing "Battle of Alberta." The Stars' Marty Turco stopped eight shots in the shootout round of a 2-1 win over the Wild to become Dallas' all-time wins leader surpassing Ed Belfour, and Montreal's Cristobal Huet set a new career high with his 19th win in the Canadiens' 4-3 victory over Buffalo.

WHO'S ON TOP NOW: Your new league leader going into the All-Star break is the Nashville Predators after David Legwand recorded his first hat trick a 6-3 win over slumping Chicago. The Predators have 71 points -- one more than Buffalo -- and a six-point lead ahead of Detroit in the Central.


SAME OLD BLACKHAWKS: Denis Savard's Windy City magic may be running out. With their loss to Nashville, the Blackhawks have dropped nine in a row and are three points ahead of Los Angeles for last place in the Western Conference. The franchise's longest losing streak is 12 in a row set from Feb. 25-March 25, 1951.

RUBBER BISCUIT: Washington Capitals goaltenders Olaf Kolzig and Brent Johnson have faced a total of 96 shots in their last two games against Florida. On a 7-3 loss to the Panthers on Jan. 13, the pair faced 54 shots, and Kolzig looked at another 42 in a 4-1 loss on Saturday.

SLIP-SLIDIN' AWAY: Carolina squandered a pair of two-goal leads before losing to Tampa Bay 6-5 in a shootout. The Hurricanes enter the break in sixth place in the Eastern Conference with 56 points, two ahead of the Lightning, and six in front of the New York Rangers, Pittsburgh and Toronto.


"It wasn't about scoring goals, it wasn't about money, it wasn't about fame. I just wanted to play hockey and play in the NHL. I wasn't the fastest player and I had flaws, but I was a student of the game and every day I was grateful to live my dream. I heard your chants every time I touched the puck or took a shot.'' -- Future Hall of Famer Luc Robitaille during a ceremony to retire his No. 20 prior to the Kings game Saturday night against Phoenix.

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