No lockout hangover
Did the lockout hurt the National Hockey League? It’s too early to give a definitive answer, but it appears that fans are willing to forgive and forget. The Canadiens continue to draw sellout crowds to the Bell Centre, although there are tickets available at the box office on game day and the scalpers report that the resale market on the street has been slow. NBC posted record numbers for its first weekend of games and TSN had 1.4 million viewers for Wednesday’s stinker between the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Pittsburgh Penguins. That’s the network’s largest audience for a regular-season game since 2009.
Canadiens rookie Alex Galchenyuk scored his first NHL goal Tuesday in his second NHL game. On the same night, former Sarnia Sting teammate and Edmonton rookie Nail Yakupov scored in his second NHL game and they both celebrated by jumping into the glass. Hall of Famer Igor Larionov, who is the agent for both players, noted that he scored the first of his 369 NHL goals in his second game with Vancouver in 1989, but his celebration was more subdued. “No,” Larionov replied when asked if he dove into the glass. “I was too old, I was 29.”
Mixed returns for Wild
When people were looking for examples of outrageous contracts during the lockout, they zeroed in on the 13-year, $98-million contracts the Minnesota Wild gave to forward Zach Parise and defenceman Ryan Suter. So how are things working out in St. Paul? Parise has a goal and three assists in three games, and Dany Heatley — with three goals and one assist — is delighted to have him as a linemate. Things aren’t quite as rosy for Suter, who seems to be missing Shea Weber. Suter has no points and has been on the ice for all five goals that have been scored against the Wild this season.
No deal for O’Reilly
P.K. Subban isn’t the only young player who is having difficulty nailing down a long-term deal coming out of an entry-level contract. Ryan O’Reilly, a 21-year-old centre who secured his release from Metallurg Novokuznetsk in the Kontinental Hockey League this week, has reached an impasse in talks with the Colorado Avalanche. O’Reilly, who like Subban is represented by Don Meehan, is looking for $25 million over five years. The Avalanche has reportedly offered $17 million over five years or a two-year bridge deal worth $7 million. O’Reilly had career highs of 18 goals and 55 points last season.
Darche being patient
Unsigned unrestricted free agent Mathieu Darche continues to skate with the New Jersey Devils, but the team hasn’t offered him a contract. But there might be an opening in the next week because the Devils have to make a decision on junior Stefan Matteau, who played his fourth game Friday night. Matteau has been playing on the third line, but the speculation is he will soon rejoin the Blainville-Boisbriand Armada.
Tampa Bay rookie Cory Conacher picked up one of the more unusual nicknames in the NHL when he was dubbed The Honey Badger while playing with Norfolk in the AHL last season. “A honey badger kind of does whatever it wants. It’s a gritty creature,” said the 5-foot-8 Conacher, whose teammates bestowed the nickname on him after watching a YouTube video about the animals. Conacher, who is a distant relative of Hall of Famers Lionel and Roy Conacher, has two goals and three assists in his first three games. He wasn’t drafted out of Canisius College in Buffalo, but last season he was the rookie of the year and the most valuable player in the AHL.
Hossa hale and hearty
While concussions have ended the careers of Boston forward Marc Savard and Philadelphia defenceman Chris Pronger, it’s good to see that Chicago forward Marian Hossa has made a full recovery from the injury he suffered when he was hit by Raffi Torres in last year’s playoffs. The Blackhawks have started the season with four victories and Hossa has scored five goals during that streak. The other bit of good news for Blackhawks fans is that Patrick Kane reported in great shape after playing in Switzerland and folks in the Windy City say he’s more mature. Kane told Chris Kuc of the Chicago Tribune: “I’m just trying to take it to the next level, trying to be more focused whether it’s off the ice or on the ice and just enjoy playing hockey.”
Brodeur eyes Olympics
Marty Brodeur will be 41 when the 2014 Winter Olympics are held in Sochi, but the veteran goaltender says he’d like to represent Canada for a fourth time. Brodeur, who was the backup to Roberto Luongo when Canada won the gold medal in Vancouver in 2010, has seemingly turned back the clock and was the NHL’s early season leader in goals-against average and save percentage going into the Devils’ game against Washington Friday. Brodeur knows something about shortened seasons. He led the Devils to the Stanley Cup the last time there was a 48-game season in 1995.
Stop the presses
The NHL has announced a new corporate partnership with Phiten, which is the original maker of titanium necklaces and precious metal-infused sports accessories. The licensing agreement with the NHL covers a line of team- branded titanium bracelets for 17 teams including the Canadiens.
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Montreal Canadiens center Alex Galchenyuk jumps against the glass to celebrate his first NHL goal during the second period of the NHL hockey match between the Montreal Canadiens and Florida Panthers in Montreal on Tuesday, January 22, 2013.
Photograph by: Dario Ayala, The Gazette