NHL question period

MIKE ZEISBERGER, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 6:56 AM ET

And down the stretch they come ... The finish line of the 2009-10 NHL season is just five weeks away, leaving a number of intriguing questions to be answered as the schedule winds down.

Can Buffalo’s Ryan Miller become the first goaltender to win a Hart Trophy as the league’s MVP since the Montreal Canadiens’ Jose Theodore did it in 2001-02?

Which teams will enjoy the biggest home-ice advantage for the duration of the remaining schedule?

Will one of the members of the NHL’s dazzling blue-line Kiddy Corps be able the wrest the Norris Trophy from veterans such as Zdeno Chara and Nicklas Lidstrom?

Here’s a closer look as the league finds itself sprinting toward the post-season party:

Miller time?

Blue Jays manager Cito Gaston insists pitchers should not win MVP honours because they already have their own award — the Cy Young.

“Hitters aren’t eligible for the Cy Young, so why should pitchers be eligible for the MVP?” Gaston maintains.

In the same vein, should goalies, who vie for the Vezina already, be allowed to win the Hart Trophy as MVP?

Only six goaltenders — Chuck Rayner, Roy Worters, Al Rollins, Jacques Plante, Dominek Hasek and Jose Theodore — have won the award. Now Miller is attempting to join that list, although he’s facing some stiff competition.

Olympic heroics aside, Pittsburgh’s Sidney Crosby is enjoying his best NHL season. Alex Ovechkin, meanwhile, has been Alex Ovechkin.

As for Miller, who should be the frontrunner for the Vezina, he definitely deserves to be in the Hart conversation, too.

Home sweet home?

The Ottawa Senators had better enjoy room service, given the amount of time they’ll be on the road down the stretch.

Both the Sens and the Phoenix Coyotes find themselves with the fewest number of remaining home dates in the entire NHL as of Monday.

On the other hand, home cooking will be the order of the day for the New Jersey Devils, Atlanta Thrashers and Toronto Maple Leafs, teams that have the most games on home ice the rest of the way.

Here’s the breakdown of remaining home games for all 30 NHL teams.

11: Devils, Thrashers, Maple Leafs.

10: Capitals, Red Wings, Canucks, Ducks, Kings, Stars.

9: Canadiens, Flyers, Oilers, Avalanche, Lightning, Predators, Panthers, Wild, Islanders, Hurricanes, Blue Jackets.

8: Bruins, Blues.

7: Flames, Penguins, Sharks, Blackhawks,Sabres.

6: Rangers.

5: Senators, Coyotes.

Norris newcomers?

Duncan Keith, 26. Drew Doughty, 20. Shea Weber, 24. Mike Green, 24.

Introducing the NHL’s new breed of stud blue-liners, a group that could replace the Lidstroms, the Charas and the Prongers as the game’s elite defencemen for the next decade. The passing of the torch already has started.

Keith, Doughty and Weber formed the youthful backbone of Team Canada’s historic gold medal victory in Vancouver.

Bitter at being left off the Canadian roster, Green leads all blue-liners in points with 63 while carrying an impressive plus-minus of plus-31, suggesting he might not be the defensive-zone shipwreck some believe.

Keith is our early pick for the Norris, but you couldn’t go wrong with any of them, not to mention Chara and Lidstrom too. In the case of Doughty, once he claims it for the first time, he might not let the trophy go for a few years.

Adams family?

If his Coyotes can avoid a final-month meltdown, the Phoenix Coyotes’ Dave Tippett should be the slam-dunk choice for the Jack Adams award as coach of the year.

Just ask Wayne Gretzky, who recently endorsed Tippett, the man who replaced him behind the Coyotes bench, as favourite for the award.

He’ll get no argument here.

The week ahead

The league’s GMs meet in Florida on Monday, with head shots the main topic of debate ... The Flyers will be out for revenge for their 2-1 loss at the Heritage Classic at Fenway Park on Jan. 1 when the Boston Bruins come to Philly on Thursday ... Former Maple Leafs coach Pat Quinn returns to the Air Canada Centre when his Oilers face the Toronto on Saturday.

mike.zeisberger@sunmedia.ca


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