SUN Hockey Pool

East versus West

LANCE HORNBY -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 9:25 AM ET

Now that the Grey Cup has decided East-West football supremacy, time to erase the continental divide for some Stanley Cup comparisons.

Friday marks the start of full conference play, the first chance to judge if the new National Hockey League has retained any of its old flavour, pitting the wide-open West against the super-sized East. Kicking it off are clashes between division leaders, the Ottawa Senators and Los Angeles Kings, and the Carolina Hurricanes against second-place Dallas Stars.

Among the most-excited observers in the coming weeks will be pro scouts such as Maple Leafs' Craig Button.

"I think the East has been in transition for a couple of years, but we've had nothing to use as a measuring stick until now," Button said. "It will be good to see how Ottawa looks against Vancouver or what Tampa Bay does against Nashville. Then you have the individual matchups; Robyn Regehr against Dany Heatley, or Bryan McCabe on Jarome Iginla."

Button, a former general manager with the Calgary Flames, says it's inevitable that the new rules will create many like-minded teams in both conferences.

"If you're not ready to move and to skate, you will struggle, but if you have those, you'll be rewarded," he said. "There are still some East-West (tendencies) in place, but it began changing when Tampa Bay won the Cup (dispensing with the trap in favour of speed and forechecking). Before the lockout, Montreal went to quickness and speed to upset Boston in the playoffs."

No 'puss' appointment

Robert Esche of the Philadelphia Flyers heartily endorsed Martin Brodeur's appointment to the league's competition committee.

"I would hate to see a 'puss' goalie in there if you want the truth," Esche said. "I think Marty is a resilient guy. He'll say how it is."

Many goalies have expressed concern about the heavy traffic they must endure now that their defencemen have been spooked about illegal stickwork.

"There's a lot of traffic, a lot of (trouble) finding the puck" Andrew Raycroft of the Bruins said last week. "There are guys in front all the time, which makes it a little more difficult to stay focused. In the past two or three games there have probably been three or four goals that I don't even see, that have gone in off a shin pad, or bounce off a defenceman to a forward who is standing alone at the side of the net."

The bumping, which has been on the rise, was highlighted Saturday on Hockey Night In Canada.

"I don't mind getting hit," Esche said. "That's where I think Marty is on the same (page). We don't mind if you're going to be rough in there and you're not going to call some stuff. But you better be damn sure that you're going to call the right stuff."

Melting hearts in Montreal

An anti global-warming group of Canadian youth is using deteriorating outdoor ice hockey conditions to highlight their cause.

Save Hockey, Stop Climate Change began Saturday outside the six Canadian NHL rinks. A mock 'funeral' for the sport is to be held this week outside the UN Climate Change Conference in Montreal.

"Climate change is the biggest threat to hockey since the NHL labour talks," said Mike Hudema of Global Exchange in a release. "Across the nation, we're seeing kids have less ice time and fewer cold days. It's time the government drops the gloves on climate change before global warming ruins our national sport."

Around the league

Bruins president Harry Sinden used to coach Bobby Orr, but now he fears for the safety of NHL defencemen trying to hold the fort in this era of rampant five-on-three power plays. "The defencemen are getting forever to wind up and they shoot it so hard and so high," Sinden said. "They're going to kill someone standing in front" ... When ex-Leaf Fredrik Modin recently played in his 600th NHL game, he became eligible for his own room on the road, a player perq in the new CBA. But to maintain harmony on the Cup champion Lightning, Modin says he won't kick out regular roomie Martin St. Louis because the Hart Trophy winner prefers the quiet Swede ... There is speculation the New York Rangers could move a block away from Madison Square Garden to a renovated federal building with a Greek revival facade.

The week ahead

In a matchup every bit as worthy as Sidney Crosby and Alexander Ovechkin, Calgary Flames defenceman Dion Phaneuf makes his Calder case against Sid The Kid on Saturday in Pittsburgh ... Bombed 9-0 by the Thrashers two weeks ago, the Carolina Hurricanes play Atlanta in a home-and-home series ... The Anaheim Mighty Ducks and Phoenix Coyotes also have a rematch at the Pond after some nastiness at Glendale last Tuesday.


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