SUN Hockey Pool

Sometimes, best checks are those not delivered

RYAN PYETTE -- London Free Press

, Last Updated: 9:13 AM ET

In hockey, the best way to get involved in a game is to get on the ice and hit somebody.

Fans notice it. Coaches preach it. Players know initiating first-period contact better prepares them for a full game of the rough stuff and gets the blood pumping, too.

Hit early and always finish your checks are both straight from the hockey bible, but try telling that to the folks in Boston who went to check out how San Jose's Joe Thornton would fare against his old Bruins buddies Tuesday night.

Not too long, as it turned out, with Big Joe getting the boot barely five minutes into the game for belting even bigger Hal Gill into the boards with his back turned.

Sure, the call was questionable, but Joe knows if a guy has his back turned even for a split second, you have to ease off or risk the heave-ho.

Sometimes, the best checks are the ones you don't throw. Thornton's dismissal meant he missed a pretty good chance to pile up some points while his hungry Sharks won 6-2. Because of the NHL's crazy schedule, San Jose doesn't travel back to Boston for another three years.

The bottom line is pro hockey players constantly work on their skating, shooting and passing, but don't get many chances to practise body contact. No team wants a $6-million man erased by a fourth-line slug, so hardcore hitting is saved for games.

But checking smart is as much an art as shooting on target. Most teams simply encourage as many hits as possible, but the best coaches would do well to separate the quality checks from the ones administered just to uphold long-held beliefs.

Perry back to the Pond

After spending a month tearing up the American Hockey League, ex-London Knight Corey Perry was recalled to the Anaheim Mighty Ducks and got an assist in a 6-2 win over Los Angeles. In the same game, Strathroy native and Duck forward Andy McDonald picked up a goal and assist to reach a career high in points (31).

Erskine on the move

Right around the OHL trade deadline Tuesday, Dallas dealt former Knight John Erskine to the New York Islanders with a second-round pick in this year's NHL draft for Janne Niinimaa and a fifth-round pick next year. Erskine could see more ice time now, but his chances of being part of a long playoff run have been seriously reduced.

Williams watch

Londoner Jason Williams, a big part of Detroit's resurgence this season, has more points on the road (20 in 21 games) than at home (17 in 22 contests) this season.

In the sticks

With the Kitchener Rangers bringing in a couple of U.S. college players and making the big pitch for Ohio State's Tom Fritsche this year, it's time to check on former Knights defenceman Danny Richmond, who jumped to the OHL from the University of Michigan to help London to its first 50-win season two years ago. Richmond, who plays for Carolina's AHL affiliate Lowell Lock Monsters and has 14 points in 31 games, was recently asked by the Monsters' Web site about a seven-game stint with the Hurricanes this season.

"After a game, you take your equipment off and it's the last time you see it. You don't touch it after that. Then you get on the plane and there are always appetizers there from a nice restaurant and a big TV and everyone sits in big La-Z-Boys. "Then the stewardesses are there and they always bring you a sports drink right away and take care of you . . . Down here (in the AHL), I mean it's not bad or anything, but riding a bus is different. It's good if you get your own seat, but you order your food and get on the bus and it's been sitting there, like, an hour and your sub is soggy."

No wonder everyone wants to get to the NHL quickly.


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