SUN Hockey Pool

Honoured Hull humble

TERRY KOSHAN -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 9:33 AM ET

When the St. Louis Blues raise Brett Hull's No. 16 to the rafters of the Savvis Center tomorrow night, it will be another symbol of an outspoken and usually bang-on voice gone quiet.

But even Hull, who was a quote machine during an NHL career that grew to 1,269 regular-season games, said he was unsure what he was going to come up with in his speech to the fans who attend the match between the Blues and another of his former clubs, the Detroit Red Wings.

"Honest to God, I have no idea what I'm going to say," Hull said. "Obviously I'm going to thank a lot of people, and show my appreciation to the city, the players that I played with and my family. It shouldn't be too hard, but ... you just hate to miss anyone because there's a lot of people who were integral to my success and the great times in St. Louis."

Hull's absence from the NHL as a player comes as a reminder that there weren't many like him. One who has been quick with a thought, Jeremy Roenick, has become a fringe player with the Phoenix Coyotes and what he says might not carry as much as it once did.

And though few have found themselves siding with Sean Avery in the past -- at least not outwardly -- it's unfortunate the Los Angeles Kings forward and major mouthpiece apparently has reformed.

It's great the new Kings braintrust -- general manager Dean Lombardi and coach Marc Crawford -- have worked on Avery to become an honest player. The 26-year-old Pickering native is on his way to career numbers in goals and assists, and with an average of 18 minutes two seconds of ice time a game before yesterday, was nearly seven minutes above his career average.

Avery has been cleaning up his act in more ways than one. The league leader in penalty minutes the past two seasons, Avery was sixth in that category yesterday with 58 but had not fought once.

Avery has been biting his tongue as well at the insistence of the Kings brass. After he was in the middle of some late-game festivities between the Kings and Anaheim Ducks on Saturday night, Avery was asked what happened.

"I don't know," Avery said. "I don't remember."

Too bad. The crazier, off-the-cuff Avery was a lot more entertaining.

THE WEEK AHEAD

There's not much that usually has so much riding on it in the first week of December. This one is different.

- The NHL's board of governors will convene today and tomorrow in Palm Beach, Fla. A new playoff format and a new schedule, possibly with teams playing their divisional rivals six or seven times instead of eight, reportedly are on the agenda.

- Ted Nolan and the New York Islanders will play host to the Ottawa Senators, with general manager John Muckler, tomorrow night. It's the first meeting of Nolan and Muckler since they were at odds when they were with Buffalo 10 years ago.

- On Wednesday, the Carolina Hurricanes visit the Edmonton Oilers for the first clash of the Stanley Cup finalists since Carolina's win in seven games last spring.

- And on Saturday, the Maple Leafs travel to Detroit to face the Red Wings. The Leafs have not played a regular-season game at Joe Louis Arena against their Original Six cousins since Feb. 27, 2003. Let's hope this type of thing is corrected by the governors in Florida.

NO HOLIDAY SPIRIT?

It's a few weeks off, but it might be wise to circle Dec. 26 as an important date other than to let the turkey digest.

The day after Christmas is the next scheduled meeting between the Washington Capitals and Buffalo Sabres, at HSBC Arena in Buffalo.

It's noteworthy because the Sabres were a sour bunch after the Capitals' Alexander Ovechkin hit Sabres star Daniel Briere from behind on Saturday night. Ovechkin was thrown out but likely will not be suspended.

"That could have been the stupidest hit I have ever seen," Sabres goalie Ryan Miller said.

Paul Gaustad, who went after Ovechkin, called it "dirty." To Briere, who kept playing, it was "gutless."

Ovechkin pleaded not guilty.

"He just turn around and I don't have time to stop," Ovechkin told reporters afterward. "I'm not trying to give (a) not clean kind of hit."


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