SUN Hockey Pool

Two for No. 1

ROBERT TYCHKOWSKI

, Last Updated: 9:28 AM ET

The critics said it wouldn't last: Two No. 1 goalies? A 50-50 split the whole season? It's a controversy waiting to happen.

Well, there are Vesa Toskala and Evgeni Nabokov, still splitting it right down the middle in February. Toskala played 31 games this year, Nabokov (who's missed three with a sore groin) 26. One has a 2.21 GAA (fourth best in the NHL), the other 2.32 (seventh best). Their save percentages are .915 and .913, respectively.

Neither goalie likes the format, and you wonder if they could possibly maintain a one-game rotation in the playoffs, but so far, so good.

"It's worked because we have two No. 1 goalies," shrugged head coach Ron Wilson, who lets on like he doesn't know what all the fuss is about. "They know (if they have a bad game or two), they're going to go back in when it's their turn, that we have faith in them. I don't think a goalie could ask for more than that."

Actually, they could. Each wants to be an undisputed No.1, to get in a groove, but it's not an option.

"Not really," said Toskala, when asked if he likes the split. "But it's not in my control, so we make the best of it. It does make you fresher for games, though."

It's good insurance for now, but it'll resolve itself by next year: Toskala makes $1.3 million, Nabokov $5.3.

ANGER MANAGEMENT: Bob Hartley, fired by Colorado five years ago despite a .618 winning percentage, harbours no ill-will toward the team. Hartley is taking the high road as his Thrashers tour the Northwest Division. "You don't live to prove people wrong," he said. "You live to prove people right. Atlanta gave me a second chance, and my job is to prove that those guys did the right thing by getting me in there."

WRONG TURN: From the Department of Bad Planning: A Red Wings marketing genius thought it would be a good idea to parade a Toyota Tundra around the ice during an intermission. A Toyota. In Detroit. You know, a city built on American-made vehicles. Fans at Joe Louis booed the truck the whole time it was on the ice. Meanwhile, plans to honour nuclear energy in Edmonton during intermission at an Oilers game have been scrapped.

BACK ON THE BENCH: It's a humbling experience when a former NHL coach returns to the AHL, or Junior, after being fired in the Show. But some, like Ted Nolan and Vancouver's Alain Vigneault, live to fight again.

"I went back because I had to work and pay bills like everyone else," said Vigneault, who coached PEI in the QMJHL and Manitoba in the AHL after being let go by Montreal in 2001. "You hope that somebody recognizes your qualities and abilities and gives you a chance to coach. There's great coaches throughout the junior leagues and in the East Coast and the American League. Somebody has to give you a break."

POINT TAKEN: Bruins coach Dave Lewis, tired of lazy, undisciplined penalties, told his team he was going to start bag-skating them for every stupid penalty minute they took. The first practice it was 10 minutes. The next it was 15. In the third game, they took just four minors in a win over Washington and didn't have to skate at all. To his credit, Lewis bagged himself on the first day for four minutes after a pair of too-many-men penalties.

OLD MAN WINTER: Rod Stewart will be in Quebec this weekend to watch his son Liam play in the Quebec International Peewee Hockey Tournament. Liam plays for the Little L.A. Kings. Slugger Kirk Gibson will be there as well, coaching a team from Detroit ... After falling to -12 midway through last season, Jay Bouwmeester is plus-23 in his last 70 games. All the more impressive about his plus-10 this year is that it's in Florida, where only four other Panthers are pluses ... And if you think that's good: Jordan Staal hasn't had a minus game in 23 consecutive starts.

CAN'T WIN FOR LOSING: Even when they win, the Flyers take it on the chin. "No disrespect to the teams we played," said Atlanta's Scott Mellanby, about to disrespect the Flyers. "But losing twice to Philadelphia? We've got to pick it up." ... One of the great mysteries of the NHL: Miikka Kiprusoff has made just three saves on the opposition's last 17 shootout attempts.

BEST WISHES: Matthew Barnaby made a lot of enemies on the ice, but he has a lot of people pulling for him after a concussion threatened to end his career. He lost vision in his left eye for 15 minutes after a fight on Dec. 14, and about a week later, after a fight with Anaheim's Shawn Thornton, lost vision in the eye for 30 minutes. He came back, got in another fight Jan. 9, and couldn't see out of the eye for 45 minutes. It's very scary stuff and he hasn't played since.


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