SUN Hockey Pool

It's my space!

, Last Updated: 7:34 AM ET

Ray Emery got off lucky - slashing somebody across the face should be a lot more than a three-game wrist slap - but there are plenty of netminders and defencemen who share his frustration.

Goalies are tired of being treated like tackling dummies and D-men are tired of being handcuffed by nancy boy rules that won't let them do anything about it.

"Guys are a lot braver now when it comes to standing in front of the net," said Vancouver's Rory Fitzpatrick.

"Before, you could get four good crosschecks in before the referee even gave you a warning. Now, with the new rules ..."

You can barely touch a guy. Some referees have taken the crackdown on obstruction to mean a crackdown on physicality, turning what used to be the toughest real estate in the rink into a picnic ground.

"The way they're calling the game now, our defencemen can't do much to protect us," said Oilers goalie Dwayne Roloson, who also dodged a suspension bullet this year after spearing an encroaching opponent in the groin.

"There are guys in the crease constantly."

Bump Philadelphia's goalie 30 years ago and they'd scoop what was left of you into a bucket. Now they don't dare give a facewash in case some referee panics.

"I think the fans really like the speed, but there's parts of the (new) game I'm not as fond of," said Flyers GM Paul Holmgren. "I think we'd all like to see really competitive play in the corners and in front of the net and sometimes that's not allowed.''

VOTE EARLY, VOTE OFTEN: The Hockey News appears to be the latest victim of Internet nerds having fun with a vote. How else do you explain the hideous Carolina Hurricanes sweater winning the coolest jersey in the Eastern Conference poll, by a 12,000 to 700 margin over second place Montreal? Said THN web editor Ed Fraser: "I think we've been Rory Fitzpatrick-ed."... Eight games into the season Pittsburgh was agonizing over whether to keep Jordan Staal or send him back to junior. Now he has one fewer goal than brother Eric.

NET WORTH: Minnesota GM Doug Risebrough has no plans on moving goalie Niklas Backstrom, even though he's a UFA this summer and could fetch a decent return at the deadline. With Manny Fernandez on the limp, he can't risk it. He's always been a two-goalie guy, anyway, but wonders if backup insurance is really worth it. "I've been waiting for years for those one-goalie teams to lose their goalie in the playoffs, and they never do," said Risebrough. He must have been at the cabin when Roloson limped out of last year's final.

NUMBERS GAME: For all the well-deserved attention Martin Brodeur is getting, consider this: The Nashville tandem of Chris Mason and Tomas Vokoun have just as many shutouts (10) ... Meanwhile, seven of New Jersey's 22 losses have come in the next game after a Brodeur shutout ... Go figure: after St. Louis started the season 7-14-7 and fired coach Mike Kitchen, they were 13 points out of a playoff spot. So they hire Andy Murray, go 16-8-5 and are still 13 points out.

NO PLACE LIKE HOME: Let's see, Chicago didn't send a beat writer with the team on its last trip, L.A. hasn't all year, Boston played to 10,000 on Johnny Bucyk Night and New Jersey had 7,515 fans for a Montreal visit. And the six Canadian teams generate 33% of all league revenue. So why do people still guffaw at the prospect of the NHL returning to Winnipeg?

ROD SHIRT: While the Hurricanes were inspecting and dissecting next year's new streamlined Reebok jerseys, Rod Brind'Amour barely gave them a passing glance. "I'm the wrong guy to ask," he told reporters. "I could care less. As long as I got a number and a name on it, it's fine."... While Oilers coach Craig MacTavish plans to play the trap down the stretch, Darryl Sydor says it's not a great plan in today's NHL. "We played safe, and safe is death," he said after a 3-1 loss to Detroit.

NO DOVE IN THIS HAWK: One of the first things Denis Savard did upon taking over the Hawks was give former Sen Brandon Bochenski a shot. He called him up from the minors and gave him premium ice. Nothing. So upon hearing that Bochenski had four goals and two assists in his first four games with Boston since being traded for a prospect, Savard let 'er rip: "He didn't show that when he was here. He didn't have the enthusiasm or the jam. Maybe he has the skill and the talent, but at a young age if you don't have the will, you can't have him around. Maybe he's starting to figure it out because it's his third team in six months."

FATHER FIGURE: Anaheim, one of the latest clubs to bring the players' fathers along on a road trip, are doing it a little cheaper than most others. "We save money," said Brian Burke. "Because the Niedermayers only have one dad."

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+20

Leading scorer Martin Havlat's plus-minus on the 13th place Blackhawks.

-12

Leading scorer Alex Ovechkin's plus-minus on 13th place Washington.

5

Amount, in millions, Tony Twist won in a lawsuit over a Todd McFarlane comic character based on him.

0

Chance, in per cent, that I can retire because McFarlane introduces 'Tychkowski-Man.'


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