SUN Hockey Pool

Players set to vote on CBA

MIKE ZEISBERGER, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:23 AM ET

PITTSBURGH -- Having left their crystal balls and Ouija boards at home, Sidney Crosby and Marc-Andre Fleury, two of the brightest young stars in the game, cannot guarantee how the results of Thursday's NHLPA conference call will turn out.

If they were to "guesstimate," however, their instincts tell them that the 720-player membership will opt not to reopen the collective bargaining agreement.

The union has the option of extending the current agreement by one year through the 2011-12 campaign. Or, it could decide to terminate the agreement at the end of the season.

"From what I've read from other guys around the league talking about it, probably not," Crosby said yesterday.

"I'm sure everyone made an intelligent choice, a well-thought-out one. There are a lot of well-educated guys around the league who bring great opinions to the table and keep the rest of the players well-informed."

Although he was not yet in the pros during the NHL's ugly lockout of 2004-05, the labour dispute struck home for Crosby at the time.

"It impacted me a lot," Crosby said. "I was playing for Rimouski and junior hockey was being followed a lot more closely because there was no NHL. There was more media, too. People were extra hungry for hockey."

The conference call Thursday will involve NHLPA executive director Paul Kelly and the players on the executive board. At that time, the results of a survey conducted among all the NHLPA membership will be revealed and the 30-member board -- one player rep from each team -- will vote on whether to reopen the CBA.

According to Fleury, avoiding another work stoppage would be a logical choice for all parties involved.

"I hope it doesn't happen," he said. "I think things will take care of themselves.

"I don't think either the players or the NHL wants to risk (another work stoppage)."

Fleury has legitimate reason to enjoy the status quo. He inked a seven-year, $35-million US deal with the Pens in the off-season.

The CBA, in fact, seems to have worked out well for the players, who have watched their average salaries continue to rise since 2003-04. The salary cap also has escalated from $39.5 million immediately after the lockout to this season's mark of $50.3 million.

WHY, MATS, WHY?

Asked if he would attempt to convince former Maple Leaf Mats Sundin to play for Team Sweden at the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver, New York Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist simply shrugged his shoulders.

"I didn't do such a good job last time trying to (woo) him to New York, so I don't know how effective I would be," Lundqvist said this weekend.

Lundqvist admitted there was a time last month when he believed Sundin was going to end up in Rangers' Broadway blue.

After Sundin had attended a Rangers game with contest winners at Madison Square Garden as part of a PokerStars promotion, Lundqvist took him out on the town.

"I had a good feeling at the time," Lundqvist said. "He really liked New York. I was trying to sell him on the city.

"He is hard to read, though. It didn't really work out. He never really told me why (he didn't come to New York)."

One likely reason is that the Rangers did not have the room under the salary cap to make as lucrative an offer as the Vancouver Canucks did.

Lundqvist and Sundin were teammates on the 2006 Swedish Olympic team that won the gold medal in Turin, Italy.

UNDER PRESSURE

By acquiring veteran goalie Mathieu Garon from the Edmonton Oilers on Saturday, Penguins coach Michel Therrien hopes he has sent the type of message that will push Fleury to step up his game.

So far, it seems to have worked. Fleury blanked the Rangers 3-0 at Mellon Arena yesterday, giving the Penguins their first two-game winning streak in more than two months.

"It obviously was a good deal because Fleury got a shutout," Therrien said with a chuckle. "(Garon) has been here one day and already he has had a huge impact."

And he hasn't even played for the Pens, yet.

"There is nothing wrong with a bit of inside competition," Therrien said.

Crosby, by the way, returned to action against the Rangers after missing Friday's contest against Anaheim with a knee injury.

THE WEEK AHEAD

A couple of NHL types will be back in their old stomping grounds tonight. Carolina Hurricanes bench boss Paul Maurice will coach at the Air Canada Centre for the first time since being axed by the Maple Leafs last spring. Meanwhile, Brad Boyes returns to Boston to face the Bruins, the team that traded him to St. Louis ... The all-star weekend kicks off Friday in Montreal, a three-day festival that will culminate with the game between the Western and Eastern Conferences on Sunday.


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