SUN Hockey Pool

Cherry off the mark on Clutterbuck

STEVE BUFFERY, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:40 AM ET

You would think that Minnesota Wild rookie Cal Clutterbuck would be Don Cherry's type of player.

Clutterbuck's a "good Canadian kid," a real underdog (drafted 72nd overall) who hits everything that moves and generally plays hockey the way Cherry advocates in his weekly Coach's Corner rant.

But, alas, Cherry lambasted Clutterbuck last week because the Welland native has the audacity to fight while wearing a visor. Cherry went as far as to call Clutterbuck, who leads the NHL with 194 hits, "Buttercup."

Cherry showed two clips of Clutterbuck fighting, against Keith Yandle of Phoenix and Toronto's Ian White, pointing out that Clutterbuck takes his helmet off after fights while skating to the penalty box because he is ashamed. This week, Clutterbuck lashed back at Cherry for not getting his facts straight.

"If you look at the incidents, first time I asked (Yandle) to take our helmets off, and he said, 'No,' " Clutterbuck told the Minneapolis-St. Paul Star Tribune, his assertion backed by replays. "I'm not going to be the only guy to fight and take my helmet off. The second time against White, he jumped me from behind. So what does he want from me? I mean, what do you want me to do?"

As far as the White incident goes, Clutterbuck accused Cherry of being biased towards the Leafs (Cherry has admitted as much).

One Star-Tribune reader rushed to Clutterbuck's defence in an on-line letter, comparing Cherry's attire with the flamboyant pianist Liberace.

Incidentally, rookie defenceman Luke Schenn leads the Leafs (and is tied for 15th in the NHL) with 130 hits. Veteran Toronto defenceman Pavel Kubina, he of the 6-foot-4, 244-pound frame, is tied for 214th in the NHL with 55 hits -- the same number as Pittsburgh superstar Sidney Crosby.

Slip, sliding away?

Columbus Blue Jackets goaltender Steve Mason may have, uh, kissed his Calder Trophy chances goodbye when he contracted mononucleosis.

He has tried to play through it, losing to St. Louis last Tuesday in his 20th straight start. But the illness got the best of him and the Blue Jackets started Wade Dubielewicz in a 4-1 loss to Pittsburgh on Friday and rookie Dan LaCosta on Saturday, a 3-2 OT win over the San Jose Sharks. The Blue Jackets now have placed Mason on injured reserve and no one is sure when the former OHL star will be able to return. The longer he's out, the less chance he'll have of winning the Calder. Mason, 20, has posted a 19-12-2 record with a 2.09 goals-against average (1st in the NHL), a .923 save percentage (sixth) and seven shutouts (1st) in 34 games.

Penner the bust

The more Dustin Penner plays, the smarter Maple Leafs general manager Brian Burke looks. After helping Burke's Anaheim Ducks win the Stanley Cup in 2007, Penner signed a five-year, $21.25-million US offer sheet with the Edmonton Oilers.

Shocked by the size and depth of the contract, Burke, while hoping Penner would stay in Anaheim, refused to match it and Penner became an Oiler, prompting Burke to dump on the Oilers organization and GM Kevin Lowe, saying that the offer sheet was "an act of desperation by a general manager trying to keep his job."

Well, Penner certainly has not lived up to his multi-millionaire deal and his play this season has brought down tons of criticism from the Edmonton faithful and coach Craig MacTavish, who has tried everything to get the native of Winkler, Man. untracked, including putting him on the first line with offensive talents Alex Hemsky and Shawn Horcoff. But all has failed. Penner has 24 points in 50 games and looks disinterested at times.

Biron on his way out?

Martin Biron's days with the Philadelphia Flyers may be numbered. His days as the club's starting goaltender appear to be over. Biron, whose contract (at $3.5 million per season) expires at season's end, had lost four straight games before starting Saturday against Boston at the TD Banknorth Garden in Boston. In that game, Biron looked shaky, allowing the Bruins to jump ahead 3-1 on 15 shots. He was pulled for backup Antero Niittymaki, who stopped all 22 shots he faced in a 4-3 come-from-behind win for the Flyers. The word is, the Flyers are going to now try to ship Biron out before the trade deadline.

Around the rinks

The Flyers' parent company, Comcast-Spectacor, sold its AHL franchise -- the Philadelphia Phantoms -- to the Brooks Group of Pittsburgh, with the plan for Brooks to build an arena in Allentown, Pa., and move the team there ... All the speculation that the New York Islanders are looking to move to Kansas City may add up to a hill of beans. The Nassau County attorney has ruled that the Islanders' lease with Nassau Coliseum clearly stipulates that the team cannot play home games anywhere else through the duration of the lease, which ends in 2015 ... The much-anticipated San Jose Sharks-Detroit Red Wings Western Conference final? It seems most pundits are giving it to the more experienced Wings. But goaltending may be a problem in Motown, and that could make the big difference in the playoffs. The club's so-called No.1 starter, Chris Osgood, has not played well at all this season. Osgood is ranked 45th among NHL goaltenders with a save percentage of .880. His backup, Ty Conklin has played better, including a shutout yesterday against the Pittsburgh Penguins, but not a lot of people have faith that Conklin can do the job over an extended playoff run.


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