SUN Hockey Pool

Latest Hab controversy unsettling

ROB LONGLEY, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:14 AM ET

As NHL security and law authorities continue to probe the recent saga involving the Montreal Canadiens, all involved best hope for one thing: That all bets are off.

Of all the potentially corrupt things that can happen when professional athletes get involved with alleged organized crime members, gambling is one of the biggest fears.

While specific gambling allegations have yet to be made, reports have suggested that the alleged mob figure named in the investigation, Pasquale Mangiola, had regular access to both Sergei and Andrei Kostitsyn and other Canadiens players.

Furthermore, it has been suggested that Mangiola often discussed the play and state of the team.

While it's important to note that none of the Canadiens players have been suspected of any criminal pursuits, here is the concern. What if, for example, players casually or otherwise discussed team injuries or other issues?

What if that information got in the hands of individuals associated with gambling?

What if players felt they owed something to the man who reportedly did them a lot of favours?

On the surface, it might sound far-fetched, given that hockey wagering barely makes a blip in the legalized sports books of Nevada.

But with internet wagering booming worldwide, a bet on NHL game can be made with a couple of taps on a keyboard.

The scandals that rocked pro tennis and the NBA in the past two years showed that athletes and officials being influenced by dubious characters is not as far-fetched as you might think.

NET PAINS

Buffalo Sabres coach Lindy Ruff was steamed at the ankle injury Ryan Miller sustained on Saturday night, in which the red-hot goaltender was run over by Rangers forward Scott Gomez behind the net.

"I don't think there was any secret it was deliberate," Ruff said. "(Gomez) knew what he was doing."

Ruff had reason to be wired given that the ankle sprain Miller suffered could seriously compromise the team's playoff chances.

Miller will be out for an indefinite period of time, a huge blow considering the Sabres entered yesterday's play in a three-way tie with Florida and the Rangers for the final Eastern Conference playoff spot.

NET PAINS II

Fed up with Chris Osgood's shoddy play much of this season, the Red Wings have finally decided to do something about it. The team gave Osgood 10 days off to work with goalie coach Jim Bedard in an attempt to get his game back in shape.

"If we're going to go anywhere in the playoffs, we need top-notch goaltending," Wings general manager Ken Holland said. "Obviously it's mental. You don't lose your game over six months. We need (Osgood) to be at his best."

For the time being, that means journeyman Ty Conklin -- who was signed to a one-year, $750,000 US contract in the off-season -- could be the man. To that end, Holland was asked this week if the backup would get the call if the playoffs started today.

"Well, the playoffs don't start today," Holland said.

The Wings do play Western Conference leader San Jose on Wednesday night, however, and it will be curious to see which goaltender gets the call.

TV TALK

One of the best recent innovations in hockey telecasts -- when used properly -- is having a commentator in the box between players benches. Oddly, Hockey Night In Canada has been slow to embrace the trend, something it may want to reconsider after Saturday's Leafs-Canucks game in which Greg Millen was insightful and entertaining ... Whispers around the broadcast world suggest that ESPN is looking seriously at adding a limited package of games next season ... Another whisper making the rounds: Broadcaster Pierre McGuire (who also excels as an ice-level analyst) could be seen as a potential future coach of the Penguins. It would take quite an offer to rip the microphone from McGuire though given that he has one of the best gigs in the business, working for TSN and NBC.

KYLE OUT OF STYLE

Lost in the happy return of Mats Sundin to Toronto was the sad saga of Kyle Wellwood, another former Leaf. Wellwood is stuck in the poor form that prompted then Leafs GM Cliff Fletcher to send him packing. Wellwood hasn't scored in 14 games and had an invisible night Saturday at the Air Canada Centre.

"He's not bearing down," Canucks coach Alain Vigneault said. "He's shooting the puck two miles an hour."

ICE CHIPS

Sundin deservedly earned the headlines Saturday night, but did he deserve to be named the game's first star? Before his shootout winner, the former Leafs captain had just three shots on net and was a minus-1 .... And you thought Leaf Nik Antropov's 16-game goalless drought was bad? Check out Rod Brind'Amour. The Hurricanes' aging veteran hasn't scored in 23 games.


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