SUN Hockey Pool

Veteran Wings unhappy with state of game

TERRY KOSHAN, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 4:15 PM ET

DETROIT -- Nicklas Lidstrom and Kris Draper have seen plenty during their respective careers in the National Hockey League.

But neither of the Detroit Red Wings' long-serving veterans are pleased with what they are witnessing on the ice, if not in their own games, than when they head home and flip on the highlights.

"The game has changed," said Lidstrom, the Wings' 40-year-old captain. "We were policing ourselves a little bit differently (when he broke into the NHL in 1991-92). We had a few more tough guys on each team, and when things happened, you had to pay for it one way or another. We took care of it ourselves."

One offshoot of the latest Matt Cooke transgression, and others in which players have deliberately tried to hurt opponents, is the debate over whether respect has slipped from the game.

Draper had his face rearranged by Claude Lemieux of the Colorado Avalanche during the 1996 playoffs, but still thinks the game is different than when he became a fairly regular contributor with the Wings in 1993-94.

And the 39-year-old finds that distressing.

"This is an unbelievable game and we're living out a childhood dream," Draper said. "We should remember that. If you realize where you are, you sit in an NHL locker room, and the other guy sitting there worked just as hard to get there. It would be a shame for something that is unnecessary to end someone's career prematurely. When guys do things, I don't necessarily think the accountability is there."

Dropping the instigator rule might help. At this point, the NHL does not appear willing to do that.

SID INCHING BACK

The most positive NHL news item on Friday came from Pittsburgh, where Penguins captain Sidney Crosby destroyed a water bottle while taking shots on third-string goalie Brad Thiessen.

It happened when Crosby, who continues to recover from a concussion, deked to his backhand and hit the bottle on the top of the net. Crosby was on the ice for half an hour before his teammates emerged for their morning skate.

Crosby's return remains uncertain, but Penguins coach Dan Bylsma is upbeat about the situation.

"I do know that he has progressed -- the doctor has upped certain things on and off the ice," Bylsma said. "I do know that the doctor is writing a schedule every day, and there have been things that have increased."

The Penguins haven't fallen off since losing Crosby and Evgeni Malkin to injuries. It's a testament to the club's depth and Bylsma's coaching that the Penguins likely will have home-ice advantage in the first round of the playoffs.

ICE CHIPS

The Montreal Canadiens have to hope they don't meet the Boston Bruins at some point in the playoffs. It often is said that anything can happen in the playoffs and the regular season means little, but one has to think both clubs will remember, for different reasons, the 7-0 embarrassment the Bruins tattooed on the Habs on Thursday night ... Great stats, if you're a pitcher: George Parros of the Anaheim Ducks is 23-6 when it comes to the number of major penalties and minor penalties he has taken this season. Parros averages less than seven minutes of ice time a game ... Zach Parise might return to the New Jersey Devils lineup next Wednesday, which would be his first game since having surgery on his right knee, but what's the point? The Devils are close to being officially done and there would be nothing for Parise to gain by playing in the last few games ... New York Islanders defenceman Mark Streit will miss the entire 2010-11 season because of a torn labrum and torn rotator cuff in his left shoulder, and though he is skating in his equipment, will not play for his home nation of Switzerland in the world championship this spring.

GO FIGURE

8

Victories by Toronto Maple Leafs rookie goaltender James Reimer in the past nine road starts in which has had a decision, with the other resulting in an overtime loss. That's 17 points of a possible 18, and it's a huge reason why the Leafs remain in the playoff hunt. If the Leafs had this kind of goaltending earlier this season, they would have a playoff berth sewn up.

245

Zenon Konopka's penalty minutes with the New York Islanders. Does Konopka know something the rest of the NHL does not? Entering Friday's games, Steve Ott of the Dallas Stars had the second-most penalty minutes in the league, with 183, making Konopka the only player north of 200. Konopka led the NHL with 265 minutes a year ago with Tampa Bay. Does he get a bonus for such things?

5

Was further proof required to show that Pittsburgh Penguins forward Matt Cooke lives by the cheap shot? The number represents the number of majors Cooke, who has been suspended for the rest of the regular season and the first round of the playoffs, has taken this season. It means Cooke does not like to fight, and it's the lowest number of majors among the top-30 penalty-minute leaders.

-92

The combined plus-minus mark of the three players in the NHL, heading into Friday, who happen to be at the wrong end of the statistic. They're all Ottawa Senators defencemen, too -- Chris Phillips (minus-33), Erik Karlsson (minus-30) and Filip Kuba (minus-29). Some hockey people don't give plus-minus much heed, but in this case, it's a good representation of how far the Sens have fallen.

GAMES OF THE WEEK

Calgary Flames at Edmonton Oilers, Saturday

The Oilers are ticking away the minutes until they dig out their golf clubs, but they wouldn't mind punching a hole in the Flames' post-season hopes.

Anaheim Ducks at Chicago Blackhawks, Saturday

The Ducks finish a three-game trip against the defending Stanley Cup champions, and the result will be crucial in the super-tight Western Conference playoff race.

Buffalo Sabres at Toronto Maple Leafs, Tuesday

Provided the Leafs remain in the playoff hunt after a three-game trip, it's a match they have to win. It does not get much simpler than that.

Los Angeles Kings at Vancouver Canucks, Friday

The Canucks have run away with first place in the West, but the Kings are scrapping for a playoff berth and these clubs could meet in the first round.

THREE TO WATCH

Steven Stamkos, Tampa Bay Lightning

With 43 goals heading into Friday night's game versus Carolina, the young Tampa star was the only NHLer within shouting distance of 50 goals. Stamkos has nine games to score 50 for the second year in a row.

Jarome Iginla, Calgary Flames

The Calgary Flames captain needs eight points for 1,000 in his NHL career. Can he hit the milestone in the Flames' final six games while possibly leading the club to a playoff berth?

Nicklas Lidstrom, Detroit Red Wings

The 40-year-old continues to prove that age is just a number. With 58 points in 74 games, he's in a battle with Lubomir Visnovsky of the Anaheim Ducks and Keith Yandle of the Phoenix Coyotes to lead all NHL defencemen in scoring.


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