Lockout notes: Duchene finding life tough in Sweden

Colorado's Matt Duchene is finding life tough in Sweden, but he's not going to let it change his...

Colorado's Matt Duchene is finding life tough in Sweden, but he's not going to let it change his game. (QMI Agency)

LANCE HORNBY, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:00 PM ET

Despite the beautiful scenery outside the rink, life on the ice in Europe is proving tough for some NHLers.

Though an elite player such as Colorado’s Matt Duchene is in a better situation than his locked-out brethren at home, he’s not enamored with the level of officiating. Duchene feels he’s on the receiving end of too much obstruction in the Swedish Elite League, where he’s been held to one goal and a few assists in seven games with Frolunda.

In three NHL seasons, Duchene has 150 points in 219 games. The bright young man is not blaming his low output solely on the lack of calls against him, but says it’s not helping.

“It is sad that the (referees) did not call hooking, slashing and so on,” Duchene said in a translated story from the newspaper Expressen.

“The level here is quite different than I’m used to. That’s just the way it works here.”

Duchene, who only has 57 NHL penalty minutes, wondered about the old adage ‘if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em’, but also worried that changing his style would backfire whenever the NHL resumes.

Duchene is playing on a line with fellow lockout victim Viktor Stalberg.

Forward Jamie McBain of the Carolina Hurricanes was among the latest to head to Europe, signing with the Lahti Pelicans in Finland. Close to 200 NHLers are scattered throughout the continent.

STREET TAKES SHORT CUT

You had to be paying close attention to have caught the back-to-back goals the hometown Abbotsford Heat scored against the Toronto Marlies Thursday night.

After Steve McCarthy’s short-handed breakaway goal on Ben Scrivens, Ben Street fired from the ensuing faceoff and scored just three seconds later. It was an American Hockey League record and tied the mark for fastest two goals in NHL history, by Jim Dowd and Richard Park of the Minnesota Wild in 2004. But getting a pair short-handed is quite impressive.

“I guess I picked the right (golf) club,” Street joked. “I wasn’t really trying to put it on net. I thought they’d try and go forward off the draw, so it was no use trying to win it backwards. I got pretty good wood on it and high enough that (Scrivens) didn’t pick up on it.

“It’s kind of cool ... tied for the quickest pro short-handed goal. If someone really wants to look it up, my name will be there.”

 

Brent Sopel, who came under fire for an strong anti-Barack Obama tweet last month, defended himself in a Sports Illustrated web column on the increasingly shrinking line between politics and sports.

“Anyone who thinks (just) because we play a sport for a living means we can’t understand social or fiscal policy is out of their minds,” Sopel told writer Adrian Dater. “That’s like saying that every fan has no idea about hockey because they don’t play it professionally. Politics are discussed daily in our household, and my wife (Kelly) was the catalyst for me opening my eyes. Our (four) children will grow up with their own beliefs, but as long as they learn and pay attention to what’s going on around them, I can’t ask for much more.”

Sopel, now playing in the KHL, at least shook the President’s hand after the Hawks won the Stanley Cup in 2010. Boston goalie Tim Thomas, a staunch conservative, would not in the same circumstance. In his controversial tweet, Sopel opined “if you crazies elect Obama again I’m coming back to Chicago and living off the system”.

“It was never intended to be serious,” said Sopel, who claims to be liberal on some issues. “I think too many people take each word and dissect it all if they don’t agree with your beliefs. Do I think some are off the wall? Yes, I’m sure they think the same of me. I’ve been called far worse on Twitter and throughout my career. I thought crazies was being kind.”

ICE CHIPS

Taylor Hall had a goal in his opening shift for the Oklahoma City Barons Friday night as he rejoined Edmonton’s farm team from a shoulder injury ... Jeff Skinner, who has more than 100 combined points in his two NHL seasons, was assigned to Carolina’s farm team in Charlotte, N.C., at the start of the lockout, but has been given permission by the NHL club to work out on his own in Toronto and Raleigh ... Nashville Predators’ farmhand Anthony Bitetto is raising money for his extended family in Island Park, N.Y., many of them caught in Hurricane Sandy. There was three feet of water in his parents’ basement, his uncle waded through waste-deep sewage to escape his house and friends had cars swept away.

lance.hornby@sunmedia.ca

 


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