SUN Hockey Pool

Flames turn down European vacation

ERIC FRANCIS, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 9:14 PM ET

The Calgary Flames have declined an all-expenses-paid trip to Europe.

The Sun has learned the Flames were asked by the NHL to be one of six teams slated to start next season overseas as part of the league’s annual curtain-opener.

However, the Flames respectfully opted out.

“We need to focus on what’s important and get ourselves back on track,” said team president and CEO Ken King of his club, which is clearly on the verge of a rebuild of sorts.

As reported on Hockey Night in Canada’s Hot Stove last night, the six teams tentatively slated to open the season with six games in six European cities are the Rangers, Capitals, Kings, Ducks, Oilers and Sabres.

Nothing has been set in stone, but all six teams are considering the invite, which would include a game in Moscow featuring Alex Ovechkin.

One of the Flames games would likely have been in Miikka Kiprusoff’s native Finland.

The Flames opened the 1998-99 season in Tokyo.

Crosby quandary

Sidney Crosby’s concussion is on the verge of becoming a headache for the NHL.

With Crosby’s playing status up in the air, all-star game architect Brendan Shanahan is on the horns of a dilemma.

Shanahan was planning to announce the game’s captains early this week, with Crosby being a shoo-in to be voted by the players to such an honour.

However, given the active role each team’s captain will have in everything from the Friday night draft, Saturday skills competition and the game on the Sunday, Shanahan may have to wait to see what Crosby’s playing status is.

If Crosby is going to return to the ice in time for the game, you’d want him as your captain. But if he’s unable to shake his concussion symptoms in time, another captain has to be found.

Shanahan said yesterday he’ll check the playing status of both captains before making any announcement, but given the unpredictability of concussions, Crosby’s status may not be known by then.

The Penguins have stopped giving daily updates on Crosby, but his agent talked to him Saturday and told the Sun his post-concussion symptoms are still there.

“He feels better, but he’s still not there,” said Pat Brisson.

“He’s groggy in the morning and doesn’t feel too good.He’ll feel better for five or six hours, and then it gets worse. It’s the grogginess more than anything. He had severe neck pain after the (David) Steckel hit, but it’s going away a bit.”

There’s still no timeline on a return as Crosby can’t do anything until he’s feeling 100%

San Jose sinking?

Outside of bringing in

20 new faces Saturday, in the form of the players’ dads, Doug Wilson isn’t ready to do anything rash to help kick-start his underachieving San Jose Sharks.

The GM said yesterday he’s certainly kicking tires around the league, but given the fact almost every team is in search of the same thing — centres and defencemen — the marketplace is a tough one.

“We’ll do anything and pay full value for something that makes sense now and moving forward, but given the supply and demand, what people ask for is fairly extreme,” said the Wilson, whose club entered Saturday night’s game in a three-way tie for 10th in the West.

While he has long been searching for someone to replace the booming point shot that disappeared when Rob Blake retired, he said he has not had a conversation with the Edmonton Oilers about Sheldon Souray, who is currently nursing a knee injury.

He says every time the Sharks start making some progress, they have another significant injury. Joe Pavelski has missed the last seven games, and rookie stud Logan Couture was expected to return Saturday night. Now Ryane Clowe is out.

Despite losing games last week to Edmonton and Toronto, Wilson says his goaltending has been solid but his team just hasn’t been scoring enough of late.

Phoenix rising

The Phoenix Coyotes’ ongoing ownership transfer has prevented the team from talking contract with pending unrestricted free-agent goalie Ilya Bryzgalov. However, Bryzgalov’s agent, Don Meehan, is heading to Phoenix Monday to start the process. “We’ve been told that signing Ilya is a priority,” said Meehan.


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