SUN Hockey Pool

No doubting Thomas

ROBERT TYCHKOWSKI -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 11:14 AM ET

Here's a good goalie trade for Edmonton: Boston's Tim Thomas for nothing.

The Oilers and 28 other teams could have plucked him off waivers when the Bruins recalled Thomas from Providence on Jan 10. And they could have had him for a steal. Thanks to the new CBA, any team that wanted him would have been on the hook for just half of his remaining salary, or about $122,500.

Since joining the Bruins, Thomas is 7-1-2-1 with a 1.87 GAA and .940 save percentage. And he's not coming out of the blue. He had 15 shutouts in the NHL-laden Finnish Elite League last season, more than all the other teams in the league combined. And before getting the call from Boston, he was 10-4 with a 1.68 goals-against average and a .948 save percentage in the AHL.

Hindsight is 20-20, but Edmonton's save percentage is .881 (second worst in the NHL).

TAKING THE FACEOFF

Further evidence that hockey players are the toughest athletes in the world. Tampa defenceman Darryl Sydor needed 70 stitches and two sets of X-rays to check for breaks after being hit in the face with a puck last Saturday. He'll be back in the lineup tomorrow. Nashville's Scott Walker, meanwhile, had four of his teeth pushed into the roof of his mouth after being hit with a puck on his first shift last game. "They had to pull them straight down, put the mouth guard in and lock it in there,'' said Walker, who came back to log 12 minutes and score two goals. In the NBA or MLB, that's a career-ending injury.

SPEED DIAL

Why the flurry of recent trades? Preds GM David Poile says its Kevin Lowe's fault.

"Basically, as soon as those two trades (Spacek and Tarnstrom) were announced, I was on the phone, other managers were on the phone,'' Poile told the Tennessean. "You ever watch those bike races on the velodrome where they're going real slow, real slow, waiting for the guy to break? That's what happens.''

Two days later, Nashville got Sillinger from St. Louis.

DOT ... DOT ... DOT

Canes GM Jim Rutherford didn't have a problem losing popular tough guy Jesse Boulerice in the Doug Weight trade, not with the Canes' team toughness: "You're not going to play any rougher or dirtier team than Atlanta. And we got through those games just fine.'' ... The Rocky Mountain News nicknamed Bob Boughner "Canadian Idle,'' for appearing in only seven of Colorado's first 32 games.

DEVILS MAY CARE (FANS DON'T)

Last night's tribute to Scott Stevens was New Jersey's first sellout of the season. The New York Islanders, averaging 12,000 per game, have just three ... If the NHL's Hart Trophy goes to the player deemed "most valuable to his team,'' can you make a case for Alex Ovechkin? He has 65 points. The next closest Cap has 27. They'd be in last place without him.

MAPLE GRIEF?

Alex Tanguay, a point a game player before Team Canada picked its Olympic roster, is going crazy since being left off. He has 11 goals and 14 assists in the 19 games since. "Certainly there's a little more motivation,'' he told the Rocky Mountain News. "You look at the guys that are on that (Olympic) team. I just wasn't good enough, I guess.'' Of the 13 forwards who did make the grade, only Dany Heatley and Joe Thornton have more points than Tanguay's 62.

HOUSE OF CARDS

It's a delicate and uneasy situation in Florida right now, with agent Mark Gandler (of Alexei Yashin holdout fame) controlling the future of both their franchise players. Gandler, who represents Olli Jokinen, dismissed Florida's four-year, $16-million offer out of hand in anticipation of a bidding war when Jokinen is unrestricted this summer. Meanwhile, Roberto Luongo, who turned down five-years, $30 million because he's tired of playing for a loser, hinted that he won't stay unless Jokinen does. What are the odds that Gandler and Mike Keenan settle this like nice boys?

CREASE CROSS

Buffalo goalie Ryan Miller is 4-0 in head-to-head games against U.S. Olympic goalies (Robert Esche, John Grahame and Rick DiPietro) since being left off Team USA. He's also 2-0 against the Atlanta Thrashers, whose GM, Don Waddell, selected the U.S. team. "I think he wants to prove that he could have been that guy,'' said Sabres coach Lindy Ruff.

KIDS IN THE STALL

In case you're wondering why the Chicago Blackhawks are having trouble, look at the birth certificates on defence now that Adrian Aucoin is out: James Wisniewski, 21, Jim Vandermeer, 23; Duncan Keith, 22; Danny Richmond, 21 and Brent Seabrook, 20. Jassen Cullimore and Todd Simpson are the only veteran blue-liners left. In goal, with Nikolai Khabibulin hurt, Adam Munro is 23, and Corey Crawford, 21. On the bright side, they only have $18 million committed to salaries next season, leaving some $21 million in cap room should Dollar Bill Wirtz decide to get off his wallet.

BURNING DESIRE

The Flames have been in on the rumours for just about every big name out there, from Doug Weight to Owen Nolan, who knows Darryl Sutter well from his San Jose days. With just under $3 million in wiggle room under the cap, and a 'Go For It Now' mentality in Calgary, count on Calgary making a big splash before the deadline.

OLYMPICS TORCHED?

Philly owner Ed Snider, never one to mince words, told Peter Forsberg (groin) and Robert Esche (just back from a groin tear) to skip the Olympics. "The bottom line is they should not be taking a chance,'' he said ... With eight players going to the Olympics, how much will Ottawa have left for the stretch drive? And what about Colorado, which has 10 players going? ... Flyers scout Dean Lombardi, who did a tremendous job as Sharks GM (right up the the part where he fired Sutter), will interview for Mike Milbury's job when the NHL shuts down for the Olympics later this month.

OLD-TIME HOCKEY

Minnesota's Pascal Dupuis played Boston captain Milt Schmidt in "Maurice Richard,'' a biography filmed last summer in Quebec and soon to be released on DVD. He had no lines, but loved the old leather equipment, skates and sweaters and the straight wooden sticks. "No one wore any helmets. I had the comb-over hair. It was a great experience.'' Ian Laperriere, Vincent Lecavalier, Mike Ricci (hence the haircut), Sean Avery and Philippe Sauve also had player roles.

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BIG GAMES THIS WEEK

TODAY

VANCOUVER AT EDMONTON: Oilers dismal at home, undefeated against Vancouver. Something has to give.

MONDAY, FEBRUARY 6

CALGARY AT SAN JOSE: Darryl Sutter marches his Stanley Cup contenders to old stomping grounds.

THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 9

ATLANTA AT OTTAWA: Expect a shootout when the high-flying Sens play Kovalchuk and the Thrashers.

THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 9

CAROLINA AT TAMPA: Last season's Stanley Cup champions against this year's champs.


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