SUN Hockey Pool

From boo to brrrr

ROBERT TYCHKOWSKI, EDMONTON SUN

, Last Updated: 11:19 AM ET

It's been five months and fans in Edmonton still don't know why Chris Pronger said farewell. And the bye-curious Oiler faithful might never know.

But for Ducks goalie Ilya Bryzgalov, the answer is as cold as the nose on your face.

Stick your head out the window, he said, as the temperature dropped to a bone-chilling minus -27 C for the homecoming.

"I mean, can you blame him for not wanting to live up here?" chuckled Bryzgalov.

"It's -32! It's snow eight months of the year! It's like living at the North Pole!"

Bryzgalov, of course, comes from that popular resort destination, Mother Russia. "Hey, my hometown (Togliatti) was -5 today," he said.

"That's a 27-degree difference."

The good-natured keeper was joking, of course, but for those without a sense of humour, Anaheim's next visit to Edmonton - We Hate Bryzgalov Night - is Jan. 18.

TWO-PRONGED ATTACK: The Ducks were expecting a gong show for the Pronger game, but were pleasantly surprised by the decorum at Rexall Place.

"I give the fans a lot of credit," said Scott Niedermayer, whose 1,000th game was buried in the avalanche of Pronger hype. "They were respectful in how they disagreed with his decision, which is very good."

Pronger's teammates couldn't help having a little fun at their buddy's expense, too: "When he got on the team bus in Edmonton," said head coach Randy Carlyle. "The players all booed him."

FAMOUS LAST WORDS: How is it Trent Yawney's fault?

Even Blackhawks GM Dale Tallon admitted, hours before gunning his head coach, that bad luck had more to do with their struggles than anything else. "Losing (Tuomo) Ruutu, and then (Martin) Havlat, (Michal) Handzus and (Nikolai) Khabibulin on the same weekend really put a wrench into what we were trying to do," he said. "You lose your top four players for any length of time and it's tough to compete, but you have to be patient."

A day later, Yawney was gone.

AMERICAN MUSCLE: It's nice to see that old-time hockey is alive and well in the AHL. Last Saturday's tilt between Portland and Providence featured 23 fighting majors - IN THE THIRD PERIOD! By game's end, Providence had just five skaters left. "Sounded like there were a few tilts,'' laughed Providence goalie Mike Wall, who missed all the fun when Anaheim called him up for a cup of coffee. "It's kind of double-edged; those are always good games to play in, but if I was there I would have missed my first NHL start (a 5-3 win over Calgary)."

JEEPERS KEEPERS: Exactly what did Dan Cloutier accomplish in Vancouver that made Marc Crawford want him in L.A.? It's a question that should have been asked long before they offered Cloutier, who has a league-worst 3.67 GAA and .868 save percentage, that two-year, $6.2-million contract ... By recalling Jussi Timonen, brother of Nashville's Kimmo, the Flyers have dressed 11 different defencemen this season ... From the Life Isn't Fair File: Florida goalie Alex Auld lets in one goal in 125 minutes of regulation and OT over two games, and loses them both: 1-0 in regulation to Atlanta, 1-0 in a shootout to Montreal ... Amazing that some people question the Flames' decision to raise Mike Vernon's sweater - when your town only has one ring, you don't question the guy who won it for you.

MENACED RED: If the Red Wings, who've become everyone's favourite team to push around lately, aren't going to get a tough guy, they had better work harder at keeping opponents honest with their power play. Nothing says "beat me up" more than a wimpy team with the worst PP in the league (10.5%) ... In New York, meanwhile, tough guy Colton Orr doesn't have a point this year but has played in 15 of the last 16 Rangers games. Why? Because the players told head coach Tom Renney they feel more comfortable when he's in. "We seem to be a stronger, more assertive team with him playing,'' agreed Renney.

HOMER'S PICKS: Memo to the Oilers' pay-per-view crew: It's awfully cheesy when your team sweeps the three-star selections, in a loss ... Don't feel bad, Jason Smith, Devils captain Patrik Elias is minus-14 ... With Mathieu Dandenault and Francis Bouillon returning from injury, giving the Habs eight defencemen, Janne Niinimaa could be on the move again. But at $2.47 million, he'll likely go to Hamilton before Montreal finds a trading partner... Are they having any fun in St. Louis? Ask Manny Legace: "It felt kind of dead out there, like someone died or something," he told reporters after an announced crowd of 8,679 sat through a 2-0 loss.


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