Nolan has Midas touch with Yashin

DON BRENNAN -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 9:22 AM ET

It's becoming apparent only about every team in the NHL blew it by not hiring Ted Nolan.

The guy's not only a great coach, but he's also something of a magician.

Look what he's done to your Alexei Yashin!

In between guiding the New York Islanders to a 19-13-3 record as they entered last night's game at Scotiabank Place, Nolan has the ex-Senators 'C'-hoke artist playing the best hockey of his career.

A PLUS-17

Never mind that Yashin started the night second in team scoring, with 34 points in just 27 games played, and that His Selfishness was also the runaway leader in assists.

Get over for a minute, too, the shock of seeing Yashin topping all Islanders with a plus-17. If even a blind squirrel will stumble across the occasional nut, surely a hockey player whose primary previous interest was turning numbers (goals) into numbers (dollars) can be tricked into lumbering back to his own zone by his 12th NHL season.

But get a grip on this: Yesterday morning, mere hours after logging 19:58 of ice time in a 2-0 win over the Rangers at Nassau Coliseum, Yashin was one of 10 or so Islanders taking part in an optional skate.

Think he just misunderstood the other nine when they said they were headed to The Bank?

"It was always tough to play against the Buffalo Sabres," Yashin said in discussing Nolan, who could turn Ottawa's No. 19 into the Invisible Man by siccing Mike Peca on him at playoff time. "They would bring good energy, like their coach would tell them to."

Believe it or not, Nolan might just be turning Yashin into "zzzteam" player he never was in Ottawa.

Wonder where he keeps the wand when he's standing behind the bench?

STARTS AND STOPS: Now, before anyone starts with the "why don't you lay off Yashin already" whine, try asking the same of the thousands who still boo him every time he touches the puck. In fact, last night they gave it to Yashin just for skating down the left wing without the puck one shift. Some crimes don't get forgiven, especially those committed by a repeat, repeat offender ... Maybe if Randy Robitaille was a better bleeder, the Senators' first-period goal wouldn't have counted. Moments before setting up Mike Fisher's ninth of the season, Daniel Alfredsson appeared to swat the Ottawa-born Islander in the face with his stick while trying to keep the puck in the zone. Robitaille fell to the ice and stayed there until he realized that nobody was about to blow a whistle. His brief post-goal plea fell on deaf ears too, so it's obvious he didn't have the necessary red evidence to back his claim ... There's talk TSN might have to shut down for the next 4-6 weeks. What else can The Spezza Network do without its go-to guy?

BETWEEN PERIODS: German-born Senators D Christoph Schubert was pumped about his native land's victory over the Americans at the world junior championship on Tuesday. "I guess I should have taken the bets," he joked, before adding: "Isn't it more fun to watch international tournaments when you're not sure what's going to happen? I guess all the work the people are doing back home is starting to pay off." ... Don't expect Dany Heatley to start waving the flag, though. "They rejected me," said Heatley, who was born in Freibourg, Germany, and appeared to be half-kidding with the suggestion he asked to play for the national team when he was a junior ... In the type of side bar that's always fun to watch, Isles D Brendan Witt led Chris Neil 10-7 in hits through two periods.

THINGS THAT MAKE YOU GO HMMM...: Alfredsson is taking another stab at growing a moustache. Not sure which came first -- that plan or his three-point game in Philadelphia on Saturday. "Whatever he's been doing, it's working," Neil said after Alfredsson's impressive performance at yesterday's morning skate. "I've never seen him score so many goals in practice. I've never seen anybody score so many before. Period." ... To some members of the media, the Senators' best off-season addition was the fountain pop machine installed in the press box ... Yashin sent Jason Blake limping to the bench by hitting him with a high, hard pass in the neutral zone late midway through the second. It's very unlikely he tried to injure the only player he trails in the team scoring race.

BOTTOM SHELF: Senators GM John Muckler is in Sweden at the world juniors, along with a lot of other NHL GMs. Whether he comes back with some immediate help in the form of a trade is what to watch for here. When your team's extra defenceman becomes your third-line left winger -- bypassing the fourth line altogether -- it might need a little help ... Of the Islanders three, first-period shots on goal, it should be noted that the last was a flip from centre ice that reached Ray Emery a split second before the buzzer. So they were even a little worse than you thought they were or the Senators were even a little better than the stats indicate.


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