Life in the old dog!

ROBERT TYCHKOWSKI -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 1:10 PM ET

Just when we thought Cujo's career was about ready to join Old Yeller in that great kennel in the sky, he laps a few gulps from the fountain of youth and lives to bite another day.

The soon-to-be 39-year-old's stock had dropped so significantly after an unhappy, injury-plagued stretch in Detroit that the Coyotes picked him up for the bargain basement price of a million bucks - then watched him post 30 victories, move to sixth on the NHL's all-time wins list and emerge as one of the biggest bargains of the year.

"I knew I still wanted to play,'' said Curtis Joseph, adding he's one of the few players the lockout helped. "I got my ankle fixed and that felt a lot better. I was hoping to have a good year and it's been really enjoyable.''

His 426 wins moved him past Grant Fuhr (403), Glenn Hall (407) and Tony Esposito (423) and leave him just behind fifth-place Jacques Plante (437). "It's always a nice feeling to be mentioned when you get in that company,'' said the former Oiler. "Every year you have something to prove. If you don't maybe that fire isn't flickering. I think it's a good thing to have something to prove.''

Working with Fuhr, his goalie coach in Phoenix, has done him a world of good, as well. An old horse himself, Joseph doesn't need a lot of technical help, but Fuhr, who had the ideal disposition for a goalie, knows a lot about the mental game.

"That's all goaltending is, it's all mental, so he's perfect,'' said Joseph. "You don't need a guy worrying over your shoulder. He knows what I'm thinking. He knows if you let in a bad goal or if you don't think you played as well as you should - he's been there. He's easy to talk to. He's good for me, great for me.''

OPEN SEASON ON MIKE

Judging from the reaction he received in his latest visit, the feud between Mike Comrie and the city he scorned isn't mellowing with age.

Rexall Place booed him lustily whenever he touched the puck and serenaded him with "Comrie Sucks'' in the third period.

A lot of players have held out in Edmonton (Ryan Smyth, Georges Laraque), battled hard at contract time or left for more money (Curtis Joseph, Doug Weight) and never felt the wrath like that.

With Comrie, it's personal. The way he took the money and ran has clearly left the fans feeling betrayed. Don't expect them to forgive and forget any time soon. "It's always nice to be back,'' grinned Comrie, who's used to the not-so-welcome mat. "I have a lot of great memories of this rink as a kid.''

And not many as an adult. He has some pals on the Oilers, though.

"I still have a lot of friends on that team but when you're on the ice it's all business,'' he said. "You battle hard and when it's over you go and have dinner with them. It's a little strange, but that's the profession we're in.''

DOUG AND THE SLUGS

It didn't take long for Weight to get involved in his first game back from a groin injury. He dropped the gloves with his good friend, Jeff Halpern, after the Washington captain cut Eric Staal in a scrap earlier in the game.

"It didn't feel great afterward, but that's the way it was my entire career in Edmonton,'' said Weight. "Guys stuck up for each other, and I was the next guy on the ice with him. Anybody would have, but I was the next guy on the ice.''

NOTHING BUT BIG SAVES

People have often joked about putting a sumo wrestler in goal to cut down the angles. Nobody has yet, but the Maine Black Bears are breaking ground with 6-foot-7 freshman netminder Ben Bishop.

"Goalies come in all shapes and sizes,'' said Maine coach Tim Whitehead. "Ours happens to be very tall.''

Bishop, a St. Louis native, lead Maine to the NCAA Frozen Four on the strength of a 14-2-2 record in his last 18 games and shutouts in five of his last eight starts. They say he handles the puck like Martin Brodeur.

IN THE EYE OF THE BEHOLDER

Remember the hit Denis Gauthier laid on Ranger Martin Straka this week? The one in the corner that made everybody's highlight package? The one many people are calling the hit of the season? Well, it wasn't good enough for the officials scorers in New York. They didn't even credit Gauthier with one hit in the game.

WHEN WILL IT EVER END?

Game 82 can't come soon enough for the slumping, last place St. Louis Blues. A few games after they lost netminder Curtis Sanford to a season-ending injury, netminder Patrick Lalime tears his ACL in a collision with Nashville's Scott Hartnell.

"The hits just keep coming,'' sighed Jamal Mayers.

AVS LEND HAND TO AV-NOTS

The Avalanche scored big in Denver this week when they donated $100,000 each to 10 non-profit groups, including Advocates for Children, which helps abused and neglected children, the Children's Hospital Foundation, The Food Bank, Ronald McDonald House, Special Olympics and a shelter for battered and homeless women and their children.

"The prime objective is to create a lasting imprint in our community,'' owner Stan Kroenke said of the $1 million gift.

LUC WARM IN L.A.

Luc Robitaille is back on the bench, and he doesn't like it very much. A healthy scratch earlier this year in the Andy Murray regime, he's not seeing much action under John Torchetti, either.

Robitaille was in the press box twice this week and has seen his ice time drop considerably when he does play.

"I'm disappointed,'' he told the L. A. Times.

"I feel I have done a lot for the organization and to be put aside at the most important time of the year hurt. Everyone knows I am getting toward the end. I want to be a part of it. I can still help this team.''

He has a point. He has one goal in the last 14 games, but in the last nine game when he has played 15 minutes or more, he has eight goals and two assists.

NASH THE PREDATOR

We asked super pest Tyson Nash who the easiest players to distract are: "The easiest guys are the ones who think they're better than they are, guys with the egos,'' he said.

"It's easy to get under their skin. They don't think they should be hit.

"The hard guys are the older wily veterans who've seen this stuff before. They say 'here we go again, just leave this guy alone'.

"But the more a guy yaps back at you, the more you know you're doing a good job.''

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BIG GAMES THIS WEEK

TODAY

CALGARY AT VANCOUVER: They play each other tough normally, but with all that these two teams have at stake, it should be a beauty.

TOMORROW

RANGERS AT DEVILS: This old Patrick Division rivalry is better now that the Rangers are back. And they could meet in Round 1.

TUESDAY, APRIL 11

EDMONTON AT DETROIT: A potential first round playoff match-up. Both teams will want to size each other up and send a message.

WEDNESDAY, APRIL 12

SAN JOSE AT VANCOUVER: The first of a home-and-home series that could decide which of these teams gets in and which doesn't.


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