There's history in the making

MIKE ZEISBERGER, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 11:31 AM ET

The Montreal Canadiens are poised to celebrate their illustrious history.

Martin Brodeur, meanwhile, is preparing to make his own.

Of all the storylines surrounding the 2008-09 National Hockey League season, The Habs and The Goalie certainly top the list.

In acknowledgement of its 100th anniversary, hockey's most storied franchise has planned a season-long party, one that includes hoisting Patrick Roy's No. 33 to the rafters on Nov. 22; playing host to the all-star game on Jan. 25; and welcoming the other 29 teams for the 2009 entry draft next June. With the off-season additions of Alex Tanguay, Georges Laraque and Robert Lang, there are hopes for a Stanley Cup parade, too.

No one is more aware of the rich tradition of the Canadiens than Brodeur, 36, having grown up in Montreal where his father, Denis, served as the team photographer.

Three decades later, Brodeur needs just 14 wins to pass Roy at 551 and usurp St. Patrick as the career leader in victories by a goaltender.

Among Brodeur's other flirtations with the record book are his 96 career shutouts, just seven shy of Terry Sawchuk's long-standing mark of 103.

With all 30 teams seeing action this week, here are some of the other highs and lows to keep an eye on during the '08-09 campaign:

ON THE UPSWING

1. Chicago Blackhawks: A new goalie in Cristobal Huet, a new stud defenceman in Brian Campbell and a new attitude toward the team in the Windy City, where season ticket sales rocketed from about 3,500 to 14,000.

2. Edmonton Oilers: Newcomers Erik Cole and Lubomir Visnovsky only add to the Oilers' reputation as one of the NHL's fastest teams.

3. Phoenix Coyotes: The addition of Olli Jokinen complements a talented cache of kids in Kyle Turris, Peter Mueller and Mikkel Boedker.

ON THE HOT SEAT

1. Jose Theodore (Capitals): If he is good, Alex Ovechkin and Co., are poised to make a title run in the east. If he is not, Caps fans will be whining over the loss of Huet.

2. Jeff Finger (Maple Leafs): Already banged-up coming out of training camp, Finger, whose four-year, $14-million US deal shocked league execs, could be the whipping boy of Leafs Nation if he gets off to a slow start.

3. Martin Gerber (Senators): One weekend into the NHL season and already a goalie controversy has surfaced in Ottawa after Gerber's shaky performance in a 4-3 overtime loss to Pittsburgh on Saturday in Stockholm, coupled with Alex Auld's near-shutout performance in their 3-1 victory the following day.

THE WAIT OF '08

Premature playoff beard or a sign of imminent retirement? Just what is the meaning of the new facial hair sported by Mats Sundin over the weekend?

Such is the lunacy surrounding the big Swede, whose every move has been analyzed back here in North America in an attempt to figure out if he will come back to the NHL this season.

The most popular theory making the rounds these days has Sundin returning in December, possibly to the New York Rangers.

A TALE OF TWO FINALISTS

After beating the Pittsburgh Penguins to win the Stanley Cup, the Red Wings inked ex-Pens Marian Hossa and Ty Conklin while suffering minimal losses to their roster.

The Pens, on the other hand, lost Hossa, Laraque, Ryan Malone, Gary Roberts and Jarkko Ruutu. They'll also be without injured defenceman Ryan Whitney until at least December, while Sergei Gonchar is out six months.

BLACKBERRY BUCKS

It seems like just a matter of time before the NHL swallows its pride and accepts the money of Blackberry magnate Jim Balsillie. Given the ongoing ownership mess in Nashville, it's no surprise that Balsillie's name again is being linked with the Predators.

With the U.S. economy in such bad shape, Sun Belt teams such as the Preds, Coyotes, Florida Panthers and Atlanta Thrashers will need all the help they can get.

LIGHTNING STRIKE

New Tampa Bay Lightning co-owner Oren Koules, a movie producer by trade, does not yet know if he has a hit or a horror flick on his hands.

Either way, he and fellow owner Len Barrie have created the most intriguing saga in the NHL by gutting the roster, which now features newcomers such as Malone, Roberts, Steven Stamkos, Matt Carle, Olaf Kolzig, Mark Recchi and Radim Vrbata.

QUESTIONS, QUESTIONS

With his owner in legal hot water and rumours of his move to the Leafs lingering, can Anaheim GM Brian Burke avoid the distractions? ... Will Peter Forsberg and his ailing foot make yet another late-season comeback? ... Can Patrice Bergeron and Simon Gagne return to form after concussion-plagued seasons ... Will this be the final season for Rob Blake (Sharks) and Joe Sakic (Avs)? Stay tuned.


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