CALGARY - The NHL trade deadline once again is shaping up to be a sellerís market.
And it doesnít help the number of sellers right now appears to be diminishing.
With the NHLís Feb. 27 deadline fast approaching, the conference standings is compressing like an accordion.
In the East, Winnipeg has made a run to pull within hailing distance of the top eight, adding a 10th team to a collection vying to make the second season. If the New York Islanders and Buffalo Sabres can catch fire, they may give it the olí college try.
And in the West right now, the only teams you can count out are the Columbus Blue Jackets and the Edmonton Oilers.
The Anaheim Ducks looked to be left for dead a month ago ó they were 20 points out of eighth place Jan. 6 but have cobbled together a 11-2-2 run and cut the deficit to eight points ó to make it a bakerís dozen worth of clubs still alive.
As it stands, six of those teams ó Minnesota, Phoenix, Calgary, Colorado, Dallas and Anaheim ó are likely vying for the No.-8 seed
That is, unless the Los Angeles Kings or San Jose Sharks seriously trip up. Then again, if Chicago continues its freefall, we may have more changes among the top eight.
In turn, that means all kinds of clubs canít quite get into sellerís mode yet.
As a result, the prices for such players as Tuomo Ruutu in Carolina, Ales Hemsky in Edmonton, Travis Moen in Montreal and Derek Roy in Buffalo will remain high.
Auction houses love it when there are way more buyers than sellers, and itís shaping up to be a tough market many clubs canít afford to get into, especially all those Western Conference teams who need to keep their prospects and draft picks (cough, cough, the Calgary Flames).
Itís the price paid for parity.
Now that Flames goalie Miikka Kiprusoff became the 27th netminder in NHL history to win 300 games and Jarome Iginla netted his 500th goal a while back, the Flames are out of significant milestones to chase this season. Listed in the game notes as upcoming possibilities going into Thursdayís game in Phoenix were Matt Stajanís 100th goal (three more needed), Tom Kostopoulosí 100th assist (seven to go) and Scott Hannanís 200th point (eight more needed). All three may not happen this season ... When it was announced in Wednesdayís game San Joseís Joe Pavelski was playing his 400th game, a few people in the press box rolled their eyes. However, itís worth pointing out Pavelski was San Joseís seventh-round pick in 2003 and played all those games for the Sharks. By comparison, the last Flames draft pick to play 400 games for Calgary was 1989 fourth-round draft pick Robert Reichel, who skated in 425 games for the Flames before moving on to the New York Islanders in the 1996-97 season. The Flames havenít had a first-round pick with that kind of staying power since Gary Roberts in 1984. And to think people say weíre being cruel for panning this franchiseís draft history.
With Mikko Koivu coming back into the lineup, donít expect the Minnesota Wild to fall that easily ... Reason 8,275 to love NHL players on Twitter: Logan Couture of the San Jose Sharks recently remarked: ďBrussel sprouts as a mid day snack..weird or impressive?Ē Hey, at least thatís some personality ... OK, itís being a Canadian homer, but wouldnít it be great to see the White Out back where it belongs in the playoffs? Go Winnipeg Jets ... Forgotten in their struggles of the Chicago Blackhawks is the fact they only made the playoffs last season because the Dallas Stars lost to the Minnesota Wild on the final day of action. This is not the deep and powerful Stanley Cup-winning squad of two years ago ... The Detroit Red Wings have had trouble winning without goalies named Jimmy Howard, but they may want to give defenceman Brad Stuart a look in net. Stuart was the star of a team-bonding broomball tournament by not surrendering a goal in three games ... Even the Catholic Church is imploring the people of Montreal to pray for the Canadiens to make the playoffs. Weíre not sure which has longer odds these days, the Habs in the playoffs or Scott Gomez finally scoring another goal.
YOU DONíT SAY
ďWell, we could use (Corey) Perry scoring 30 goals in 20 games again, that would help. No pressure.Ē
ó Anaheim captain Ryan Getzlaf on what the Ducks need to make a miracle run into the playoffs for the second straight year.