Salary cap madness

ROBERT TYCHKOWSKI -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 10:38 AM ET

Former Oiler Josh Green and goalie Rob McVicar took the scenic route from Winnipeg to Vancouver. Twice. The Canucks called them up for Wednesday's game against Minnesota and told them they'd be in the lineup yesterday against Columbus.

Problem was, if the two physically reported back to Winnipeg (even though the Moose were on the road), their salaries for Thursday wouldn't count towards the $39 million cap, which Vancouver is already flirting with. So Green and McVicar flew two hours, 45 minutes from Vancouver to Winnipeg and then turned around and flew right back to Vancouver. The savings against the cap? About $5,100.

SPEAKING OF TRAVEL: You had to feel bad for Mike Morrison when the Oilers sent him down to the East Coast League after training camp, but he says it's not so bad.

The travel is tough, but it's better, believe it or not, than in the AHL.

"In the Coast we have the sleeper buses,'' he said. "In the American League they don't. It's a messed up situation.''

Sleeper busses have extended back ends and rows of three-tiered bunk beds. Instead of trying to sleep in a seat, or in the aisle, the Greenville players simply retire to their beds.

"You have at least 20-22 beds.Everybody gets one. Even the rookies get a spot.''

LITTLE BIG MAN: Five-foot-10, 185-pound defenceman used to be a rarity in the NHL, but John Michael Liles is not only surviving, he's thriving.

The Avs blueliner is third in scoring among NHL defencemen with 14 points. Only Bryan McCabe and Lubomir Visnovsky have more points from the point.

"I've always prided myself on my skating,'' he said. "And opening the game up has helped me find those openings a little bit more.''

He also put up 45 points as a rookie in the "old NHL,'' so it's not like he's only here because of the rules.

"Skill is skill. If you're good enough to make it you're going to make it regardless of your size.''

Still, Phoenix coach Wayne Gretzky isn't even bothering with lumbering D-men anymore.

"I told our scouts that if you have a guy who's big and tough and thinks the game well, but isn't very mobile, I don't even want to hear about him,'' said Gretzky. "It's all about mobility, moving and passing the puck.''

LITTLE BIG MEN II: If hockey is supposed to be a big man's game, somebody should tell that to the Nashville Predators. Ten of their 21 skaters are under six-feet tall. In Edmonton there's only two: Michael Peca and Marc-Andre Bergeron.

"They always say the team sometimes reflects the coach,'' laughed Preds coach Barry Trotz, who's about five-foot-seven on a good day. "Size is irrelevant. All I care about is can you play in this league? If someone says Steve Sullivan is not very big or Paul Kariya is not very big or Scott Nichol isn't very big and can't play in the league, I'll show you a lot of guys who are six-foot-four who can't play in the league.''

QUIT CAM-PLAINING: Anaheim keeper J.S. Giguere wasn't especially gracious when he found out he isn't on Wayne Gretzky's "long list'' of nine Team Canada netminders and Carolina rookie Cam Ward of Sherwood Park is: "Cam who?,'' sniffed Giguere.

BROWNIE IN THE BLACK: Former Oilers defenceman Sean Brown is alive and well in New Jersey. He's 1-7-8 in 10 games, a lot better than the three points he managed in 39 games with the big club in '03-04. He's staying out of the box, too (just six PIMs).

STAY AT HOME SCORER: Ron Wilson shakes his head that his alma matar, Providence, named its defensive player of the year award after him. "I was an offensive defenceman. I still have all the NCAA scoring records for defencemen. And they name the defensive player award after me. That's almost an insult.''

THE DEVIL, YOU SAY: Thursday night was the first time since Dec. 5, 1993 that a goalie other than Martin Brodeur started a regular or playoff game against the Rangers - a string of 68 straight games that started Dec. 5, 1993 (Chris Terreri) and ended Nov. 3, 2005 (Scott Clemmensen). The Rangers won 4-2.

89 AND 99 AT ODDS? Reports out of Phoenix suggest Mike Comrie is available for the right price. If he's moved, it would be his fourth team in five pro seasons, or sixth team in the last eight seasons, if you count leaving Michigan and Kootenay early. Don't think Gretzky's friendship with the Comrie family will factor in the decision; Gretzky's had ice-water in his veins since he took the job. He's already benched Comrie once this season, in Edmonton, no less. He yanked Curtis Joseph after three goals in 20 minutes while Cujo was trying for his 400th career win. And he traded a player who's engaged to his niece, Jeff Taffe.

PENS ARE MIGHTIER: Here come the Penguins. Don't look now, but after their first back-to-back wins of the season, the Pittsburgh Penguins are finally starting to look like a team that added Sidney Crosby, Ziggy Palffy, Mark Recchi and John LeClair. They're only six points behind the first place Rangers and their power play is seventh in the NHL. They'll have to shore up their 30th ranked PK, though.

"When we play like we're supposed to play, we're a pretty good team,'' said Recchi.

The Pens called up rookie defenceman Ryan Whitney, their first pick, fifth overall, in the 2002 draft, who promptly chalked up four assists in the two wins.

WHAT MIGHT HAVE BEEN: The Pens picked goalie Marc Andre Fleury, currently wrestling with his game in Wilkes-Barre, first overall in 2003, passing on a centre from Peterborough by the name of Eric Staal. Sid Crosby and Eric Staal on the same club? Scary.

SCOUTS DISHONOUR: When Sabres goalie Ryan Miller broke his thumb in a pre-game skate last week (he'll be out till Christmas) and word got out that Martin Biron was playing, some 14 teams, including the Oilers, scrambled their scouts to HSBC Arena.

Biron let in the first two shots he faced in the 10-4 loss to Ottawa and was yanked after giving up three goals on six shots. Lindy Ruff put him back in for the third period and he let in three more on 13 shots. His Sabres teammates weren't amused. "I don't care what the situation is, you've got to be ready,'' said alternate captain Chris Drury.

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BIG GAMES THIS WEEK

TOMORROW

WILD AT DUCKS: A rematch of that compelling Western Conference final.

MONDAY, NOV. 7

PENS AT RANGERS: Sidney Crosby visits Madison Square Garden.

TUESDAY, NOV. 8

BRUINS AT FLYERS: An old school rivalry renewed.

SATURDAY, NOV. 12

LEAFS AT HABS: Wonder if CBC will show it?


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