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Bluelines: A Michigan Winter Classic; Henrique a Calder Candidate

By Stan Fischler
January 9, 2012

• Here’s a very good reason why the next Winter Classic could be hosted by the Red Wings. NHL bigwigs are aware of the astonishing success of the “Big Chill held at the Big House,” in Ann Arbor. Michigan State vs. Michigan played outdoors in front of more than 100,000 fans. The NHL is seriously considering moving next year’s Winter Classic to the same venue. Why not invite Detroit and Toronto to square off? The game would more than likely eclipse last year’s record college crowd.

• With the current CBA set to expire in September, there promises to be quite a few issues on the negotiating table. One such item will be the prospect of implementing an “amnesty clause” — a one-time chance to erase a player’s contract from the books, in order that it shouldn’t count against the Salary Cap.

The Vancouver Province’s Tony Gallagher suggests that such a proviso could spark major changes: “Would the Washington Capitals walk from their commitment to Alex Ovechkin?” wrote Gallagher. “Vinny Lecavalier and Scott Gomez would be road kill, that’s for sure. So also might be Paul Stastny, Jay Bouwmeester or Matt Stajan and Shawn Horcoff. Would the Pens flush Paul Martin or be patient? Ditto Carolina with Eric Staal.” The NBA has benefited from having this clause in place. Perhaps the NHL will follow suit. 

• Rangers ace rookie Carl Hagelin on playing alongside Brad Richards and Ryan Callahan: “It’s unbelievable. They’re two top players in the NHL. Cally plays extremely well at both ends of the ice. He works hard every day and is a great leader. Richards was one of my favorite players growing up. He’s got it all as a leader and a good guy in the locker room. He makes great plays on the ice and he’s fun to be around. I’m very fortunate right now.”

On his shorthanded skills: “I’ve always scored goals shorthanded. I try to use my speed and anticipate a lot. If the ‘D’ makes a bad play, why not try to score? They’re not thinking defense so it’s a bit easier to score on the PK when you get the chance.” 

• Injured rookie scoring leader Ryan Nugent-Hopkins could soon be passed on the freshman points parade by Adam Henrique of New Jersey. With 12 goals and 20 assists, Henrique trails Nugent-Hopkins by three points. With his Devils in Calgary on Tuesday night and Edmonton on Wednesday, Henrique is in position to catch the Oilers rookie. Add to that the fact that Henrique now is a legit candidate for the Calder Trophy

Kevin Poulin impressed the Islanders high command during his brief ten games last season. Garth Snow believes that Poulin’s game will be best served this year by regular work in the minors. That line of thinking has paid off and what better proof than that fact that Kevin was named Reebok/AHL Player of the Week for the period ending Jan.8. Poulin went 4-0-0 and stopped 98 out of 100 shots for a 0.48 goals-against average and a .980 save percentage, registering three consecutive shutouts.

• With his Sabres starting a home-and-home series with the Maple Leafs at Toronto on Tuesday night – back in Buffalo on Friday – captain Jason Pominville takes this optimistic view: “A team can climb quickly up the standings if they get on a winning streak. It’s going to be a battle from here on.” 

• Here’s a neat, little feel-good story: Peter Pirozzi, a Customs Border Protection Officer at JFK, happened to notice Hall of Fame goalie Vladislav Tretiak at New York’s international airport. A long-time hockey fan, Pirozzi chatted with Tretiak about the ice game. The immortal Russian goalie asked Pirozzi for his address. A few weeks later, Peter received a signed, autographed Alex Ovechkin puck and card. The accompanying note read: “From your friend, Vladislav Tretiak.”

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