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Bluelines: Some Love for an Unheralded Star, and a Great Expansion?

The Edmonton Journal’s Jim Matheson offers this on Rangers stalwart Dan Girardi: “Has there been a better undrafted player in the last half-dozen years than Girardi, the league’s top defensive blue-liner? He’s an absolute warrior, who has missed just two of 410 games for New York over the last five years. In his draft year, he had a ruptured spleen and teams took a pass on him. But when he later won a Memorial Cup with the London Knights, alongside Corey Perry (Anaheim), and played with a broken hand for almost the entire playoffs, refusing to get it X-rayed, that was the tipoff how tough he was.”

Devils goaltender Martin Brodeur has received so many accolades another one would be like gilding the rose or painting the lily. But since Mr. Goalie has just celebrated his 40th birthday with yet another win, a “Happy Birthday” will be sufficient. It also is worth mentioning that the Devils mainstay maintains a neat sense of humor. He joked about the fact that there weren’t enough candles on his birthday cake presented by family members. Marty told Star-Ledger columnist Steve Politi, “There were only 20 or something, so they only went halfway on the candles. Couldn’t find a big enough cake, I guess.” Then a pause: “I go out and compete against players that are such a young age. I’m more than twice the age of (rookie defenseman) Adam Larsson. I mean, I kind of shake my head a little bit.” …

• For Islanders fans who like to follow successful members of the club’s alumni association, here’s an update on our pal Travis Green. Currently assistant g.m. and assistant coach of the Portland Winterhawks, Green has helped the club to the Western Hockey League’s championship series against the Edmonton Oil Kings. Game Three was played Sunday night at the Rose Garden, also home to the NBA’s Portland Trailblazers. A standing room crowd of close to 11,000 jammed the arena. The Winterhawks won the game 4-3, taking a two-games-to-one series lead. My oldest son, Ben, with wife, Kine, and my two grandsons, Ezra and Niko, were witnesses to the victory. Ben summed it up succinctly: “It was a huge second period for the Hawks with three goals – all dramatic, elegant goals. The Oil Kings stormed back in the third and almost tied it, but the Hawks got a fourth and won 4-3. It was a great game, great energy. Portland loves these guys!” …

• Assuming the Greg Jamison-led group does buy the Coyotes, a positive – for the NHL – chain reaction will follow. One line of thinking has it that the arrival of the certifiably reliable buyer could have wide-ranging ramifications for the league. One of them could actually be expansion with a $200 million entry fee. That would include a second team in Toronto; (actually the 20,000-seat arena to be constructed in suburban Markham). It could be accompanied in the West by Seattle, which has one of the most attractive TV markets for NHL consumption. This would establish rivalries on the Pacific coast -- Vancouver-Seattle -- and in the East -- Maple Leafs-New Toronto Team-Buffalo. There’s little doubt that the Sabres would demand and receive territorial compensation. …

• John Madden offers a glowing endorsement for hockey in Sunrise after a season with the Panthers. “They changed the culture here,” notes the vet center. “Florida’s a great place to play. I never thought I’d say that sitting from the outside all those years in New Jersey.”


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