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Jim Cerny's Rink Rap


November 3, 2009 10:27 PM

Tuesday Tidbits on Komisarek, HNIC, the Isles, Rangers, and More


There are so many things I want to get to, and each one could fill a blog entry by itself, but instead I will provide a bunch of NHL quick hits, with a longer column on a singular topic---the Minnesota Wild---tomorrow.

First off, after a long, long day of travel, and travel delays, returning from Minnesota on Saturday, my Halloween night could not have been spent in any better fashion than watching the Canadiens and Maple Leafs duke it out at the Bell Centre on Hockey Night in Canada.

The game had everything you could want. Great rivalry. Back and forth action. Plenty of scoring. Mike Komisarek's first return to Montreal since departing as a free agent on July 1, with the home-town fans spewing their anger at him at every turn. Beleagured Leafs show no quit by scoring twice late in third to force OT. Numerous scrums, much vitriol, and 36 combined penalty minutes.

And finally a shootout victory for Les Habitants.

Great Stuff. Great Theater.

And great throwback candycane-striped jerseys by the Canadiens.

This was not an artistic gem, but it would be awesome if this type of battle was the norm as far as the NHL regular season goes.

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By the way, great work by the HNIC studio crew disecting the issues surrounding the NHLPA. There was good substantive debate, with Glenn Healy's passion for the topic at hand really standing out. I know most fans would rather tune in to Don Cherry's weekly segment, but this was HNIC at its absolute best and most compelling.

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Speaking of the NHLPA, I had a chat with Hockey Hall of Famer Andy Bathgate at Madison Square Garden on Sunday and he had nothing but contempt for how the current players ousted Paul Kelly as Executive Director.

"I bet you these players don't even realize the role Paul Kelly had in improving this player's association by prosecuting (former union head) Alan Eagleson years ago," Bathgate told me. "They have no sense of what has happened before. Just as long as they can count all their money at the end of the day."

Pretty strong stuff, though to be fair, many of the players from the '50's, '60's, and '70's are somewhat bitter that the current crop of NHLers is so much better compensated than the oldtimers ever were.

By the way, Bathgate will be joining me and Steven Gelbs on Rangers Radio over at the Rangers official web site, NewYorkRangers.com, this Friday afternoon. Don't forget to check it out.

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As for the Rangers, don't expect winger Enver Lisin to play tonight in Vancouver. His foot is still sore after blocking a shot Sunday against the Bruins. Christopher Higgins, reported to be on the trade block according to the Ottawa Sun, might get a crack to play on the top line with Marian Gaborik and Vinny Prospal tonight.

Prospal, by the way, has been named as an alternate captain, and very deservedly so, by John Tortorella. Prospal has emerged as a true leader and powerful voice in the Rangers dressing room, not to mention a strong presence on the ice. He joins Ryan Callahan as an "A" serving under team captain Chris Drury.

One other quick Rangers nugget: 19 year-old defenseman Michael Del Zotto today was named as the NHL's Rookie of the Month for October. Though scoreless in three straight games, Del Zotto closed out his first initial month in the NHL with four goals, eight assists, and 12 points in 14 games.

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And how about those Islanders? Winners of four in a row, after last night's 3-1 home-ice win against the Oilers, the plucky Isles find themselves tied with the Flyers at 15 points for sixth place in the Eastern Conference.

In 14 games so far this season, the Islanders have won only five, true, but they have lost only four in regulation. This is a gritty, hard-nosed team, one that was decidedly tougher than the Rangers in a 3-1 win last Wednesday and the Sabres in a 5-0 shutout victory last Saturday.

Seeing Kyle Okposo---no heavyweight---fling Sam Gagner to the ice after a whistle in the final minute last night was awesome because it showed the fire, passion, and desperate nature of this young team. Seeing unheralded Jeff Tambellini notch a hat trick on Saturday, and veteran defensive-minded defenseman Brendan Witt pot a pair last night, makes you think that the Hockey Gods are finally smiling down on Long Island's team.

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Ok, enough for now, though I could go on and on....

On Wednesday I'll have a piece for you on the new-look Wild, featuring interviews with freshly-minted captain Mikko Koivu and long-time favorite Andrew Brunette.

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