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NHL Morning Papers

Saturday Morning NHL Papers (Western Conference): Hawks/Avs love marathon shootouts, Columbus officials reject notion team will be moved, bad attendance isn’t just affecting Coyotes in the desert.

Wings are rolling and can thank, in part, strong play of Chris Osgood; Blues Eric Brewer already facing some heat; Avalanche stay perfect at Pepsi Centre; Brent Sutter is happy with Flames PK but wants improvement; Pat Quinn wants Oilers to find identity; Sharks must face last seasons Stanley Cup finalists back to back; Coyotes are three weeks ahead of last season; Anaheim finally has some optimism. These stories and more after the jump.

Central Division

  • The Blackhawks and Colorado Avalanche went nine rounds into a shootout in the Hawks’ first game at the United Center this season before the Hawks pulled out a victory, and Friday the shootout went eight tension-packed rounds.
  • Columbus Blue Jackets officials and sources around the NHL insist that the Blue Jackets, who claim losses of at least $12 million per season because of their lease agreement with Nationwide Arena, aren’t likely to be on the move.
  • Don’t look now but the Red Wings, on a three-game winning streak, are one point behind the Columbus Blue Jackets in the Central Division.  Part of the reason is the play of Chris Osgood who has made 82 saves and allowed two goals during the Red Wings’ season-high three-game winning streak.
  • USA Today reported this week that 18 percent of the league’s players — almost one-fifth — are out of action because of injury or illness and the Nashville Predators know this better than most.
  • St. Louis Blues defenseman Eric Brewer has been back in the Blues’ lineup for only three games and already he’s become a target for some fans.

Northwest Division

  • On Friday night at the Pepsi Center, the Avalanche kept its 2009-10 home record perfect through six games, getting two goals from rookie center Ryan O’Reilly.  Avalanche defenseman John-Michael Liles didn’t return to the game after suffering a shoulder injury late in the first period but the rest of the defense showed up.  People in Denver are still questioning where the fans have gone.
  • Vancouver rookie goalie Cory Schneider faced a flurry of shots from the Dallas Stars, and finally a couple found the back of the net.
  • Brent Sutter gave a nod of approval and a soft pat on the back to the Calgary Flames’ upgraded vigour in killing penalties during their recent outings but he still see’s room for improvement.  A second person has been fired by Alberta’s health authority for involvement in giving Calgary Flames players and their families the H1N1 vaccine last week.
  • Edmonton Oilers coach Pat Quinn feel that his team needs to find an identity, rediscover their scoring touch and win games.  A lawyer for former Oilers owner Peter Pocklington says he plans to produce documents that may resolve the fraud charges against his client without having to go to trial.
  • The pressure is on for the Minnesota Wild’s third-year center James Sheppard to improve his game and to do so dramatically.

Pacific Division

  • Twice in three days, the San Jose Sharks must face Stanley Cup Finals teams. They fell in a shootout at Detroit on Thursday and tonight they welcome the league champion Penguins to HP Pavilion.
  • The L.A. Kings penalty-killing unit finds success as they shut down their opponents’ power plays 24 of 27 times in the last eight games.
  • The Phoenix Coyotes (10-6) reached the 20-point level three weeks sooner than last season, and they’ll try to build on their 3-1 win over the Blackhawks against the Ducks (5-7-2) in Anaheim tonight.  While everyone has focussed on the Yotes lack of attendance, all the sports team in the area are losing out to the economy, including the very popular Phoenix Suns of the NBA whose 153-game streak of sellouts at US Airways Center ended Nov. 1.
  • On the heels of one of their hardest losses of the season, the Dallas Stars were faced with an almost identical game Friday against the Vancouver Canucks.
  • Optimism — of the cautious variety — could be heard in the Anaheim Ducks dressing room after practice at Anaheim Ice on Friday, the day after a 4-0 shutout of Nashville.

General NHL

  • Unless the hockey community transforms its approach to aggressive hits to the head, many more young lives will be diminished – or worse – from on-ice violence, say experts interviewed by the Star.
  • Strong special teams and goaltending propelled the U.S. women to a 3-2 win over Canada on Friday at the Four Nations Cup in a preview of Saturday’s championship game.