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NHL Morning Papers

Saturday Morning NHL Papers (Western Conference): Talk of blowing up Oilers on hold as team wins 5th straight, Boo birds rain down on Hawks, Should Miikka Kiprusoff be a Hart trophy candidate?

Bettman regrets suspending Samueli; Wojtek Wolski gets it done in the shootout, finally; Canucks Wellwood a healthy scratch; Wild’s Andrew Brunette’s grey matter; Hawks commit to defensive play; Preds reassign Cal O’Reilly to AHL; Wings Abdelkader shows some spunk; Sharks/Stars game goes to 11 round shootout; Coyotes look poised to be sold. These stories and more after the jump.

Northwest Division

  • Once again Miikka Kiprusoff showed why he should be Team Finland’s #1 netminder, despite losing to fellow Finnish netminder Niklas Backstrom last night as he was nothing short of spectacular and there are even some who consider him a viable Hart Trophy candidate.
  • Wojtek Wolski, the Avalanche’s shootout specialist last season, finally got going again as he scored the goal to tie the game and then a beauty in the shootout. 
  • Vancouver really knows how to enjoy a win, as Willie Mitchell and Ryan Kesler nearly came to blows during a drill during practice Friday in which Mitchell accused Kesler of slashing him.  The Canucks must take advantage of their eight-game homestand if they are to have any chance of seeing the postseason.  Kyle Wellwood took the news that he would be a healthy scratch philosophically, knowing that his play of late has merited such a move. 
  • The Oilers “big line” of Penner, Brule and Gagne showed up big time last night as Edmonton have now won 5 games in-a-row, although none have been as exciting as last night’s rally from a 3 goal deficit in St. Louis.
  • The Wild’s top line of Andrew Brunette-Mikko Koivu-Antti Miettinen dubbed “two blondes and a Brunette” is starting to sizzle although with Andrew Brunette it might be more appropriate if the line referenced his gray hair.

Central Division

  • While people see the Blackhawks as an offensive juggernaut, the team’s committment to defensive play is reflected in the fact that they are currently in the top 3 team goals-against average.  The boo birds rained down on Brian Campbell last night but he takes the crowds boos as a compliment.  Of course the fans in Buffalo saved a lot of jeering for hometown product Patrick Kane.
  • There were a few factors involved in the Predators’ decision to reassign Cal O’Reilly to Milwaukee of the American Hockey League, keeping veteran Dave Scatchard instead.
  • Young Justin Abdelkader received some fighting tips from Brad May last month and put them to good use in the second period against Anaheim.  Todd Bertuzzi scored to tie it up at two, midway through the 3rd period, then scored a beauty as he roofed it on Ducks goalie Jean-Sebastien Giguere.
  • The Blues just can’t seem to get it done at home, as they dropped their 10th out of 16 games at the Scottrade Center last night to the Oilers.  Mike Weaver prefers to remain low-key even though he has been one of St. Louis’ best players during the course of the entire season.

Pacific Division

  • The Sharks ended a frustrating homestand with a shootout that almost didn’t end, going into the 11th round against the Stars.  Coach Todd McLellan’s decision to hold out Douglas Murray meant that Jay Leach got his first action with San Jose.
  • Los Angeles is unbeaten in regulation in December, and getting big contributions from Jarret Stoll, Dustin Brown, Jack Johnson and Wayne Simmonds.
  • It appears that the NHL has given its blessing to Ice Edge and it appears that a sale of the Coyotes is imminent which also means that some games could go to Saskatoon.
  • Even though his point production has slowed since his hot start out of the gate, Stars coach Mark Crawford said he doesn’t see rookie Jamie Benn struggling at all in his transition to the NHL.
  • In light of Ducks owner Henry Samueli guilty plea being thrown out by a U.S. District Court judge NHL commissioner Gary Bettman has issued a statement indicated he regrets his suspension.  We missed this bit of news but on Wednesday a handful of Ducks visited Children’s Hospital of Orange County to spread some holiday cheer to some youngsters.