I don't know about y'all, but I feel like it's mid-Christmas morning, and I've just finished opening all my presents. Sure, I got some good stuff, but...Christmas is now officially over, and I can't help but feel a bit let down. As I attempt to adjust to the new reality while sitting in a metaphorical pile of shredded wrapping paper, the following ruminations rise like gas bubbles to the surface of my consciousness and burst onto the (electronic) page...
1. I am thrilled and relieved that Sean Avery is back on Broadway. The Rangers need him, and he needs New York. Having Avery back in blue means the end result of a Rangers-Devils playoff series this season is not a foregone conclusion, and the Blueshirts are no longer a "plain vanilla" team. As John McClane said in Die Hard, "Yippie-ki-yay, motherf*****".
1A. On the Rangers' acquisition of Nik Antropov: A guy who can put puck in net, and he only cost a 2nd rounder and a conditional pick? Good job, Slats - but not good enough to make me forget about Wade Redden...and you now have to figure out how to re-sign Antropov this summer. Message to Coach Tortorella: Try him on a line with Zherdev.
1B. On the Rangers' acquisition of Derek Morris: I'm not afraid to say it: Glen Sather had a good day. I agree with Stan Fischler - Morris is going to help the PP (which needs all the help it can get!). While I'm very sorry to see Prucha go, I'm not going to miss Nigel Dawes all that much. As for Dimitri Kalinin...I'd like to direct my comment toward the Phoenix Coyotes:
2. The early bird gets the worm...or in this case, Antoine Vermette. Sure, I'd already given up hope on Jason Spezza (thanks for crushing that dream for me, Aaron Portzline!), but I was intrigued by the rumblings of late concerning the oft-damaged Tim Connolly. Instead, we get the non-surprise surprise deal of Pascal Leclaire for Antoine Vermette. After a bit of initial disappointment, I realize it's a win for both teams, but Columbus will see a much quicker return on their investment.
3. I hope everyone's ready for Thursday night, as there's a lot of good hockey on my NHL Center Ice package: For an appetizer, tune in at 7:00 Eastern for another round in the Battle of New York. Avery's first game back, and I'll be wearing my t-shirt to celebrate the occasion - a t-shirt which only cost $9.99 when Avery was playing for Dallas/in therapy. For those of you who lacked faith that The Reviled One would return, the price has gone up.
Also at 7:00 Eastern, the all-new Phoenix Coyotes are at Boston. Will the Coyotes be wearing those "HELLO, My Name Is..." tags on their jerseys? Tune in to find out...
While Calgary at Philadelphia (7:00 EST) should also be a good game, I'm afraid I'll have to catch the highlights on NHL On The Fly, as the more compelling match-up is Pittsburgh at Florida, at 7:30 EST. The Penguins look to distance themselves from Carolina and Buffalo, while the Panthers no longer have to deal with the Jay Bo Trade distraction (a tip o'the hat to Jacques Martin for not pulling the trigger - a gutsy move) and can focus on clinching a playoff berth. Flightless Waterfowl vs. Big Carnivorous Cats, anyone?
Speaking of playoff implications, Columbus is at Nashville (8:00 EST). The Blue Jackets are two points ahead of the Predators, who've won 5 straight and seem bent on proving OGA wrong. Technically, it isn't a "must-win" game, but that's how both teams will (and should) play it.
Rounding out the night, Dallas at Los Angeles (10:30 EST) should be entertaining, but the late game to watch will be up the coast, where Minnesota visits San Jose (also 10:30). The Wild must find a way to stop the bleeding, and they'll go up against an angry Sharks squad, still upset over the way the Stars pulled their pants down and spanked them in front of their own fans. On behalf of the Stars, I'd just like to say to San Jose:
Take me back to On Goal Analysis