Hockey Notes

Painstaking approach works well for Recchi

By Kevin Paul Dupont
December 12, 2010

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Mark Recchi potted career goal No. 569 Tuesday night, cutting into the crease from the left post and putting a glove on a blistering Dennis Seidenberg one-timer from the slot. It took video scrutiny after a stop in play for the goal to be registered, and the Bruins to beat the Sabres, but overall it was a prime example of the net-front nuance and artistry that the 42-year-old Recchi has displayed since breaking into the league with the 1988-89 Penguins.

The trick to it all? A number of things, said Recchi, including body positioning, the ability to read a teammate’s intentions, quick hands, and, perhaps above all, the nerve to go where pain almost assuredly will partner with accomplishment.

“No question,’’ said Recchi, “you have to be willing to go there. And that’s not always fun. I think it comes down to nerve more than anything, being willing to step into spots where someone’s shot can kill you.’’

Seidenberg’s blast was one of those shots, but Recchi followed it off the stick and managed to tick it with a glove before it blew by Buffalo goalie Ryan Miller. Long ago, while playing in the old Garden with the Flyers, Recchi wasn’t quite so fortunate when Flyer teammate Mikael Renberg hammered one toward the Boston net.

“A slapshot, right in my eye,’’ recalled Recchi, wincing slightly at the memory. “It’s why I wear a visor now. The puck rolled on him, and when he hit it, it jumped up. Not his fault. Nothing he could do about it.

“For a couple of days I had blurred vision. But I was lucky. Could have been a lot worse.’’

In Vancouver, top forward Ryan Kesler has been asked this season to move away from the half-wall, where he often quarterbacked the Canucks’ power play. Coach Alain Vigneault is looking for the gritty Michigander to use his big body (6 feet 2 inches, 205 pounds) as more of a force in front of the net, figuring his size and temerity will translate to more action and overall production.

“It’s an art form, to be honest,’’ Kesler told the Vancouver Province. “It takes time to perfect it. I’m nowhere near close to perfecting it, but I’m taking pride in it.’’

Recchi figures there was once a time he had the speed and skills, both passing and shooting, that he could have played on the periphery. But he played with sandpaper in junior and he wasn’t about to switch to a softer ply in The Show.

“I think my father would have kicked my rear end,’’ said Recchi, laughing and crediting his dad with instilling the necessary determination and work ethic it takes to score in the NHL. “Staying out on the periphery wasn’t going to work for me. I knew I wouldn’t be effective. I knew I had to get in there to score goals. You want to score, you have to be there.’’

Gudbranson a talking point Things would look far sunnier in Sunrise, Fla., this morning had flashy prospect Erik Gudbranson signed his entry-level deal in September and joined the likes of soft-and-skilled Dennis Wideman and Bryan McCabe on the Panthers’ back line.

Gudbranson, the No. 3 pick in the June draft, returned to Kingston (OHL) after the Panthers balked at sweetening his deal with maximum bonus clauses. Now they are on course for a 10th straight postseason DNQ and could really use Gudbranson’s grit.

Some NHL clubs might have opted to select the 6-4, 195-pound Gudbranson as high as No. 2 overall. What happens next? In all likelihood, the Panthers give the kid the max dough prior to 2011-12 and he’s in uniform next October.

However, he is such a stud that some clubs, possibly the Bruins, are expected to approach Florida GM Dale Tallon about prying away Gudbranson’s rights this season, possibly tossing the Panthers a roster player now and swapping first-round picks.

Such a scenario would be ideal for clubs in need of cap relief, although the Panthers are working now with a cap hit of around $53 million. They just aren’t getting much bang for their big bucks.

Hulsizer up for challenge Former Amherst captain Matt Hulsizer was given a preliminary though emphatic thumbs-up from the NHL last week to be the new owner of the Phoenix Coyotes. The only significant hurdle that remains is the city of Glendale, Ariz., approving a new lease for the Desert Dogs to play in Arena — a rubber stamp that should be applied Tuesday. In Florida for last week’s Board of Governors meetings, Hulsizer, speaking publicly about the deal for the first time, noted that he has long been a hockey fan, having played the game and coached it. “And I’d like to join the club,’’ he said, noting that the Coyotes’ overall finances mean the deal isn’t “going to look smart for a long time.’’ As of last week, the Coyotes were averaging about 10,200 in attendance, leaving the building 40 percent empty on a nightly basis. Hockey + desert + apathy = long row to hoe.

Minutemen in the action The Sharks are getting impressive service from ex-UMass Minuteman Justin Braun, the St. Paul-born defenseman whom they selected 201st overall in the 2007 draft. Called up just prior to Thanksgiving, the 6-2 Braun, who played all four seasons in Amherst and graduated this spring, went 1-5—6 in his first eight games with the Sharks, averaging 17:32 in ice time. Three other Minutemen — Casey Wellman (Wild), Greg Mauldin (Avalanche), and Jonathan Quick (Kings) — have suited up for NHL clubs this season.

Cap or trade system The Board of Governors kicked around league financials in Florida, and indications thus far have hockey-related revenue streams increasing to the point that another $90 million could be available for player payroll in 2011-12. That works out to upward of $3 million per team. Meanwhile, the Players Association again will have its choice, essentially whether to approve the $90 million pay boost or keep overall pay level. If they opt not to boost the cap, it would ease, if not negate, the need for players to yield, say 10-15 percent of this year’s payroll via the existing escrow process. Sounds confusing, doesn’t it? Well, imagine how it feels when a player like Zdeno Chara, on the books for $7.5 million per season, ends up with a haircut of some $750,000. Sure seems like time for players to start dealing with a true cap figure, something closer to $50 million than $60 million.

Giving it his best shot Still believe the Olde Tyme Hockey bunk that centers aren’t meant to shoot? We refer you to one Sidney Crosby, the Penguins superstar currently on a tear that has him pointed toward his second Hart Trophy (MVP). The Penguins entered last night’s game in Buffalo with a league-high 11 straight wins, and Sid the Kid was a Gretzky-like 14-8—22 in that stretch, having ripped off 48 shots. Oh, and this is without the injured Evgeni Malkin and Jordan Staal up front to help. Crosby’s eagerness to shoot, most importantly, negates a goalie’s ability to anticipate his pass and assume the shot is coming from someone else. Through 30 games, the 23-year-old Crosby already had 120 shots on net, with marks of 26-24—50. As of late last week, the five other centers (Steven Stamkos, Brad Richards, Nicklas Backstrom, Pavel Datsyuk, and Henrik Sedin) among the league’s top 10 scorers averaged 78 shots apiece. And ex-Bruin Jumbo Joe Thornton had a paltry 38; he might fall short of 120 for the season.

Staying power in Atlanta? The Thrashers remain in the hunt for a playoff spot, which would be only the franchise’s second date to the prom in 11 NHL seasons. But by the look of the anemic gate at Philips Arena, on-ice success might not be enough to win over the long-disappointed locals, now conditioned to 82-and-out. Remember, this is a city that has already suffered the indignity of franchise flight, having seen the Flames pack up and relocate to Calgary in the summer of 1980. In their eight seasons in Atlanta, the Flames qualified for the playoffs six times, albeit advancing beyond Round 1 only once, and only eight seasons later the Calgary Flames won the Cup. Something has to happen in a hurry, and the Thrashers could really use a No. 1 pivot, someone like their former top center, Marc Savard. Otherwise, look for rumors to persist that both Quebec City and Winnipeg will try to woo them north.

Lining up to salute Milley The Hub of Hockey’s heart grew heavy when first lieutenant Scott “Scooter’’ Milley was killed on duty as an Army Ranger in Afghanistan. Captain of the ’05 Lincoln-Sudbury hockey team, Milley was praised by L-S coach Peter Elenbaas as being the best leader he ever coached. During a scrimmage this past week, Milley’s No. 8 sweater was hung in tribute behind the club’s bench. Here’s hoping that L-S keeps the sweater mounted high and proud for a very long time. Elenbaas, in an e-mail to the Lincoln-Sudbury staff, said: “He was the most lovable kid I ever coached. He combined the toughness of a prize fighter with the effervescent joy and energy of a teenage boy. Truly a treasure of this high school.’’

Reaching for the Stars A league source with direct knowledge of the negotiations reports that the sale of the Dallas Stars would have been concluded a month ago to Vancouver businessman Tom Gaglardi, but for commissioner Gary Bettman insisting the selling price ($175 million?) was too low. Gaglardi, majority owner of the Kamloops Blazers of the Western Hockey League, subsequently bowed out of the process. Another serious Canadian bidder, Bill Gallacher, also walked. Gaglardi, with partner Ryan Beedie, once tried to buy the Canucks. He’s serious about hockey and a serious businessman, traits that often have been lacking among the Lords of the Boards. As of Feb. 4, the Stars will have been up for sale for one year.

Green Line to blue line Outstanding debut for ex-Boston University defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk in Colorado, where he was called up to fill in for the injured Kyle Cumiskey (concussion). In his first 16 games, Shattenkirk went 4-10—14, a pace on par with league-leading blue liners Dustin Byfuglien, Kris Letang, and teammate John-Michael Liles. The Avalanche took Shattenkirk 14th overall in the ’07 draft. He captained BU in his junior year, the first Terrier to do so since Jack O’Callahan in 1976-77.

Loose pucks Bruins beat guy Matt Kalman will be signing his new book, “100 Things Bruins Fans Should Know & Do Before They Die,’’ Thursday from 12:30-1:30 p.m. at the Barnes & Noble in the Prudential Center . . . The Bruins Alumni squad will take the ice today, 5 p.m., at the New England Sports Center in Marlborough, facing off against the Friends of the Boston Bear Cubs for the benefit of Massachusetts Special Hockey. Admission: $10. Proceeds go to an April 2011 tourney here for Special Hockey International, with 40 teams from the US, Canada, and the United Kingdom . . . Mark Fayne, ex- of Noble & Greenough (’05) and Providence College (’10), is giving the Devils’ blue line a boost after being called up Nov. 22 on an emergency basis when Andy Greene suffered a stinger. Through his first seven games, the Nashua-born Fayne is averaging 15:33 per game . . . Ex-Bruin goalie Andrew Raycroft may never land a No. 1 job again, but in recent years he has made a habit of providing excellent relief. Two years ago, the Razor went 12-16-0 with the Avalanche, followed by last season’s 9-5-1 in Vancouver. Now Kari Lehtonen’s backup in Dallas, the 30-year-old stands an impressive 3-2-0 with a 2.10 goals-against mark and a .935 save percentage . . . The Blues, who continue their pursuit of an investor/owner, also are looking for scoring help. They still don’t have a guy with 10 goals this season. Don’t count out the Bruins retracing their old trade routes . . . Mike Modano, who turned down Boston’s offer to come here post-lockout, remains hopeful that he can return to Detroit’s lineup prior to the playoffs. But it could be all over for Big Mo, who required surgery late last month to repair a severed tendon and nerve damage in his right wrist — all caused by a slice from one of R.J. Umberger’s skate blades. “Good for holding wine — that’s about it,’’ Modano told a Detroit Free Press reporter, flashing his repaired wrist. Modano, 40, is a Hall of Fame lock, with 559 goals and 1,367 points in 1,479 games . . . The so-so Blackhawks will be challenged to remain in the thick of the Western race these next three weeks after losing Patrick Kane to a sprained left ankle. They were already without Marian Hossa. Kane, who missed only two games over his previous three seasons, figures to miss at least eight games . . . Ex-Bruin Bill Guerin announced the inevitable last week, retiring after 856 career points and a couple of Cups, not to mention three Olympic tours with Team USA. Look for him to land a front office job in player development in fairly short order, but don’t rule out a college coaching gig . . . Old pal Larry Brooks, writing in last Sunday’s New York Post, accused Islanders owner Charles Wang of “profound neglect’’ in running his sad sack Isles and suggests that Bettman step in and declare a state of emergency in Uniondale. Perhaps The Commish at the same time can issue an all-points bulletin for John Tavares. A shame that such a great young talent must be lost in such a morass.

Material from interviews, wire services, other beat writers, and league and team sources was used in this report.

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