Hall of Fame takes center stage

Monday, 03.11.2008 / 4:38 PM / Features
By Mike G. Morreale
Toronto will be buzzing this weekend in anticipation of the Hockey Hall of Fame weekend, capped of by Monday's induction ceremony.

Hall of Fame weekend kicks off Friday with the unveiling of a Montreal Canadiens Centennial, which features showcases, multi-media displays and a replica Canadiens dressing room.

On Saturday, the Northeast Division-leading Canadiens visit Air Canada Centre to face-off against the fourth-place Maple Leafs at 7 p.m. ET in the Hall of Fame Game. The Canadiens scored a 6-1 victory on Oct. 11 at ACC behind Alex Tanguay's 4-point night.

The annual Legends Classic, which will feature former Canadiens' captains Yvan Cournoyer, Vincent Damphousse and Kirk Muller, will be played at 2 p.m. ET Sunday at ACC. There will be 18 Hockey Hall of Fame participating. Prior to the opening faceoff, 2008 HHOF inductees Igor Larionov, Glenn Anderson, Ray Scapinello and those representing the late Ed Chynoweth will be presented their member blazers.

It will sure be a weekend of nostalgia and intense hockey. Check back to NHL.com for extensive coverage of the weekend's festivities.

California dreaming - A Pacific Division showdown will commence in Los Angeles Tuesday when the Kings host the Anaheim Ducks.

It is the second meeting this season. The Kings scored a 6-3 victory, their first of the season, Oct. 14.

Los Angeles has been led on offense by Anze Kopitar, Dustin Brown and Alexander Frolov, who share the team lead with 7 points apiece through 10 games. On Wednesday, Kings coach Terry Murray shook up the line combinations, returning Patrick O’Sullivan to the top unit with Brown and Kopitar.

"I want to give (O'Sullivan) a better opportunity to play with those guys more on a regular basis," Murray said. "He is out there on the power play, but I want to see how it all goes with the 5-on-5 play. He was out there last year and had great success. Let’s bring it together and see where this thing goes. I'm hoping it brings his best out."

The Ducks, who opened the season 0-4 after posting back-to-back 100-point seasons and a Stanley Cup title in 2007, are currently second in the Pacific behind the play of forwards Corey Perry (14 points), Ryan Getzlaf (12 points) and Teemu Selanne (11 points) and defenseman Chris Pronger (10 points).

Election Day hockey - Tuesday is Election Day in the United States and the NHL will be busy too with 7 games on the schedule.

The Rangers host the Islanders and are meeting for the second time in 9 days. The Rangers, still stinging a bit after Saturday's 5-2 loss to Toronto, defeated the Isles, 4-2, Oct. 27 behind Chris Drury's 2 goals and Henrik Lundqvist's 28 saves. Through 14 games, the Rangers (10-3-1) are tops in the NHL with 21 points.

On Friday, the Islanders received bad news, learning goalie Rick DiPietro would be sidelined 4-6 weeks following recent arthroscopic knee surgery. That leaves the burden on Joey MacDonald (2-4-1, 3.42 GAA, .890 save percentage), who made 35 saves in the previous loss to the Rangers, and Yann Danis (0-1-0, 5.08 GAA, .844 save percentage). The Islanders are winless in 6 (0-5-1).

Come on down - The longest running show in television history, The Price Is Right, welcomes 4 Los Angeles Kings Wednesday as part of a hockey-themed showcase.

CBS's Emmy Award-winning show, hosted by Drew Carey, will feature Dustin Brown, Derek Armstrong, Kyle Calder and Denis Gauthier from 11-12 p.m. ET. Produced by FremantleMedia North America, The Price Is Right is broadcast weekdays on the CBS Television Network.

Look for 35-year-old Armstrong, the elder statesman of the quartet, to make life miserable for youngest member, 23-year-old Brown.

"I'm going to try and embarrass Brownie (Dustin Brown) because he's such a wonderful young gentleman," Armstrong said. "He's quiet and I'm going to try and do everything I can to embarrass him on the show."

No Jok-inen around -- Olli Jokinen, who made headlines when he was traded by Florida to Phoenix at the 2008 Entry Draft, will welcome his former employer to Jobing.com Arena Saturday.

Jokinen was acquired by Phoenix for defensemen Keith Ballard, Nick Boynton and a second-round pick (Jared Staal) in the 2008 Entry Draft.

Jokinen, 29, scored 34 goals, 71 points and 67 penalty minutes in 82 games with the Panthers last season. He led the team in goals (34), assists (37), points (71), power-play goals (18) and shots (341) and was third in the NHL in power-play goals and shots.

The addition of Jokinen has certainly taken some of the pressure off 31-year-old captain Shane Doan.

"Bringing Jokinen on board has really taken a lot of pressure off Shane, not only on the ice, but in the locker room, too," Phoenix coach Wayne Gretzky told coyotes.com. "Olli is a real strong, will-powered guy that works hard every day. And he wants to win and be successful and I think that’s taken a little bit of pressure off of Shane, and they work well together."

Jokinen and Doan are actually tied for the team scoring lead with 10 points apiece through 9 games. Doan has a team-leading 6 goals and Jokinen leads the club with 6 assists. The duo plays on the top line alongside enforcer Todd Fedoruk.

Homer Hawks - The Chicago Blackhawks (5-3-3, 13 points) begin a stretch of 5 straight home games Monday against Colorado.

"We're a young team and we need to learn each and every practice," said Chicago coach Joel Quenneville. "I think we should emphasize the importance of playing at home and playing well. We want to be consistent with our team game and really take advantage of the crowd and their enthusiasm."

Following Monday's game with the Avs, the Blackhawks will play the Calgary Flames, Boston Bruins, St. Louis Blues and San Jose Sharks before a six-game road swing from Nov. 18 through Nov. 29.

One of the hot topics in Chicago of late has been the play of 5-foot-10, 180-pound Kris Versteeg, who plays on the top line with Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews. Through 11 games, Versteeg has 2 goals and 10 points to lead all NHL rookies this season.

"He kind of reminds me of myself a little bit in the way he plays," Kane told the Chicago Tribune. "He wasn't a highly touted rookie, but he has proven everyone wrong and he has proven he belongs in the NHL. It would be awesome to see back-to-back rookie of the years." Kane earned the Calder Trophy as the League's top rookie in 2007-08.

The 22-year-old Versteeg made the Hawks’ roster with a strong training camp and has combined with Kane and Toews to produce over 30 points while working on the club's top line.

"I'm just trying to play hard every game and trying not to think about the stats or the (rookie) scoring race too much," Versteeg said. "I think the chemistry on our line has been good; it's easy playing with Kaner and Toey. Toews gives you a 100-percent workout at both ends of the zone and he'll get you the puck in either end.

"Kane is unbelievable at both ends and will give you a pass when you least expect it, so you have to really be on your toes," Versteeg said. "It doesn't matter what any other rookie does in the League this year since I just want to go out, work hard every game and help put some wins on the board."

"He's been great," Toews said. "You could tell he was excited right out of training camp; I remember when I first came in how excited I was. He's making an impact and whether he plays on the top line or not, he'll continue to make things happen out there."

Air time - Don't forget, the NHL Hour With Commissioner Gary Bettman and co-host Bill Clement airs every Thursday from 4-5 p.m. ET throughout the season on NHL Home Ice (XM Channel 204 and Sirius Channel 208).

The show encourages fans to submit questions via phone and email. To submit questions to NHL Hour call 1-877-645-6696 or email nhlhour@nhl.com. The archived shows of The NHL Hour, a production of NHL Radio, are available for download on NHL.com via a podcast.