Afternoon from Edmonton, where they could use a little help from MNDot just like Nashville and Atlanta could last week.
This is a wintry climate, but it's like they've got no plows in this town! I'll tell you what, when you travel as much as I do during the winter, you realize how good we've got it in Minnesota. OK, one ice storm being the exception.
Anton "The Dreidel" Khudobin getting his third straight start tonight vs. the Oilers. Khudobin is coming off a 32-save shutout over Vancouver, starts on the road for the first time in his NHL career and plays the Oil for the first time since his first career victory against them last year.
Remember, Feb. 4, 2010, Josh Harding dives across the crease to make a spectacular save to rob J-F Jacques. He doesn't get up. Khudobin enters in a 2-2 game, Guillaume Latendresse scores two minutes later, then Marty Havlat makes it 4-2 with about 2 1/2 minutes left.
Khudobin stops 9 shots on 9 attempts in 9 minutes, 33 seconds of work for the shortest amount of time in history to record a first career NHL win.
Lots more talk this morning about Khudobin's unorthodox style. That'll be the notebook lead in tomorrow's paper. Goalie coach Bob Mason is working on Khudobin being quieter in net, but hey, Khudobin basically taught himself the position. He was a defenseman until age 10, so not a shocker that he looks a bit different than most goalies. But Dominik Hasek was a bit unorthodox, and as Jose Theodore was telling me today, so's Tim Thomas.
Niklas Backstrom is feeling real good and the plan is for Backstrom to make his first start since Dec. 31 tomorrow night in Calgary in the second of a back-to-back. Backstrom had a hip injury.
Theodore, also out with a hip injury, confirmed I saw correctly in Boston. He hurt his hip on a third-period save before a TV timeout in Boston, felt it a little in his shutout in Pittsburgh, but wanted to play against Dallas. He said he felt OK, then really felt sore during the morning skate in Nashville. He said he should have spoke up then but didn't want to put the team in a bad position. In hindsight, he said he should have not played because he felt he hurt the team with his lack of sharpness.
Theodore pushed it a little more today, is feeling better but said he needs one real good practice still. He'll push it a little more tomorrow in Calgary at the, I'm sure, optional morning skate. Thursday is a travel day only to San Jose, so his first real practice will come Friday in San Jose.
Same lineup tonight against the Oilers. Cody Almond, recalled yesterday, will be scratched. Jared Spurgeon, who hails from West Edmonton, will play his first game at the Rex. His parents sent him a list of people coming tonight, and it's a ton.
Spurgeon continues to be a marvel. He's 5-foot nothing yet never embarrasses himself on the ice, is supremely smart, moves the puck well and just absorbs hits to make plays. The best example was in the corner against Vancouver when Spurgeon courageously goes into the corner, looks over his shoulder, sees Ryan Kesler flying in, hugs the boards perfectly, takes the hit, Kesler bounces like four feet right and Spurgeon, unaffected, skates out with the puck.
It's amazing frankly. But he's learned how to survive being so undersized.
I'm looking forward to seeing Pierre-Marc Bouchard tonight. It's his first game at Edmonton, and he's an Oilers killer. His 29 points in 34 games and plus-9 against Edmonton is his best numbers vs. any opponent.
Oilers are struggling. They've lost 11 of 13 and are 0 for 38 on the power play the past 11 games. Kurtis Foster, who missed the last game with an ugly foot injury, will play tonight.
Couple other little things:
San Jose's Scott Nichol has been suspended four games for an elbow in Phoenix, so he won't play vs. the Wild on Saturday. The Sharks traded for Ben Eager today and snagged Kyle Wellwood off waivers after St. Louis signed him out of the KHL, so new look team when the Wild goes to San Jose. The Blues have negotiated contracts with Marek Svatos (Nashville) and now Wellwood, and neither made it through waivers. The Blues should start a business negotiating contracts for other teams.
"Russo Radio" will be tonight at 6 on 1500 ESPN. I see I've got a ton of questions on the blog for my "Ask Mike" Sunday Insider. I'll go through them, but because of space constraints, I can't answer all, so maybe I'll do an "Ask Mike" Extra blog Sunday.
Lastly, remember, the NHL Draft is coming to Minnesota in June. The Central Scouting Service put out their midseason rankings the other day. They can be found on NHL.com. TSN's Bob McKenzie also did a great one on www.tsn.ca/nhl, so check that out.
Like several scouts, assistant GM Brent Flahr will be in Toronto for the CHL 2011 Draft-eligible prospect game. You too can play scout. The game will be on the NHL Network on tape delay on Thursday at 1 p.m. CT.
The 20-man rosters for the CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game were chosen by NHL General Managers and the NHL's Central Scouting Bureau and include 18 players from the Ontario Hockey League, 13 from the Western
Hockey League, and nine from the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League.
22 of the top-ranked 30 skaters by CSS will participate in the game including eight of the top 10. Among them are No. 2-ranked C Sean Couturier of the Drummondville Voltigeurs, No. 3 C Ryan Nugent-Hopkins of the Red Deer Rebels and No. 4 C Jonathan Huberdeau of the Saint John Sea Dogs. Number-one ranked LW Gabriel Landeskog of the Kitchener Rangers will not participate in the game due to injury.
There are five U.S.-trained players that have been selected to play in the game -- Brandon Saad of the Saginaw Spirit from Gibsonia, PA, the eighth-ranked North American skater; Shane Prince, Ottawa 67s (ranked 35th
from Rochester, NY); Colin Jacobs, Seattle Thunderbirds (ranked 40th from Coppell, TX), Vincent Trochek, Saginaw Spirit (ranked 42nd from Pittsburgh, PA) and Shane McColgan, Kelowna Rockets (ranked 102nd from Torrance, CA).
The game also features players from nine countries outside of North America. No. 2 goalie Christopher Gibson (Finland), No. 8 goalie David Honzik (Czech Republic), No. 24 Tomas Jurco (Slovakia), No. 20 Nicklas
Jensen (Denmark), No. 34 Rickard Rakell (Sweden), No. 74 Tobias Rieder (Germany), No. 17 Vladislav Namestnikov (Russia), No. 6 Sven Baertschi (Switzerland), No. 39 Xavier Ouellet (France).