|AP Photo NYDD108|
|Written by Admin|
|Friday, 04 January 2008 20:16|
After watching the Buffalo Sabres and Pittsburgh Penguins play in the snow, the potential sites for the next outdoor game are limitless.
How about a winter farewell to New York's Yankee Stadium or Shea Stadium, which both have one baseball season left before they are replaced by new digs.
The Rangers could play the local Islanders or New Jersey Devils, or even the Bruins in a new chapter of the New York-Boston rivalry on the field where Joe DiMaggio and Ted Williams faced off.
There has already been some buzz that the Penguins might face the Philadelphia Flyers in an all-Pennsylvania showdown in Happy Valley, right on the field where Joe Paterno has roamed the Penn State football sideline for decades.
Or maybe in Michigan. Detroit has apparently lost the title of ``Hockeytown,'' but the Red Wings could look to create a new one in Ann Arbor at the Big House.
Just think if the rival Colorado Avalanche came there, or even the Chicago Blackhawks in what would be a compelling Original Six matchup.
``It was great. It was fun to watch,'' Avalanche coach Joel Quenneville said of Pittsburgh's 2-1 shootout win over Buffalo at Ralph Wilson Stadium. ``It brings back old-time memories, when you're out there skating and get hit with a snowflake in the eye while in the backyard, around the lake.''
The NHL has pulled off the event twice in the regular season, and drew a league-record crowd for the New Year's Day matchup this week. Ratings were up, too, and when was the last time hockey could claim that?
If it'll play in Buffalo, how about a Montreal-Toronto matchup with the roof open at the former SkyDome?
``If we played outdoor every game, it would be neat,'' Sabres forward Jason Pominville said. ``It takes a lot of preparation, but if we can do it once a year, I don't see why we couldn't do it every year.''
COYOTES HOWL: Wayne Gretzky is still enjoying his time behind the bench three seasons into his coaching stint with the Phoenix Coyotes.
He is also still looking for his first playoff appearance in the desert.
Entering the weekend, the Coyotes sat in 11th place in the Western Conference, three spots and four points below the postseason cutoff.
``We really like what we've done to this point and time,'' Gretzky said. ``We've got a long way to go, and we're the first team to realize that. We knew we were going to play a lot of our young guys ... we didn't anticipate or expect at this point in time in the season they'd play the minutes they're playing and they would progress at the level and pace they've progressed at.
``We're getting good production and our veteran players have been tremendous with our young guys.''
Even though the Coyotes are fourth in the five-team Pacific Division, they are over .500 (20-18-1). Phoenix hasn't posted a winning record since going 40-27-9-6 in the 2001-02 season, the last time the Coyotes made the playoffs. Gretzky, already the Coyotes' managing partner, took over as coach in August 2005 after the NHL lockout ended
``I like it a lot,'' he said. ``First and foremost, I've got a really good staff - all work endlessly and put in a lot of good hours. ... We're finally four weeks away from Rick Tocchet coming back and that will be a big boost for our team.
``It's been a real pleasure to coach the younger kids. Their eyes are wide open. They want to get better and love competing. It's a nice atmosphere to be around.''
D.P.'s PADS: Rick DiPietro thought he had taken all the necessary steps before wearing his new bright-white pads, then the NHL stepped in and told him to take them off.
They were delivered shortly before the New York Islanders netminder injured his knee and missed three games. He returned to the lineup Thursday night, and felt comfortable using the new pads.
He tested them out in warmups and had them on through a scoreless first period against the Florida Panthers. When he came out for the second, he was wearing the familiar ones painted in Islanders blue and orange.
Florida touched him for three goals in that period, but DiPietro didn't blame the equipment.
``It would have been nice to wear the same set of pads the entire game, but that's how things happen and you have to live with it,'' he said.
All goalie equipment must be inspected and approved by the NHL before it can be used in a game. DiPietro said his pads usually are cleared before he receives them, and had no reason to believe the new set hadn't been.
``I thought we did the right thing,'' DiPietro said. ``Once we found out after the warmup that they hadn't been approved, we called and let them know and measured them and made sure they were legal. Everything measured out fine. It's their call.
``I'm not trying to sneak anything by anybody. It was a new set of pads. The ones I had been wearing had been broken down. I wanted to get a new set and it just got to the point where I could wear them in a game. I decided to go with them and unfortunately they turned out that way.''
CULLIMORE CLICKS: Jassen Cullimore is anything but an offensive go-to guy for the Florida Panthers.
However, 25 games into his first season with the Panthers, the defenseman with 13 seasons of NHL experience came through.
Cullimore scored 1:33 into overtime on Thursday night to lift Florida to victory on Long Island. That goal gave him 22 career goals in 668 NHL games, but seven of his tallies have been game-winners.
``I make them count, don't I,'' he said.
Cullimore, signed by the Panthers in October after he was released a month earlier by Detroit, had no goals and three assists in his first 24 games this season. In stints with Vancouver, Montreal, Tampa Bay and Chicago, the 35-year-old Ontario native has never had more than five goals and 17 points in a season.
So imagine the surprise and uncertainty felt by him and his teammates as his latest winning goal clanged as it entered the net.
``I didn't really see it. I just put my head down and shot the puck. I was hoping I'd hit the net and luckily I did. At first I thought it hit the post and came out,'' he said. ``I was wondering why it took the guys five minutes to come out and celebrate. I think they thought I shot it over the glass or something.''
He didn't, and he was presented with a blue cape in the dressing room for his heroics.
``I didn't know what to do for a minute,'' said backup goalie Craig Anderson, who earned his first win of the season when Cullimore scored. ``I didn't even know it was in. The last thing I want to do is skate down there and have them come down and shoot on an empty net.''
The goal also gave Panthers coach Jacques Martin his 498th career victory, moving him ahead of Glen Sather into 10th place on the NHL list.
AP Sports Writer Pat Graham contributed to this report.