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Ex-Lightning stars fizzling in Chicago

By TOM JONES
Published November 13, 2005


The Chicago Blackhawks must be wondering how in the world the Lightning won the Stanley Cup in 2004.

Two of their biggest acquisitions since the night the Lightning won the Cup were two players who drank champagne from the Cup. And both have been major disappointments.

Goalie Nikolai Khabibulin's struggles have been well-documented. He has started to come around a little of late, but he still was 4-9 with a 3.83 goals-against average entering the weekend.

Then there's defenseman Jassen Cullimore. The Hawks are paying Cullimore $1.8-million a year to play. Actually, they paid him last week not to play. Cullimore was a healthy scratch Nov. 6.

"I guess they're frustrated with my play just like I am," Cullimore said. "I'll be the first one to admit I have to play better."

Two days before, Cullimore was on a penalty-killing unit that allowed three power-play goals in a gruesome 9-1 loss to Dallas.

"Obviously he's a big part of the team in terms of his role on the team penalty-killing," coach Trent Yawney said. "Statistics like goals and assists, I don't think that's how he's judged. He's judged more by wins and losses. We need him to play better, he knows he can play better and I fully expect him to play better."

BLACK AND BLUE JACKETS: This just isn't the Blue Jackets' year. Defenseman Rostislav Klesa missed the first 12 games with a leg fracture and now will be out at least a month after breaking his hand in a fight. Meanwhile, super scorer Rick Nash played only one of the first 12 games because of an ankle sprain and is expected to miss at least a month with a knee injury. GM Doug MacLean is talking trade and wants a No. 1 center.

"I've talked to a half-dozen teams in the last 24 hours," MacLean said. "I can make a deal, but for what? Depth guys? I've got depth guys in (minor-league) Syracuse. If I'm going to do a deal it's going to be a big one."

LET'S REVIEW: The league was caught off guard last week when referee Dennis LaRue wanted to use video replay to review whether the Kings' Jeremy Roenick hit a puck twice during a shootout. Turns out, video replay is not available for shootouts.

"This is one of those things that slipped through the cracks when we put the shootout in," said Mike Murphy, the NHL vice president of operations. "You knew there would be problems, but you weren't sure where."

Look for the league to get on the case and eventually use replay for shootouts.

"I think something will definitely change during the season," Murphy said. "It's just how fast it can get done, that's all."

FEELING MINNESOTA: What is it with the Twin Cities? Just a few weeks after the Minnesota Vikings had a controversial boat party, a local television station caught a bunch of University of Minnesota hockey players drinking at a bar called "Dinkytown." One was Kris Chucko, who is 19 (the drinking age in Minnesota is 21) and was the Flames' No. 1 pick in 2004.

COMING BACK: Here's a good example of how the new rules have helped scoring. Nashville's 5-3 win Thursday gave it a 5-2 record when trailing after two periods. In 2003-04, Nashville was 5-22-3 when trailing after two.

BLUELINER BLUES: What's up with Calgary's Jordan Leopold? He's one of the better offensive defensemen in the NHL, the league has new rules, and yet Leopold had no goals and, oddly, no assists in the first 18 games.

"Sometimes, you hope for them, but you can't hope and wish," said Leopold, who had 33 points in 2003-04. "You have to go out there and make things happen, too. I just haven't found myself on the score sheet yet."

ICE CHIPS: Why does Caps rookie Alex Ovechkin wear No. 8? It was the number his mother, Tatiana, wore while helping the Russians win Olympic gold medals in basketball in 1976 and 1980. ... Ottawa's Vaclav Varada, who is playing just slightly more than seven minutes a game, is so upset that his agent, Ritch Winter, had a sit-down with Sens GM John Muckler. But don't look for anything to change. ... Edmonton goalie Ty Conklin came down with a sore groin on a conditioning stint in the minors and no one knows when he will return. The Oilers have considered swinging a deal for Buffalo's Martin Biron. ... Phoenix goalie Brian Boucher, who has been out with a groin injury since the first preseason game, might need surgery to clear out scar tissue.

Information from the Arlington Heights (Ill.) Daily Herald, Columbus Dispatch, the Tennessean and Calgary Herald was used in this report.