Slap Shots: Never saw it coming

By Damian Cristodero, Times Staff Writer
Published February 10, 2008

Rick Wamsley was like a lot of people in July 2006 when the Lightning acquired goaltender Marc Denis from the Blue Jackets.

"I thought it was a good trade from Tampa Bay's point of view," he said.

Like a lot of people, Wamsley was wrong.

The difference is, Wamsley was Columbus' goaltenders coach. Now with the Blues, he said he is surprised things did not work out for Denis, who was demoted this season to AHL Norfolk.

Wamsley said Denis might have been done in by, of all things, less work during games.

"Let's put it this way," Wamsley said before last week's matchup against the Lightning. "At Columbus, we got our goalies into the game early."

No matter what problems Tampa Bay is having defensively, it generally does not allow tons of shots. Even this season, it averages a modest 27.7. Last season, Denis saw an average 24.2 compared with 30 in five seasons with Columbus.

"So there's a little more having to stand around longer before making a big save," Wamsley said. "You don't get a lot of fluff to keep you busy.

"It separates guys. It's a different game. Everybody can play on a team that gives up a lot of shots. What separates the really good ones is the ability to stand around for 12 minutes and then make a big save."

Wamsley said Denis, 4-7-1 with a 2.92 goals-against average and .894 save percentage in 12 games for Norfolk entering Saturday, will be better for the experience.

"Sometimes, you have to go through that to make sure the mind is working right," he said. "He's been a good professional his whole career. Once the game starts, he will give the best effort he has that night."

Off the glass

After the shot of Flames defenseman Dion Phaneuf broke two panes of Plexiglas in one period during a recent game against the Wild, the Calgary Herald sought out Phaneuf's parents to see if he was as destructive at home.

"Oh, yes," Phaneuf's father, Paul, said. "He took out my basement windows several times."

Mom Amber: "Lots of accidents. We couldn't afford to keep replacing the glass. And the lights; how many lights did he put out, Paul?

"Each and every one," Paul said, and added, "He put tennis balls through my garage door, and that's kind of a tough thing to do. And he took the window out of the front door, the lower pane. He fired an I-don't-know-what-it-is."

Windy city

With about two minutes left in Tuesday's game between the Predators and Hurricanes, the public address announcer at Nashville's Sommet Center told fans of a tornado warning.

The weather system threatening the city would produce 68 tornadoes in the Southeast and kill at least 55 people. Nashville was spared, but there were some nervous moments.

"I actually got a bit of a heads-up from the referees, who came over and said they may have to stall the game or go into a holding pattern as this thing got closer," Predators coach Barry Trotz said before Thursday's game with the Lightning. "It kind of settled in with the players what was going on.

"Fortunately, everybody's wives and kids were here in the building, which was probably the safest place they could have been. I guess it was fitting the Hurricanes were in here that night. Thankfully, we had it under control and no one got hurt in here."

Odds and ends

The Maple Leafs followed Tuesday's 8-0 loss to the Panthers with a 4-2 victory over the Canadiens on Thursday. Coach Paul Maurice improved to 8-2-1 in games after losses of at least five goals. ... In the newest episode of The Feudin' Senators, goalie Ray Emery and enforcer Chris Neil had to be separated at a recent practice. ... Wild defenseman Brent Burns' fifth tattoo honored one of his heroes, cancer survivor Lance Armstrong.

He said it

"It's too bad. It'll happen again sometime, hopefully sooner than later. I'll still put it on my highlight tape. I'll just mute the whistle."

Wild enforcer Derek Boogaard, who hasn't scored in 105 games, after a recent goal was disallowed because of offsides