NHL

KELLEY: Probert's career winding down

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Jim Kelley

 
   
 
AROUND THE BOARDS: Kelley's look at the NHL

All good things ...

It appears the end has arrived for Chicago forward . Once considered the toughest fighter in hockey, attempts to trade Probert — at his request — have gone nowhere, and it appears retirement is the only option. This week, Probert, 37, was told not to practice with the team. A retirement announcement is expected within days. Left to be decided is a settlement on his $600,000 contract and perhaps some role in the organization. We told you two weeks ago it had reached this point, but Probert has had difficulty coming to the conclusion that his career is over. Having been shopped with no takers won't make the decision easier, just more understandable. A secondary issue for Probert is what to do in his after-hockey life. Earlier in his career he had substance abuse problems and at one point was convicted of felony possession of a controlled substance. He's been allowed to remain in the U.S. because of his status as a player, but he would like to remain here in his post-career. Given that he's a Canadian by birth, that's a determination that has to be made by the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service, and it's not a slam-dunk. Credit the with making a difference in getting Probert to turn his life around. The hope here and in the Blackhawk organization is that he becomes a useful member of the front office. A job and a sense of self worth are vitally important for people who have battled substance abuse. Probert appeared in 935 games and amassed 3,300 penalty minutes against 163 goals and 384 points. His 3,300 minutes in penalties rank him fourth on the league's all-time list behind Tiger Williams (3,966), Dale Hunter (3,565) and Marty McSorley (3,381). In his prime he was the most feared fighter in the game, taking on all comers.

A breakthrough

Dallas' went 17 games and 42 shots before scoring his first goal of the season for his new team. It was the second-longest goal-scoring drought of his lengthy career. He breathed a lengthy sigh of relief, but then so did management. They signed him as a free agent (from St. Louis) and expected him to be an immediate success with former linemate . That it didn't happen right away was difficult for both Young and Turgeon. "Mentally, I come into every game positive and looking forward to playing," Young said. "But there's a lot of times I get down thinking about the overall picture of things — how I wanted to come in here with a great start on a new team and establish myself. When you think about it, you get a little depressed because that isn't the way it went."

In case you weren't there

Dallas GM Doug Armstrong has been scouting the Edmonton a lot lately. The talk is that the have an interest in checking center . Buffalo is said to be shopping center . FOXSports.com has heard that Edmonton and Calgary are listening. A deal that would send Brown to the for is a real possibility. There's also talk of an Ottawa-Edmonton swap with Ottawa GM John Muckler hoping to pry tough guy out of Edmonton and the having an interest in defenseman .

Rocky Mountain low

Forget for a while the lousy home record, what's really doing the Colorado in is their lousy special teams play. At one point earlier in the week, the Avs were ranked 30th on the penalty kill. In a 30 team league, well, as the commissioner likes to say, you do the math. Insiders say the Avs have yet to adjust to the loss of on the penalty-killing unit. He went north to Calgary as a part of the deal for .

The frustration level, it's a-rising

Before he tweaked his left knee in a game with Boston Thursday night, New York captain had some sharply tuned words that appeared to indict teammates. "It all starts with accountability," Peca said. "It's the responsibility of each individual to pull from within. I've always felt if you have to motivate someone at this level of hockey than that person shouldn't be playing." Of course Peca didn't name names, but there was a sense in the room that he was referring to teammate . Yashin is the team's most skilled player, but he has long been accused of having something less than a burning desire to win every game. Many watchers feared giving Yashin a long-term contract. While he's not the sole reason the have struggled — see goalie as Exhibit A — his inability to lead in Peca's absence has had an impact on the team. "We just had more of a swagger last year," Peca said. "We were walking around on a daily basis like we couldn't be beat. ... This year it's kind of the reverse. We get off to a bit of a slow start and it's just, we seem to be dragging from Day 1."

Doing the slow Burn(s) in New Jersey

Coach Pat Burns is starting to tinker with his line combinations in hopes of getting more offense out of his defensive-minded club. Make no mistake, Burns insists on solid defensive play, but earlier this week he moved winger to center between and . Elias had been playing wing with center and . Gomez is now on the right wing with Friesen and center . Oddly enough, New Jersey's best line has been centering for and . Burns wants more from his other two units.

One final thought

There's been a hue and cry — mostly from Canadian broadcast booths — about a lack of hitting in the game, as if somehow the rules crackdown has taken physical contact out of the game. Bunk. There hasn't been a whole lot of hitting in the regular season for several seasons now as players seem to save their most intense physical games for the playoffs and nothing but the playoffs. Call it new-age hockey, but sacrificing one's body for the good of the team is old-school and we haven't seen much old-school hockey in the regular season for almost as many years as we've been out of school.
Who's he?
was supposed to be the backup goaltender for the Atlanta this season, but he's making a lot of people forget , thoughts of Byran Dafoe and even Damien Rhodes. Going into Friday's game with Phoenix, the were 4-1-1-0 since their horrid 0-8-0-1 start, and much of that success is because of Nurminen's play in net. The strong play in goal has pushed Hnilicka to the bench, and sources tell FOXSports.com that it's part of the reason general manager Don Waddell hasn't made a formal contract offer to former Boston goalie Byron Dafoe. We told you earlier this season that Waddell had been in contact with Dafoe's agent, but the GM has been hoping his in-house talent would come through. The reason behind that thinking is because there's fear of Dafoe's history of injury and there's the fact that his own players make considerably less than what Dafoe is looking for. Waddell is still paying for his last goalie mistake, which was the signing of former Rhodes from Ottawa. This year, Rhodes will get $2.7 million from the not to play. Nurminen was never thought of as a starter for Atlanta. He was a sixth-round pick, the 189th player taken overall in the 2001 entry draft, but he's been on an upward tick ever since. Last season he led the Chicago Wolves to the Calder Cup championship in the AHL and was named MVP of the playoffs in the process. He also played for Finland in the 2002 Winter Olympics, notching a win against Belarus. Should he play Friday against Phoenix, it will be his eighth consecutive start. Unlike Rhodes, he's making $630,000 this season.
Five things you should know
1. There's growing concern over the wrist injury to Boston left winger . He hurt his wrist in Calgary Oct. 17 and it was thought he'd miss no more than one game. Thursday, he missed his 12th game and it's not clear when he'll be back. The injury is said to be a sprain, but it does not appear to be healing well. Samsonov recently took a cortisone shot in an effort to speed the process. 2. It's ugly in Buffalo. The are 0-6-2 going into Thursday night's home tilt with Toronto. The team then plays Ottawa and the New Jersey . The club record for consecutive games without a win is 12 and the mark for consecutive losses (now at four) is seven. The are 1-9-3 in their last 13. Thursday they put veteran defenseman on waivers. He went unclaimed and now faces the prospect of a trade (where the would eat a part of his $1.5 million salary), reassignment to the minors or retirement. It's possible he could still play again for the at some point this season, but it's unlikely. 3. Carolina's will play is 1,000th NHL game Friday. The opponent is Philadelphia, where Brind'Amour spent a good portion of his career. Brind'Amour has points in 15 of his team's 16 games this season. 4. As of Thursday morning, four Southeast teams were in the top eight in the Eastern Conference, a remarkable turnaround from last season when only one Southeast team made the playoffs and that was by virtue of finishing first in the division. In a further reversal of tradition, only one team, Boston, registered a top-eight position from the Northeast. 5. Dallas's became the 37th player to reach the 1,200-point mark. He did it Tuesday in Montreal, the region of his birth. The former No. 1 overall draft pick (1987) has struggled in recent months, but he appears to be coming around with linemate and, as of Thursday, had a four-game point streak in the works.
Thug Watch
  • As a skilled playmaker and a scorer, Edmonton's doesn't find himself under this heading very often, but he picked up 18 penalty minutes against the earlier in the week and 16 of them were in one period when he went ballistic on game officials. Comrie has 26 PIMs on the season, third highest total on the , who also happen to feature a couple of bruisers.
  • There's been a quiet buzz about Florida's not doing much in the fight game. Sources say it's because of a sprained thumb. He's had three fights this season and none since Oct. 24 when he is said to have hurt the thumb in a fight with New York defenseman .
  • In the next 48 hours
  • The Detroit are looking to sign an unrestricted free agent defenseman rather than give up a rostered player in a trade now that defenseman is lost for the season. That would put former D'man Steve Duchesne on the front burner. Watch for a signing soon.
  • It might take a tad longer than 48 hours, but look for Theo Fleury to accompany the Chicago on an up-coming seven-game road trip that starts Tuesday in Edmonton. The tip off is that the Hawks sent to the minors this week, clearing some room on the roster.
  • 's next point will be his 1,000th, making him just the fifth American-born player to reach that milestone.
  • F.Y.I.
    It's gone largely unnoticed, but goalie has been getting more starts than No. 1 for Nashville of late. Vokoun started Thursday night against Colorado and has started four of the last six heading into the weekend. Dunham was a goalie for Team USA in the Olympics and has long been the glue holding the Preds together. Lately, however, Vokoun has had the better stats.
    Jim Kelley can be reached at his e-mail address: jkelley@foxsports.com.
    Tagged: Bruins, Sabres, Flames, Blackhawks, Red Wings, Oilers, Hurricanes, Stars, Devils, Islanders, Senators, Avalanche, Blues, Panthers, Predators, Jets, Sergei Samsonov, Jason Woolley, Curtis Brown, Marc Savard, Derek Morris, Jiri Fischer, Todd Marchant, Georges Laraque, Mike Comrie, Rod Brind'Amour, Mike Modano, Jamie Langenbrunner, Joe Nieuwendyk, Pierre Turgeon, Patrik Elias, Jay Pandolfo, John Madden, Alexei Yashin, Eric Cairns, Chris Phillips, Stephane Yelle, Jeff Friesen, Mike Dunham, Tomas Vokoun, Michael Peca, Brian Gionta, Scott Gomez

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