News for Wednesday, January 2nd: Montreal Winter Classic?, Locke back in Hamilton, Hickey's State of the Union

The Pittsburgh Penguins won the second staging of the NHL Winter Classic, played outdoors in front of over 70,000 fans in Buffalo, New York. It was a dramatic shoot-out win, and in a lucky stroke for the NHL, which had the game carried on NBC in the US, the winning goal came off the stick of Sidney Crosby, the NHL's anointed poster boy. By all accounts, the game was exciting and successful, so much so that we may see more than one Winter Classic next year, with the Globe and Mail identifying the Montreal Canadiens as just one of several teams interested in hosting their own outdoor game next year.

Can't win for losing: after missing out on a chance to make his NHL debut when his hockey bag was lost by an airline, Corey Locke has been reassigned to Hamilton of the AHL. He was to have filled in for flu-stricken captain Saku Koivu in New York the other night. Apparently he's better.

Although it barely mentions the Montreal Canadiens (a passing reference while relaying how the Leafs once again failed to make the playoffs last year) you might want to check out this hockey year in review from the National Post. A few interesting highlights worth redigesting.

Pat Hickey has a New Year's look at the Habs and where they stand. He begins by heaping praise on winger Alexei Kovalev, the eternal enigma who this year has provided surprising consistency, hard work, and offensive production. He already has 16 goals, just 2 fewer than he scored all last year. Moreover, as Hickey notes, he has served as a mentor and role model for the Habs' young team (half the starting squad is 25 or younger), especially the young, offensively-gifted Europeans: Markov, Plecanek, the Kostitsyns. Hickey observes that the Habs have exceeded expectations by landing themsleves in 4th place in the East, with 45 points after 39 games. On the other hand, he cautions, at this point last year the Habs had 51 points, before self-destructing to eventually miss the playoffs. Saku Koivu has the flu at the moment, by the way: deja vu, anyone? Anyway, read the rest of the article for well-deserved praise of Andrei Kostitsyn, Mike Komisarek, Chris Higgins, and the Canadiens' road record. Now if they could just start winning at home ...

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