1) One thing stands out above all regarding Mike Murphy’s performance in goal on Jan. 3 against the Stars: the bigger the game, the better he plays. Based on the big saves he had, I thought he should’ve been the number one star of the game. The Checkers don’t win unless he stands on his head. My other feeling here is that he is just scratching the surface on what he can do this season.
2) With all the call-ups lately to Carolina, the one player overlooked is Nicolas Blanchard. No one is playing better than Blanchard right now in Charlotte. He has six points in his last eight games (3g, 3a). He is playing the best hockey I have ever seen him play in the past few weeks.
3) I think one of the more awkward things to come out of the two stories written about the Team USA selection process between USA Today’s Kevin Allen and ESPN’s Scott Burnside is that Burnside reported all the negative comments by Burke against certain players like Bobby Ryan and Allen didn’t. Two things look bad here: Allen looks like he got scooped and Burnside looks like he went out of his way to throw Burke under the bus. In the final analysis, I think, the experiment of giving the media access to this kind of process is over, which is a shame.
4) In Calgary, the Flames were playing the Canucks when Brian McGrattan laid a huge hit on Andrew Alberts, knocking him out. When Canucks forward Tom Sestito went to fight McGrattan to avenge the hit, Kevin Bieska and Zac Dalpe protected Alberts, who lay on the ice, from the fighters getting too close to Alberts and potentially doing more harm. Dalpe’s first reaction was to protect his injured teammate.
5) Remember this about Eric Staal: he went overseas to the World Championship in the summer and left with a busted ACL. He didn’t get paid to do it. He went there for the love of putting on a Team Canada sweater. Those injuries take an enormous time from which to fully recover, if anyone ever really does. Now, he’s left off Team Canada’s Olympic roster just when he’s starting to look like his former self.
6) Great tweet from Derek Wilkinson about this freezing weather we’re getting in the U.S. “I haven’t seen this many minuses since I played for Tampa.” (note: the 1997-98 Lightning’s top four scorers were -43, -37, -38 and -31)
7) A.J. Jenks played so well in the Texas games that he went from centering the third line to the first line in one period. He was absolutely flying out there for both games. Meanwhile, Matthew Pistilli told me after the Rockford game on Monday that it was only a matter of time before he got a goal. He struck for two against Texas on Saturday and was an offensive threat all night. Second chances don’t happen too often, but those two men have made the most of their opportunities.
8) Credit to goaltender Anton Khudobin, who stepped into the Checkers' crease for back-to-back games in Chicago and Rockford. During the game in Chicago, he was very talkative to his team and in particular his defenseman. He was the consummate professional and, in two games, endeared himself to the club and the staff very quickly.
9) It’s reported that Team Canada head coach Mike Babcock requested four left and four right-shooting defensemen for his team. He must understand the importance of that since the Red Wings' top-six D-men are all left shots.
10) I don’t usually do stuff like this here but a good friend of mine, Mike Rogers, who owns Killingsworth HVAC, is going to give away a brand new Coleman heating and cooling system to a fan by entering a contest. If you go to Killingsworth's Facebook page and post #komfort on their wall, you will have a chance to win.
11) Two games in OKC this weekend. Tune in on ESPN 730, TuneIn Radio and AHLLIVE.com. Both games start at 8 p.m. Eastern Time.