Here are your Morning Puck Headlines: A glorious collection of news and views collected from the greatest blogosphere in sports and the few, the proud, the mainstream hockey media.
• The Chicago Blackhawks have won nine in a row. Mikko Koivu is incredibly unimpressed: "Nine wins in a row shows something about their team. But they aren't that good." Clear some space on the locker room bulletin board for the next time the Hawks meet the Minnesota Wild. [Second City Hockey]
• "Russian investigators said Monday that Alexei Cherepanov, the New York Rangers prospect who died this fall, had been blood doping for months." You'd figure after the video and the negligence and the incredible global mourning for this kid, that it couldn't get any more depressing. And then it does. [CBC Sports]
• What's Russian for "imitation is the sincerest form of flattery?" [Capitals Insider]
• Marty St. Louis still sounds slightly agitated about the Tampa Bay Lightning's season: "It's plain and simple .... there's not enough guys that want to make a difference, they're clock killers, that's all it is. I'm (expletive deleted) fed up. I don't think there's enough guys who really want to win. Yeah, we say the right things, but (expletive deleted) that." [Canada.com]
• Fighting is up 75 percent over three seasons ago, and Razor thinks he knows why. (Hint: It has something to do with more brawlers on the fourth line and the rather discouraging trend of quick fights after clean hits.) [Razor With an Edge]
• Speaking of fights: Bossier-Shreveport Mudbugs and the Corpus Christi IceRays had themselves a donnybrook late in the third period that produced nearly 300 penalty minutes. Including a few for this goalie fight (video). [NWLA News]
• The good news? The Islanders enjoyed a three-point weekend, Bill Guerin became the eighth U.S.-born player to hit the 400-goal plateau and Kyle Okposo had his first multi-point game. The bad news? Rick DiPietro is now battling a strained groin, and three points is three points farther away from John Tavares. [Islanders Outsider]
• From George James Malik, on HNIC's Hot Stove panel: "Mike Milbury suggested that the NHLPA doesn't particularly dig the concept of taking 8 teams to Europe as the PA wants a cut of the revenues, and Gary Bettman and Paul Kelly will apparently meet at the World Junior Championships to try and hash out the issue--and the PA deserves its 55-or-so percent of all hockey-related revenues." [Snapshots]
• Allaying your fears about Winter Classic ice is NHL ice guru Dan Craig, who's set to complete the painting process and said the game could be played tonight the ice is so darn good. [NHL]
• Matt Romig sent over this amazing photo tour from Road Wolf of the Buffalo Sabres' former home, The Aud. He also said that breaking into the old barn is something of an unofficial pastime in Buffalo, as this other photo tour of the arena shows. Great stuff.
• Really interesting observation from Columbus Blue Jackets Coach Ken Hitchcock regarding this team's offense: The Jackets have to "quit dreaming that the center is the playmaker" on a line, when all he needs to be is the "worker." Is that a function of seeing his top offensive center (Derick Brassard) lost for the season, and the team's inability to acquire a legit pivot for Rick Nash? Or is that Hitchcock saying to players like Rick Nash, "You're too good to have the lack of a true star center be an excuse"? [Puck-rakers]
• Bruce "Malkin to the Kings" Garrioch believes that salary cap concerns, and the Philadelphia Flyers' success, could keep Daniel Briere on the sidelines longer than his injuries would warrant. [Ottawa Sun]
• Finally, Eric McErlain asks if this recent tilt between minor league fighting legends John Mirasty and Jeremy Yablonski is the fight of the year. We have a feeling it may have been staged. [Sporting Blog]