* The laugh will be on those who mock the Rangers acquisition of Dan Carcillo. How about this; Carcillo becomes the Blueshirts latter-day Sean Avery; just enough sklll and a good dose of excitement.

* In two weeks Carcillo will be one of the most popular Seventh Avenue skaters.

* They won't say it publicly but there are plenty of sensible NHL types who wonder why the Players' Association doesn't do a heckuva lot more to protect its card-holders.

* Or, as one NHL man on Sixth Avenue puts it, "The PA is supposed to protect its players. Instead it protects those who inflict the damage. It's stupid."

* With Mikko Koivu out a month with ankle surgery, you have to wonder who Chuck Fletcher will seek as a replacement. How about Mike Cammalleri for a top offensive prospect.

* If you feel like a name to reckon with who's still skating under the radar, how about Anaheim,'s Nick Bonino.

* Writers to read (in alphabetical order) because -- whether you like them or not -- they are must reading. Jim (Edmonton Journal) Matheson, Tony (Vancouver Province) Gallagher, Damien (Toronto Star) Cox, Dave (Montreal Gazette) Stubbs, Kevin Paul (Boston Globe) Dupont, Larry (New York Post) Brooks, Steve (Toronto Sun) Simmons, Bruce (Ottawa Sun) Garrioch, Tom (Bergen Record) Gullitti and Mark (Sportsnet.ca) Spector.  (More next time.)

* Leaving Joe Thornton off Team Canada makes about as much sense as Team USA dismissing Kyle Okposo.

* With all the fuss and fanfare inspired by the Winter Classic, not enough kudos went the way of Red Wings owners Mike and Marian Ilitch, who helped as much as anyone to turn the WC into the best-ever NHL outdoor extravaganza.

* Sergei Bobrovsky will help his club get back into the playoff race; he also should be the starter for Russia at the Olympics.

* After Steven Stamkos broke his leg, the Lightning survived by changing to a more defensive style. Once Stamkos returns I expect the Lightning to become a serious threat in the Eastern Conference. Their Head Coach Jon Cooper has won at every level and continues to succeed in The Show.

* Having four officials on the ice simply is one too many.

* Figure it out; ten skaters plus four zebras means that the officials have little room to get in and out of the players' way.

* There has to be a better way to un-clog the ice. The best way would be to employ two refs and one linesman. One ref would also be back-up linesman.

* If the outdoor game works in Southern California, can Tampa Bay be far behind in demanding one for Florida?

* The Maple Leafs free-fall has the makings of a take-me-out-of-the-playoffs tailspin.

* Credit Seth Jones with proving that his leap-frog to the NHL was a wise David Poile move.

* If the bromide "Speed Kills" has merit, then the Oilers whiz kids sure are rushing Edmonton out of a playoff berth.

* Four players who got jobbed by their Olympic Selection Committees: 1. Andy Greene; 2. Kyle Okposo; 3. Joe Thornton; 4. Marty St.Louis.