Times columnist Helene Elliott rates the pluses and minuses in the NHL from the last week:
+ In his first start for Florida after being traded by the Vancouver Canucks, goaltender Roberto Luongo stopped 25 shots for the Panthers' first regular-season shutout in nearly two years. Luongo, who played for Florida earlier in his career, found his old Pink Panther-themed mask for just the right note.
+ Ryan Miller is 4-0 since the Blues acquired him from Buffalo last week, helping St. Louis erase the Ducks' once-commanding lead in the West. The Blues' 18-0-1 record against the Central Division is a key factor. They looked to be one player from Stanley Cup contention when the season began and though no one would have guessed Miller would be that player, he's giving them confidence and solid goaltending.
+ It was tribute time in the NHL last week, as the Dallas Stars retired Mike Modano's No. 9 and the Calgary Flames added Joe Nieuwendyk to their "Forever a Flame" honored circle. Well deserved in each case. The Stars provided a nice touch by having other Dallas sports figures participate, including Troy Aikman, Roger Staubach, Dirk Nowitzki and Rolando Blackman.
- The NHL shouldn't have reduced the penalty it imposed against the New Jersey Devils for circumventing the salary cap when they signed since-departed winger Ilya Kovalchuk. The Devils deferred losing a first-round draft pick long enough to regain it on an appeal, and they'll pick 30th in the first round in June. Their fine also was cut. The Devils' ownership has changed since they signed Kovalchuk but that doesn't change the wrongness of what happened.
- Canucks General Manager Mike Gillis waited too long to trade Luongo and the same might prove true of Ryan Kesler. But the decision to keep free-agent-to-be Kesler apparently wasn't Gillis' alone — owner Francesco Acquilini reportedly was heavily involved in trade talks and insisted on too much in return for a rental player. The Canucks are a mess at 2-9-1 in their last 12 and rapidly fading out of the West playoff picture.
- Montreal Canadiens prospect Tim Bozon, son of former NHL player Philippe Bozon, was placed in a medically-induced coma in a Saskatoon hospital while being treated for bacterial meningitis. Tim Bozon, 19, was playing for Kootenay of the Western Hockey League when he fell ill. Best wishes to him and his family.