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Though I agree with Chris Pronger in questioning the practicalities of the NHL expanding to Europe anytime in the next decade, there's no questioning that the league was right to take a chance, embrace the idea of a spectacle and begin its season in a major world hub such as London.

The Kings and Ducks both did their parts, providing an up-tempo, end-to-end style of play for most of the two games. The officials also chipped in, calling enough penalties (30 in total) to ensure players were on the up-and-up; and the crowds were A-OK, as well, proving you needn't be North American to be boisterous at a hockey game.

Sure, the British fans reserved some of their loudest cheers for the pointless fight between George Parros and Scott Thornton. But this is, after all, the same country that made Blur, Spandau Ballet and Right Said Fred popular.

Clearly, nobody's perfect.

• Now that the NHL's London excursion is over, there are reports already that the league is eyeing the Czech Republic as the location to kick off the 2008-09 schedule with two games between Pittsbugh and Tampa Bay.

Again, I'm all for games in Europe, but in this particular case, I can't understand why the Lightning would be involved.

No offense to Jan Hlavac, Flip Kuba and Vinny Prospal, but I think the Prague crowd would be less excited to see them and the Lightning than they would for, say, native son Jaromir Jagr (as well as fellow Czechs Martin Straka, Michal Rozsival, Petr Prucha, Marek Malik and Marcel Hossa) and the New York Rangers.

• Hey, did you know the Ottawa Senators were the league's only undefeated team in the pre-season? And did you also know the Calgary Flames and Pittsburgh Penguins won only one game each so far this fall?

Most importantly, do you know what all of that means? Not a damn thing, because it's the pre-season. Smarten up, already.

• The annual Hockey News fantasy pool went down last week. Though my first pick came in at a lousy 16th overall (out of 18 contestants), I still managed to pick the best team.

Here it is:

1. Evgeni Malkin, Pit

2. Joe Sakic, Col

3. Sergei Gonchar, Pit

4. Rick Nash, Clb

5. Pierre-Marc Bouchard, Min

6. Wojtek Wolski, Col

7. Darcy Tucker, Tor

8. Keith Tkachuk, StL

9. Fredrik Modin, Clb

10. Scott Hartnell, Phi

11. Taylor Pyatt, Van

12. Gary Roberts, Pit

Thanks in advance to my fellow THN poolies for their money.


Max Domi

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