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Bits: 2012 Memorial Cup Begins for Kabanov; Clark on Leaving Islanders

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The many faces of Kirill Kabanov.
The many faces of Kirill Kabanov.

The 2012 Memorial Cup begins tonight, and New York Islanders prospect Kirill Kabanov -- whether he's KHL flirting or not -- is in tonight's opening game against Edmonton.

The historic tournament, now co-opted by a credit card company (which is actually just a technology company wrapped in a consumer brand backed by banks who'd like you to spend money and maybe not pay it all back right away...but anyway), annually features a pre-selected host squaring off against the champions from the WHL, OHL and QMJHL.

That means two teams appear from the same league each year, and this year one of those teams is Kabanov's Shawinigan Cataractes, the host.

As Buzzing the Net notes, this is the first tourney since 2006 to represent four distinct regions of Canada, with the defending champ Saint John Sea Dogs representing the Maritimes. Die By The Blade has a nice overview of recent participants now in the NHL. From the Islanders' end, Casey Cizikas played for the host team in 2011, while Travis Hamonic was in the 2010 tournament.

Shawinigan added Phoenix prospect Brandon Gormley to help load up for this event, but their QMJHL mates from Saint John are still the favorite. The Cataractes face the challenge of shaking off a monthlong layoff while the other participants went on to win their respective league titles.

Top NHL Prospects: Boston's Jared Knight is one of several NHL picks on London. But the Sea Dogs are simply loaded with NHL picks, including Jonathan Huberdeau (Fla), Charlie Coyle (Min), Nathan Beaulieu (Mon), Zack Phillips (Min), Tomas Jurco (Det) and Stanislav Galiev (Was).

2012 Draft Names: Lots of 2012 NHL Draft names in the tournament too, but ones of particular interest to Isles fans would be Olli Maatta for London and Griffin Reinhart for Edmonton.

The round-robin phase carries through Wednesday, May 23.

Islanders/Hockey Bits

'We Were Set Pretty Good on the Island'

Gordie Clark on changing the Rangers' philosophy toward focusing on the draft, pointing to his time with the Isles:

"Obviously that happened on the Island, and that was one of the reasons I left," said Clark, talking about a team losing patience with its young players and dealing them away. "[Zdeno] Chara was gone. [Roberto] Luongo was gone. [Todd] Bertuzzi was gone. That's when it was changing and you could see it. We were set pretty good on the Island of waiting for that to all happen. Then all of a sudden they were being traded away and that's when I decided to make my move."

... or, I mean, focusing on the draft while still adding a $7 million player per year.

Bob Mason: Trots Broke My Skate

Finally, it's only in print or their digital subscriber edition, so I'll quote from The Hockey News great look back at the Easter Epic, the 1987 quadruple OT game that went down as the longest Game 7 in history (a detail I forgot, which is seen in that video, is Brent Sutter playing with the big jaw guard):

Bob Mason: "I don't think a lot of people know this, but on [Bryan Trottier's] tying goal, my skate broke. ... I used to wear the old Lange goalie skates and they had a rivet on the heels. The rivet snapped, so my right ankle gave way, the puck hit both pads and ended up going in."

Gord Dineen: "Lou Franceschetti and I had our run-ins in the past and during that game, but there was a mutual respect there. During one play, we were banging around in the corner and the whistle blew and the two of us could barely lift ourselves off the ice. He put his arm over my shoulder to help lift himself up and I didn't stop him. To think you're going head-to-head with all you've got, then helping each other up -- that shows what we all knew we were going through, regardless of what teams we were on."

Lot of other great quotes in there.