Monday's morning skate at Cup finals

RALEIGH, N.C. -- Ah, the morning skate. Drills, no spills and, well, not much else.

Until now.

Live (sort of) from the Stanley Cup finals, NHL writer Scott Burnside and NHL editor Joy Russo give you a rink-side play-by-play.

Russo: We're here, it's freezing, but no complaining. The Cup finals are upon us!

Burnside: It's hard to figure out which is the most frightening part of the morning skate: the repeated firing of pucks at defenseless goalies or the rush to the doughnuts table in the media dining area? Hmmm. Media dining area, definitely.

Russo: Hmmm. Doughnuts.

Russo: Erik Cole is on the ice taking shots, the only player wearing a blue jersey. The other players are either in gray or white.

Burnside: Yeah, the blue jersey means "player with the broken neck." No, seriously, a player wearing the blue jersey tells other players he's on the injured list. So, the other players know not to go at him full force.

Russo: I just thought he was special!

Burnside: Actually, the morning skate is more reflex action than meaningful event. In fact, as the playoffs progress, many coaches make the morning skate optional for players. Still, most will turn out because it's part of their routine. It's not like they're learning anything new. But hockey players are the ultimate creatures of habit and it would seem strange to them not to wake up, come to the rink, put on stinking equipment and skate around firing pucks at the heads of their goalie friends.

Russo: Habit like how they put on their gear. Remember Wayne Gretzky always tucking a piece of his jersey into his side?

Russo: Reporters are getting into a wild debate on their World Cup picks. Brazil and France, shockingly, are the front-runners. Not one mention of Donovan and Co.

Russo: Canes are finishing up now. We'll be back for more high jinks when the Oilers take the ice.


Russo: We're back. Mr. Burnside has just returned from the Carolina locker room.

Burnside: The Carolina dressing room is so packed with reporters and camera crews (a quick count put the number at an even dozen) that the joke is there's more potential for a player to be injured during the media scrums than in Game 1.


Burnside: After several days of intense discussion, former Hartford coach and high-profile analyst Pierre McGuire has declined an offer to join new Pittsburgh GM Ray Shero as director of player personnel, sources told ESPN.com Monday morning. With the imminent move of longtime hockey analyst John Davidson to St. Louis, where he is expected to be named president when the sale of the team to Dave Checketts is finalized in the coming weeks, it's believed McGuire thought it was the wrong time to get back into management with national broadcast opportunities in the wings.

Russo: Mr. Burnside never stops! ... Meanwhile, back on the ice, the Oilers are loose and having fun. The Canes were the same.

Russo: Much was made of the Oilers creating traffic in front of the net. They are expecting the same from the Hurricanes as Edmonton is now going through drills, placing a player directly in front of goalie Dwayne Roloson while others take shots.

Russo: Chris Pronger is the first off the ice. One word comes to mind when I think of the opposition facing deep in the zone: pain.

Burnside: Edmonton coach Craig MacTavish moves around the ice chatting with different players. He was asked if he was giving lessons or making coaching points, but MacTavish wouldn't divulge the specifics.
"We call it dialogue," he said. "'What did you have last night for dinner?' 'Where are you going tonight?' No, it's just hockey. Just talking hockey."

Russo: While most skaters were going off the ice, two Oilers assistant coaches are taking part in a spirited shooting competition with Ryan Smyth and Shawn Horcoff. Smyth and Horcoff and one of the assistants are trying to get tip-ins from the point. They all look like they are about 12 years old, back at their neighborhood rink or street, and loving every minute of it.

Russo: Well, only a few skaters left now. But wait, there's a Barry Melrose sighting! You can spot that mullet from a mile away. He and Smyth are chatting it up. Believe it or not, they are giving each other crap about their respective mullets.

Our skate is about over. But check in with us later tonight from Game 1. We'll have live updates and postgame coverage from Mr. Mullet, Mr. Burnside and E.J. Hradek.