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David Koci, and, what was that pilot thinking?



Okay, before I get to why we like David Koci so much, can I say that I am baffled why the pilot on my Continental Airlines flight to DC this morning could not tell he was headed for the wrong runway when it was obvious to me through my two-hours-of-sleep eyes that we were heading for disaster?

Somehow the pilot turned the plane toward a runway that was crossing the runway that had just been used by a plane that was taking off and was being prepared to be used by another at the top of the runway. We're coming down and down, and all of a sudden, the plane does one of these space shuttle takeoffs in which the nose goes almost straight up while the pilot hits the gas. He also throws in a hard turn to the right for good measure.

Woke me up, that's for sure.

That after my hotel in Montreal, at 4:30 am, mind you, had me checking out on Saturday instead of Friday (I had to convince them I really was supposed to check out Friday), had the team being billed for my room (I had to convince them to take me off the team's rooming list), and then did not have the cab to the airport ready, even though I requested one the night before.

None of this in and of itself is terrible. But rolled together after working the night before and getting about two hours sleep, well, it was a bit frustrating.

Anyway, on to David Koci, who scored his first NHL goal Thursday against the Canadiens. It was a nice moment as Koci's on-ice teammates hugged the enforcer as if he had just won the Cup, and the guys on the bench were up and banging their sticks on the side of the boards.

"He has a difficult job," teammate Matt Pettinger said. "It's nice to see him get rewarded."

Coach Rick Tocchet agreed: "The guy works hard, never complains. His first NHL goal, I'm proud of him."

It was very cool talking to Koci about it Friday. He smiled through the entire interview while he explained how he saw the puck lying free near the slot with the net wide open. What struck me, though, was how he kept going back to the theme of becoming a more complete player. Yes, he has to fight to stay in the league, he said, but he is working hard to be, not a star, but "a good fourth-line player."

Here's a guy with no illusions about his skill level. But he's a guy so grateful to be in the league, he is committed to playing to his limit.

"I know my role," he said. "But I know in the NHL, you have to bring something more, so I work on it. I try to get better. The coaches and the guys know if something happens, I will be there. I will do it any time. But I think I can be more valuable for the team if I am able to play, hold the puck on the boards, play the game and make some hits, things like that. That stuff I try to work on. It's not just fighting, fighting, not just being a heavyweight."

Other stuff from this morning: Mike McKenna is expected to get the start in net. ... Right wing Evgeny Artyukhin seems okay. At least he said he is after hitting the boards and hurting a leg Thursday after he missed a check on Mike Komisarek. ... Marty St. Louis said his wife, Heather, certainly wouldn't mind him wearing  face shield, "But I hate it." St. Louis on Thursday took a puck in the face for the third time this season. He also had a skate cut his face.

[Last modified: Sunday, August 16, 2009 4:38pm]


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