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THN.com Blog: Keith Ballard will stand tall on Florida's blueline

Keith Ballard had 21 points in 82 games for the Phoenix Coyotes last season. (Photo by Norm Hall/NHLI via Getty Images)

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Keith Ballard had 21 points in 82 games for the Phoenix Coyotes last season. (Photo by Norm Hall/NHLI via Getty Images)

• I still believe the Florida Panthers will be life-and-death to make the playoffs this season, but I’m also of the opinion the acquisition of burgeoning defenseman Keith Ballard (in the deal that sent Olli Jokinen to Phoenix) is going to pay handsome dividends for the franchise for years to come. Six years, at least.

The 25-year-old Ballard was a favorite of Coyotes coach Wayne Gretzky, which tells you how desperate Phoenix was to beef up their veteran ranks for their own run at the post-season. Although it’s true his offensive numbers have fallen every year since his rookie campaign of 2005-06, Ballard is almost guaranteed to set new career offensive bests now that he’ll be on the Panthers’ first power play unit.

• The old cliché “when one door closes, another opens” certainly applies to the season-ending injury suffered by Tom Brady of the NFL’s New England Patriots – and not just for Matt Cassel, or anyone else who might step in.

Should the Patriots fall off the list of bona fide Super Bowl contenders as some suspect, Bostonians may not wish to devote every waking thought to their football team. And with the NHL’s Bruins looking to improve on a better-than-expected showing last season, they just might wrest away some of the attention among locals.

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I’m sure nobody in the Bruins’ management or ownership was doing cartwheels when they saw the star quarterback go down screaming. But a savvy businessman knows a good opportunity when he sees it. This definitely qualifies as such.

• The Toronto Maple Leafs will unveil their new, state-of-the-art scoreboard/jumbotron at the Air Canada Centre Thursday. If only they can find ways of scoring and/or providing highlights – at least, from the home side – this season, they’ll be set.

Adam Proteau is The Hockey News' online columnist and a regular contributor to THN.com. His blog appears Mondays and Wednesdays, his Ask Adam feature appears Tuesdays in the summer, and his column, Screen Shots, appears Thursdays.

For more great profiles, news and views from the world of hockey, Subscribe to The Hockey News magazine.

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