There is less than one week left in the 2010-11 regular season for Germany's DEL. As the campaign approaches its final weekend, the postseason picture is all but complete. All that remains to be determined is home ice in one of the first-round series and the final placement of the seventh and eighth seeds.
In the meantime, a fixture on the Cologne Sharks recently reached a unique milestone of longevity with his club and a former New York Rangers prospect now playing with the Augsburg Panthers has run away with the league scoring title.
Ludemann hits 900-game mark -- Much has changed in hockey since 1993. One of the few constants, however, has been the presence of defenseman Mirko Ludemann on the blue line of the Cologne Sharks. Now 37, the former long-time German national team member has reached the 900-game mark on the club-team circuit, all with Cologne.
A two-time winner of The Hockey News' DEL Player of the Year award (1999-2000 and 2002-03), a three-time Olympian (1994, 1998, 2002) and a two-time member of a DEL championship winning Sharks team (1994-95, 2001-02), Ludemann's place in the annals of German hockey history already is secure. While he downplays the significance of passing 900 games played in the league and denies specifically aiming to reach the 1,000-game mark -- which would take him until the 2012-13 season to attain -- Ludemann admits he has no immediate plans to retire.
"For now, the number doesn't mean much to me," he told the DEL's website. "But clearly it's a milestone that's worth looking at afterwards."
Although he no longer is a candidate for the German national team, Ludemann remains a fine DEL defenseman. In 48 games this season, he has 3 goals, 18 assists and a minus-3 rating for the Sharks, who are 10th in the league. With 71 points in 51 games, the Sharks are three points behind the eighth-place Mannheim Eagles.
Asked to identify the best teammate with whom he's played through the years, Ludemann cited a couple of former NHL players who passed through Cologne during their careers as well as a fellow former Team Germany fixture.
"Picking one player is so hard because everyone has different qualities," he said. "For example, Sergei Berezin was the perfect goal scorer. On the other hand, Marty Murray was the ideal playmaker. At one time, (the retired) Thomas Brandl was one of the best players in the league."
Wolfsburg wraps up regular-season title -- Grizzly Adams Wolfsburg cruised to a guaranteed home-ice advantage throughout the playoffs. With 93 points in 50 games, including a 14-1-5-5 home record, the team rolls into the final weekend nine points ahead of the second-place Berlin Polar Bears and the third-place DEG Metro Stars.
Playoff-wise, the only issues yet to be officially determined are the specifics of the first-round matchups. Wolfsburg, Berlin and Dusseldorf all have clinched home-ice advantage in the first round of the playoffs. The Metro Stars currently would play sixth-seeded EHC Munich (76 points in 50 games), while Wolfsburg would get the Mannheim Eagles (74 points in 50 games), and the Polar Bears would be opposed by ERC Ingolstadt (74 points in 49 games).
The fourth-seeded Krefeld Penguins (80 points) and fifth-seeded Hannover Scorpions (78 points) both have two games remaining. If the current standings hold, Krefeld would get home-ice advantage in a quarterfinal series between the clubs.
Olver an unstoppable force -- As an NHL prospect, former New York Rangers hopeful Darin Olver never panned out. Taken in the second round (No. 36) of the 2004 Entry Draft, the left wing had a decent collegiate career at Northern Michigan and spent a brief stint in the American Hockey League with Rangers' affiliate in Hartford before packing his bags for Germany late in the summer of 2007. The Burnaby, B.C. native has remained there ever since.
Now 26, Olver has blossomed into the top offensive players in the DEL. The Augsburg Panthers forward has racked up a staggering 70 points (23 goals, 47 assists) in just 46 games.
Olver already has won the league scoring championship by a huge margin, with his three closest pursuers (Augsburg linemate Barry Tallackson, Iserlohn Roosters forward Michael Wolf and ERC Munich's Eric Schneider) all tied with 55 points. Twenty-eight of Olver's points to date have come on the power play. He has assisted on the vast majority of Tallackson's 29 goals. Wolf leads the league goal-scoring race with 34.
Among defensemen in the league, former NHL player Sascha Goc leads the way offensively. Now with the Hannover Scorpions, Goc has 22 goals (12 on the power play) and 49 points in 50 games. He also boasts a plus-11 rating. The second top-scoring blueliner this season is another former NHL player, Derrick Walser of the Berlin Polar Bears. Walser has 17 goals, 45 points and a plus-22 rating that leads all DEL defensemen and ranks second in the league to Grizzly Adams center Tyler Haskins (plus-23).
The Wolfsburg netminding tandem of Jochen Reimer (2.01 GAA, .929 save percentage in 27 games) and Daniar Dshunssow (2.14 GAA, .934 save percentage, 25 starts) occupies the top two statistical spots among the goaltending leaders. Krefeld ironman Scott Langkow tops all goalies with eight shutouts and 3,044 minutes played. Langkow has played every minute in goal for his club this season.