DUCKS' KARIYA: ONE-MAN SHOW : THE PENALTY BOX.
In the NHL, one player is not supposed to make a team.
Not in a league where it usually takes two scoring lines, a checking line, at least two capable defensive pairings and a steady goalie to be successful.
It's a formula that's working for Florida (which actually uses four lines almost evenly), Colorado, Dallas and Detroit, which are the league's best four teams, and it explains why teams such as the New York Rangers and the Pittsburgh Penguins, who have the biggest superstars in the game but not a lot of depth, are struggling to reach .500.
But in Anaheim, Paul Kariya and the Mighty Ducks are defying conventional wisdom. Quite simply, without Kariya, the Ducks are one of the three worst teams in the Western Conference. With Kariya, they're a definite playoff contender.
Yes, all because of one player.
When Kariya was out, the Ducks' weaknesses were exposed. Besides Kariya and Teemu Selanne, the Ducks have a solid center in Kevin Todd, an over-the-hill Jari Kurri and not much else. It's no wonder the Ducks started 1-10-2 without him.
But once he returned from an abdominal injury, things instantly changed for the Ducks. Suddenly, that suspect defensive corps wasn't exploited as easily by opponents, largely because the Ducks were able to control the puck more. And seemingly everyone got an added jump in their legs - even Selanne - because they knew a play involving Kariya always had a chance of succeeding. Even the sniping between coach Ron Wilson and general manager Jack Ferreira has quieted for now, thanks to the 9-5-3 mark with Kariya, including6-2-2 in past ten games.
So Kariya has done what Wayne Gretzky and Mark Messier haven't been able to do so far with the New York Rangers, and what Mario Lemieux and Jaromir Jagr haven't been able to do this season in Pittsburgh, and that's turn his team around.
The Ducks are far from being among the league's elite. Help is needed if they are to challenge the Avalanche, Red Wings, Stars and Panthers for NHL supremacy.
But as long as Kariya stays healthy, this thinly talented team will be in that pack of mediocrity behind the elite four.
Kariya means that much.
Lashing back: Rick Tocchet's comments seemed restrained after he was benched for the first time in his 14-year career, basically saying he believed he was among the top 20 players on the Boston Bruins and deserved to be included in the lineup that night against Philadelphia.
But they apparently struck a nerve with Bruins assistant general manager Mike O'Connell.
``I'm getting sick of these guys making $2 million or $1 million or $700,000 saying, `Hey, they're not treating me with respect,' '' O'Connell told the Boston Herald. ``Screw 'em. Part of playing on a team is sometimes you're going to sit on the bench. I'm sorry to get angry about it, but these guys are babies if they're going to cry and whine about it.''
Actually, Tocchet wasn't whining. He simply answered truthfully when asked what he thought about it. It's O'Connell who is whining.
Blues feud: So much for the peace agreement between Mike Keenan and Brett Hull in St. Louis.
Hull was benched for Friday's game against the Colorado Avalanche after saying, ``I don't know what our power play is since we never practice it. We never do it. We have to keep shooting it and hope it goes in.''
Retorted Keenan, ``We practice the power play. We don't practice Brett's power play. That's get the puck to him.''
It doesn't seem like this feud will be resolved soon. Apparently, the Blues brass has learned from Keenan's trades of Curtis Joseph and Brendan Shanahan, and don't want to alienate the fans further by dealing another hometown favorite.
But that doesn't necessarily mean Keenan is on his way out. If he gets fired, the Blues would have to pay the rest of his three-year, $2 million contract.
Stay tuned for more Hatfields-McCoys.
Mr. Snooze: Petr Klima, who took up space on the Kings roster the first 10 games of the season before they dumped him in a trade to Pittsburgh, is now playing for Cleveland of the International Hockey League after the Penguins waived him in mid-November.
Klima, you might remember, defended his lackadaisical effort by claiming he intentionally played that way to lull his opponents to sleep, then surprise them with a burst of speed.
The Kings, tired of waiting for that burst to happen, dealt him to Pittsburgh the same day he made those comments. The Penguins then gave up on him after a couple of weeks.
Apparently, the only thing put to bed has been Klima's career.
Roy's revenge: The Montreal Canadiens aren't the only team Colorado goalie Patrick Roy gets up to play.
While his anger at his former team is well-known, Roy revealed last week that the Edmonton Oilers are also on his list of enemies. Roy holds a grudge because Edmonton general manager Glen Sather did not select him to play for Team Canada in the World Cup last summer.
``I don't like Glen Sather,'' Roy said after stopping 36 shots to shut out the Oilers last week. ``Every time I play this team, I try to play really well and to beat them. He jabbed me a few times, and every athlete has pride. So of course I want to do well against them.''
Resting Stars: Just as important as practice is to the Dallas Stars is not practicing.
Concerned about the effects the long flights and frequent travel that come with playing in the Southwest have on his players, Stars coach Ken Hitchcock has given his team 11 days off so far.
``We're doing it for our energy level,'' Hitchcock said. ``We find a day each week to get off. We sacrifice practice for rest.''
St. Louis Blues
Maybe this explains why coach/general manager Mike Keenan is always so grumpy: The Blues were shutout in consecutive games by Phoenix and Toronto, the bottom two teams in the Central Division, then scored three goals in the first period and beat the Colorado Avalanche 4-3. Not only does the Avalanche have the best record in the Western Conference, it has the league's third-best goals-against average.
Bill Berg, New York Rangers
Even if he didn't play on the same team as Wayne Gretzky and Mark Messier, Berg would be the last guy you would pick to win a game. But Friday against the Toronto Maple Leafs, Berg scored his first two goals of the season, including the game-winner with 27 seconds left in the third period. Berg was traded from the Maple Leafs last season.
``I'm not a greedy person, but money is the soul of the universe, and hopefully, if I do well here, I will be able to make a lot more of it in the future.''
Bryan Smolinski, after signing a one-year, $900,000 contract with the New York Islanders.
TOP 10 and NO. 26
7. New Jersey
9. St. Louis
10. New York Rangers
L.A. ON ICE
Today - vs. Pittsburgh
Thursday - vs. Calgary
Saturday - vs. Washington
Final three games of a five-game homestand.
Wednesday - vs. Pittsburgh
Friday - vs. Washington
Tough turnaround: Ducks finished a three-game East Coast trip on Monday.
PITTSBURGH VS. KINGS
Time: 7:30 p.m., Forum
On the air: Fox Sports West; XTRA-AM (690).
Kings (12-13-3) update: Stephane Fiset still feels soreness from the cramps (caused by dehydration) that forced him to leave Saturday's game against Colorado and go to the hospital for intravenous fluids. Byron Dafoe will start, but Fiset is available. The Kings are without Doug Zmolek, their most consistent defenseman, who is out with a right shoulder sprain suffered against the Avalanche. Left wing Craig Johnson (abdominal strain) appears to be headed for surgery, as coach Larry Robinson suspected. Johnson flew to Boston on Monday to be examined by Dr. Bill Meyers at the University of Massachusetts. Meyers performed abdominal surgery on Claude Lemieux.
Penguins (11-13-3) update: This could be Mario Lemieux's final career appearance in the Forum. With 12 goals and 36 points, the superstar is only eighth in the NHL scoring race, which might be good for a typical player but hardly near the standard he has set for himself. Lemieux's been complaining about not having the type of jump in his legs he's used to and hinting at retirement. It doesn't help that the Penguins have been struggling on the ice. Even though Jaromir Jagr is second in scoring (27 goals, 38 points), Pittsburgh has been below .500 all season. The Penguins, however, are unbeaten in their last seven games (5-0-2).
Box: (1) THE PENALTY BOX (see text)
(2) PITTSBURGH VS. KINGS (see text)
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|Publication:||Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)|
|Date:||Dec 10, 1996|
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