Thanks to a gallant plea from injured Mike Modano, the Stars
didn't do any Duck hunting last week
In the visitors' dressing room at the Pond in Anaheim last
Thursday morning, the Stars had just finished practice and were
contemplating revenge. The next night they would play the Mighty
Ducks for the first time since Oct. 2. "One thing people know
about us is that we take care of our own," said Dallas wing
In that game Anaheim defenseman Ruslan Salei had recklessly hit
Stars center Mike Modano from behind, causing him to hurtle
headfirst into the end boards. Modano was wheeled off the ice on
a stretcher and taken to a hospital. He had a concussion, a
broken nose, strained neck ligaments and the unsettling knowledge
that he was lucky: His injuries could have been much more severe.
Before that game was over, Ducks defenseman Pascal Trepanier had
driven center Joe Nieuwendyk's face into the glass with his
forearm, forcing him to miss part of the game, and Anaheim's
6'3", 229-pound enforcer Jim McKenzie had picked a fight with
6-foot, 195-pound defenseman Darryl Sydor. In the words of an
NHL press release McKenzie "persist[ed] against Sydor although
Sydor was offering no resistance and was defenseless." Sydor
suffered a fractured left orbital bone.
October 17, 1999
The NHL responded by suspending Salei for 10 games, Trepanier
for five and McKenzie for four, which sent a forceful and
judicious message. Still, tension gripped the Stars. The words
of Dallas coach Ken Hitchcock--"They bought themselves a
response from our team"--resounded, as did the rebuttal from
Ducks general manager Pierre Gauthier, who said of Hitchcock, a
longtime Western Hockey League coach, "You can take the coach
out of juniors, but you might not be able to take the juniors
out of the coach."
Amid those dark musings came a ray of light. Last Thursday,
Modano skated for the first time since Salei's hit and then,
with his nose gleaming purple and red, told reporters, "I don't
want anyone getting even on my behalf." Though the hit had made
Modano "wonder whether it's worth it to play this game," he
called for restraint among his teammates and said he hoped they
would "set an example for all players."
The Stars posted Modano's words in their dressing room, and on
Friday they played a game free of cheap shots and fights.
Anaheim won 3-0, but Dallas should have been proud. Though Ducks
star wing Paul Kariya took a high stick from defenseman Shawn
Chambers and was cross-checked by backliner Richard Matvichuk,
the Stars never raised their physical play to a dangerous level.
"Mike's point was well made, and we heard it," said Nieuwendyk
after the game. "We just want to move on."
Whether taking the high road has left the Stars vulnerable to
future bullying remains to be seen. The NHL can continue to
punish transgressors, but safety comes down to the players. It's
their game. They're the ones with sticks in their hands. They're
the ones who can hold up when an opponent is in a position that
could lead to injury. They're the ones who know which hits
merely hurt and which hits break bones. As Dallas wing Mike
Keane says, "What if Modano had been paralyzed? How long a
suspension would have been enough?"
On Nov. 26 the Ducks and the Stars will meet again. Let's hope
that Modano's words ring as clearly then as they did last week.
The Islanders' Schedule
ONE DAY ON, EIGHT OFF
The good news for the Islanders is that after a disappointing
4-2 season-opening defeat to the Lightning on Oct. 2, they
didn't lose again for more than a week. The bad news? New York
didn't play during that time.
Of all the quirks in the NHL's 1,148-game regular-season
schedule, none is so bizarre as the one that gave the Islanders
an NFL-like eight days off between its first and second games.
(When New York finally did play again, on Sunday, it beat the
Avalanche 4-2.) "We would rather have time off in February, when
we're tired, but we made the best of it," says Islanders wing
Coach Butch Goring used the extra time to do power-play drills.
The players also watched baseball and spent warm afternoons
talking line changes at the beach. Odjick had a hankering for
something that resembled old-time hockey: One night he took four
of his six children to see a World Wrestling Federation card.
The schedule also gave defenseman Jamie Rivers, who was acquired
in the waiver draft on Sept. 27, and his wife, Shannon, time to
shop before leasing a town house near Nassau Coliseum. "I also
drove around and tried to get to know Long Island," says Rivers.
"I got lost a few times, but that's O.K. After practice I didn't
have anywhere I had to go."
Lalime's Second Coming
THIS TIME HE SEEMS READY
The Patrick Lalime you see today (the Senators goalie who opened
the season by beating the Flyers 3-0 and the Rangers 2-1) isn't
the Lalime you may remember (the Penguins goalie who began his
NHL career with a record-setting 14-0-2 mark in 1996-97). "I have
a more realistic approach to the game now," says the 25-year-old
Lalime. "After that first year in Pittsburgh, I was a little too
impressed with myself."
Lalime's historic start vaulted him into the national spotlight,
but that off-season he got into a contract squabble and refused
to sign for what the Penguins were offering. After he played
briefly with an independent team (the Grand Rapids Griffins) in
the International Hockey League, Pittsburgh traded his rights to
the Mighty Ducks in March 1998. Though Lalime went 39-20-4 for
the independent Kansas City Blades in 1998-99 and made the IHL
All-Star team, Anaheim coach Craig Hartsburg said, "We liked
Lalime, but he didn't fit into our plans."
On June 18 Anaheim traded Lalime to Ottawa for left wing Ted
Donato and defenseman Antti-Jussi Niemi. The same day, the
Senators dealt Damian Rhodes, their costarter in the nets, to the
Thrashers. "That was the day I felt I might get back into the
league this year," says Lalime. "I've been smiling since."
Lalime, who will share time with Ron Tugnutt, is especially
thrilled because, given Ottawa's superior defense, he might make
his career record (23-12-2 through Sunday) even gaudier. "This is
a good team with good guys in the locker room," Lalime says of
the Senators, who were 4-0-0 and thriving without holdout star
Alexei Yashin. "It smells good in there. Best of all, it smells
like the NHL."
WHOM WOULD YOU RATHER HAVE?
RED WINGS C
His play has ranged from spectacular to subpar. He has averaged
1.11 points per game during his nine-year career. At 29, he's
coming off a humdrum 26-goal season, but he's more effective
defensively than fans realize.
He has been very consistent during his 11-year career, averaging
1.24 points per game. At 30, he's coming off a solid 41-goal
season, and he's much tougher physically than most fans think.
The Verdict: Here's why we would take Fedorov: In a crucial game
we would be terrified if he were on the other team.