As training camp began, the Penguins were a team Vaclav Havel
would be proud of and a team a yippie could trust. They were not,
however, a club a hockey purist could appreciate. Pittsburgh had
a new coach, former Czech Republic Olympic boss Ivan Hlinka; the
NHL's leading scorer, Czech right wing Jaromir Jagr; and nary a
player over 30. What it didn't have for the first 2 1/2 weeks was
a goalie with NHL experience.

That was rectified on Sept. 24 when Jean-Sebastien Aubin, 23,
agreed to a one-year, $700,000 contract. After leading all rookie
keepers in appearances (51) and wins (23) last season, Aubin lost
his job to Ron Tugnutt with three games left in the regular
season and didn't play a minute in the playoffs. Tugnutt led the
Penguins to a first-round win over the Caps but left as a free
agent. Aubin then wanted more than $1 million for a one-year
contract, a request that upset owner Mario Lemieux. "To play 30,
40, 50 games in your career doesn't make you Number 1," says
Lemieux. (Aubin has played in 68.) "He has the potential to be
Number 1. But I'm a believer that you have to start somewhere and
earn the respect of everyone around you."

Nearly everyone around Aubin seems to be Czech. Twenty-three of
the 60 players in camp were from their coach's homeland,
prompting Matthew Barnaby to say, "I might have to change my name
to Barnabov to get some ice time." Hlinka favors a more
conservative style than his predecessor, Herb Brooks, and is fond
of physical forwards who can protect Jagr (96 points despite
playing in only 63 games because of injuries). Keeping Jagr
healthy is crucial because without him, the Penguins are short of
scorers. Alexei Kovalev has been touted as a franchise player for
years but has yet to tally more than last season's 26 goals.

Lemieux has promised to increase the payroll this season by at
least $2 million, but that might not be enough. If Jagr gets
banged up or if Aubin slips, the Penguins may end up in a place
they haven't been since 1990, when their owner was playing center
with very little support: out of the playoffs. --Mark Bechtel

COLOR PHOTO: LOU CAPOZZOLA Jagr is the game's best but can't carry the Penguins if he's hurt.

Fast Fact
Jaromir Jagr got his fourth NHL scoring title last season. Only
Wayne Gretzky (11), Mario Lemieux (six), Gordie Howe (six) and
Phil Esposito (five) have won more.



FORWARDS 9 Tons of talent; work ethic of some is

DEFENSE 13 Laukkanen moves the puck out of his
zone well

GOALTENDING 25 If second-year man Aubin falters, look
fora trade

SPECIAL TEAMS 16 Despite talent these units underachieved
last year

MANAGEMENT 14 Can Hinka match lines in this league?