NHL Hockey Local Update
By Andrei Petrovitch
Don’t deny it, winter is coming whether you like it or not! Since it’s futile to resist, the best thing to do is grab a six-pack, turn on the tube and watch a damn hockey game! Here’s a quick look at the locals:
THE NEW YORK RANGERS (17-10-2-1, 37 pts, first place in Eastern Conference) Team Leaders: Goals- Eric Lindros, (14) Assists- Theo Fleury, Eric Lindros (17) Total points- Eric Lindros (31)
Looks like that Lindros deal made sense after all, huh? Okay, yes, I do realize that, given his long and well-documented history of concussions, the next hit could be his last. But so far, the Big E’s noggin has withstood high hits, flying elbows, quick fists, and all other assorted hockey shenanigans. Furthermore, he continues to score at a point-per-game pace on the FLY line with American Olympic hopeful Mike York and Team Canada winger Theo Fleury.
However, one line does not a team make (a brutal truth realized by none other than Lindros himself during his Flyer days). Center Petr Nedved and starboard winger Radek Dvorak are only now starting to score consistently, and comeback story Bryan Berard has yet to find the back of the net with his slapshot. Thankfully, rookie Mikael Samuelsson has fit in nicely with his play on the special teams thanks to his quick skates and even quicker brain. Add the powerful goaltending tandem of Mike Richter and Dan Blackburn, and you have a team that is seriously jeopardizing the status of Eastern Conference heavyweights such as the Toronto Maple Leafs and Philadelphia Flyers.
THE NEW YORK ISLANDERS (15-6-4-1, 35 pts, third in the Eastern Conference) Team Leaders: Goals- Mark Parrish (17) Assists- Mike Peca (17) Total Points- Mark Parrish (29)
Hey, these guys are for real after all! Although the five game winless streak at the beginning of November suggested that the honeymoon was over for this year’s Islanders squad, the Artists Formerly Knows as Team Fishsticks managed to put together an impressive four game winning streak. Mariuz Czerkawski is finally putting up the points (Hmmm. Coincidence? I think not!), and defense Kenny Jonsson and Adrian Aucoin are getting steadier with every game. In the milestones department, winger Mark Parrish is on pace for a 50 plus goal season. If he manages to hit the half-century mark, Parrish will be the first to do since Pierre Turgeon (58 goals during the ’92-’93 season).
With all this good stuff happening’, what the hell can possibly go wrong? Well, that injury list is starting to grow like an annoying zit on the face of a potentially beautiful season. Roman Hamrlik is out with a sprained knee, while Oleg Kvasha is day-to- day with shoulder problems. While it isn’t exactly time to hit the panic button, Isles GM Mike Milbury ought not to forget the numerous squads of years past that were derailed by ailments to significant players. Perhaps dealing Mats Lindgren for some depth players can prevent another disaster. THE NEW JERSEY DEVILS (10-10-3-2, 27 pts, 11th in the Eastern Conference) Team Leaders: Goals- Patrik Elias (13) Assists- Brian Rafalski (15) Points- Patrik Elias (27)
Some dead guy once said, "those who forget the past are condemned to repeat it." If that’s the case, someone oughtta tell the Devils; this season is starting to look a lot like the infamous ’95-96 season, in which the team missed the playoffs only a year after reaching the finals. Yes, Yes, stop yelling- there is still time to turn the season around. However, like the ’96 team, this year’s lineup lacks offensive depth and is surrounded by rumors of constant locker room bickering and dissension.
The good news is that disgruntled center Bobby Holik is meshing well with star winger Patrik Elias. Jason Arnott is starting to light the lamp now that the seemingly 200 ton alternate captain patch has been removed from his jersey. But despite these promising improvements, work still needs to be done. Playmaking center Scott Gomez still needs a reliable finisher, and it will be up to General Manager Lou Lamoriello to provide him with one. Snipers Tony Amonte and Teemu Selanne (of the Chicago Blackhawks and San Jose Sharks, respectively) are available, but the cash-conscious Devils may deem either too expensive.