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Slap shots

By DAMIAN CRISTODERO, Times Staff Writer

© St. Petersburg Times, published November 10, 2002

Snake bit

Snake bit

Martin Straka has had enough injuries the past year to last a career, or a lifetime. The Penguins wing returned to the ice Wednesday against the Panthers after two broken legs, a broken orbital bone (eye socket) and a cracked vertebra he sustained when a weight machine fell on him.

"It's got to be over," Straka said before Friday's game against the Lightning. "I'm sure it's over. From now on I'm going to be okay."

Coming off a 95-point season in 2000-01, Straka broke his right leg against the Panthers on Oct. 28, 2001. He returned in February but broke an orbital bone when hit by the stick of Pittsburgh goalie Johan Hedberg. He returned a month later and broke his leg again.

All that was nothing compared with what happened in July in his native Czech Republic. Straka said he had too much weight, about 350 pounds, on a leg machine, which toppled and crushed his back.

"That was bad," Straka said. "The vertebra was cracked, and the ligaments were completely torn."

Straka had two assists against the Panthers.

"I felt bad by the end of the game," he said. "The last five or six minutes, I had nothing left. Hopefully I will build on that and things will be better."

Purple haze

Coyotes players were getting ready for Monday's practice when their hands and legs turned purple as they put on their gear.

Someone apparently poured into the equipment a powder that turned into an inky dye when exposed to moisture. To cover his tracks, the perp put the powder into his own gloves. The color remained even after being scrubbed with alcohol.

Coach Bobby Francis promised the responsible party will pay to replace the soiled gear. "Whoever it was went overboard," he said.

Smart move: The coaches' gear was not touched.

Five questions with Maple Leafs agitator and former Lightning Darcy Tucker:

Q: How is the anti-obstruction crackdown going?

A: I find it difficult to play in games where there are so many penalties. It takes away 30 to 40 minutes of the game. I like the old way, five-on-five hockey with more time to set the tone of the game.

Q: Have you noticed Vinny Lecavalier's good start?

A: I knew him when he was 18 years old and didn't know anything about the league. But he's a great person, and when you are a great person, good things happen. He's found his spot on the team.

Q: After a seven-game homestand, will some time on the road be beneficial?

A: Hopefully we'll have some time to get close as a team. We have to find ways to win hockey games. We've been finding ways to lose, and we're too good a team with too much talent to do that.

Q: What about sniping between players on the bench?

A: Any time you lose you have a tendency to turn the anger inward. All of it was about individual play. We all know we can do a little more. There's nothing wrong with peer pressure.

Q: What will it take to turn the Leafs around?

A: We're a proud hockey club. We have to get back and play as hard as we can on each shift.

Around the league

Before winning 5-2 in St. Louis to snap the Blues' nine-game win streak, the Blue Jackets had not won on the road and never had won in the Savvis Center (0-3-1). ... The Thrashers were winless in 19 games dating to last season before their 3-1 victory Nov. 2 over the Panthers. The win saved coach Curt Fraser's job, but he still is on thin ice. "One win doesn't change anything," he said. ... The Flyers are the first team to change the black netting behind the goals at their home rink to a transparent diamond-shape netting. ... Islanders right wing Mark Parrish on the the team's horrible start: "It seems like last year was a dream. It's almost comical."


"There is some heavy drinking going on in the shot-clock booth. Don't get me wrong; oh, I'm going to get in trouble for that." -- Hurricanes coach Paul Maurice on what he feels is incompetence by the stat keepers at Carolina's RBC Center.

-- Compiled by staff writer Damian Cristodero from personal interviews and information from other news organizations.

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