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Slapshots

By DAMION CRISTODERO
© St. Petersburg Times
published December 8, 2002

A cautious return

The Red Wings received a nice surprise last week when captain Steve Yzerman put on pads and skated with his teammates for the first time since last summer's knee surgery. But the center said this does not mean he is ahead of a scheduled February return. He just couldn't stand skating by himself.

"I'm trying to do a little more than I was," he said. "I'm still having difficulty skating, which concerns me a bit."

Yzerman, 37, said he still has soreness "in some areas" when he skates, but his off-ice workouts are pain-free.

"As soon as I'm healthy and able to play and able to keep up, I plan on playing," Yzerman said. "I just can't say for certain when that will be."

"It was good for the team to see him," coach Dave Lewis said. "He was probably trying to work off some of the turkey he had during Thanksgiving."

Hotel Carolina

Despite a brutal ice storm, the Panthers got into Raleigh, N.C., for Friday's game against the Hurricanes. But with 1.2-million people without electricity, it was no surprise the team hotel was affected.

There was little food, no hot water and lights, thanks to a generator, only in the halls. So players either set up tables in the halls and played cards or, as team spokesman Ryan Nedeau said, "stood on their balconies talking on their cell phones."

With Maple Leafs center Nik Antropov:

Q: Reports are you are playing a lot meaner this season. True?

A: I use my size (6 feet 5, 225 pounds). We play a physical game, so you have to play physical. I don't plan on getting nasty. It just happens."

Q: Do you find you get more room on the ice when you play mean?

A: My personal trainer told me over the summer I'd get a little bit more room, and that's all I want. It's a nice feeling."

Q: After two knee surgeries, are you worried you will get hurt again?

A: After my first surgery, it was in the back of my mind. And a friend of mine told me he watched me play on TV, and it looked like I was a little bit scared.

Q: Is your size ever a disadvantage?

A: For my speed, that is the only thing. With my weight, it's a little bit tough to get my speed right from the start.

Q: Will you ever get comfortable talking to the media?

A: No, but you have to do it sometimes. My first couple of years, I was a little bit shy or something, but not now.

* * *

Thanks to Kenny Medeiros of Boston and St. Petersburg, who pointed out what should have been obvious. When the Bruins retired Terry O'Reilly's No.24 this season, it raised their league-high retired numbers to nine. A chart last week was incorrect on that point.

Around the league

After going minus-13 in his first nine games and being benched, Atlanta's Ilya Kovalchuk was even in his next 14. ... Despite four goals and six assists in 17 games, Ottawa sent center Jason Spezza, 19, to the minors. "We know where he's going. He's going to the NHL," GM John Muckler said. "He's just going to go through the process to achieve that." ... Predators forward Scott Hartnell, who had 14 goals as a 19-year-old last season, scored his first this season Nov.30. ... For a no-contest plea in his DUI case, Panthers tough guy Peter Worrell will serve 10 days in jail beginning April7, one day after the Florida's regular season ends. If the Panthers make the playoffs, the date will be pushed back until the team is eliminated. ... Stars right wing Bill Guerin had his shots-on-goal streak snapped at 121 consecutive games Wednesday against the Canadiens. It was the NHL's longest active streak. Ray Bourque has the record of 360 from 1990-95. ... The Blackhawks shrugged when defenseman Boris Mironov (three goals, one assist, minus-1, $3.3-million contract) walked out on the team and asked for a trade. "It's nothing to get excited about," coach Brian Sutter said. ... Instead of firing coach Darryl Sutter, Sharks management might have looked at itself for failing to sign goalie Evgeni Nabokov and defenseman Brad Stuart until after the season began. ... After a 13-2-2-2 start last season, the Flames, under just-fired coach Greg Gilbert, were 24-45-13-4. ... The next coach to be fired? If the Avs don't get it together soon, watch Bob Hartley.

Quotable

"We won by the seat of Tommy's pants." -- Oilers coach Craig MacTavish after goalie Tommy Salo was credited with a save during a 2-1 victory against the Wild when the puck ended up in his trousers

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

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