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Slap shots

By DAMIAN CRISTODERO, Times Staff Writer

© St. Petersburg Times, published December 29, 2002

Home is where the heart is, just not the wins

The Panthers seem to be trying to prove that hockey is a cold-weather sport after all.

The Panthers are the only team that has a losing record at home but a winning mark on the road.

After Saturday's 2-1 overtime loss to the Rangers at home, the Panthers are 10-11-9-6 -- 6-4-4-3 on the road and 4-7-5-3 at home.

Florida, which will host the All-Star Game Feb.2, gained at least one point in a franchise-record 11 consecutive road games (4-0-4-3) leading up to the Christmas break. The Panthers, 3-0-3 in their previous six road games, have not lost in regulation on the road since the Islanders beat them Oct.24.

The Panthers also are quite familiar with overtime, reaching the extra session a league-high 18 times through 36 games (3-6-9). The three wins tie a franchise record, done three times, for most in a season.

A different look every time

Opponents of the Islanders need not study goalie tendencies when it comes to penalty shots.

Chances are they won't see the same one face a one-on-one showdown twice.

The past 10 times the Islanders have had a penalty shot called against them, they had a different goalie in the net, setting an NHL record.

Boston held the mark with nine, set between Nov.11, 1992, and Jan. 9, 2001.

New York's run began when Kelly Hrudey was beaten by Pittsburgh's Mario Lemieux on Jan.19, 1988. Since then Mark Fitzpatrick, Glenn Healy, Ron Hextall, Tommy Salo, Roberto Luongo, Kevin Weekes, Chris Osgood and Rick DiPietro have faced attempts. Seven of the 10 tries have been saved by New York's goalies.

Osgood and DiPietro remain with the Islanders, who carry three goalies on the roster -- leaving Garth Snow as the next logical candidate to face a penalty shot.

Ten questions with Canadiens wing Randy McKay:

Q: What effect has your hip surgery had on your play this season?

A: It's huge. I could hardly skate on it before. Now, I feel like I'm five years younger. Days after games, I had trouble walking. It would really take a big effort just to get through a game. Now, it's nothing. I can skate better, and I feel much better at practice.

Q: Is there any specific difference? Do you get in harder on the forecheck or find yourself with better scoring opportunities?

A: I think one of the biggest things is I can hit better. Last year, I found myself playing a game more positionally, more carefully. Now, I can forecheck better, I can deliver a hit. I'm just more aggressive. I feel like I'm more a part of the game.

Q: You're almost 36 years old. Did you ever think about retiring after last season?

A: When I decided to have my hip operation, it was a three-case scenario. If it was the worst case, I was done. That was it. I'd walk away. But it turned out to be the best-case scenario. It was a lot like just going in and having your knee cleaned out (of excess cartilage). They went in and cleaned out my hip, and four days after surgery, I was walking fine.

Q: How would you have handled retirement?

A: I would have definitely missed the game, but that wasn't the biggest thing. I felt last year was the worst year of my career, and I didn't want it to end that way. Everybody was saying I was done and washed up. I knew I wasn't. You don't forget to play hockey in six months. It just doesn't happen that way. I'm happy I've gotten a chance to come back.

-- Information from the Associated Press and the Dallas Morning News was used in this report.

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