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Published December 7, 2003

International incident

It appears Russian sensation Nikolai Zherdev had no alternative but to defect.

For months the Blue Jackets, who drafted him No.4 overall last summer, and the Russian Hockey Federation haggled over the conditions of Zherdev's transfer. The usual $100,000 paid by NHL teams to the Russian Federation in such situations apparently was not enough.

Columbus offered a potentially lucrative exhibition series with Moscow's Central Red Army team, for which Zherdev played, agreed to send him back to Russia if he wasn't NHL ready and agreed to send him back if there is a lockout.

Nothing. So Zherdev decided to leave.

According to the Columbus Dispatch, Zherdev, 19, flew from Moscow to Frankfurt to Toronto to Ottawa, where he was granted a work visa from the United States consul and cleared to play by the NHL.

The Russians threw a hissy fit, claiming Zherdev still had military obligations, the same tactic used to deter Tampa Bay's Alexander Svitov. But Bill Daly, the NHL's chief of legal operations, told the Dispatch he found no evidence Zherdev has a responsibility to the army.

In his first two NHL games, Zherdev had a goal and an assist.

"I tried to prove to everybody that I could score," the right wing said through an interpreter.

Shut up and play

Lightning coach John Tortorella has no use for players who fail to take advantage of their NHL opportunities and the agents who call and complain on behalf of their clients.

"It (ticks) me off," he said. "I'm tired of whining from agents. I'm tired of whining from players when they're given an opportunity to at least show up with some intensity. ... It's wrong how these athletes, especially youthful, come up and just try to get through a game. It's not going to happen."

Five Questions with Canadiens defenseman Patrice Brisebois:

Q: What was it like to play outdoors?

A: That was cold. We had some special underwear, but with the wind in your face, that was cold. We had propane gas on the bench to keep us warm. But the bad thing was, we smelled the gas.

Q: Didn't you play in the cold growing up in Montreal?

A: The thing was, when we played outside we weren't putting on our full gear, so you could put on a sweater or gloves or something like that.

Q: What's your worst cold-weather story?

A: I was about 12 years old and it was minus-20 Celsius. My mom told me maybe it was too cold to go to the rink. I played four hours. I came back and cried for two hours because when my feet were getting warmer my two big nails jumped up and fell off.

Q: Why didn't you realize how cold you were?

A: You feel like your feet are going to get cold and freeze. But after they freeze, you don't feel anything.

Q: What did your mom say?

A: I told you so.

Around the league

After the Flyers' 12-game unbeaten streak ended Monday against the Senators, Philly coach Ken Hitchcock changed three of his four lines, saying his players showed "psychological issues." ... The Rocky Mountain News said more than $1,000 has been contributed to a "Beat the Avalanche" fund started by Mighty Ducks fans. The money will go to a charity designated by the player who scores the winning goal the next time the Ducks beat Colorado in Anaheim. ... How can you not love Islanders fans? Captain Michael Peca was booed at Nassau Coliseum when a video promoting his place on the All-Star ballot was shown on the scoreboard. ... Colorado's Peter Forsberg (stomach muscle) is still not skating and out indefinitely. ... No Ottawa player ever has been voted onto an All-Star team, which makes Marian Hossa's second-place showing among wings notable. "Tell my family to keep calling in," he said.


"We had three bad shifts, and they scored on those shifts. Other than that, we didn't play a bad game."

- Panthers defenseman Andreas Lilja, who, with partner Mathieu Biron, was on the ice for three goals during a 4-3 loss to the Sabres.

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

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