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Richards' Friday more bitter than sweet

By DAMIAN CRISTODERO

© St. Petersburg Times, published May 13, 2001


Brad Richards had mixed emotions Friday.

The Lightning center was named one of three finalists for the Calder Trophy, given to the league's top rookie. But the 21-year-old still was steaming about Canada's 4-3 overtime loss to the United States the night before at the World Championships.

"I'm pretty angry about that," Richards said from Mykonos, Greece, where he is vacationing with teammate Vinny Lecavalier. "Just losing, it's such a shock. When you play for Team Canada, you expect to go to the medal rounds. But that's overtime and that's hockey.

"USA had a good team that worked hard. We were up 3-1 but started playing too much defense."

But there were other factors at work. Richards said Canada lost some juice after its emotional 5-1 qualifying-round victory over Russia.

"We came out so strong against Russia and beat them in every aspect of the game," he said. "We put everything into that game and forgot we had to beat other good teams. We had a letdown."

Richards and Lecavalier are scheduled to travel to Milan, Italy, and Paris before returning to Canada. Richards said he will jump right into the Lightning's summer conditioning program and wait to see if he beats Sharks goalie Evgeni Nabokov and Senators forward Martin Havlat for rookie of the year on June 14.

"I'm happy everything is over and I can concentrate on it and look back and realize what I did," Richards said.

WORLD CLASS TRIP: Maple Leafs star Mats Sundin knows how to travel in style. After the Leafs were eliminated by the Devils, he flew a chartered jet to Hanover, Germany, to play Saturday in Sweden's semifinal loss to the Czech Republic at the World Championships.

The flight, which included a fueling stop in Iceland, cost $52,000, paid for by Sweden's TV3.

"I didn't hesitate," Sundin said. "I decided the moment I got the call. I felt I was in such good shape in the playoffs, I wanted to keep playing."

AGENT DENIES RUMORS: Stories have swirled that Ottawa will trade captain Daniel Alfredsson as part of the fallout from the team's embarrassing sweep by the Leafs in the Eastern Conference quarterfinals.

Alfredsson's agent, Mike Barnett, scoffed.

"Daniel's not getting traded. This isn't going to happen. No way," he said.

Alfredsson, who is playing for Sweden at the World Championships, said he had heard the rumors but "was not at all concerned by them."

"I intend to talk to the Senators about next year as soon as the World Championships are over," he said.

LESSONS LEARNED: Robbie Ftorek said he was not fired by the Devils last season because of a player mutiny. But the new Bruins coach would not say more about the dismissal that came with eight games left in the regular season.

He said he learned from the experience.

"If you don't do things differently, then you haven't learned very much," he said.

"It was a decision that they made and it was obviously a good one because they won the Stanley Cup. It was unfortunate for me but I have to accept that and move on. It still hurts."

HE'S REALLY THE MAN: With apologies to Mario Lemieux, the Penguins would not be in the Eastern Conference final if not for the stellar work of goaltender Johan Hedberg.

Going into Saturday's opener against the Devils, the rookie was 8-5 with two shutouts. His 1.89 goals-against average was better than the 1.97 of New Jersey goalie Martin Brodeur.

ODDS AND ENDS: Sabres goaltender Dominik Hasek, who will make $9-million next season if Buffalo picks up his option, has not decided if he will retire. "Give me two or three weeks," Hasek said after the Sabres were eliminated by the Penguins. . . . Since Joel Quenneville left his job as an Avalanche assistant to be coach of the Blues, St. Louis was 4-11-3 against Colorado heading into Saturday's Western final opener.

- Information from other news organizations was used in this report.

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