By DAMIAN CRISTODERO
© St. Petersburg Times, published May 30, 2001
DENVER -- The quality of playoff officiating is apparently in the eye of the beholder.
NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said there is no indication referees are calling games differently. But Devils goaltender Martin Brodeur and defenseman Scott Stevens said the clutching, grabbing and slashing the league tried to wipe out during the season is back.
"There's no question there is less things being called," Stevens said. "But we always knew that was going to happen in the playoffs."
Brodeur said: "It's the playoffs. They don't call slashing. Every shift there is slashing. Trust me, it's changed. Going to the crease, going in front of the net, a lot more liberty is taken."
But Bettman said before Tuesday's Game 2 at the Pepsi Center that referees "have not been given different instructions and have been told to adhere to the standards. But I do think the style of play is different and the officials have to adjust to it."
Bettman said referees will pay more attention next season to diving, but the two-referee system has been "invaluable" improving the flow of the game and cutting down on slashing incidents.
He said the system is a "work in progress" and complaints about inconsistencies between referees are "overblown."
"It's up to the players to adjust," Stevens said. "We have to walk that fine line."
BETTMAN SPEAKS: Bettman touched on a few other issues.
He said the season will run about a week longer next year because of the 12-day break for the Olympics. To compress the season, he said more back-to-back games will be played in the playoffs. But a 2-3-2 travel schedule will not replace 2-2-1-1-1.
THE SPIT?: ESPN cameras appeared to catch Stevens spitting at Avalanche defenseman Adam Foote as he skated past the Colorado bench in the second period.
Stevens said he did not spit.
"It's ridiculous," he said.
FOOTE HURT?: Foote left with 5:16 remaining after hitting the end boards with New Jersey's Patrik Elias. Avalanche coach Bob Hartley said Foote is okay. "He just got bruised all over," Hartley said.
LINE DANCING: Devils coach Larry Robinson inserted Sergei Nemchinov, not Scott Gomez, on Bobby Holik's line in place of injured right wing Randy McKay. Gomez played center between Alexander Mogilny and Sergei Brylin.
"I changed my mind (Tuesday) afternoon," Robinson said. "I just hated taking Gomez away from the middle. I just didn't like the look that I got."
ODDS AND ENDS: The NHL will use 30 cameras in Thursday's Game 3 at Continental Airlines Arena to provide multiangled replays. . . . For the second straight game, the Avalanche scratched former Lightning defenseman Bryan Muir.