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North Stars' Ciccarelli Shifts Into High After Broten's Injury

December 09, 1986|KEN RAPPOPORT | Associated Press

When Neal Broten suffered a dislocated shoulder on Oct. 30, it was one break the Minnesota North Stars didn't need.

Not only did they lose a player who was their scoring leader for three out of the last four years, they lost a perfect complement to Dino Ciccarelli on their top offensive line.

"We played together for five years," Ciccarelli says, "and I love Neal like a brother. Once he got hurt, people said I wouldn't be scoring as many goals because I didn't have Neal."

But that didn't stop or even slow down Ciccarelli, who currently leads the NHL with 27 goals, and it hasn't appeared to hurt the North Stars as a team, either.

They've won six of their last seven games and currently are fighting for the Norris Division lead after fighting to stay out of the cellar most of the early season.

Ciccarelli, a notorious slow starter, says he's more surprised by his torrid scoring pace than he is by the team's current play.

"All that's happening is that we're playing up to our potential," Ciccarelli said recently after the North Stars had won their sixth straight game with a 5-3 victory over the New Jersey Devils in East Rutherford. "This is how we can play if we're on top of our game. It's taken a year and a half with (Coach) Lorne Henning, but I know a lot of guys here feel good about his coaching. He's a good coach and he seems to bring out the best in everybody.

"With Donnie (Beaupre), our goaltending has been great and I've never seen our defense play as good as they have, and that's where it all starts, in our own end. We can take care of our own end and at the other end we've got so much offensive power, that will take care of itself."

Ciccarelli, who leads the league not only in goals but power play goals as well (15), has been the centerpiece in the North Stars' turnaround.

"No question, Dino Ciccarelli is the most dangerous man in the league on the power play," insists Detroit Coach Jacques Demers, putting him above such as Edmonton's Wayne Gretzky and Pittsburgh's Mario Lemieux.

Ciccarelli's effectiveness on the power play has something to do with Brian MacLellan, a forward acquired from the Rangers.

"We have big Brian in front of the net, which frees Dino a bit," Henning says. "On top of that, Dino is opportunistic. He moves in and out and positions himself well and, of course, he has the shot. And Ronnie Wilson has been setting up Dino nicely from the point."

Henning also said that Ciccarelli isn't afraid to hit and take chops himself.

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