Already convinced that he is the best goaltender in the National Hockey League, the Edmonton Oilers seem intent on finding out if Grant Fuhr is also indestructible.
Fuhr has played all but 102 of a possible 1,697 minutes this season, starting all 28 games.
Including the playoffs last season and the Canada Cup series in September, he has started in 56 consecutive games.
Last season, Fuhr split time with Andy Moog, compiling a 22-13-3 record and a 3.44 goals-against average. Moog put together a 28-11-3 record and a 3.51 goals-against average.
But when the Stanley Cup championship was on the line last spring, Fuhr started in 18 consecutive playoff games, missing only the first three games of the Smythe Division semifinal series against the Kings.
That so angered Moog, who had shared the Oilers' goaltending duties with Fuhr for five seasons, that he joined the Canadian Olympic team this fall.
That, in turn, left the Oilers with a hole, which Fuhr has willingly filled for Coach Glen Sather. He is 15-10-2 with a 3.50 goals-against average, 1 shutout and a save percentage of .884.
"Really, it's been kind of fun," Fuhr told the Sporting News. "I've looked on it as a challenge. I don't know how many in a row I can play, but Glen's not putting any pressure on me to play every game."
The last goaltender to play in all of his team's games was Roger Crozier, who helped lead the Detroit Red Wings to a 40-23-7 record, best in the NHL, in the 1964-65 season.
Bernie Parent, who played in 73 of 80 games for the Philadelphia Flyers in the 1973-74 season, holds the NHL record for games played in a season by a goaltender.
And Glen Hall, formerly of the Red Wings and Chicago Blackhawks, played in 502 consecutive games, playing every minute of every game for seven straight seasons--without a mask, no less.
Fuhr is a threat to none of those accomplishments, Sather said. "He won't play 80 games, I'll tell you that."
But he will play 65 to 70.
"When you have the best goaltender in the world, why not play him?" Sather said.
Seeing red: Not surprisingly, owner Harold Ballard of the Toronto Maple Leafs, who won't allow the Soviets to play in Maple Leaf Gardens, isn't too excited about NHL President John Ziegler's proposal to have Soviet teams play regular-season games against NHL teams in the 1989-90 season.
"Loyal Canadians and Americans shouldn't let (the Soviets) near the shore," Ballard said. "I'd have a torpedo ready for them."
O, Canada: Ballard, on the plight of the Maple Leafs, who are 11-14-2: "You want to know what's wrong with our team? We don't have enough red-blooded American boys like Ed Olczyk and Al Iafrate."
Dave Brown of the Philadelphia Flyers has returned from a 15-game suspension, though he will still sit out games Thursday night and Dec. 22 against the Rangers.
But the lesson learned from his vicious crosscheck of the New York Rangers' Tomas Sandstrom should not be forgotten, ESPN's Bill Clement said.
Clement, a member of the Stanley Cup champion Flyer teams of 1974 and '75 that came to be known as the Broad Street Bullies, told Newsday that the NHL must crack down on players who wield their sticks dangerously.
"A hockey stick is a dangerous weapon," Clement said. "I've had it used on me and I've used it. I crosschecked a guy away from the play, like Dave Brown. We were in the corner and I came up from behind. He looked at me and I just left him there in a pool of blood.
"I know what it's like, and I know Dave Brown is going to do it again. It has to be wiped out."
Clearing the slot: Stuck in Manhattan traffic on their way to a game against the New York Rangers last month at Madison Square Garden, several members of the Winnipeg Jets picked up and moved a parked car that was blocking the way of their bus.
Sad but true: Emile Francis, general manager of the Hartford Whalers, said there was no need to send Torrie Robertson to the minors after the Whaler enforcer had rehabilitated a broken leg.
"He didn't need to sharpen his game," Francis said. "He doesn't handle the puck. He handles players."
Also sad but true: Comparing the Adams Division race to a baseball pennant race because of the importance of each game, Gord Kluzak of the Boston Bruins said: "The difference is that in baseball, only one team makes it. In our sport, only one team doesn't."
In other words, in a league where all but 5 of the 21 teams make the playoffs, the regular-season games are almost meaningless.