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Lonnie White ON THE NHL

Lemieux Sure Could Write the Rule Book on Scoring

January 22, 2002|Lonnie White

Pittsburgh's Mario Lemieux didn't make it a secret when he retired in 1997 that he was leaving the game partly because the NHL had too much clutching and grabbing.

Now that he's back playing, Lemieux is again making noise, this time about the lack of scoring.

"It's a concern for everyone, for the league in general," said Lemieux, who hopes to play at least another four years if he can avoid injury. "It's a different game now. Teams are so much better defensively. There are videotapes every day. There are not too many breakdowns. The goalies are so much better than they used to be. Their equipment is so much bigger."

To create more scoring, Lemieux suggests rule changes.

"I think the neutral-zone infractions are slowing down the game quite a bit," he said. "It's tough to get going because you always have a stick on you. Maybe in the neutral zone, you shouldn't be allowed to put a stick on the guy, like they do in football with the receivers."

Lemieux also would like to see the red line removed and the nets moved back again.

"It would give you a couple more feet to work with and there would be less traffic behind the net," he said. "There wouldn't be any room for four or five guys like we have now. Most of the play would be in front of the net, which is where the scoring takes place."

They Call Him Lucky

Former King Luc Robitaille passed Bobby Hull to become the most prolific goal-scoring left wing in NHL history when he scored his 611th goal last week against Washington.

Being fortunate with the puck is a reputation that fits Robitaille well.

"He was a typical scorer--selfish, but that's why they're scorers," a former King teammate who was not identified told the Ottawa Sun. "Lucky was, like, 9-2 [nine goals and two assists] and the guys were really getting on him, calling him Cy Young. They were just riding him and he didn't like it. He said to us, 'I'll show you guys. I'm going to get an assist tonight.'

"He comes down on a two-on-one with Bryan Smolinski and he tries to pass him the puck. The defenseman goes down, and the pass hits his skate and goes in the net. Luc comes back to the bench and said, 'There, I tried, OK?' The guys on the bench were howling. The guy would score even when he wasn't trying to."

With 22 goals this season, Robitaille has scored at least 20 in 15 of his 16 seasons. The only season he didn't was in 1997-98 with the Kings when he played only 57 games and finished with 16 goals, missing the last 13 games because of a fractured foot.

Football Penalty Box

Philadelphia forward Jeremy Roenick may be a star for the streaking Flyers, but he recently didn't get too much respect from sideline security at Veterans Stadium.

Roenick was supposed to do a sideline interview to promote the NHL during the Eagles' NFL playoff game against Tampa Bay on Jan. 12, but he didn't have the proper credential and was forced to leave the field.

"I go down to do the interview and this head of security--Butch--decides he's going to be a big man," Roenick said. "He was on some kind of power trip. He's thinking he's president of the United States or something. He started wigging out on the security guys bringing me down."

Although Roenick eventually returned to do the interview after ABC went through proper channels, his teammates are not about to let him off the hook.

"I would have liked the story anyway, but it was even better because I saw it happen," defenseman Chris Therien said. "I was sitting behind the end zone with my neighbor and I see Jeremy being taken out by the security guards and he's yelling and screaming about this guy being on a power trip. It was great. It couldn't happen to a nicer guy."

Line Shifts

After getting beaten by Philadelphia's Donald Brashear in two first-period fights Saturday, Toronto's Tie Domi finally gave Brashear his due. "He has turned his career around a little bit and he is showing a little more respect," Domi said. "It's a good sign he didn't do any [showboat moves]. He could have, but he didn't and he has my respect."

Since picking up Brashear in a trade from Vancouver, the Flyers had won eight in a row and were 14-2-0 before Monday's 5-2 loss to Pittsburgh. "Chemistry is vital and you need all different kinds of players for your team to be good," Philadelphia Coach Bill Barber said. "Donald has come in and has added a presence to our team, and he is not just a role player. I don't think there is any question about that."

Paranoia spread among the league's Olympic players after Vancouver's Mattias Ohlund reportedly tested positive for a banned substance. Ohlund's test came eight days after he had corrective surgery on his right eye and took medication as part of his treatment. "I have nothing to hide," Ohlund said. "People who know me know I'd never take anything on purpose. What I took [acetazolamide] wasn't performance enhancing. In fact, it's the opposite."

Although the International Ice Hockey Federation cleared Ohlund on Monday to play in next month's Salt Lake City Games, there are plenty of nervous NHL players around. "It was surprising and, at the same time, a little scary," said Toronto's Mats Sundin, Ohlund's Team Sweden teammate. "You have to be so careful and aware of any medication you might take."

Quote of the Week

"If the NHL went to Olympic-size rinks tomorrow, half the defensemen in the NHL would have to retire."

U.S. Olympic team Coach Herb Brooks.

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