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ALL-STAR NOTES

Ozolinsh Warms to Fans' Reception

February 03, 2003|Helene Elliott | Times Staff Writer

SUNRISE, Fla. — Sandis Ozolinsh didn't trust himself to look up when he received a hearty ovation before Sunday's NHL All-Star game.

Uncomfortable about returning to the Office Depot Center after the Florida Panthers traded him to the Mighty Ducks on Thursday, he considered pulling out of the game. He was talked into it by friends and was glad he got a chance to savor the affection of Panther fans who stuffed ballot boxes to get him into the East starting lineup.

"It was great to hear the reaction," said Ozolinsh, who skated out with his head bowed but raised his eyes to the rafters after a few seconds to acknowledge the applause from the crowd of 19,250. "I was really honored.

"I was really nervous and worried, and I questioned the reaction I'd get from the fans. If I didn't play, it would not have been fair to all the people that voted for me. It was very special."

Ozolinsh played 22 minutes 13 seconds and had a minus-2 defensive rating in a game won by the West, 6-5, in a shootout.

Despite his conflicted emotions over the trade, which occurred shortly after he had bought a house in Florida, he said he never considered not reporting to the Ducks.

"That has not been a question," he said. "I feel very excited to be part of this organization now. [Today] I'm going to be on a plane [to Calgary] and hopefully I'll be playing Tuesday."

*

St. Louis and West center Doug Weight left the arena on crutches after being struck in the left ankle by a wrist shot by All-Star teammate Ed Jovanovski in the third period. A Blues' spokesman said X-rays showed no breaks, but said Weight will be examined by team doctors today. He leads the Blues with 55 points.

*

It was just like old times, with Paul Kariya and Teemu Selanne reunited as linemates for the West.

Their banter was just like old times too, after Selanne failed to convert a pass from Kariya that put him in alone on goalie Patrick Lalime in overtime.

"It was a little frustrating," said Selanne, who has 21 goals with San Jose. "I was planning on maybe someday going back to Anaheim but Paul's passes were too high."

Said Kariya: "He had enough other chances. I told him, 'If you don't bury those passes, I don't want you back.' "

*

Although Kariya scored in the shootout, he doesn't favor using them to settle ties during the season.

"It's so rinky-dink," he said, unaware of his pun until reporters surrounding him pointed it out. "OK, let me change that. Gimmicky."

*

Dany Heatley's five-point game tied him for second with six other players for most points in one All-Star game.... This was the fourth All-Star game to go to overtime and first decided in a shootout. The tiebreaking procedure was introduced in 1994.

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