The Panthers gambled and lost in November when they acquired
skilled but unproven center Viktor Kozlov (left) from the Sharks
for a 1998 first-round draft choice. With Florida close to
elimination from the playoff race, that pick will likely be a
lottery selection. Meanwhile, Kozlov, the sixth player selected
in the '93 draft, is displaying signs of a poor work ethic--the
reason San Jose traded him.... Rookie defenseman Mattias Ohlund
of the Canucks is the centerpiece of Mike Keenan's rebuilding
process in Vancouver. Ohlund, 21, excels at everything--he
passes crisply out of the defensive zone, clears players from
the crease and runs the power play well, thanks in part to a
lightning-quick release on his shot.... The NHL's top five
players, in terms of lifting fans out of their seats: Pavel Bure
of the Canucks, Jaromir Jagr of the Penguins, Mike Modano of the
Stars, and Paul Kariya and Teemu Selanne of the Mighty Ducks.
All of these stars possess the ability to accelerate with the
puck and beat opponents one-on-one.... What makes Avalanche
center Peter Forsberg one of the best players in the world? He
has the patience to control the puck in traffic for a fraction
of a second longer than most players, which often allows his
linemates to break free from coverage. Forsberg can also create
offensive chances off the rush and the cycle, a dangerous skill
provided that he is surrounded with finishers.... Players around
the league say that the boards and seamless glass behind the
nets in Phoenix's America West Arena have virtually no give.
Modano separated his shoulder running into those boards last
Thursday and is sidelined for the rest of the regular season.
Pierre McGuire coached the Hartford Whalers in 1993-94.
COLOR PHOTO: BRIAN WINKLER/ B. BENNETT STUDIOS [Viktor Kozlov in game]