Publish date:

In The Crease

A player to watch: the Penguins' 21-year-old rookie Alexei
Morozov, a 6'1", 180-pound right wing with outstanding speed,
puck-possession skills and the ability to beat opponents
one-on-one off the rush. Once he bulks up, the rest of the
league better watch out. The development of Morozov may make it
easier for general manager Craig Patrick to hold his hard line
against unsigned restricted free-agent center Petr Nedved, who
sat out the entire season....

In Game 1 of the opening-round Canadiens-Penguins series referee
Rob Shick was accidentally hit in the face with a stick during
the first minute of play and needed six stitches under his left
eye. Shick, who has had numerous concussions in his 12-year NHL
career, finished the match, but he shouldn't have. In fact, one
Canadiens player said Shick looked glassy-eyed all night. For
the playoffs the league has standby officials at each game in
case of injury. The NHL should establish a formal procedure for
determining if an injured official should continue, so that the
outcome of games and the health of players and other officials
aren't jeopardized because of impaired judgment....

Mathieu Dandenault, Tomas Holmstrom and Kirk Maltby may not be
well known, but those foot soldiers are important to the Red
Wings. Those forwards have improved their skills considerably
and move the puck efficiently and creatively....

The free-agent derby begins on July 1, and one of the top
players available will be Pittsburgh center Ron Francis. The
Penguins would love to keep him, but other teams know that
Pittsburgh is struggling financially. A dark horse to sign
Francis could be St. Louis. Larry Pleau, the Blues' general
manager, coached Francis in Hartford, and Joel Quenneville, the
St. Louis coach, played with Francis there. Also, the Blues may
have money to burn because they have nine potential free agents,
including stars Brett Hull and Al MacInnis, who could sign

Pierre McGuire coached the Hartford Whalers in 1993-94.

COLOR PHOTO: KEITH SRAKOCIC/AP NEXT TIME Morozov hit the post in Game 1 on a penalty shot in OT. [Alexei Morozov]