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Original Issue

In The Crease

Canadiens defenseman Vladimir Malakhov (below) has been an
enigma since coming to the NHL in 1992-93, but in Montreal's
first-round series against the Penguins, which the Canadiens won
4-2 on Sunday, he has proved that when he's focused, he can be
as good as any backliner in the league. Not only does the
Russian-born Malakhov have a booming shot from the point (one
goal and three assists through six postseason games), but he
also has the size (6'3", 220 pounds), strength and speed to help
shut down a star like Pittsburgh's Jaromir Jagr.... The
Senators' ability to contain New Jersey's vaunted cycle game may
have been the biggest reason for their first-round upset. Credit
Ottawa coach Jacques Martin with having taught his troops how to
establish body position down low and how to stick to and pin
bigger players.... What was the turning point in the
Sharks-Stars series, which Dallas won? Midway through Game 5,
San Jose was leading 2-1, and during a 30-second span it had a
pair of two-on-ones led by its top offensive players, forwards
Jeff Friesen and Owen Nolan. San Jose didn't get a shot on goal
either time, and Dallas came back for the 3-2 victory that gave
the Stars a 3-2 series lead.... One reason that the No. 2-seeded
Avalanche struggled in the first round against the No. 7
Oilers--the series was tied 3-3 through Sunday--was Colorado's
lack of depth. Solid right wing Mike Keane signed as a free
agent with the Rangers last summer, hard-nosed center Mike Ricci
was traded to the Sharks in November, and defensive specialist
Rene Corbet broke his left thumb in Game 1. To win in the
playoffs, teams need a good supply of skill and grit.... Doug
MacLean, the general manager of the Columbus Blue Jackets, who
will begin play in the NHL in 2000-01, has the best job in
hockey. He's getting a full salary, and he has the chance to
build the Blue Jackets from scratch. Recently MacLean spent
three days in Dallas learning how the Stars have successfully
marketed their team.

Pierre McGuire coached the Hartford Whalers in 1993-94.

COLOR PHOTO: DAVID E. KLUTHO [Vladimir Malakhov in game]