Publish date:

In The Crease

Two players who have made a huge impact for the Senators,
trailing 2-0 at week's end in their second-round series against
the Capitals, are defenseman Lance Pitlick and forward Bruce
Gardiner. Pitlick was signed as a free agent after the Flyers
released him in 1994, and Gardiner was signed in June of that
year when the Blues, the team that drafted him, didn't offer him
a contract. Both players have smarts and character. If
small-market teams are to compete with the NHL's big spenders,
they need good scouts who can snatch gems like Pitlick and
Gardiner.... It looks as if the Rangers will be doling out big
bucks again for free agents. Coach John Muckler has been
scouting games during the playoffs, especially matches featuring
potential unrestricted free agents like Penguins center Ron
Francis (left), Sharks forward John MacLean, Blues defenseman Al
MacInnis and Red Wings blueliner Dmitri Mironov. New York's
priorities are to add a righthanded shooting defenseman for the
power play (MacInnis or Mironov would fill that need) and a
strong second-line center (Francis would fit in there)....
Avalanche coach Marc Crawford may be the fall guy in the wake of
Colorado's first-round loss to the underdog Oilers. Possible
replacements? Canadiens assistant coach Dave King or Bob
Hartley, coach of the Avalanche's Hershey, Pa., farm team.... If
you like battles, watch the matchup between Saku Koivu and
Michael Peca in the Canadiens-Sabres series. They're about the
same size, skate equally well and love to compete. This may be
one of the most vicious battles in the playoffs.

Pierre McGuire coached the Hartford Whalers in 1993-94.

COLOR PHOTO: JOHN BIEVER [Ron Francis and opponent in game]