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In the Crease

Lightning forward Stephane Richer was close to being dealt to the
Stars last week before Blues general manager Larry Pleau stepped
in and acquired him for two minor leaguers. St. Louis persuaded
the 33-year-old Richer, who wanted a fresh start after being sent
to the minors last month, to retool his contract--he's earning $2
million this season and agreed to a Blues option for next year at
$1.5 million, $700,000 less than he was supposed to get....

Don't be surprised if Czech National coach Ivan Hlinka, who's
scheduled to begin a 30-day stint as a consultant with the
Penguins this week, stays on as a de facto assistant coach.
Jaromir Jagr is a big fan of Hlinka, who coached the Czechs to
the gold medal at the 1998 Olympics....

Sabres defenseman Jason Woolley was furious last summer when he
lost in arbitration (he asked for $2 million a season and was
awarded $950,000), but his performance this season suggests the
arbitrator was correct. After having scored four power-play
goals and spearheading an excellent man-advantage unit in
1998-99, Woolley has played poorly in '99-00. Through Sunday he
hadn't scored a power-play goal, and Buffalo was near the bottom
of the league in that category....

The Wings have offered a contract extension to defenseman Steve
Duchesne, who's enjoying a renaissance in Detroit teaming with
Chris Chelios. Last season Duchesne played so ineptly for the
Kings that L.A. bought out the four-year, $15 million free-agent
contract he'd signed in July 1998.