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Original Issue

In the Crease

One reason the Lightning has played better down the stretch is
the trade that sent unpopular captain Chris Gratton to the
Sabres on March 10. Tampa Bay players say Gratton always
absolved himself of blame when things went badly. In January the
Lightning held a players-only meeting and told Gratton that he
needed to improve his attitude....

Even though the Lightning is out of the playoff picture, it's
having an effect on the stretch drive. Last week hard-hitting
defenseman Pavel Kubina knocked out Canadiens forward Trevor
Linden for the rest of the season by breaking two of his ribs
with a body check. The next night Kubina K.O.'d Rangers center
Petr Nedved for several games with bruised ribs. Both hits were

Since Flyers minor league defense prospect Mark Eaton suffered
an eye injury last season, Philly G.M. Bob Clarke and his
assistant, Paul Holmgren, have been encouraging players in the
organization to wear shields....

A potentially precedent-setting arbitration hearing involving
Mike Van Ryn, a 1998 first-round draft choice of the Devils,
took place last week. After getting drafted, Van Ryn left
Michigan to play junior hockey, and now he wants to be declared
an unrestricted free agent. (Junior players who are drafted and
aren't offered a contract by an NHL team within two years
reenter the draft; the rights of college players are retained by
the drafting club until the draft after the player leaves
school.) The three agents who testified on Van Ryn's behalf, Don
Meehan, Steve Bartlett and Brian Lawton, have or had clients in
similar circumstances. The arbitrator is expected to issue a
decision this spring....

The Rangers are in danger of missing the playoffs, but their
future looks bright. Not only does New York have highly regarded
prospects Pavel Brendl and Jamie Lundmark in juniors, but it
also owns the rights to Boston College defenseman Mike Mottau, a
finalist for the Hobey Baker Award. Mottau, who moves the puck
well, may be ready for the NHL now.