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Original Issue

In the Crease

How good is Avalanche defenseman Raymond Bourque? Just ask Hal
Gill of the Bruins. Until Bourque was traded from Boston to
Colorado last March, he was paired with Gill in the latter's
first three years in the league. Gill's plus-minus rating over
that time was -9. Through Sunday, Gill's rating was -11 since
Bourque's departure....

Speaking of the Bruins, if they miss the playoffs this season
(as of Sunday they would not have qualified) and end up in the
draft lottery, the Oilers could be the beneficiary. As part of
the Anson Carter-Bill Guerin deal two weeks ago, Edmonton, which
doesn't figure to be a lottery team, can switch first-round
picks with Boston in 2001 or 2002. Scouts say this June's crop
of draftees will be unusually strong at the top....

One reason the Senators' Jacques Martin is an outstanding coach:
Knowing his defense wasn't as deep as in past seasons, Martin
gave his assistants, Roger Neilson and Perry Pearn,
responsibility for changing the defenseman pairings during
games. Having four extra eyes concentrating solely on defense
has helped Ottawa get matchups that it favors....

A couple of scheduling quirks: The Maple Leafs, an Original Six
team, have never played in Nashville, even though the Predators
are now in their third NHL season, and the Canucks and the
Hurricanes don't meet this year. "It won't happen again," NHL
scheduling guru Steve Hatze Petros says of the latter

Toronto, which finished 23rd in the NHL in penalty killing last
season, was first through Sunday. The difference? During the
off-season the Maple Leafs hired Keith Acton as assistant coach
and permitted him to oversee the penalty-killing unit. During
his 17-year NHL career Acton was always a top special teams
player, and he has the team playing better fundamentals, such as
closing down passing lanes.