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Original Issue

In The Crease

With the league beginning its break for the Olympics only two
days before the start of next year's Winter Games in Salt Lake
City, one of the most difficult challenges facing national teams
will be overcoming the lack of practice time with their full
rosters. One way for team selectors, such as Wayne Gretzky, who's
choosing Canada's players, to solve this problem is to pick an
entire line from one NHL team and a defensive pairing from
another club and have them play in the Olympics as units. A
perfect fit for Canada would be the Flyers' trio of center Keith
Primeau and wings Simon Gagne and Mark Recchi. On defense Gretzky
could tap Blues Al MacInnis and Chris Pronger....

Wing Owen Nolan, the Sharks' best player, may have cost his team
the Pacific Division with his cheap shot of Stars forward Grant
Marshall last Thursday. Entering the All-Star break, San Jose
was only three points ahead of Dallas, and without Nolan, who is
expected to be suspended for at least 10 games, and center
Vincent Damphousse, who will miss the rest of the season with a
dislocated shoulder, the Sharks will be hard-pressed to hold off
the charging Stars....

Thrashers unrestricted free-agent-to-be Donald Audette, who is
having a career-year (25 goals), rejected Atlanta's $2.5
million-per-year offer. If the two sides don't come to terms,
look for the Thrashers to deal him....

The Stanley Cup-champion Devils have only seven players
remaining from the team that won New Jersey's first crown, in
1995, while the Red Wings have 17 players left from their
title-winning club of '97. This is a good example of how Devils
general manager Lou Lamoriello has successfully turned over his
roster, while his Detroit counterpart, Ken Holland, hasn't been
as proactive....

The most underrated line in the league is the Capitals' trio of
center Jeff Halpern and wings Ulf Dahlen and Steve Konowalchuk.
There's not another unit that controls play along the boards as
well as these guys.