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Original Issue

21 Florida Panthers

As far as hockey siblings go, the Sutters and the Bures stand at
opposite ends of the spectrum. If you belong to the Sutter clan,
you are likely to be as relentless as a Saskatchewan winter,
possess a Herculean work ethic and have coached in the NHL. If
you are one of the Bures, you skate like the wind, score
frequently and are married to a starlet (Valeri, to Candace
Cameron) or have dated a femme fatale (Pavel, with Anna
Kournikova). Now that Valeri, 27, has joined Pavel, 30, on a
team coached by Duane Sutter, the Panthers are hoping this
amalgamation of on-ice flare and behind-the-bench toughness can
make them winners again. Says Sutter, "We can make a strong run
at the playoffs this year."

That would be a big step up from a dismal 66-point season in
2000-01, during which there were few highlights besides the
continuing brilliance of Pavel, who was the NHL's leading goal
scorer (59) for the second straight season. However, the
Panthers' second-leading goal scorer was the Russian Rocket's
oft-injured linemate, center Viktor Kozlov, who had only 14. In
addition to needing more scoring--Florida's 200 goals ranked 24th
in the league--Sutter needs a more balanced attack, as the older
Bure accounted for 29.5% of Florida's goals.

The acquisition of Valeri (along with forward Jason Wiemer in a
June trade with the Flames for forward Rob Niedermayer) should
help: Over the last two seasons he scored 62 times. He'll play
right wing on the second line, which also includes promising
rookie Kristian Huselius (Swedish Elite League leader in six
offensive categories last season) and center Olli Jokinen, the
No. 3 pick in the 1997 draft, who has been a bust.

The news is not as good along the back line, where the lone
addition of note is the return of journeyman Jeff Norton, who
turns 36 in November. The goaltending inspires more optimism
thanks to emerging star Roberto Luongo, who finished with a 2.44
goals-against average and a team-record five shutouts as a
rookie. "Last year my goal was to establish myself as an NHL
goaltender," says Luongo. "This year my objective is to play as
many games as possible. I'm ready for a big season."

Luongo should deliver on his promise, but that may not be enough
to get the Panthers back to the playoffs.

--Richard Deitsch

COLOR PHOTO: BOB ROSATO Roberto Luongo, Panthers

Fast Fact

The most goals scored by teammate brothers in a season is 88, by
the Blackhawks' Bobby and Dennis Hull. Last season Pavel (59) and
Valeri (27) Bure combined for 86 goals, although Valeri's came
with the Flames.



FORWARDS 16 Lack of a No. 1 center hurts their consistency
DEFENSE 17 Svehla, Hedican can carry puck; quality depth
GOALTENDING 10 Luongo is ready to join league's elite
SPECIAL TEAMS 23 Power play needs to spend less time on
MANAGEMENT 23 Coach Sutter should have team playing hard