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Original Issue

In the Crease

In overtime against the Panthers on Oct. 12, Thrashers
second-year sensation Ilya Kovalchuk was penalized for using an
illegal stick, an infraction that led to Florida's game-winning
goal by Olli Jokinen. After last season, during which the
19-year-old Kovalchuk was also called for an illegal stick,
Atlanta's management notified his stickmaker, Easton, that it
would not pay for any stick that was delivered with an illegal
curve. Kovalchuk circumvented the Thrashers by having a friend
buy sticks from the company. Atlanta has since fined him $500....
Don't hesitate to attend a Wild game this year. The reason? The
most trapping team in hockey has discarded its constipating
system for a freewheeling, high-speed style that is pleasing to
watch. The change enabled lightning-quick 2002 first-round draft
choice Pierre-Marc Bouchard, who is only 5'9" and 155 pounds, to
make the team.... The Sharks are off to a slow start (1-3-0-0
through Sunday), and many of the team's veterans are fretting
over the contract stalemate that's keeping No. 1 goalie Evgeni
Nabokov on the sidelines. The players feel that to advance as far
as the conference finals in the ultracompetitive West, San Jose
would need home ice advantage in the first two rounds of the
playoffs, a possibility that gets less likely with each day
Nabokov remains out.... Credit underrated defenseman Calle
Johansson with helping the Capitals (3-2-0-0) break out of the
gate well. Johansson, who missed all but 11 games last season
with a shoulder injury, is the glue for Washington's back line.
With Johansson eligible to become an unrestricted free agent at
season's end, expect G.M. George McPhee to sign him to an
extension before long.... After three fine seasons with St. Cloud
State, Blackhawks center Tyler Arnason showed up at Chicago's
rookie camp in August 2001 weighing 225 pounds, way too heavy for
his 5'11" frame. He spent most of '01-02 with the Blackhawks' AHL
affiliate in Norfolk, trimming down and becoming the league's
rookie of the year. (He also played 21 games with Chicago,
scoring four points.) In September he reported to camp at 196
pounds and has earned a regular spot in Chicago's lineup.