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Original Issue

Inside the NHL

Unlucky Luc
The Red Wings' Luc Robitaille, the top goal-scoring left wing in
history, struggles to regain his golden touch

Among the smattering of older stars having subpar seasons--the
Devils' Joe Nieuwendyk, 36, and the Ducks' Adam Oates, 40, to
name two--no player has flopped as badly as 36year-old Luc
Robitaille of the Red Wings. Robitaille, whose soft hands and
touch around the net have helped him score more goals than any
other left wing in NHL history (624 through Sunday), had just
four in 49 games this season. Robitaille, who scored 30 goals in
2001--02, hadn't tallied in 18 straight games, the longest dry
spell of his career. Says Canucks general manager Brian Burke,
"Luc is snakebitten. Nothing is happening for him."

In an attempt to get Robitaille back on track, Detroit coach Dave
Lewis has shuffled him around the lineup, using him on a top line
with center Sergei Fedorov, stationing him in the crease on the
power play and even flipping him to right wing. But Robitaille
has mainly toiled on the fourth line, averaging 13:54 of ice time
per game, eighth among Red Wings forwards. On Jan. 16, Lewis even
scratched Robitaille, the first time he had been benched in 1,250
NHL games. Says Robitaille, "That was the hardest thing in my

Neither speedy nor physical, the 6'1", 215-pound winger has taken
a workmanlike approach to ending his slump. "I've been trying to
do all the little things," he says. "Trying to get open, being
more patient and going in the corners as hard as I can. When I
don't score, what I try to do is go back to basics. I change my
game, become like a grinder. When I was playing 20 minutes a
game, [good] things would end up happening. But when you're only
playing 13 or 14 minutes a game, it's not the same, because you
don't get as many chances."

Three-Team Trade
A Big Deal For Boston

It took Bruins general manager Mike O'Connell four months to
trade holdout defenseman Kyle McLaren, but the return was worth
the wait. In last Thursday's three-team swap among Boston,
Montreal and San Jose (which got McLaren), O'Connell came away
with veteran goalie Jeff Hackett (from the Canadiens) and
promising defenseman Jeff Jillson (from the Sharks).

From Dec. 10 through last Thursday, Bruins goalies Steve Shields,
Andrew Raycroft and John Grahame (who was traded to the Lightning
on Jan. 13) had a 3.33 goals-against average and an .880 save
percentage as Boston went 51420. In his Bruins debut last
Saturday, Hackett blanked the Flyers 1--0 and improved his save
percentage to .929, the league's third best. The most intriguing
player in the deal for Boston, however, may be the 22year-old
Jillson, a 6'3", 220-pound former first-round draft pick. Says
O'Connell, "Jillson is a big, strong, young defenseman who skates
well, and we believe he'll develop into a top-four NHL

COLOR PHOTO: DAVID E. KLUTHO (ROBITAILLE) Robitaille, a 12-time 30-goal scorer, had four at week's end.