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Original Issue

In The Crease

After his team's road victory against the Canadiens on Feb. 18,
Florida coach Mike Keenan invited his mentor, Scotty Bowman, to
address the Panthers, the NHL's youngest club. Bowman told the
players they were heading in the right direction, and they
immediately proved him correct. In Florida's next two matches,
against Eastern powerhouses Ottawa and Philadelphia, the
Panthers, who were 17-22-11-9, scored a pair of upsets.... One of
the worst trades last summer was Montreal's swapping hard-nosed
forward Arron Asham to the Islanders for soft but skilled wing
Mariusz Czerkawski. Through Sunday, Asham (10 goals) had scored
twice as many times as Czerkawski. To compensate for the loss of
Asham's toughness, the Canadiens had to claim enforcer Gordie
Dwyer off waivers from the Rangers last week.... One reason the
Mighty Ducks (29-21-8-4 at week's end) are poised for their first
winning season since 1999-2000 is their shakeup last off-season.
New general manager Bryan Murray not only hired the right coach
(Mike Babcock) and acquired skilled players such as wing Petr
Sykora, but he also brought harmony to the organization. Former
general manager Pierre Gauthier, who was uncommunicative, was
disliked by many players and front-office personnel.... Stars
defenseman Derian Hatcher may be the most improved blueliner in
the league this season. Why? First, rookie coach Dave Tippett
paired him with slick Sergei Zubov, keeping Hatcher from having
to overhandle the puck. Second, Tippett switched the
southpaw-shooting Hatcher from right defense to left, making it
easier for Hatcher to maneuver the puck and allowing him to pivot
to the outside more quickly. After being +12 last season, Hatcher
was tied for the NHL lead in that category, at +33.