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Inside The NHL

Quick Fix
A trade to Philly gave Tony Amonte and the Flyers' offense a
needed lift

In mid-February, Coyotes general manager Mike Barnett asked wing
Tony Amonte point-blank, "Do you want out of Phoenix?" A 30-goal
scorer eight times in 12 seasons through 2001--02, Amonte signed
a four-year, $24 million free-agent contract last July, but his
first season as a Coyote was a bust. He was on pace to score
fewer than 20 goals. Still, he told Barnett he was determined to
make things work in Phoenix.

But on March 10 Barnett, who was eager to shed salary because his
team had fallen out of the playoff picture, told the 32year-old
Amonte that the Coyotes wanted to send him to the
postseason-bound Flyers for two draft picks and a minor league
forward. Because he had a no-trade clause in his contract, Amonte
could nix the deal. "When I heard it was Philly," says Amonte, "I
knew I had to go."

Lost in the desert a month ago, Amonte has regained his scorer's
touch. Playing on a line centered by his high school buddy and
former Blackhawks teammate, Jeremy Roenick, Amonte had four goals
and four assists in his first six games with Philadelphia. "I
feel refreshed," he says.

So do the Flyers, who sputtered on offense much of the season.
With the addition of Amonte, one of the league's speediest
skaters, Philadelphia can roll out three top-notch lines. Since
Amonte's arrival the Flyers have averaged 3.3 goals per game,
compared with 2.3 before the deal. "We've been able to create
more opportunities off the rush," says coach Ken Hitchcock.

Most important for the Flyers' Cup chances--at week's end they
were 39-20-11-4, four points behind the Devils for first place in
the Atlantic Division--Amonte has breathed life into a dismal
power play. Before the trade Philadelphia was 27th in the league
in man-advantage efficiency (13.3%); with Amonte the club
converted six of 24 power plays. Amonte scored one of those goals
and assisted on three others.

Bruins Fire Robbie Ftorek
A Late-Season Remedy?

Does any coach dread March more than Robbie Ftorek does? Last
week he was fired as the Bruins' coach with the club seventh in
the East, the second time he's been axed on the eve of the
postseason. The Devils let Ftorek go with eight games left in
'99--00, then won the Cup under Larry Robinson. In both cases the
players rebelled against Ftorek.

Late-season coaching changes have rarely helped teams. Since the
1967--68 expansion, nine clubs have fired their bench boss with
10 or fewer games left in the regular season. The replacements
have a combined record of 22-25-6. G.M. Mike O'Connell will coach
Boston the rest of the way, but expect Mike Sullivan to take over
in '03--04. Sullivan is O'Connell's bench assistant.

COLOR PHOTO: BBS (TOP) In six games with his new club, Amonte scored four goals andenergized the power play.