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Original Issue

Flyers Friction Jeremy Roenick takes exception to coach Ken Hitchcock's tactics

Civil War buff Ken Hitchcock is starting his second season as
Flyers coach, and his players are learning that he doesn't mind a
little strife in his team's dressing room. Four days before the
opening game Hitchcock publicly tweaked 33-year-old center Jeremy
Roenick, saying he lacked focus in the preseason. The remarks
stung Roenick, and after two regular-season games in which he
went scoreless, a meeting was scheduled last week to clear the
air. "We had a good hour[long] chat," says Roenick, who had a
goal and two assists last Saturday in a 5-4 win over the Coyotes.
"It was very productive, and it was one where we were at each
other's throats."

The Flyers can expect more of those tense encounters. In his
previous coaching stop, in Dallas, the 51-year-old Hitchcock
molded the Stars into a Stanley Cup winner by constantly
challenging his players, including Brett Hull. Last season
Hitchcock kept the mind games to a minimum as he installed his
trademark defensive system in Philadelphia.

During training camp last month, however, Hitchcock said he
wanted to keep his veterans on edge by cutting their ice time and
shuffling lines. Late in camp he dropped left wing John LeClair
from a line that included Roenick and right wing Tony Amonte,
leaving the team's top-scoring unit reeling before the season
opener. Roenick lobbied to have 35-year-old wing Mark Recchi
added to the first line, but Hitchcock gave 23-year-old Simon
Gagne most of that ice time in the first four games.

Hitchcock insists he isn't feuding with Roenick but merely
"trying to give him strong direction and knowledge in how to be a
great player." Those messages will be easier to take as long as
the Flyers are winning, and they were off to a 2-0-2-0 start
through Sunday. "[Hitchcock wants to] keep things negative rather
than pat you on the back," says Roenick. "I think everything he
does with me is to keep me motivated and on edge."

COLOR PHOTO: LOU CAPOZZOLA (ROENICK) Hitchcock (inset) likes to play mind games with his veterans, suchas Roenick.