Olympic rivals are rivals again


A little more than 13 months ago, Paul Kariya and Peter Forsberg were prospective NHL rookies playing for their national teams in the 1994 Olympics. It was Kariya leading his Canadian team to the gold-medal showdown against the Swedish team led by Forsberg.

And it all came down to a shootout. Forsberg scored what turned out to be the winning goal, when Kariya's final shot was stopped by goalie Tommy Salo.

Now, Forsberg is a rookie with the Eastern Conference-leading Quebec Nordiques and Kariya is a forward with the expansion Mighty Ducks of Anaheim in the Western Conference, and they again find themselves in a shootout of sorts, this time for the NHL rookie scoring title.

Forsberg has 10 goals and 30 assists for the Nordiques, the highest-scoring team in the NHL (155 goals).

Before last night's game with the Vancouver Canucks, Kariya had 14 goals and 17 assists for the Mighty Ducks, the fifth-lowest-scoring team in the league (94 goals).

It's a wonder Kariya can keep pace at all, but his 14 goals are tied for No. 1 among rookies with the Edmonton Oilers' David Oliver.

And thanks to Kariya's one goal and two assists Sunday, the Ducks have moved to within five points of the Los Angeles Kings in the stretch run for the eighth and final Western Conference playoff berth.

"We're on a little hot streak," Kariya said last week. "Hopefully, it's going to continue. I've had a lot of success recently -- in the Olympics and stuff. But before that, when I was in juniors, I played with teams that had 10 wins all season. I know how that feels."

Red Wings take flight

The Detroit Red Wings have won seven Stanley Cups, but none since 1954-55. But after they beat the Chicago Blackhawks on Sunday night, the Wings had the best record in the NHL -- 27-7-3. And if they win their first Cup in 40 years, it won't be by accident.

The Red Wings defense has allowed the fewest goals (82) in the league. And their offense hasn't been so bad either.

With Sergei Fedorov (19 goals, 21 assists), Dino Ciccarelli (13, 22), Keith Primeau (11, 22), Steve Yzerman (9, 23), Ray Sheppard (21, 8) and Paul Coffey (10, 32), the Red Wings are sitting pretty.

Add to the mix goaltender Mike Vernon, who hasn't been beaten in his past 15 games (12-0-3), and you might start dreaming about Stanley Cup ring designs.

Playoff dates set

The NHL has finalized its Stanley Cup playoff schedule. Eastern Conference games will begin May 6, and the Western Conference games will begin May 7. The teams will play every other day in each of four rounds until a Stanley Cup champion is crowned.

The only possible changes will be if Fox requires a day or time shift for its Sunday afternoon telecasts.

The conference semifinals begin May 20-21, the conference finals June 3-4 and the Stanley Cup finals June 17. If the final series goes seven games, the last possible date for crowning the champ is July 1.

They're only human

Center Mike Eagles was up most of the night after he was traded from the Winnipeg Jets to the Washington Capitals. But he came to terms with it a lot quicker than former Montreal Canadiens captain Kirk Muller did when he learned he was traded to the New York Islanders.

Eagles arrived in Washington the day after he was traded, in time to play Saturday night against the Philadelphia Flyers.

Muller, devastated by last Wednesday's trade, didn't join the Islanders until Sunday.

During a news conference, he said he "wanted to take a few days to get adjusted" and added, "Hey, I'm a human being -- people forget that. It would be tough for anyone to just up and move."

He played in his first Islanders game last night at Tampa Bay.

It was hard for Eagles, too.

"I guess I feel as good as you can," Eagles said before his second game with the Capitals last night. "I was excited right off the bat about Washington, but I've been in Winnipeg a long time. We have a lot of friends there, a good support system for our family. So it's tough to leave those people behind -- not only on the team, but in the community. But we understand it's part of the game."

Different in Vancouver

Brothers Geoff and Russ Courtnall almost danced in the street when Russ was traded from the Dallas Stars to Vancouver.

"We've dreamed about it for a long time," said Geoff, 32, who was already with the Canucks.

"You think about something for 11 or 12 years," said Russ, 29, "Every year that goes by, you think the chances are it's not going to happen. Then it happens. It's just fantastic."

The last time they were on a team together was 1982-83 with the Victoria Cougars of the Western Hockey League.

"Over the years, I've become a better playmaker, and Geoff has become a goal scorer," said Russ. "He's got the big shot and can skate. I can find him in the holes."

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