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Bandits put defense atop their wish list Outscored 41-22, team gets veteran Crossman


The coach need think back only a year to recall circumstances as revolting as those presently facing the Baltimore Bandits.

The team carries a 1-7-1 record to Massachusetts tonight and tomorrow for games against the Springfield Falcons and Worcester IceCats.

"We started 1-8-1 last season in San Diego before getting it straightened out and finishing over .500," Walt Kyle said of his previous assignment in the organization of the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim. "We didn't go on a tear to turn it around, we improved steadily through each segment of the season."

To help with their own turnaround, the Bandits yesterday agreed to terms with 35-year-old defenseman Doug Crossman, a 15-year NHL veteran. He is to report Monday for practice.

Crossman, who has played for nine NHL teams, spent the past season with the Denver Vipers of the International Hockey League and had six goals and 43 assists for 49 points.

Kyle, meanwhile, breaks down the 80-game season into 10-game bites. The record suggests that the first decade can and should be forgotten posthaste.

"Not necessarily," he said. "Our job as coaches is to make evaluations of the players and determine what we need. The games so far have given us an indication."

But, when a team has been outscored, 41-22, outshot, 326-248, and allowed 4.6 goals per game, it's too easy to say it needs everything.

"We knew even before the season started defense would be a problem area," Kyle said. "But there are just none of them sitting home waiting for a call. Teams began signing defensemen last July."

The Bandits were dealt a blow at the start when they expected free agent Oleg Mikulchik to be assigned here by Anaheim. Darned if Mikulchik, 30, didn't make it onto the roster of the Mighty Ducks.

Before Tuesday's 4-3 loss to Providence, the Bandits showed how desperate they are for defensive help when they dressed Slava Butsayev just hours after he had arrived on assignment from Anaheim.

"We dressed him because this allowed us to put Alex Hicks back on defense, something we don't want to do," Kyle said.

Not all of it can be laid at the feet of the defense, not when the club rarely scores a fourth goal, which usually means victory.

"We still haven't gotten things going, but you can see it coming," said Kyle. "David Sacco, for instance, had a great game against Providence [scoring two goals].

"After the losses to Rochester and Cornwall, I gave it to the players, because those were bad efforts. The other night, we turned in a good game. It's just that [the Bruins] took advantage of our breakdowns and we didn't take advantage of theirs."

Bandits tonight

Opponent: Springfield Falcons

Site: Springfield (Mass.) Civic Center

Time: 7:35

Radio: WITH (1230 AM)

Outlook: The Bandits have added C Slava Butsayev, which should help with the inconsistent offense. G Mike O'Neill is facing too many shots per game, 36. Springfield (5-2-1) has a four-point lead in the Northern Division.

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