Neely's scoring is full strength

ON THE NHL

March 01, 1994|By SANDRA McKEE

Boston's Cam Neely is making other NHL goal-scorers look bad while making his own miracle on ice.

Neely has a bad left knee and plays little more than every other game. But he is leading the NHL in goals with 46 in 41 games.

His top challengers, Toronto's Dave Andreychuk and Detroit's Ray Sheppard, each have 45 goals. Andreychuk has played in 63 games, Sheppard in 61.

Neely has an NHL-best 12 game-winning goals. The man in second, Detroit's Sergei Fedorov, has nine.

Neely's shooting percentage is 28.2. Sheppard is second, scoring on 23.3 percent of his shots.

Bruins assistant general manager Mike Milbury, who just returned from the team's seven-game road trip, marvels at Neely's success.

"I frankly didn't expect him to come back this season," Milbury said. "[But] I don't know where we'd be without him. You're aware of our goal-scoring difficulties. He has been a lifeline that we cling to."

Neely is 28. He played a total of 22 games in the past two years because of his bad left knee. And when that knee filled up with fluid last October, he feared his career was finished.

But here he is, with 11 goals in his past seven games, leading the league in goals, game-winning goals and shooting percentage while playing every other game.

"I guess I'm day-to-day for the rest of my career," he said recently. "I guess that's my philosophy. You think about it, and it's not a badphilosophy for any athlete to have. Isn't every athlete just one play away from the end of his career? . . . Actually, it's not a bad philosophy for anybody. Live each day to the fullest because it could be the last."

Quebec must wait

The Quebec Nordiques were delighted with the outcome of the Olympic hockey tournament. Sweden won its first gold medal in the sport on center Peter Forsberg's goal in a shootout, after 60 minutes of regulation, 10 minutes of overtime, a five-round shootout and one round of sudden death.

Forsberg belongs to the Nordiques.

"Peter definitely is a difference-maker," Nordiques general manager Pierre Page said. "He's not unlike Michael Jordan or Larry Bird, players who wanted the ball in the final three minutes of a game when the pressure was on. Forsberg is like that. He thrives on the pressure."

Just the kind of player the Nordiques need. Quebec is 26 points off last season's pace and nine points out of a playoff spot in the EasternConference.

But Forsberg will return to Sweden to participate in league tournament play. The earliest he is expected in Quebec is the middle of this month. He could be as late as mid-April. If Quebec doesn't make the playoffs, it won't see any help from Forsberg until next season.

Old Jacks now medalists

Four former Baltimore Skipjacks played in the OlympicsDefensemen Brad Schlegel and Ken Lovsin and left wing Todd '' Hlushko won silver medals as members of the Canadian team. Defenseman Jiri Vykoukel played for the Czech team.

Portland update

The American Hockey League's Portland Pirates (formerly Baltimore Skipjacks) finished February with a 6-6-2 record. On Friday, center Kent Hulst scored the 100th goal of his pro career, a game-winner. The 2-1 victory over Springfield was the fourth straight for the team, which then lost 7-5 games back-to-back to Binghamton and Albany. Center Jeff Nelson (28 goals, 53 assists) continues to lead team scoring. Goalie Byron Dafoe is 21-14-4 with a 3.37 goals-against average.

Too hot to touch

The Washington Capitals are the hottest team in the NHL. They just completed the best February in their history -- 9-2-2. They have a three-game winning streak. They've lost twice in their past 15 games. And Don Beaupre has been in goal for 11 of those games. His GAA is 2.24 over that stretch. Beaupre is the last Capital named Player of the Week. It came Nov. 6 -- 1989.

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