Center Eric Lindros is three points from leading the NHL scoring race but all he can talk about is his Philadelphia Flyers teammates.
"I haven't changed," said Lindros, who is in his third NHL season. "Our team has changed."
Lindros arrived in Philadelphia with great expectations, but by himself could not solve the Flyers' problems. The team missed the postseason party for the fifth straight year last season.
Then came coach Terry Murray and the Feb. 9 trade that sent right wing Mark Recchi to Montreal for center John LeClair, defenseman Eric Desjardins and left wing Gilbert Dionne. Since then, the Flyers have produced the NHL's best winning percentage, .714, while going 9-3-2. And the line of Lindros, LeClair and Mikael Renberg has combined for 31 goals and 35 assists in those 14 games.
"I have the best job in hockey," said Lindros, who has 12 goals and 22 assists since LeClair came on board. "I have two big wingers now going to the net and I only have to find one of them. I don't have to be as physical. I don't have to run around with my head cut off, like the previous two years."
But Lindros insists he hasn't changed. He says Murray has taught the Flyers how to pick up the right man in the neutral zone, how to plan what they want to do off a faceoff and how to hold up the opposing team's attack to give the defense time to regroup.
"The trade improved our depth and put us in position to compete with the best teams," said Lindros, 22. "Terry Murray has given us the little things we need to have the confidence to know that we can play with the best every night."
Tonight, Lindros and company will play the New York Rangers for first place in the Atlantic Division.
"We have such a strong team now, every practice is a challenge," Lindros said. "We're supposed to be grown men, but in our hearts we're kids and playing the game we love."
When you're winning, love has a tendency to grow.
Something to strive for
Washington Capitals rookie goaltender Jim Carey is undefeated in seven starts, but still has a way to go before he sets any records.
Former Capitals goalie Pete Peeters started his NHL career with the Flyers 22-0-5 at the start of the 1979-80 season. And that performance is only second best; Boston's Gerry Cheevers' rookie season produced a 24-0-8 record before a loss.
Sharks in the swim
Former St. Louis center Craig Janney arrived in San Jose just before the floods hit last weekend, but that didn't prevent him from helping his new teammates hand out a big assist to the San Jose community.
After practice Monday, Janney, captain Jeff Odgers and rookie Jeff Friesen (the youngest NHL player this season at 18 years and seven months) joined a number of other teammates in helping to bail out the Arena neighborhood flooded by rains that forced the cancellation of the Sharks' Sunday game.
They shoveled mud, debris and water from the Alano Club, a halfway house associated with Alcoholics Anonymous, then helped Henry's Hi-Life, a favorite postgame eatery.
"I was blown away," said Richard Morris-Aranda, the general manager of Henry's, which has been operating for 36 years in an 1880s building that once was a hotel for immigrants.
"Those guys skated at practice all morning and then came down here and helped us for more than three hours. They loaded about 150 sandbags, made more sandbags, bailed water. You name it. Whatever we needed, they did. Their mascot, Sharky, was out in the street directing traffic."
The restaurant had 4 1/2 feet of water rolling through it and Morris-Aranda said it will be closed for at least a week.
"But we needed the help and those guys were here for us and the rest of the community, too," he said.
Tampa Bay value going up
Some may think the Tampa Bay Lightning might not be thrilled with the arrival of Major League Baseball to the city in 1998 (if the strike is settled by then). But Lightning governor David LeFevre says it isn't so.
"We're playing in their dome, but they're not coming in until 1998 and we've got a new arena being built that will be finished Oct. 1, 1996," said LeFevre. "So that's not a problem. And with football, hockey and now baseball here, this area is clearly major league and growing."
The only conflict LeFevre sees is one he is looking forward to.
"By 1998, we hope to be playing a major role in the Stanley Cup playoffs," he said. "So some games may overlap. But by that time, we'll have firmly established our market."
No shave today
After the Capitals' Carey earned his first victory over the New York Islanders, he lathered his face and was about to enjoy a postgame shave when rookie center Jason Allison asked him to stop.
"You can't shave," said Allison, who at 19 is a year younger than Carey. "You've got a winning streak going."
Carey stared into the mirror.
"It was just one game, but I stood there for five minutes, wondering if I should listen to the kid," he said, rubbing what has become a lengthening project. "I hate beards. But now I've gone [six] straight without a loss. I guess I better thank him."