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  •   Notebook: Stars Think Hasek's Shtick Wearing Thin

    Stanley Cup Finals Logo By Ken Rappoport
    Associated Press
    Saturday, June 12, 1999; 3:49 p.m. EDT

    Dominik Hasek has really been sticking it to the Dallas Stars. Ask coach Ken Hitchcock, who is really angry over the way the Buffalo Sabres' goaltender drops his stick on the ice during play around his net.

    "I have a real problem with that because he uses it perfectly as a stopper,'' Hitchcock said. "It's bothered a lot of coaches in the league because we don't allow hockey players to play like that, so why should the goaltender play like that?

    "Not only does the stick get dropped but it gets strategically placed. I don't like it if there's a double set of standards for people. That goalstick, to me if it goes outside that blue area, we should just shoot it into the stands.''

    The Injury Factor
    Sabres coach Lindy Ruff was talking about how injuries are so much a part of hockey. That goes double late in the season when your team is in the Stanley Cup finals.

    "I think if you actually had the count of injuries, the number would be unbelievable,'' Ruff said, then without skipping a beat added, "... although our team is completely healthy right now.''

    That got a chuckle from the press, which is well aware of how hockey teams tend to hide the kind of injuries they have as a tactical advantage.

    Not So Handy
    Mike Modano's wrist injury might affect his game somewhat, but he will be no worse than any of the other Dallas Stars, according to coach Ken Hitchcock.

    "The players put it best,'' Hitchcock said. "It's about time he feels like the rest of them – average hands.''

    Ray of Light
    Rob Ray was excited about making his first start in the finals for the Sabres on Saturday night. He was inserted into the lineup by coach Lindy Ruff to give Buffalo more of a physical presence in front of goaltender Dominik Hasek.

    "They think that's what they need to do to win the game,'' Ray said of the Stars' game plan of creating traffic in front of the Buffalo net. "What we have to do is protect Dominik.''

    All-Around Guy
    Dallas Coach Ken Hitchcock says Mike Modano would be an easy player to replace offensively "short-term.'' As for other parts of the game, that's a different story.

    "There are so many details about his game that we would miss – protecting a lead, killing a penalty,'' Hitchcock said. "He's such a great all-around player, he does so many things.''

    Small Market Salvo
    With the Buffalo Sabres in the finals, coach Lindy Ruff thinks they have struck a blow for small-market teams in the NHL.

    "It bodes well,'' Ruff said. "Parity is at a premium. The gap between the superstars and the really good players is not that big.

    "If you have some good players in the system, you can build a good team. Spend your money on a few good players – our goalie [Dominik Hasek] is certainly worth it – and build around him.''

    Shooting Star
    What makes Brett Hull such a special player?

    "He is so good at finding the open ice,'' Buffalo's Mike Peca says of the Dallas Stars' hard-shooting left wing. "There are times when you are getting into defensive coverage [and] one second you turn your head, he kind of slides into a little hole and finds a shooting area.''

    Hull, who has more than 500 goals in his career, already had two after the first two games of the finals.

    "The [Dallas Stars] have done a great job of getting him the puck, so it is a tough task [defending against Hull], but one certainly that we are going to have to pay more attention to.''

    Streaking Sabres
    The Sabres had a 7-0 record at home prior to Saturday night's Game 3 of the finals. The team record for consecutive home wins in the playoffs: eight, by the Sabres in 1975.

    Buffalo's streak that year was broken by a 2-0 loss at home to the Philadelphia Flyers in Game 6 of the finals.

    Heating Up
    The finals figure to become rougher as they go on, particularly if the Dallas Stars continue to target Buffalo goalie Dominik Hasek. Says Buffalo's Jay McKee:

    "There's an unwritten rule that you wouldn't intentionally run another team's goalie, but we're going to drive to the net hard. If we feel they're intentionally running over Dominik, then we'll just drive to the net harder and try to keep it fair.

    "But if we get hauled down, then I guess we'll just end up going through [Stars goalie Ed] Belfour.''

    © Copyright 1999 The Associated Press

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