Rudyard Kipling's comments about the differences between East and West certainly could be applied to the National Hockey League. If the aim of the game is the same -- to put the puck in the opponent's net -- it seems that only in the East do teams concern themselves with trying to keep it out of their goal.

Entering last night's games, the top nine defensive teams in the NHL were situated in the Prince of Wales Conference. The Patrick Division contained the four stingiest clubs -- Philadelphia, Washington, the Rangers and Islanders.

"It helps the goals-against quite a bit when you're not playing Edmonton all the time," said Winnipeg Coach John Ferguson, whose Jets have yielded 110 more goals than Washington and scored five fewer.

The nature of the opposition in an unbalanced schedule is a factor, of course. Teams in the Smythe Division look for goal scorers in an effort to compete with Edmonton, while Patrick teams have gone after muscle to battle the Flyers, Islanders and Capitals.

Perhaps that is the wrong approach, at least for the Smythe camp followers. The Capitals defeated the Oilers three times this season with solid defensive play. The entire Smythe Division has won only two games from Edmonton in 29 tries.