TORONTO, NOV. 14 -- Clint Malarchuk will be known as "Scarneck" forever, but could he also emerge as a Vezina Trophy winner?

Lots of folks thought Buffalo Sabres goalie Daren Puppa might be ready to lift that trophy over his head this season after a terrific 1989-90 campaign in which he finished second in the Vezina voting to Montreal's Patrick Roy.

But Puppa hasn't even been the best goalie on his team. Malarchuk has that distinction through 17 games, and his excellent play is part of why the Sabres have recovered from their early season troubles.

Malarchuk has won three in a row (including a 4-2 victory Saturday over his former teammates, the Washington Capitals) and is 4-0-1 in his last five starts. His record is 5-2-1 with a 2.11 goals-against-average. Puppa is 2-4-3 with a 3.59 GAA going into tonight's game in Los Angeles.

"He's the young guy and I know my role on this team," Malarchuk said. "Right now, I'm just on a streak, but it's a long season."

Ultimately, Malarchuk may be remembered more for his sense of humor and the three-inch scar on his neck. On March 22, 1989, playing for Buffalo, he was cut across the neck by a skate blade, and blood poured from his jugular vein.

Rumors of Ridley Deal

Although his offensive production is off a bit so far this season, teams appreciate the all-around ability of the Capitals' Mike Ridley. That's why his name had popped up in trade rumors in Winnipeg (his home town) and Toronto, where the Capitals played the Maple Leafs tonight. As far as Toronto goes, that may be moot now. The Maple Leafs traded center Ed Olczyk to the Jets for left wing Paul Fenton over the weekend. . . .

The Maple Leafs -- who made three trades last week -- reportedly also have been shopping Gary Leeman, who produced 51 goals and considerable antipathy among teammates last season. The bait has been out there for weeks, with no takers, and Leeman's newly separated shoulder doesn't make such a deal look very appealing at the moment. . . .

Tuesday, the Islanders sent defenseman Doug Crossman to Hartford for center Ray Ferraro. The Whalers -- like the Capitals last season -- are realizing that youth movements don't do the job overnight, if they ever do. The best thing going for the Whalers right now is Quebec, which lost a club-record 11th straight game Tuesday. The Hartford power play is next to last, and the hope is Crossman can inject some life into it from the point.

Farewell to the Game

Boston defenseman Gord Kluzak retired Tuesday -- 11 knee operations proved too much. "I know I'll have a life beyond {hockey}," Kluzak told the Montreal Gazette before he hung up the skates. "But I also know I'll never have anything like hockey." . . .

Chicago's Steve Larmer will visit Capital Centre Friday with the Blackhawks. Chicago Tribune columnist Bob Verdi put it best when he said Larmer is to the Blackhawks what Ryne Sandberg is to the Cubs. . . .

So far this season, there have been three penalty shots, and the goalies are leading, 2-1. Winnipeg rookie Rick Tabaracci stopped Edmonton's Jeff Beukeboom and Philadelphia's Pete Peeters foiled Toronto's Leeman. Buffalo's Pierre Turgeon scored on on Montreal's Roy.

A Piece of Two Pies

The Canadiens and Maple Leafs might be rivals, but they ultimately answer to some of the same people. Molson Companies Ltd., the beer maker that owns a sizable chunk of the Canadiens, acquired about 20 percent of the stock in Maple Leaf Gardens, Ltd., at the end of October. Molson exercised an option it held when it agreed in 1980 to pay the interest on loans that the late Maple Leafs owner Harold Ballard took out to solidify his hold on the Toronto franchise. Molson reportedly has no plans to give up its shares of the Canadiens, so the situation presents an obvious conflict of interest.

"It has been agreed between the NHL and the Molson Companies, Ltd., that pending disposition of these shares, the shares will be placed in a trust with provisions to ensure there can be no involvement by the Molson Companies, Ltd., in the day-to-day operations of the Toronto Maple Leafs hockey club," NHL President John Ziegler said in a statement earlier this month.