ILL-STARRED: Edmonton Oilers Coach John Muckler is in a quandary over whether to choose his own goalie, Bill Ranford, or the Chicago Blackhawks' Ed Belfour for the Campbell Conference team in the NHL All-Star Game Jan. 19.
Goalie Mike Vernon is going to be on the Campbell All-Stars through the fan voting. Muckler could ignore Belfour more easily if the game wasn't in Chicago. If he chooses Ranford, the Stanley Cup MVP whose record can't compare to Belfour's this season, he can expect a storm of protest from the Hawks and their fans.
While Muckler otherwise is expected to select a team composed mostly of offensive-minded players, he has indicated he will pick a classic agitator in Calgary's 5-foot-6 Theoren Fleury, a player he often yells at derisively from the bench.
"I'm so upset at him I'm going to take him to play in the All-Star Game," Muckler said. "He's the kingpin of Calgary. He takes every inch possible and tries to play like he's 6 feet 2. That's the way we treat him." LIGHTENING UP: When Pittsburgh's Mario Lemieux conquers his back problems and plays again, most likely in February, he says he will have a new respect for the game and the lifestyle.
"I see the game a lot differently now," Lemieux said. "I had some doubts I'd ever play again. Now, every time I have a chance to play, I'll approach it differently. You realize you're lucky."