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Agony of de-feet

The Philadelphia Flyers don't dare trade Peter Forsberg because they need him to put fannies in the seats from a marketing standpoint next season, and they'll have close to $25 million to play with over the summer on their salary cap. They plan on going after Chris Drury or Daniel Briere up front, and defenceman Kimmo Timonen, all unrestricted free agents. They want to re-sign Forsberg, but the Flyers captain has said he'll quit in disgust if he can't find a skate-boot that fits his crazy right foot.

He was seeing Curt Schilling's foot specialist at Massachusetts General in Boston on Friday, hoping for some relief, but it may be futile. His foot problems are turning into a saga like Eric Lindros's concussion worries. He's seen everybody except Dr. Scholls, which makes you wonder why, with all the money he has, Forsberg couldn't just hire an engineer to design a skate boot around his foot.

Dangers of retirement

Now that he's retired, Joe Nieuwendyk has plenty of time to fish down in Florida, but he almost threw out his already achy back trying to land a real whopper a while back. He hooked an alligator, by mistake, in his backyard pond.

"The thing came up and showed its teeth," said Niewendyk's buddy, Gary Roberts. "He dropped his rod and the gator unhooked himself." Roberts knows all about gators. He saw an eight-footer sunning himself behind his house one day.

Oilers' big Finnish?

Memo to the Oilers: The Flyers are growing a tad antsy with Finnish defenceman Joni Pitkanen, who is in his third NHL season but still struggling with consistency. They're not sure if he's going to be a stud puck-mover or Janne Niinimaa, who looked like a star when he was a kid in Philadelphia but levelled off. The Oilers badly wanted to draft Pitkanen in 2002, offering Mike Grier and their first-round draft pick to Tampa to move to No. 4, but the Lightning worked a deal with Philly instead, giving up Ruslan Fedotenko and two draft picks. The Oilers have never lost interest in Pitkanen, even if his decisions with the puck have left the Flyers exasperated at times. They would like a defenceman to replace him, but they also need wingers.

No more Staaling

When Jordan Staal plays in Pittsburgh's 40th game against Tampa today, that means he will have accrued a year of eligibility on the road to being an unrestricted free agent at 25 (seven years pro). Staal has 12 goals and he's playing only 131/2 minutes a game. No way he's going back to junior.

This and That

Penuins owner Mario Lemieux has all the leverage now to get a good deal for a new rink in Pittsburgh after the sweetheart package Kansas City is offering. He'll get it. They won't be leaving Pittsburgh.

The New Jersey Devils have Richard Matvichuk ready to go after back surgery but can't squeeze his $1.38-million salary into their cap, so he sits while their blue-line is hurting and barely able to dress six healthy bodies.

The Hurricanes are scrambling for a body on the back end after Bret Hedican tore a ligament in his finger. He's out three weeks. Best bets: Dennis Seidenberg or Janne Niinimaa.

Stanley Cup contenders are looking at Florida and wondering if they can pry Gary Roberts out of there.

Dan Snyder's parents have raised $750,000 of their $1-million goal to build a rink to honour their late son in Elmira, Ont.

MATTY'S SHORT SHIFTS

- If the Oilers are looking for a defenceman, you'd have to think Brad Winchester would be in a package. He's been scratched six of the last 11 games and when he does dress, he's only getting five minutes' work. How about Winchester for defenceman Dennis Seidenberg, who's being shopped by the Coyotes.

- Florida defenceman Ric Jackman, picked up by the Ducks to fill a few gaping holes (Chris Pronger, Francois Beauchemin) on the back end, was on for the last four Columbus goals Friday. Not a great first impression.

- The Avalanche keep trotting out their backup Peter Budaj, making Jose Theodore the highest-paid cheerleader in the NHL. Coach's prerogative, but I don't suppose owner Stan Kroenke likes paying Theodore $67,000 a game to ride the pine. Budjaj was scheduled to start his fifth straight against Minnesota Saturday.

- The Sabres have some great people working for them -- coach Lindy Ruff, GM Darcy Regier -- but they showed bad form when they didn't acknowledge the return of former coach Ted Nolan on the big scoreboard when the Islanders were there a few days ago. He was named coach of the year in Buffalo. Would have been a nice gesture to say, "Welcome back, Ted."

BY THE NUMBERS

0 Road goals by Habs winger Sergei Samsonov this season. That's 20 games.

8 Most goals Dominik Hasek had ever given up in the NHL when the Sharks roasted him.

8 The Panthers have gone to OT or shootout eight times and have been skunked every time.

He Said What?

"My shot wouldn't break through a wet paper bag."

Minnesota Wild winger Mark Parrish, astounded that he could break a bone in Chris Pronger's foot.
 
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