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For the Great One, the sky is the limit

By the time he's finished playing, will there be one NHL scoring record Wayne Gretzky doesn't hold? Will there be one milestone he hasn't reached? Will there be one superlative that hasn't been used to describe him? In a league in which only 26 players have scored 1,000 points, Gretzky scored his 2,000th Friday night when he assisted on a goal by Tomas Sandstrom.

Two-thousand points!

Perhaps the most incredible thing about it is that it has taken Gretzky only 10 games into his 12th season to do it.

"Everyone says 2,000 points is unbelievable," said Tony Granato, who plays left wing on Gretzky's line for the Los Angeles Kings. "But he's just getting started. He's not even 30 years old."

Granato talked about Carl Yastrzemski and Don Sutton, baseball superstars who he didn't think aged gracefully before retiring.

"Those guys were great, but they were just hanging on to get their 3,000 hits or their 300 wins," Granato said. "This guy is 29 years old. He's leading the league in scoring. We've got one of the best records in the league.

"Whether it's 3,000 points or 4,000, nothing would surprise me what Wayne Gretzky could accomplish."

Gretzky doesn't need to pad his statistics to ensure Hall of Fame status.

By the time he's ready for enshrinement, they could name the Hall after him _ the way people in Brantford, Ontario, named the town's arena after their favorite son when he was 20 years old!

There might as well already be a Gretzky wing in the Hockey Hall, what with all the pucks and sticks representing the 49 records he owns or shares, the four Stanley Cups he has won, the nine MVP awards, the milestones.

The records, themselves, are impressive enough. But it's the speed at which he has stockpiled them that is alarming.

For example: It took Gordie Howe 26 seasons and 1,767 games to accumulate 1,850 points; Gretzky scored No. 1,851 in his 11th season and 780th game.

"It's just a matter of time before he holds all the records," said Larry Robinson, the longtime Montreal defensive star who is winding up his career with the Kings. "He's incredible, unbelievable, spectacular. Pretty well all the superlatives have already been used."

"Great" is the superlative most often attached to Gretzky. Since he scored 378 goals in 69 games as a 10-year-old in Brantford, he has been The Great One.

While Gretzky's career may not be on the ascent, it isn't on a decline, either.

Through Friday's play, he was tied for the NHL scoring lead. Again.

If he wins the title, it would be the 10th he has either won or shared in 12 years.

"If he was playing any better than he is now, it would be scary," Granato said.

Ex-Oilers star Kurri adjusts to Italian hockey

EDMONTON, Alberta _ After a slow start with the Milan Devils, the spotlight has finally found Jari Kurri.

And Kurri, the former Edmonton Oilers' star, finally is finding the net.

"I'm happy to be here," Kurri said in a telephone interview from his home in Milan, Italy. "It's still new and a big change but I feel I'm playing better."

Kurri, 30, is adjusting to his new surroundings, which include playing in smaller rinks and in front of crowds which average 2,700 in the Italian Hockey League.

He had his best game of the season _ four goals and one assist _ in an 8-5 victory Oct. 20 against Varese. He has seven goals in his last two games.

"It's European hockey," Kurri said. "It's less physical but there are a lot of Canadians and Italian-Canadians."

Still, Kurri is adjusting to life without the Oilers better than they are to his absence. The Oilers are last in the Smythe Division with a 2-5-2 record.

Until Kurri came along, the best player in Italy was Mark Napier, a former teammate with the Oilers. Napier has been an established star in the league for a couple of seasons with Varese.

Kurri, who has 13 goals and 24 points in eight games, is one point behind Napier in the scoring race.

"There's lots of pressure on the imports to score," Kurri said. "But I know I've had to score for the last 10 years. It's the same thing here."

The second-place Devils are 5-2-1. Sima of Milan, led by another ex-Oiler, Ron Chipperfield, is in first place and undefeated in eight games.

Even though he's enjoying his stay in Italy, Kurri misses his former teammates. He said he wouldn't trade the memories of 10 years and five Stanley Cups for anything.

"That's difficult to think about," Kurri said. "We had a winning team and when I retire I'll sit back and that will be something to remember."

Kurri scored six goals in his first six games with the Devils. Good, but not good enough for a high-priced import, said one Italian newspaper which described Kurri as "invisible" after the third game of the season.

"The toughest part is there is a lot of holding and hooking," Kurri said. "It's not easy when you have a guy following you all the time. You can't compare the refs to the NHL. These refs let everything go."

Around the league

Penguins: Pittsburgh acquired defenseman Gordie Roberts from the Blues in exchange for future considerations. Roberts, 33, had one assist and eight penalty minutes in three games this year with the Blues.

Flames: Entering Saturday's games, Calgary's Al MacInnis leads all defenseman with seven goals. The next best is three.

Rangers: Darren Turcotte had at least one assist in nine consecutive games, tying a team record set by Jean Ratelle in 1971-72.

Red Wings: Detroit has won six straight games at home from the start of the season to match a team record set in 1962.

Canucks: Petr Nedved, Vancouver's top draft pick, was scoreless in his first seven games.

NHL career scoring leaders

Gls Ast Pts

1. Wayne Gretzky-x 684 1316 2000

2. Gordie Howe 801 1049 1850

3. Marcel Dionne 731 1040 1771

4. Phil Esposito 717 873 1590

5. Stan Mikita 541 926 1467

6. John Bucyk 556 813 1369

7. Bryan Trottier-x 502 854 1356

8. Guy Lafleur-x 551 781 1332

9. Gilbert Perreault 512 814 1326

10. Alex Delvecchio 456 825 1281

Through Friday's games