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SLAP SHOTS

CUP O' JOE: Forget Joe DiMaggio, Phoenix goalie Nikolai Khabibulin is Mr. Coffee. Khabibulin became the first goalie in nine years to record three consecutive shutouts. And he partly credits his scoreless string of 204 minutes and 13 seconds to coffee.

The man drinks two a day _ not cups, but pots. And this after he was told by doctors to stop drinking the stuff.

"Oh, I still drink coffee, just little bit less," Khabibulin said. "But I still drink coffee. Why not?"

Gee, Nikolai, maybe because you've missed two games this season because of dehydration from an overload of coffee.

Khabibulin was told to curtail his intake and he did _ to a point. He cut out a cup or two right before game time. Someone asked if that meant he drank coffee the rest of the day.

"Pretty much," Khabibulin said.

Cream and sugar, but please, hold the decaf!

"I don't like it," Khabibulin said. "I can tell the difference. I can feel the difference, too."

CAN'T GET THERE FROM HERE: They had to be big shots. They couldn't ride the bus with the rest of the team. They were too cool for that, so they rented a car and drove themselves.

Detroit's Martin LaPointe, Kevin Hodson and team masseur Sergei Mnatsakanov decided to drive to a recent practice in Los Angeles. Heck, it was only a few miles, and with LaPointe behind the wheel and Mnatsakanov holding the map, what could go wrong?

A turn, that's what. They decided to ask for help when they realized they might be going the wrong direction. How did they know? They saw signs for Long Beach.

But they did pick the right day to be late. Coach Scotty Bowman skipped the practice to do an interview on ESPN's Up Close.

THE NOT-SO-FINE PRINT: Nothing is going right in Toronto this season. Last week, Tie Domi got his 25th point and, in doing so, thought he earned a $50,000 bonus. The three Toronto newspapers made a big deal about the enforcer's accomplishments and noted his wallet would be getting fatter.

Here's hoping he didn't spend the money.

Turns out the bonus doesn't kick in unless Toronto makes the playoffs. And that is next to impossible.

Domi never read the fine print, and his only comment: "I don't know how the bonus got out in the media in the first place."

_ TOM JONES

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