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SLAP SHOTS

JUST SAY NO: Desperate men will say desperate things. Take Chicago's Craig Hartsburg, who shouldn't be blamed for saying this after the Blackhawks' awful start:

"If anybody is writing that this is a nice, rosy situation, they're on drugs. And if we believe it, then we are taking even better drugs."

NATURAL DISASTERS: After surviving the (Carolina) Hurricanes, the Avalanche was nearly blown away by an avalanche when a freak blizzard dumped more than 30 inches of snow on Denver last weekend.

A charter plane scheduled to take the team to Dallas was supposed to leave Denver at 11:30 p.m. Mountain time. But two engines were frozen, and the plane didn't take off until 2:30 a.m. Despite heavy turbulence, the pilots kept the plane under 10,000 feet to ease stress on the engines.

The plane made an unexpected stop in Amarillo, Texas. It took 2{ hours to check and repair the engines. Finally, the plane landed in Dallas, and the players got to their hotel at 9:45 a.m. Central time.

"It was a little scary, but I don't think our pilot is foolish," Colorado's Adam Foote said. "He wouldn't have gone up if it wasn't safe. But Jari Kurri was sweating beside me the whole time. That was pretty hilarious."

UNDRESSED: Edmonton defenseman Drake Berehowsky, talking about his days in Pittsburgh and practices against Jaromir Jagr:

"He's so good with the puck, if you're looking down, you're done. I have a jock strap still back in Pittsburgh, I think."

THE MAIN EVENT: Think it's easy to be an NHL fighter?

Colorado's Sandis Ozolinsh and Pittsburgh's Jiri Slegr, players who never had a fight, dropped their gloves.

Ozolinsh took on Phoenix's Dallas Drake, who is not a fighter but is one of the tougher players in the league.

"I didn't know what I was doing," Ozolinsh said, laughing. "I don't really remember much. I guess I was just too nervous to think about things."

Meantime, Slegr got the better of middleweight Darcy Tucker of the Canadiens. Slegr took boxing lessons in the off-season, and judging by his victory, they paid off. Slegr of the Czech Republic gave this blow-by-blow account:

"The guy was saying, "You're European, what are you going to do about it?' I said, "Just try me.' He called me a chicken, and I said, "I think you're a bigger chicken than me.' He started yelling at me, "We're going next shift.' I said, "Why next shift? We're going now.' It was a pretty open fight. I don't know if I won or lost, but I didn't feel any punches."

_ Compiled by Tom Jones.

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