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A GOOD BET: Oilers right wing Georges Laraque recently bet center Doug Weight he could hit a wastepaper basket with a wad of tape from 30 feet.

"Twenty bucks," said Laraque, who promptly hit an overhead heating fan.

"Okay, double or nothing," he said.

He missed again.

"Why is it that the rich guys get richer?" moaned Laraque.

Said Weight: "Because of guys like you."

BASIC TRAINING: Before going to the Flames, rookie defenseman Toni Lydman did nine months of compulsory military duty in Finland as an anti-aircraft gunner.

Two men are on each cannon, he said. One aims, one shoots.

"In our last battle camp we had a chance to use real ammo," Lydman said. "It was really cool."

CHRISTMAS STORY I: Maple Leafs goaltender Glenn Healy spent part of his Christmas holiday rescuing his 3-year-old Sheppard, Maggie, who tumbled down a steep, 20-foot bluff on Healy's waterfront property in Ajax, Ontario.

"She was chasing some Canada geese," Healy said. "Luckily, there's a lot of beach at the bottom and she was okay."

CHRISTMAS STORY II: Tie Domi's 6-year-old daughter, Carlin, came to his room late on Christmas Eve because she couldn't sleep.

"She walked right past all the toys under the tree," the Maple Leafs enforcer said. "I told her to get back to bed because Santa wouldn't come if she was awake. She was so tired, she walked back past everything again, including her new bike."

CHRISTMAS STORY III: Oilers goalieTommy Salo and girlfriend, Eva, were married in Las Vegas on Christmas Eve. After the ceremony, Salo hit the casinos and lost a chunk of dough.

"I am more lucky in love than at games," he said.

BROTHER ACT: When Sharks coach Darryl Sutter was asked what he thought of the Panthers' house cleaning, he said, "Well, I like the new coach."

That would be Darryl's brother, Duane.

"I told him, "Say goodbye to your family for the next four months,' " Darryl said.

HOT TICKET: With tickets for Mario Lemieux's return Wednesday night going for more than $1,000, the Penguins naturally were interested in getting back any extras not used by the Maple Leafs. Players were allotted two tickets each.

"I don't expect many to be returned," said Casey Vanden, Toronto's director of hockey operations. "But if I ever had a few to sell tonight, I could probably put my kids through college."

_ Compiled by Damian Cristodero.