: There is a hole at center in Chicago. The Blackhawks, who were fed up with center Jeremy Roenick's perpetual contract squabbles, traded him to the Phoenix Coyotes for restricted free-agent center Alexei Zhamnov, a Russian with sweet hands and an equally inflated sense of his worth—Zhamnov wants $4.5 million a year. "I think he's going to stay in Russia a long time," Chicago general manager Bob Pulford says of Zhamnov, who Pulford thought would be easier to sign. Even if they sign him, the Hawks still need a No. 2 center.
He's Not Getting Older, He's Getting Nastier: Tough Chris Chelios, the best U.S. hockey player ever, shows no signs of slowing down at 34. His 72 points last season made him the first defenseman to lead the Blackhawks in scoring, which is terrific for him but doesn't say much for Chicago's forwards. Regardless, a team built on rock-solid defense can go far in the playoffs.
Tough Luck: Last year 28 of Eric Daze's 30 goals as a rookie came at even strength. He probably would have gotten 40 goals this season with regular power-play time, but a sprained left ankle will sideline him for four to six weeks.
Desert Storm: The team formerly known as the Winnipeg Jets, before moving to Phoenix after last season, should be fast and offensive-minded and soft enough defensively to play a ton of the 6-5 games that new NHL markets find appealing.
Roenick Report: At week's end the Coyotes weren't close to signing Jeremy Roenick, a restricted free agent, but they have said they will match just about any offer he receives. With Roenick and left wing Keith Tkachuk, whose pithy locker room quotes will make Phoenix forget Charles Barkley, the Coyotes will have two of the best U.S.-born NHL players.
Star Search: Watch rising young defenseman Oleg Tverdovsky and center Chad Kilger—if you can. The Coyotes' home, the America West Arena, has 4,000 obstructed-view seats behind the north goal.
Win—or Else: This is a make-or-break year for general manager Bob Gainey, coach Ken Hitchcock and their Stars. If Dallas, which missed the playoffs last year, doesn't make some postseason headway next spring, new owner Tom Hicks, a demanding man who's willing to spend money to produce a winner, might break up the club.