Then there's the Red Wings' Scotty Bowman, who doesn't seem to be on anybody's short list. He should be. Bowman, the winningest coach in NHL history (1,042 victories at week's end), has been in Detroit for five years and has a wonderfully talented team to work with. But the Red Wings, who won 38 regular-season games and the Stanley Cup last season, are on a pace to win 47 this year and are pressing the Stars for the best record in the Western Conference.
The Wings have avoided the letdown that often plagues Cup winners and have weathered the loss of top defenseman Vladimir Konstantinov, who suffered brain damage in a limousine accident six days after the Cup victory. They also have been without their most skilled forward, Sergei Fedorov, who is unsigned, and goalie Mike Vernon, last year's playoff MVP, who was traded for two draft choices. "It's not one thing he does," defenseman Slava Fetisov says of Bowman. "It's the day-in, day-out things that make us like a family." And that make Bowman our front-runner for coach of the year.
Capitals winger Pat Peake has a maxim: "You can play hurt, but you can't play injured." Peake should know.
Playing in the Ontario Hockey League in 1992-93, Peake missed three weeks of the regular season with a separated left shoulder and most of the playoffs with a fractured right ankle. As a rookie with Washington the next season, he was sidelined for 14 games with torn rib cartilage, six games with a bruised right shoulder, two games with a sore right ankle and two games with the flu. In '94-95 Peake contracted mononucleosis and played in only 18 games.
The following season Peake took a high stick to the throat and missed 10 games with what was termed "fractured thyroid cartilage." He was also scratched from five games with a sprained right knee, three games with a sprained left shoulder and one game with kidney stones. In the playoffs Peake shattered his right heel and needed extensive surgery. The mangled heel kept Peake out of the Caps' first 67 games of 1996-97. His comeback was complicated when a television fell on his right hand, breaking a bone. Peake returned to action last March 29. He played four games, then suffered a concussion in a car accident and had to sit out the rest of the year.
Peake missed the first 16 games of this season with a combination of lingering pain in the heel, flu symptoms and what he calls "anxiety about getting healthy." He dressed for a Nov. 8 game against the Oilers and got enough ice time to tear several tendons in his right ankle. He hasn't played since, but the Capitals expect him back within a month. Officially, they say, he is out "indefinitely."
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