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  • Monday, December 20, 1999

    Potvin ready for fresh start in Vancouver

      VANCOUVER (CP) -- Goaltender Felix Potvin remembers his glory years backstopping the Toronto Maple Leafs deep into the Stanley Cup playoffs, and he says he can revitalize his career with the Vancouver Canucks.

      "I want to make it back there," Potvin said after joining the Canucks on Monday following his acquisition the night before from the New York Islanders. "I want to win games.

      "I know I can do well. When you're young and you're traded, you try to make the most of your opportunities. It will be nice to start winning games again."

      Gone to Long Island are rookie goaltender Kevin Weekes, second-year winger Bill Muckalt, and third-year centre Dave Scatchard.

      The Canucks also get second- and third-round picks in the 2000 entry draft for Potvin, who will get the No. 1 goaltending job ahead of Garth Snow, the club's MVP last season. Potvin is expected to start Wednesday night when the Washington Capitals visit.

      Potvin joins a team that hasn't played a post-season game since 1996. The Canucks have stumbled in the last month from being a division leader and third seed in the Western Conference to being tied for 10th place.

      Spotty goaltending has forced them to play from behind many nights. They have lost three straight games at home, are winless in their last seven games overall, and are 1-9-3 since Nov. 22.

      Potvin, passed over for Curtis Joseph in 1998-99 as the Leafs' No. 1 netminder and sent in January to Long Island where 6,000 is a big crowd, said he's looking for a new beginning.

      "I'm looking at this as an opportunity to put the last two years behind me, start fresh and have fun playing the game again, and try to make it to the playoffs."

      Potvin, 28, whose goals-against average of 3.21 and save percentage of .892 are worse than those of Weekes and Snow, has twice won 30 or more games and three other times topped 25 wins.

      He became a star with the 1992-94 Leafs, twice leading them to the Western Conference final. Greg Adams beat him in double overtime to send Vancouver to the 1994 Stanley Cup final.

      Potvin had been mentioned in frequent trade scenarios involving Vancouver. At training camp, general manager Brian Burke said Snow had established himself as a No. 1 goalie for a losing team but not a playoff contender.

      Potvin, from Anjou, Que., says he can handle the responsibility of being the goalie Burke believes can get Vancouver into post-season play.

      "I handle it the same as I always did," said Potvin who was an AHL rookie in St. John's under current Canucks coach Marc Crawford. "You go out there and try to win.

      "It's my job to help them win."

      He said Toronto signing Joseph and the trade to the Islanders for defenceman Bryan Berard didn't hurt his confidence or his game.

      "I've stayed on the same level, in the highs and the lows," he said. "I feel I know what I can do.

      "I had a job to do down there. I tried to keep them in the game as long as I could. Some nights it wasn't always fun."

      Potvin had talked with Crawford for only five minutes between the time of the trade and the Monday news conference, but he said he's like his new boss in that they both hate to lose.

      "I take it hard when I lose but you have to keep it in perspective," he said.

      Potvin is on a one-year, $2.7-million US contract and will be a restricted free agent July 1.

      The salary-dumping Islanders wanted the Toronto-born Weekes, who earns $625,000 US -- less than half of what Snow is paid.

      Giving up young forwards Muckalt and Scatchard might not be that big a sacrifice for the Canucks, who await the arrival next season of the identical 19-year-old Sedin twins. Daniel and Henrik Sedin, selected by the Canucks with the second and third picks in the 1999 entry draft, are playing in the Swedish Elite League while they complete their schooling.
    VANCOUVER CANUCKS



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