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Notebook: Trade takes Norton off-guard

| Tuesday, March 13, 2001

NEW YORK - Jeff Norton has been around long enough to know that nobody's safe at the NHL's trade deadline - including guys whose names aren't mentioned in any trade rumors.

Especially those guys, if you ask Norton.

'Usually, the guys whose names are mentioned in the papers don't go anywhere,' Norton said after the Penguins' morning skate Monday at Madison Square Garden.

Norton had no idea he was on the trading block, but he got an afternoon surprise when told the Penguins had traded him to one his old teams, the San Jose Sharks, in exchange for defenseman Bobby Dollas and goaltender Johan Hedberg.

This is the seventh time Norton has been traded.

Norton had two goals, 10 assists and 20 penalty minutes in 32 games with the Penguins, who signed him as a free agent in November. He apparently did not figure in the team's playoff plans and told friends after the trade that he was pleased to go to San Jose, where he played from 1993-95 and again the past two seasons.

'We liked Jeff, but we also like Bobby Dollas,' said Penguins general manager Craig Patrick. 'Bobby will give us more defensively. Jeff gives you more offensively, skating the puck. We feel, overall, it's a parallel move.'

The hard part, Norton said, is moving his family again. They had just settled in Pittsburgh.

'It's always hardest on the guys who have families,' he said. 'The last thing you want to do is leave them.'


Assistant coach Randy Hillier played on the Penguins' two Stanley Cup teams, so he knows that wide-open clubs can buckle down defensively when they have to.

The Penguins have to, Hillier says.

'We're definitely a team that thinks offense,' Hillier said. 'Our personnel lends itself to that kind of philosophy and yet, coming into this time of year, teams are really starting to tighten up. As good as we are offensively, it's going to be more difficult to get offensive chances as the season winds down.

'We have to be more cognizant of the way we're playing defensively. That's in all areas of the ice. Particularly when we're in the offensive zone, we can't get three guys get caught constantly and give up odd-man rushes.'

The Penguins went into last night's game against the Rangers with the sixth-worst goals-against average (3.10) in the NHL. Hillier says defense begins with a shift in attitude. He's confident the Penguins can pull it off.

'We have a lot of guys who have been around and played a lot of playoff hockey who know that this time of year one-goal games become critical and the difference of making a good defensive play or not could be the deciding factor in a game,' he said. 'I anticipate we're going to be a better defensive club, just because we're going to be more aware of what we're doing offensively.'


With Norton gone, the Penguins recalled defenseman Josef Melichar from Wilkes-Barre yesterday. He arrived at the rink at about 5:30 p.m. and played a regular shift.

Melichar, 22, has played in 17 games this season with the Penguins, recording two assists and 19 penalty minutes. Melichar has played in 31 games this season with Wilkes-Barre, recording four points (one goal, three assists) and 54 penalty minutes.


The Penguins played without forward Billy Tibbetts, defenseman Janne Laukkanen (strained knee) and defenseman Sven Butenschon (shoulder.). ... The Rangers were without leading scorer Theo Fleury (substance-abuse program) and goaltender Mike Richter (knee surgery).

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