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Canucks Fire Keenan and Hire Crawford

Vancouver winger Markus Naslund will go home from the All-Star game to a new coach.

Ending several days of speculation, the Canucks fired Mike Keenan Sunday and replaced him with Marc Crawford, who coached Colorado to the Stanley Cup in 1996 but was forced out last spring after a split with General Manager Pierre Lacroix.

As compensation for releasing Crawford from his Colorado contract, the Canucks reportedly gave the Avalanche a second-round draft pick and $200,000. If the Canucks make the playoffs, the pick will be a first-rounder. They will also pay $200,000 for each playoff round they win.

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“I feel for Mike. Any time someone gets fired it’s tough,” Naslund said. “I think he’s done a good job for us and now we got a new coach and now we can see what Marc is like. . . . I’ve heard a lot of good things about him, so it will be interesting.”

Keenan’s stay in Vancouver, his fifth coaching stop, lasted only 14 months. The Canucks, who last week dealt holdout winger Pavel Bure to Florida, are 15-24-6 and rank 11th in the Western Conference, five points out of the final playoff spot. Hardly a deep team to start with, they were hit hard by injuries in addition to being distracted by Bure’s refusal to report and by the power struggle between Keenan and General Manager Brian Burke.

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King defenseman Mattias Norstrom, paired with Swedish compatriot Nicklas Lidstrom for most of the game, was among the few players who didn’t figure in the scoring--and the only player among three Kings and two Mighty Ducks not to get his name on the score sheet. However, that didn’t detract from his enjoyment.

“It was fun. It was my first and maybe the last,” said Norstrom, who was a late addition to the squad. “It was good for me to have a chance to go.”

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Wayne Gretzky’s two assists gave him an All-Star total of 12, tying him with Adam Oates, Joe Sakic, Mark Messier and Ray Bourque. His goal was his 13th and extended his record. . . . The assist by Carolina and World goalie Arturs Irbe on Teemu Selanne’s goal was the first point by a goalie in All Star history.


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