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WEDNESDAY, MARCH 25, 1998 The Palm Beach Post s c SECTION C INSIDE BASKETBALL Strickland to get start against Celtics Because of an injury to P.J. Brown, Pat Riley will give Mark Strickland the nod tonight in Boston. PAGE 4C Anniversary for The Players Championship After 25 years, the tournament has evolved into a showcase event. PAGE 7C Mi mnmh HEAT CLASSIFIED: Pages 10-19 Here's dea HINGIS TO SERENA: ft Fitzgerald, Sheppard out . Jl Z' SI f y 7 a ' J 7 I "V " f '; f T i f j . r r : . .; ;.. V4 : Panthers trade away two of their stars for prospect, backup goalie. By Brian Biggane Palm Beach Post Staff Writer The Florida Panthers the worst team in the NHL did not appear to improve themselves for the short term as the trading deadline passed Tuesday. General Manager and coach Bryan Murray dealt away last year's leading scorer and one of the most popular original Panthers while holding on to disgruntled goaltender John Vanbies-brouck. Right winger Ray Sheppard, who led Florida in scoring last year with 60 points, was sent to Carolina for journeyman goaltender Kirk McLean, and forward Tom Fitzgerald went to Colorado for 21-year-old prospect Mark Parrish and a third-round pick in the June draft. "The changes were hard to make," Murray said. "But my job is to try and make the team better." Sheppard, 31, who came to Florida in exchange for a second-round draft pick two years ago, scored 51 goals in 142 games with Florida, including 14 in 60 games this season. He scored 29 goals last season. "We talked about him going to a team that has a chance to make the playoffs," Murray said. Carolina is five points behind eighth-place Ottawa in the Eastern Conference race. McLean, 31, is n three-time Vezina Trophy nominee whose stock has fallen since leading Vancouver to the Stanley Cup finals in 1994. Please see PANTHERS9C McLean The new l Panthers Kirk McLean The goaltender starred in Vancouver's run to 1994 Stanley ' Cup finals. Mark Parrish The forward scored 54 goals in 54 games in the Western Hockey League. Bios, 8C THURSDAY'S GAME: Montreal at Miami Arena, 7:30 p.m. TV: SportsChannel 1 Panthers were just losing, now they're losing touch Dave George "" - 1 ft ' it'' - I ' j " js rt. . - - Demand a refund. Better yet, pile up the whole worthless stack of unused 1997-98 Florida Panthers tickets in the Miami Arena parking lot and organize a compost bonfire. Now, I'm not naive enough to think that Wayne Huizenga is going to return one penny to frustrated season-ticket holders, regardless of the fact that his hockey team shut down several weeks short of this season's finish line. To raise one's voice in protest, however, is to take some semblance of action, no matter how symbolic. The Panthers are paralyzed by progress, Bryan Murray would have us believe, committed to the garnering of future championships by wandering around and around in mindless circles until the present takes on the distinctive pattern of a flushing commode. Murray is the one wearing all the caps in the Florida organization these days. General manager. Coach. Dunce. Now maybe that's no way to talk about the 1996 NHL Executive of the Year, a man who went and got some of the key additions to Florida's Stanley Cup finals team of 1996, but abandoning this season to despair and inaction is no way for Murray to treat loyal fans, either. The least a frazzled coach can do is work his players silly, or at least the officials. Murray's spread so thin that he's been upstairs during recent games, working the phone in search of better talent. Can Bill Torrey, the franchise's Hall of Fame president, go blameless? Hey, in the middle of a 13-game losing streak in which the worst teams in the league are making the Panthers look pitiful, there's a pie in the face for everybody. Torrey fired Doug MacLean 23 games into the season because it appeared the sluggish Panthers five games under .500 at the ( '; time were in desperate need of direction. : THE ASSOCIATED PRESS match points get away. Her mother, Brandi, likely had mixed emotions, glad in a way not to face an all-daughter semifinal. Serena Williams led 5-3 in the third set of her Lipton quarterfinal match against No. 1 -ranked Martina Hingis, but let two Serena loses third-set tiebreaker Please see GE0RGESC Dolphins lose to Carolina in bidding for DE Gilbert UPTON CHWlONSfflfS By Ethan J. Skolnkk Palm Beach Post Staff Writer Free agency will end as it began for the Miami Dolphins. It started with defensive lineman John Randle agreeing to return to the Minnesota Vikings . . . while at the Dolphins offices. It finished Tuesday with Sean Gil By Elizabeth Clarke Palm Beach Post Staff Writer KEY BISCAYNE Serena Williams had the shots to keep up with Martina Hingis, and her legs already had proven they could run down any ball that came over the net at The Lipton Championships. Even her serve frequently knocked the world's No. 1 player off the court. But Serena Williams' nerves couldn't quite stand up to Hingis' in their first meeting. Top seed Hingis beat the unseeded Palm Beach Gardens resident 6-3, 1-6, 7-6 (7-4) on Tuesday, advancing to a semifinal Thursday against Serena's older sister. Venus Williams, the 11th seed, defeated Silvia Farina of Italy 6-1, 6-2. Serena Williams lost two match points after being up 5-3, 40-15 in the third set. Both came when backhands sailed long. After the second one, Williams sank to the ground on her knees. "1 don't want to talk about that,' she said afterward. "Maybe I'm just like Pete (Sampras). Maybe one day I'll be No. 1 too. He lost two match points also." Like Sampras after he double-faulted to split sets during his loss to Wayne Ferreira, Williams couldn't recover after Hingis called lltast see IM0H2iC Redskins on a trade agreement, but we're committed to them, and they're committed to us." Gilbert lost his case to have his franchise tag removed, but the Redskins gave Sunseri clearance to work out contract terms with another team. Then, the Redskins would work out a trade for at least one of the two first-round picks a franchise tag mandates as compensation. The Panthers have the 14th pick in the upcoming NFL draft. Miami's initial offer was $5.9 million per season; Carolina and Jacksonville (which pulled out when the franchise tag was upheld) each offered more than $6 million. This means that, entering the draft, the Dolphins have Trace Armstrong. Danny Stubbs and Mike Chalcnski as possible complements to Jason Taylor at the llease see DOLPHINS4C bert, who Jimmy Johnson envisioned as his left defensive end, deciding to play for the Carolina Panthers. Yes, those Carolina Panthers. The TV: 1 p.m., ESPN; 12:30 a.m. (taped), ESPN2 TODAY: Anna Koumikova vs. Lindsay Davenport; Gustavo Kuerten vs. Tim Henman; Arantxa Sanchez Vicario vs. Jana Novotna; Thomas Enqvist vs. Marcelo Rios - J it - - -- 1 - same team Gilbert that matched Miami's offer sheet to offensive lineman Mathew Campbell. "We've got a deal with the Panthers," Gilbert's agent, Gus Sunseri, said. "The next step is for them to come to terms with the Martina Hingis said the timeout she called late in the final set was for cramping legs. She also said she realized the effect it would have on her less experienced opponent.