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Connolly will impact trade talks

Column as I see 'em:

*The NHL trade deadline is one month from Saturday. The Sabres should be looking to get better for a Stanley Cup run. But it won't be easy for Darcy Regier to deal with potential trade partners while Tim Connolly's playing status remains up in the air.

The Sabres are still hoping Connolly will recover from his concussion in time for a playoff push. If Connolly doesn't return, his salary average of $2.9 million won't count against the cap. So until Regier knows exactly how much wiggle room he has under the cap, his ability to negotiate will be compromised.

Sooner or later, they have to decide. Connolly has been slowly increasing his workout regimen, but riding an exercise bike for 20 minutes hardly qualifies as a breakthrough. Even if Connolly does come back, it's wishful thinking to expect he'll be the player he was a year ago.

I won't be surprised if Connolly doesn't play this season, or if he never plays again.

*It was typically self-serving of Bill Parcells to wait two weeks after the Cowboys' last game before quitting. While the bully pondered his latest retirement, Dallas stood by as other teams snatched top head coaching candidates. Three Dallas assistants, including former Bills special teams coach Bruce DeHaven, bolted for other NFL jobs.

Parcells, 65, says he's retired for good. Of course, he says that whenever he quits a job. He should stick to his word this time. His act has grown tired, his coaching methods unimaginative and stale. Parcells will go into the Hall of Fame. But his former assistant, Bill Belichick, will go down as the better coach.

*Buffalo's amazing Clifford Robinson is still going strong for the Nets at age 40. Robinson tapped in the game-winning basket against the Knicks on Friday. On Saturday, he moved into 33rd place on the NBA's career scoring list. The Riverside High graduate is the only active NBA player who played in the 1980s. It's no coincidence that the Nets, who struggled early in the season, won seven of nine when Robinson returned from a knee injury Jan. 5.

*It's too bad that a minority of NHL teams were able to block a change in the imbalanced schedule. The league has a stable of exciting young players to promote. Why have a schedule that prevents some teams from meeting during the season? It's ludicrous that Sidney Crosby, the new face of the league, won't play a game in Edmonton, Calgary or Vancouver -- half the Canadian franchises -- in either of his first two seasons.

*Bad news, Bills fans: Cam Cameron, the new Miami head coach, will be calling the plays instead of Mike Mularkey.

Ex-Sabre Mike Grier is a big hit in San Jose. One columnist said the Sharks are "a little nastier, a little more determined and a little smarter" since acquiring Grier. The Sharks have allowed the fewest goals in the league (110).

*The Dallas Mavericks are 21-1 in their last 22 games. The Phoenix Suns have won 26 of 28. Sounds like a likely Western Conference final.

*In his first six Big East games, former Niagara Falls star Paul Harris was averaging 3.3 points in 16 minutes a game for Syracuse. I'm supposed to believe he's a lock for the NBA?

*Let's not be too quick to anoint Peyton Manning as a clutch playoff quarterback. Manning has played one good half this postseason. He'll have his hands full with a fast, motivated Bears defense. I haven't exactly been Jimmy the Greek this year, but I like Chicago.

*Wade Phillips' name continues to pop up for NFL head coaching jobs. Jerry Jones wants his next coach to be fluent in the 3-4 defense, so Phillips could be a candidate there. Hey, could Ronnie Jones be in line to replace DeHaven as special teams coach for a second time?


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