Friday, Nov. 1, 1996 | 11:59 a.m.
Just as all the cards seemed to be falling into place, the Las Vegas Thunder's deck has been shuffled the past two days.
Shuttled to the NHL's Phoenix Coyotes Wednesday were defensemen Jason Simon and Kevin Dahl. Shuttled back to Las Vegas Thursday was Simon, who might have passed Jason Doig in the terminal of McCarran International Airport. Doig was returned to the Coyotes Thursday after completing his rehabilitation assignment with the Thunder.
But that's not all.
The Pittsburgh Penguins assigned 25-year-old defenseman Sergei Voronov to Las Vegas, and he will be available tonight against the Long Beach Dogs when the Thunder concludes a seven-game homestand at the Thomas & Mack Center.
Despite the movement, Thunder general manager Bob Strumm claims his team's play of late can overcome change.
Las Vegas is 8-5-1, just two points behind first-place Utah in the Southwest Division race, after winning three straight and four of its past five.
"It's taken us a dozen games to get it together, but I don't see (the player movement) being a defect at all," Strumm said.
"The agreement with the Coyotes is an element we've got to get used to. We're reaping the benefits with all of the guys, starting with (goaltender) Parris Duffus. When you get players like that, you've got to give something up, but I don't think it's hurt our club at all."
The Thunder hopes Voronov will make up for the temporary loss of Dahl, who is expected to meet the team Saturday for its game in Kansas City.
Voronov, a 6-foot-2, 200-pound Russian, was a teammate of former Thunder Alexei Yashin with Dynamo Moscow in 1992-93. In 1995, the Penguins made Voronov their seventh-round draft pick.
Last season was his first taste of North American hockey. In 57 games with Hampton Roads of the East Coast Hockey League, Voronov recorded six goals, 23 assists and 241 penalty minutes.
"He's a whacker and a hacker, and maybe that's an element we haven't had back there since the (trade) of Jeff Ricciardi," Strumm said.
Tonight's game is a rematch of seven days ago, when the Thunder tied an all-time franchise low with 15 shots in a 6-5 shootout victory.
* IHL SAYS 'LOEWEN BEHOLD:' After reviewing a video tape of his vicious cross-check to the face of Utah star Craig Fisher late in Las Vegas' 5-1 victory last Saturday, the International Hockey League suspended center Darcy Loewen for the Thunder's next three games against the Grizzlies. Loewen will sit when Las Vegas hosts Utah Nov. 12, and when it travels to Salt Lake City Nov. 16 and 26.
* MEDICAL LEAVE: Thunder center Brent Gretzky still is hampered by a nerve contusion in his right shoulder, which causes numbness and a lack of movement in his arm. He continues to miss practice and is not supposed to dress tonight. ... Right wing Blaine Moore, who along with Gretzky was a scratch for Tuesday's 5-0 victory over Kansas City, is expected to sit tonight with a hip flexor. ... Defenseman Sergei Yerkovich, who chipped a tooth and lacerated the inside of his lower lip when he took a puck in the face Tuesday, is expected to play.