KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Who's playing? Who's sitting? Who's hurting?
Those are the questions most frequently asked by members of the Sockers and Comets as the teams prepare for the opening game of their playoff series tonight at Kemper Arena.
And, for the first time in three months, the Sockers are at least as healthy as their opponent.
Comet forward Damir Haramina, the team's No. 3 scorer with 42 goals and 22 assists, will miss at least two games with a pulled left hamstring.
Jorge Espinoza, one of the Comets' top defenders, has a pulled left hamstring. Midfielder Louie Nanchoff has a right quadricep strain, and defender Cacho has a sprained left knee. All three will miss tonight's game and are questionable for Game 2.
"We're starting to sound like the San Diego Sockers," said Comet goalkeeper Alan Mayer. "I wish we had all our guns. We have enough to make it an interesting series. But if we had a full complement of players, we're as good as any team in the league and a legitimate contender for the championship."
As for the Sockers, four of six regulars who have been sidelined by injuries will be back in the lineup. Julie Veee, Hugo Perez and George Katakalidis have returned within the last couple of weeks.
Brian Quinn, out since Feb. 20 with a sprained right knee, has practiced with the team during the past week and is expected to play tonight.
Midfielder Branko Segota, who has missed the last seven games with a fractured cheekbone, has practiced three times while wearing a protective mask, and he traveled with the team to Kansas City Wednesday. Segota said the earliest he could return would be for the second game of the series Sunday.
"I will not play until I feel 100%," Segota said. "I'm a little scared. I'm not 100% in shape. Physically, I don't feel like I'm prepared yet. The doctor told me my bones are not healed. He said, 'If you get hit again, you'll have to come and see me.' "
Defender Brian Schmetzer has been sidelined since April 10 with a pulled right hamstring and is not expected back until the division finals, should the Sockers defeat the Comets.
As strange as it may sound, at least one Comet thinks his team may benefit by the Sockers being healthy.
"Mentally, there is no pressure on them because of all the injuries," said Comet defender Gary Collier, who played on four Socker championship teams before being sold to the Comets at midseason. "If they get to the finals, people will think they've done a good job. In the past, if they didn't win the championship, they had a bad season.
"Now, if Branko and Quinnie play, that may help us a little. Mentally, we may become the underdog again. Now we won't think it will be easy. We'll be expecting a harder game. They may come in a little overconfident."
Collier and Mayer--who played on the Sockers' 1982-83 championship team--are not about to underestimate the five-time indoor champions.
"I'd never bet against San Diego," Collier said. "I know the feeling that goes through the team when people write them off."'
They know how deceiving the Sockers' third-place finish and 27-25 record can be.
"I thought they would do a lot worse without their guns," Mayer said. "They have to be considered the favorite (in this series). No question about it."